It was lucky for the Conservative Government that its current Schools minister is a product of publicly-funded education.
Otherwise ‘Minister for Exclamation Marks’ Nick Gibb’s oft-repeated line that “we can’t have two systems of education” in one country would have rung even more hollow on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday than it did.
Apparently he feels inferior when in the company of his Eton-educated colleagues and often moans about the quality of his education. One cannot help but wonder why, when Cameron, Osborne and the others behave like imbeciles and zombies.
Obviously we do have two systems of education already – schools which are funded with public money, and those that are privately-financed – so any suggestion that academies can’t live alongside local authority schools is ridiculous.
This Blog has already pointed out that LEA schools outperform academies, so it seems more likely that the full academisation of English schools may be an attempt to hide the fact.
Here in Wales, some of us are looking forward to it. Our schools will streak ahead of England and may enjoy a welcome boost in pupil numbers as a result.
Anyway, as UK Government Watch points out, English education has pretty much always been fragmented:
English education has long been one of several systems or even many systems which separate and segregate children and parents and teachers: obviously there’s the private and public division, with private schools being left out of this whole debate anyway. Then there is the religious, non-religious divide– and religious schools are also divided between ‘voluntary controlled’ and ‘voluntary aided’. There are old Foundation schools where the land and school is held by the Foundation Trust and not by the local authority. Then again in counties like Kent there are ‘grammar schools’ i.e. selective schools, and the other ‘high’ schools which are to all intents and purposes, ‘secondary modern schools’.
Mr Gibbs didn’t leave it there, though. Goodness no. He had far too many other nonsense claims to put forward, such as:
- The one about how academy chains free heads up to co-operate with each other.
Headteachers and schools across local authorities have been co-operating for decades. Some of the best work on co-operation has happened this way – Tim Brighouse’s work is one of many examples. The Language in the National Curriculum project was another (£20 million invested then thrown away because Tories didn’t like the ‘autonomy’ given to teachers!)
- The one about ‘local authority bureaucracy’.
LA’s have people who run education. These have in the past included experienced teacher advisers who have helped schools. But ‘‘abolishing bureaucracy” is typical populist government talk. What do we think that the appointment of tiers of management and supervision coming from the new Regional Commissioners and the people sitting in the academy chain HQs is all about? Are they not bureaucrats?
- The one about ‘autonomy’.
The man talking about ‘autonomy’ this morning sent a letter to the Times Educational Supplement’ ‘clarifying’ the use of exclamation marks. When I joke that he is the Minister for Exclamation Marks, I’m only half-kidding. This is central control as never before. And he talks about ‘autonomy’.
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