Let’s take politics out of education demands Tory MP Claire Perry

Written by Gerald Isaaman on .

Praise for today’s much maligned teachers has come from Tory MP Claire Perry – and with it a surprising plea for politics to be taken out of education.

Speaking at a conference held at Marlborough College, aimed at making the town a “leading international hotbed of learning by 2020”, Mrs Perry stepped out of party political lines when she referred to a conference suggestion that education should be taken out of political control.

“I don’t know if I have said that but I really agree with that,” she told an audience of 90 attending the Project Excalibur conference. “We have had far too much political manipulation of the education system, and indeed the NHS but that’s another story, where politicians think that they know better than teachers and education professionals.”

“I don’t think there should be a free-for-all but I think this notion of a scenario-planning session for what works for us -- not for what the government thinks works for us -- is incredibly important.”

“Also actively going out and trying to make these changes now rather than being told what to do in five or ten year’s time.”

She added: “I believe this conference is the first example of this sort of project in the country and I am so excited about it.”

“I have written to Michael Gove (the Education Secretary) because I think all schools should be doing this.”

“Clusters of schools should be coming together to do this. I think it is hugely, hugely valuable. I think it’s just front and centre of this change in attitude towards education and the role of education that our Government is trying to achieve.”

Mrs Perry, who went to a comprehensive school before becoming the first member of her family to go to university, and then on to Harvard Business School, praised the last Labour government for creating school academies.

“They just didn’t seem to have the political will to go far enough and I think we have got that and we are so supportive as a Government of what is actually happening here today,” she pointed out.

She posed the question - What is it that we want? for the audience, which included representatives of all Marlborough’s schools, plus the feeder schools that send pupils to St John’s Comprehensive, where she is a school governor.

And she answered: “Well I think we want...the education and learning...lives and again one of the quotes which may not be up here is the fact that learning should be exciting for the whole of your life.”

“If you are taught properly, if you are given a thirst for knowledge it is something that never leaves you and that is clearly an incredibly important thing to do.”

“But secondly we want an education to be a sort of an engine of social mobility through building skills and aptitudes from receptiveness towards new experiences and that sounds very mechanical.”

“I also wouldn’t want to suggest that social mobility is just entirely defined by money but giving the child who has never had the experience of playing a musical instrument or never read book or never seen a play.”

“All of those, the richness of that experience – I think that is part of social mobility as well and clearly we want our education system to do that.”

Mrs Perry, whose own children go to boarding school, totally supported the government’s vision to allow funding to follow the pupil as an “important part of opening up the landscape of school with extra support for the disadvantaged.”

It was part of a vision “where teaching is the most valuable professions,” she said. “I personally feel we have undervalued our teachers, we have accepted poor performance in our teaching profession in a way that we wouldn’t accept it in other professions.”

“We have not reached out enough to people who could be fantastic teachers but perhaps have not gone through the traditional route which is why things like TeachFirst and Troops into Teachers I think are incredibly important initiatives.”

“Again, it (politics) is the hardest thing I have ever done, I think it takes a certain sort of person to do it. And if we can get the teaching right, we can achieve so much.”