Establishing ‘One Voice’ in England

Campaigners join forces to fight for gifted children (TES, 1 October 2010)

The Times Education Supplement, England’s weekly newspaper for educationalists, carried this article reporting the planned formation of the ‘One Voice’ umbrella group, which will seek to co-ordinate advocacy and support for G&T learners, their parents, carers and educators.

There have been several preliminary discussions and two substantive meetings of those with an interest in G&T education, the most recent leading to agreement that a working group would be set up to secure the development and launch of the body.  The working group meets for the first time shortly and will have approximately six months in which to complete its work.

The TES reports fears in the G&T community that England’s national programme has been terminated in effect and that, as the National Strategies come to the end of their contract in March 2011, there is a significant risk that all remaining Government policy and support will end, so leaving G&T education ‘rudderless’.

One Voice is intended to fill that perceived void, providing national co-ordination and direction, so ensuring that the substantive gains achieved since the national programme began are not dissipated and lost.

The Department for Education responded by saying that it would not make decisions on G&T education until after the publication of the Comprehensive Spending Review, scheduled for 20 October. The CSR is expected to confirm the full scope of public expenditure cuts across education and the rest of Government.  A Schools White Paper is expected the following month, in November 2010.

The potential link between support for disadvantaged gifted learners and the planned Pupil Premium is highlighted in the article. A consultation on the Premium is currently under way and further details may be included in the White Paper. However, the consultation document suggests that schools will have complete flexibility over how the additional funding will be deployed.

Elsewhere in Government, a review of higher education funding – to include recommendations supporting fair access to HE for disadvantaged learners – is expected imminently, and a cross-Government social mobility strategy with a significant education component is also under development. Both have potential significance for G&T education.

But the key question is whether the Schools White Paper will say anything of significance about G&T. If it does not, the way is clear for ‘One Voice’ to provide the rudder its proponents say is missing. If it does, ‘One Voice’ representatives will doubtless need an early meeting with the Department for Education to clarify its future relationship with Government.

Either way, the rhetoric behind the ‘Big Society’ concept would suggest that, in an unprecedently tight public spending round, the Department should be more than willing to support – most probably with words rather than money – a collaborative venture of this kind.

GP

October 2010

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