The first topic we want to discuss is ‘The Purpose of Education’ which we believe is fundamental in steering the future of education policy in the right direction. We have posed a series of questions to stimulate discussion on this topic however, we want you to let us have your views. Please suggest a debate on this first topic by leaving your comments in the box on the right, or go to the debate page to see the topics already being discussed.


In 1976, Lord Callaghan’s famous Ruskin College speech initiated ‘the great debate’ about the future of our education service.

Many of those issues are relevant today. Surely, it is now time for a second ‘great debate’ that involves everyone with a stake in education. We need a workable overarching plan for our education service, with clear success criteria agreed by all.

ASCL will play a leading role but it is not only our debate. Employers, parents, young people, academics, politicians, educational institutions, school and college leaders – all parties will have to listen, compromise and take on board the legitimate views of others. And that includes us.

Great Education Debate Survey Results

To get the Great Education Debate started, earlier this year, we conducted a short survey and asked ‘What is the number one issue affecting education on which all political parties should agree a common way forward?’. The answers we received were wide ranging in their scope and offer a snapshot into what a variety of people directly involved in today’s education system believe are the most pressing issues. They helped us to shape the structure of the Great Education Debate.

The issue highlighted as the number one current issue was the need for a strategic and evidence based approach to education with 32 per cent of respondents citing this as their primary concern. These responses commented how there was too much political input in the education system and the recent changes had been fragmented and not thought through. Points were also raised about the diminishing responsibility of local authorities and the range of issues this raises.

A similar number of people, 31.4 per cent, felt that the biggest concern was the qualifications system and the curriculum. Strong points were raised about the need to have a consensus on what the purpose of education is in today’s society as well as what the focus of the curriculum should be and the role assessments and qualifications have to play. The overriding belief was that we need to move away from the results culture and instead equip young people with a range of skills for life.

Other strong concerns were raised about continually changing accountability and Ofsted inspections with 14.3 per cent concerned that too much time is spent dealing with these issues rather than being focused on what children and young people need.

There was also a strong desire to narrow the attainment gap and to give children from all backgrounds an equal chance to succeed with 13.1 per cent of respondents citing this as the most pressing issue.

View the comments received from the survey

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