This article was written for the News & Star.
In the modern age, we want – indeed we expect – things to happen immediately. We live in a fast-moving world and in the age of instant downloads and same-day delivery we sometimes do not appreciate the virtue of patience, of taking time to achieve an objective. In actual fact, some of the longest-lasting and most important changes are ones that take time to come about.
This applies to politics as much as anything else. Whan an issue arises there is always a clamour for an immediate resolution, for instant government action and for legislation or bans to be put in place immediately, with little thought to actually achieving a better outcome. But this is not always the right approach.
Education is a case in point. For our country to be a success we need a good education system, but it is not something which could ever happen overnight. The education of an individual is something that takes years, and in fact it is the case that an immediate and revolutionary change in the system would not be fair on either teachers or students – and would probably do more bad than good.
But slowly and steadily over the years the education system has been improving – something that has not been highlighted as much as it should. Reforms going back to the 2010-15 period have really helped to transform the outcomes of our schools.
The number of “Outstanding” schools has gone to 21% in 2022/23 from 17% the year before. The number of “Good” schools has gone to 65% from 61% in the same time. The number of Good schools in 2010 was just 50%.
This isn’t just generous Ofsted inspections. The international comparisons bear out these improvements, quite startlingly in fact. England’s position in the PISA rankings of different countries has risen from 25th pre-2010 to 4th in reading, and from 27th to 16th in mathematics.
Within the UK in science and mathematics, the mean score for England was significantly higher than the rest of the UK and was significantly above the OECD average.
These changes have not happened overnight. They are the consequence of policies developed over a period of time and then implemented over a period of time by schools and colleges up and down the country.
Lessons should be learned in other areas of public policy for the future, but as education is so important to the long-term success of this country, and indeed ourselves as individuals, we should be celebrating. This was a slow and steady evolution of the way to do things. Let’s have more of it across the board!