Set the Teachers Free – A radical Policy for Education


We need to release the expertise and dedication of our teachers to allow them to link up with the enthusiasm and joy of our children and create an education system not a learning system

Our education service is poor value, poor quality and incredibly expensive. Successive governments have spent vast amounts of money on creating a National Curriculum; a vast bureaucracy and an expensive inspectorate. There is little sign, however, that the way we spend the money and what we do with children is in the long-term interests of them or our Country.

As a Liberal Democrat I both yearn for and campaign for a system which encourages children to want to learn and in which they learn to thirst for in formation and learning both of knowledge and skills which will benefit for them for the whole of their life.

Instead we have a system which has created education factories in which pupils are pushed through a series of examinations and tests; taught how to pass exams not to learn more widely; come out of the sausage machine with skills that are not necessarily good for them or employers and which leaves them with no long-term thirst for education.

I don’t want to abolish exams but reduce them and make them more relevant. If someone is going to try and cure my illness I want them to properly qualified and checked. If someone is going to build a bridge I want them to have qualifications to make sure that it is safe. So, the question to me is not whether there should be examinations but is about what part that examinations play in hindering or improving educational excellence.

I believe that the proposals set out in our education policy approved by our Spring Conference this year are a great set of proposals which will lead to the radical way of thinking that I believe in. I reproduce the motion below. You can the full paper from the Lib Dem website. That motion will reduce the number of SATs and exams and improve the relationship between pupil and teacher. It will abolish OFSTED and regional commissioners which mop up huge amounts of money and return school support to localities with an emphasis on leadership skills required and the provision of effective support.

On a personal level I don’t agree with everything in the policy. For example, with three of my grandchildren being home schooled I think we would encourage too restrictive a regime for supporting them. But by and large these policies will reshape the balance between School and Teacher and Pupil and Parent. It will enable teachers to be able to respond more readily to the needs of children and communities rather than work to a restrictive over view.

I genuinely believe that the policies here will make our young people think very differently about what learning and education mean and equip them with skills for life as distinct to skills for passing exams at all levels. Such a change will unleash the talents of far more young people and direct young people into life enhancing activity which will benefit them and society as a whole. Its well thought; its radical and it needs shouting about from the roof tops.

However, with no head for heights I offer either myself or our Children’s services spokesperson, Cllr Liz Makinson to come and talk about our beliefs to any organisation working in the field of education (from Universities to parent’s groups via teachers and schools in Liverpool. Contact me at

Policy Motion Adopted at the Lib Dem Spring Conference 2018

Conference believes that:

  1. Education is core to our Liberal Democrat Values.
  2. It opens the mind, fosters understanding and tolerance, and empowers our children and our communities to be the best they can be.
  3. Every child deserves a great start in life so they are equipped to shape their own future, and are determined to make sure that the education system finds and unleashes the best in everyone.
  4. Education helps break down the unfair divisions in our society, it ensures a productive, competitive economy and it overcomes intolerance.
  5. Despite the excellent work of schools, parents and children, persistent levels of educational inequality mean far too many children leave school without the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

Conference regrets that:

  1. The Conservative government’s spending plans continue to underfund education.
  2. Excessive bureaucratic demands and constant changes in policy place an unnecessary workload on teachers.
  3. Pressure to pass exams restricts schools’ ability to focus on developing a wider education: on the arts, creativity and skills for work and life.

Conference endorses the approach of policy paper 128, Every Child Empowered: education for a changing world, as a statement of Liberal Democrat policy to meet these challenges.  Conference particularly calls for:

An end to Conservative cuts to education including:

a) A commitment to at least protect per-pupil spending in real terms, including in Further Education.

b) Protection of the pupil premium.

Support for early years education including:

  • Replacing the existing Ofsted with a reformed independent inspection system which should focus on judging whether school leaders are capable of leading improvement and an assessment of the long-term success of the whole school, looking at pupil and teacher well-being as well as results.
  • Replacing existing government performance tables (‘league tables’) of schools with a broader set of indicators including more qualitative data about pupil wellbeing.
  • Scrapping existing mandatory SATs tests at both KS1 and KS2, and replacing the them with a moderated teacher assessment at the end of each phase and some lighter-touch testing.

Have decisions to intervene in schools or change their governance arrangements normally be made by the Local Authority or MAT, ending the presumption that a temporary dip in results will trigger academisation or re-brokering of schools already functioning as academies.

Boosting the readiness of children to learn and supporting household budgets by extending free school meals to all primary-age children.

Action to improve the quality of teaching and boost the morale of teachers by:

a) Supporting the Chartered College of Teaching.

b) Requiring all teachers in state schools to be Qualified Teachers (or be working towards Qualified Teacher Status).

c) Providing 50 hours per year of high quality Continuing Professional Development.

Delivering a more coherent and accountable structure for state schools in England by:

a) Making places planning, exclusions, admissions including in-year admissions, and SEND functions the responsibility of Local Authorities.

b) Abolishing Regional Schools Commissioners.

c) Giving a level playing field between Local Authority Schools and Multi-Academy Trusts, ending the assumption that if a new school is needed it cannot be a Community School.

Modernising the curriculum by:

  • Requiring all state schools including academy and free schools to teach a broad and balanced curriculum.
  • Including a ‘curriculum for life’ (eg. RSE, Citizenship, First Aid, Financial Literacy) and ensuring every child has access to high quality, independent careers advice.
  • Allowing the detail of curriculum to be worked out by a new, independent Education Standards Authority, working alongside the profession and without political interference.

Maintaining high standards while reducing unnecessary distortions in the system arising from the current accountability framework by:

  • Increasing the early years pupil premium from £300 per year to £1000.
  • Ensuring all early years settings have a training programme for staff, with the majority of staff who are working with children to either have a relevant qualification or be working towards one; each setting should be Graduate-led.

Improving the way the system treats pupils with Special Education Needs and Disabilities by:

  • Screening for children to identify trauma and neglect in early years, and proactively provide early and evidence-based interventions to stop the trauma becoming entrenched.
  • Supporting measures to reduce the number of children with special educational needs who are excluded from school – these children are six times more likely to be excluded than children with no SEN.
  • c) Emphasising SEND provision in inspections.

Giving greater support to the mental health of pupils by:

  • a) Developing a mental health care pathway beginning in schools that links with local mental health services.
  • b) Establishing a specific individual responsible for mental health in schools, who would provide a link to expertise and support for children experiencing problems and would also take a lead on developing whole school approaches to mental wellbeing


About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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