REPORT: AGM/CONFERENCE 2020

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PAPERS FOR THE MEETING

Agenda

Minutes of CASE AGM 2019

Chairs’ Report

Secretary’s Report /NEC attendance record

Treasurer’s Report to AGM 2020

Press Officer’s Report

NEC statement regarding exams in 2021


Kevin Courtney

Melissa Benn

GUEST SPEAKERS

CASE AGM 2020

CASE's “virtual” AGM, the first in our history, was held on Saturday, November 14th.  Inevitably, there were some technical issues which implies that some members were unable to join the meeting.  

Our guest speakers were Kevin Courtney, joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, and the well-known writer and campaigner, Melissa Benn.  Both addressed the question of how the pandemic has exposed the need for educational change.  

This was particularly clear in the case of examinations, about which both spoke.  There is growing awareness that GCSE was developed at a time when most children left school at 16 and that this examination is now superfluous, a view shared even by  Kenneth Baker, one of the architects of GCSE.  

As for A-levels, last year's fiasco had, among other things, exposed the folly of Michael Gove's decision to abandon the approach of Curriculum 2000 - which included modular examinations and teacher-assessed coursework - and to revert entirely to old-fashioned end-of-course written papers.

Both speakers were at pains to emphasise that agreement about the need for reform is now “mainstream”, rather than “left wing” and that progress needs to be made by developing what is now a growing consensus across the political spectrum, government intransigence notwithstanding.

Kevin also spoke of the contrast between the government's determination to re-open schools and its unwillingness to address the practical problems involved (see also Tom Mann's article below).  He gave the example of an OFSTED inspector whose positive COVID test resulted in a whole school being shut down and pointed out that, at any given time, 40% of children are not in school.  

Particularly striking was the extent to which COVID had exposed the deep-seated inequalities in modern society, inequalities which the government had shown little inclination even to ameliorate, let alone tackle at the root: witness the largely unfulfilled promise to provide laptops to schools whose pupils cannot afford them and the government's only agreeing to increase the supply of free school meals after being shamed by a professional footballer.

Melissa also expressed misgivings that Labour's current strategy of reassuring voters by distancing itself from “Corbynism” could lead to a loss of vision and an unwillingness to tackle difficult issues, such as 11+ selection and the powerful influence of the UK's private schools, as had happened under Tony Blair.  

Melissa also stressed the importance for Labour of a wholehearted commitment to adult education.

There followed a stimulating discussion of many of the issues raised by Kevin and Melissa, including the need for campaigning organisations to work together in alliances such as “Reclaiming Education”.

In the ensuing business meeting, the officers and members of the NEC were re-elected. Keith Lichman will continue as a member of the NEC but stood down as Secretary after 15 years, so we are looking for a replacement.  Keith's contribution to the successful working of CASE cannot be overstated and he is owed a great debt of thanks.  

Roy Hiscock kindly agreed to continue to audit our accounts and Kathleen Hall has been welcomed to the NEC as an observer.