Thursday, 3 June 2010

Getting Education Right

Gove will have to take-on the teaching unions -
and he will win
I was pleased to read last night on the Spectator website that 1100 schools have already taken up Michael Gove's invitation to opt for 'Academy' status (basically to opt out of LEA control in the old parlance). I remember last week some heavily unionised lefty university 'expert' on state education, or whatever she was, on Radio 4 (where else?) trying to poo poo the whole thing with the usual nonsense about it creating a two tier system. Well, it didn't before - at least not in the sense she meant - and it won't this time. Opting out leaves more central funding available for schools that need the boost, so that they too can eventually become more independent, manage their own affairs and rid themselves of stultifying state prescribed educational ideology, so long the blight of the education system of Britain - at least since the evil that was the late 60s/early 70s was perpetrated.

In any case, what's so bad about a few high standards for once? What socialists, especially ones who think they're educators of some sort, don't get is that academic aspiration is as natural as any other form of ambition. It cannot simply be magicked away with a wave of some socialist wand, or, more likely, suppressed through some sort of highly divisive forms of social engineering. There is demand for genuine quality - elitism, even - and it will never go away, whether people like Ed Balls think they can make it go away with their interfering, top down interventionist, ideologically motivated lawmaking or not. The point is they haven't - and never would have. Socialists have always thought they could mould human nature by manipulating society by using taxation and interventionist laws as some sort of blunt, clunking sculpting tools. Signs are, after another 13-year dose of them has caused another national cataclysm, that they will never change. They will never understand that,as history shows, the many glorious aspects of human nature evolve gradually over time, and the best politics is the politics that evolves with it, reflecting it while simultaneously creating a society in which the aspirational, ambitious, optimistic, adventurous parts of human nature have the opportunity to flourish.

Still, even though the socialists have once again failed to break the population's general spirit, though they tried as hard as ever, especially through our schools, not least by diluting the exams system to the point where GCSEs, for instance, are almost completely worthless now as tests of a child's intellectual and academic development in any given discipline (especially for prospective employers), you have that nagging sensation in the pit of you stomach that Michael Gove has arrived just in the nick of time.

First, we have the Academies, liberating good schools from central control. Then, we have the other two thrusts of Gove's brilliant, triple-pronged revolution, of which the most important by far is the dismantling of Labour's insane education quangocracy, itself a heavily politicised, labyrinthine, undemocratic, bureaucratic nightmare designed for one purpose: social capture. Gove's already started by abolishing the General Teaching Council (thank God) and two others. The former organisation was designed quite simply to create and monitor a generation of under-experienced, under-educated, over-trained, over-paid, indoctrinated teaching robots - and exclude all others. It worked! Well, its website (all these damn quangos have elaborate websites that seem to mimic government departments' - anyone ever noticed that?) published this note from the gallows yesterday:
The Secretary of State for Education announced on Tuesday 2 June his intention to introduce primary legislation in the late autumn which will abolish the General Teaching Council for England.
In response, the GTC said: 'The GTC was created by Parliament to work in the public interest to improve standards of professional conduct among teachers, to contribute to raising standards of teaching and learning and to raise the standing of the teaching profession.
'We are seeking legal advice on our position and will be seeking urgent clarification from Ministers and Department for Education officials on the implications of today’s announcement for the GTC’s work over the next period and for its staff and Members.'
Looks like they ain't going to go gentle into that good night. So much the better. A public spat will finally bring a bit of scrutiny to bear on these shadow/duplicate government organisations, so expensive and so suspiciously beloved by Labour, that have sprouted up like so much fungi on a fallen oak.

Oh yes, the second part of Gove's three prong revolution is the so-called free schools. Brilliant, and like all organic children of private enterprise, some will fail but most will succeed spectacularly, which will no doubt irritate that lefty, GTC-type woman on Radio 4, who tried to poo poo these too as being 'unprofessional'. Unprofessional? Ha! If the chaos and despair we currently have in Britain is what 'professionalism' (socialist style) delivers, then bring on the amateurs! In fact, and joking apart, I think that Gove has already worked this out. He's trying to break a monopoly of education supply that's grown up over the past thirty or so years, and that has betrayed our children so comprehensively and failed this country so utterly. He knows that the only people who really, genuinely care - or should care - about children's education are parents, not teachers (and especially not unthinking, doubleplusgoodthinking, inadequate young robot teachers). That parents are somehow 'amateurs' should not preclude them from having a huge say in their children's school career.

