Dear Ms Morgan
No doubt you know the internet is all abuzz with your name today. No doubt you know what people think (not just the 'bad' teachers - but the ex-teachers, the parents, the home educating families, the EY practitioners, the governors...) of your successor and no doubt you have got some pretty specific instructions from your boss on how to behave in your new role...
But you're a smart woman. Accomplished. Forward thinking. And if I were you I wouldn't want to be the token woman brought in to tread water and let the Gove legacy fall from the press's watchful eyes as you quietly sit in post, twiddling your thumbs and waiting for the next election.
If I were you, I'd want to do something.
So, we've looked at your CV, we've looked at your Wikipedia page, we've looked through your views in parliament and what do we know?
You're a mum.
You've got a husband who works.
You've got a busy job.
So - in many ways, you're just like us. (and by US, I mean all of the mums, teachers and everyone else out there who have spent the past months cringing and shaking with rage as Gove created more and more policy decisions that moved away from helping our children and towards the politicisation of education.)
So today, we are filled with hope. Well, almost filled with hope, because there's a bit of trepidation as well. 8 years a school governor? But is that all you know about school? Your son is 6 - but how many hours have you spent within the walls of his classrooms? Another Cabinet member educated at private school and then Oxford? Is there any chance that you understand what it is like to not be 'one of you'? And obviously a lot of people are going to hold the 'gay marriage' thing against you....
We know you can't u-turn on Gove's new curriculum. Understood.
But here's what you could do:
- Listen to the #SaveChildhoodMovement They are not left-wing radicals or revolutionaries - they are smart, experienced, professionals and they understand children. More importantly, they understand what parents want for their children. Maybe you don't have to do what they say - but you at least need to listen to them.
- Abolish phonics testing in Year 1. This serves no purpose other than adding to government figures - if it's not there to help the children, it's pointless.
- Abolish assessments in Reception. Simple. You know what your son was like when he was 4; did he need testing?
- Allow parents with summer-born babies to make the decision for themselves whether their just-4 year olds are ready to start school or whether they need another year at home.
- Scrap the notion that families cannot decide for themselves whether to take term-time holidays. We get it - there's a truancy problem - but please, deal with that. The current legislation is harming families who were never a problem either socially or academically - and the truancy problem still exists. (and don't forget you've got a petition with over 900,000 signatures to deal with so you will have to do something).
- Give families back the right to flexi-school by introducing an attendance code that allows schools to mark children as being flexi-schooled. This would solve a lot of problems for schools who are doing very well serving their communities by offering flexi-schooling and would stop them having to mark pupils absent and this counting against the school's attendance figures.
- Rethink SEN statementing policy. There are not less children with Special Educational Needs than there were before - just a lot of families really struggling to understand how to best provide for their children when they aren't confident in education and they haven't got the funds to seek specialist advice.
- REQUIRE outdoor learning to become a part of the curriculum for all children - just like the Scots have done. Our nation is filling up with children who are overweight, under-exercised, over stress and low on self-esteem. Send them all outside and give them time to play.
- Return play to schools. Introduce minimum outdoor playtimes for all children - right up through Senior school. Remember that children learn best through play - not sitting in chairs and filling in worksheets. Remember what it is that we need children to be in the 21st century: creative, thoughtful, inspired, responsible, community-minded. All of these are learned through play. The correct use of the apostrophe (whilst important) is not going to solve the Israel-Palestine crisis.
Ms Morgan, I've taught for 15 years but no longer wanted the stress and bureaucracy that I necessarily had to deal with and I've left the classroom. I worked with many, many families with children with SENs and I can promise you that not a single one of them ever wanted anything more than to try to help their child be happy. I have a 2 year old and a 5 year old - and I don't think I'm alone in thinking that our education system is no longer functioning with their best interests in mind.
Remember, just because you went to an independent school were it was most likely 'all about the grades', please don't forget to bear in mind that most people don't care at all about the government's agenda of raising standards or beating the Chinese on PISA tests.
What most people want for their children:
-- we want our children to be happy
-- we want our children to be inspired to learn
-- we want our children to discover their true passions
-- we want our children to respect others
-- we want our children to enjoy childhood.
(maybe you even feel the same...)
Good luck with the new job - you'll need it.
With kind regards,