Among a cabinet of fools, the Education Secretary – Michael Gove – seems to be leading a charmed life.
His department has won praise for its “radical” policies, which have led to the creation of ‘free’ schools, plans to impose performance-related pay on teachers, the development of the EBacc exam, and the introduction of £9,000 university tuition fees.
Hang on a second!
‘Free’ schools are nothing of the kind! They cost a fortune, and suck desperately-needed money away from state-maintained schools!
Performance-related pay for teachers? How do you measure that? It isn’t a manufacturing job, you know! School pupils’ abilities vary, their temperaments vary, their concentration levels vary. They may have any number of other issues interfering with their learning experience and you can’t pin any of the above on teachers’ performance! How perverse!
The EBacc exam has been widely criticised ever since it was first suggested! Just do a quick web search for it – four out of the first five results are about reforming it! Many of the others are complaints: “EBacc has forced arts off curriculum”, “PE should be part of Ebacc exam system, experts warn”, “EBacc threatens creativity”.
And as for the introduction of university tuition fees… life is too short to discuss the dire threat to higher education in the UK that this represents.
Now we have confirmation of our worst fears about the Schools’ Dunce and his department – from teachers themselves, in a new YouGov poll.
You know there has to be something wrong when 77 per cent of teachers in the NUT – that’s the National Union of Teachers, the largest organisation representing the profession – say the current government is having a negative impact on education.
Morale has plummeted, with 55 per cent – more than half, saying their confidence in the future of their profession was either low or very low. Only 15 per cent said their morale was very high.
Taking this further, 69 per cent said their morale had declined since the 2010 general election and 71 per cent said they rarely or never felt trusted by the government.
Academy and ‘free’ school programmes were taking education in the wrong direction, according to 77 per cent of respondents.
Cuts and austerity measures were harming some or most children and their families, according to 76 per cent of those asked – and that’s before 2013’s toxic cocktail of cuts has even arrived!
And the performance-related pay argument suffered another hit when 74 per cent said children’s educational achievements were affected by their family’s income.
The EBacc was being rushed through without enough consultation, according to a staggering four-fifths of secondary school teachers (81 per cent).
Only five per cent – one-twentieth of those asked – thought the Coalition government was having a positive effect on schools.
The general opinion is that Mr Gove is rushing through changes according to an outdated philosophy, rather than taking the time to gather evidence on what might, in fact, work.
According to The Guardian, it’s called “new public management” and is a Neo-Liberal idea calling for public services to mimic the market in order to ensure high standards and accountability. The only problem is, it doesn’t work. Managers are brought in, to keep the ‘producer interests’ – teachers and academics – from controlling the system, but they then distort the system with league tables and performance targets; instead of providing a varied and engaging education, teachers are coerced into following government-imposed incentives. Education suffers as a result. And that is what we’re seeing here.
The Education Department’s response? Teaching is an “attractive” profession with vacancy rates “at their lowest since 2005”.
The changes will raise standards by giving more power to head teachers, attracting the best graduates and professionals, and helping those teaching now to do their jobs even better. How? They didn’t say. I don’t think they’ve got the evidence to back themselves up.
So teachers are the latest professionals to go on the state-starved sick list – along with the police, doctors and nurses, and anyone working in the public sector.
And Mr Gove? All things considered, if we were to tell him to modify his own surname into a word describing what he should do, he’d probably spell it “goe”.