I know, I know, there's more to it even than all this. All I'm really saying is that Gove looks to me like the real deal - and he must be supported fully and without hesitation. However, having said that, judging by that GTC comment, which is public remember, he is going to be pissing off an awful lot of establishment interest groups (and remember, the left is the establishment in education). Perhaps that's his intention. Well, if it is, he needs to remember that annoying quangos before you dispatch them is one thing, annoying the NUT, with its 300,000 members is quite another. Though having said that, his abolition of the GTC has, strangely enough, gone down reasonably well with the NUT. Its General Secretary, Christine Blower, said yesterday:
"From its inception, the GTC has struggled to overcome the fact that teachers felt it had been imposed on them. Equally, the annual fee of £36.50 has remained a sore point. The NUT has consistently argued that teachers should not have to pay the GTC fee.
"Under the GTC, teachers now feel over-scrutinised. Last year's 'code of conduct' was a worrying development, encompassing activities and behaviour outside of work. It sought to turn aspirations for best practice into rules. Any replacement for the GTC needs to distance itself from the belief that a watchdog can also reserve the right to make intrusive judgments on teachers' personal lives.
I wouldn't count on this superficially supportive sentiment lasting too long if I were Michael Gove, however. She goes on:
"Rather than have outright abolition, all teachers ought to be consulted on whether they believe a professional council for teachers should be maintained. What we cannot have, however, is a council which is at the whims of any Secretary of State. If we are to achieve the holy grail of evidence based policy making, free from political interference, there would be merit in looking at the recent proposal for a Chief Education Officer along the lines of the Chief Science and Medical Officer."
Interesting, isn't it? The NUT was quite prepared to put up with Balls' eternal meddling and politicised interventions. It was even happy, in the end, to put up with the sinister GTC's politicised prescriptions and intrusions. Why? Because Balls is a comrade and the GTC is basically populated by comrades. As soon as Gove comes along, however, with his exciting (or terrifying, if you're a comrade) brand of pragmatic radicalism and a fresh educational philosophy, the time has come for another quango, quick! Or, at the very least, an expensive, 'independent' tsar civil servant who used to be a professor of something or other mildly educational at the University of Brixton, but who, above all, is a comrade.

Gove is definitely doing something right!


  1. I'm generally sympathetic to the abolition of the GTC. It was intrusive into the private lives of teachers and ineffective and costly. Most teachers hate it.

    One aspect of the announcement from Michael Gove which concerned me was his ill-informed remarks on the case of Adam Walker. As I represented Mr Walker (a BNP member hauled before the GTC) as his Solidarity Trade Union Representative it was clear to me that Mr Gove had no understanding of the evidence in the case.

    Mr Gove said:-

    And when the GTCE was recently asked to rule on a BNP teacher who had posted poisonous filth on an extremist website they concluded that his description of immigrants as animals wasn't racist so he couldn't be struck off".

    The facts are these:-
    1. Mr Walker posted to a general forum in his local area not an "extremist website".
    2. He posted under a pseudonym and made no mention of his workplace.
    3. His comments concerned some (not all) immigrants and in particular those who abused the hospitality and protection afforded by our country by committing crimes such as rape.
    4. "Immigrants" is not a racial term as immigrants to our country are comprised of people from all races.
    5. The GTC as a public body has a duty to uphold the European Convention on Human Rights.
    6. Any restriction on the right of Mr Walker to freedom of expression would have to be shown to be legitimate, necessary, proportionate and meet a pressing social need.
    7. Evidence was presented to show that Mr Walker was an excellent teacher, who improved grades and treated his pupils with the utmost respect.

    The comments from the NUT, Gove and NASUWT seem contradictory in that they support the right of teachers to a private life outside work but want to vet them on the basis of perceived opinion.

    Pat Harrington
    Solidarity Trade Union

  2. And there was me thinking "NLP" stood for "neuro-linguistic programming". You learn something new every day.


Any thoughts?