Same old, same old

Tempting though it has been to enjoy the political demise of Michael Gove, there is really only time for a little rejoicing. In my opposition over the last four years I have tried very hard not to focus on an individual but on policies. That was hard to do, of course, because Gove was so deliberately insulting to me and my former colleagues, unable, or at least unwilling, to engage in civilised and reasoned debate.

But, ask yourself, would you have found his policies any more palatable if he had been saying nice things about teachers (he did, actually, occasionally)? Gove was (is) an unpleasant, ideological bone-head but his policies – which remain intact – were (are) the policies of the Coalition government. Apart from an occasional spat with Wilshaw and Laws (and, no doubt, in the run-up to the General Election, we will hear about all sorts of extreme polices which, behind the scenes, the Lib Dems prevented or modified) I do not recall any member of the Government, or the Conservative Party, criticising or opposing what Gove was doing.

So, let’s not linger too long over our glasses of bubbly. Some of us are long enough in the tooth to be able to remember the delight that greeted the resignation of Thatcher but her policies continued long after she had left the stage. We have to ensure that the electorate aren’t fooled into thinking that by appointing Ms Morgan in Gove’s stead, Cameron has somehow reversed or halted the coup effected in our state education system. The policies are in place and they and their consequences will continue to unfold.

I for one will go on exposing  them, here and on other social media, as I know many others will. Let’s not attack Nicky Morgan – ill-equipped as she is, to run our state school system (privately-educated lawyer) – let’s continue to remind friends, colleagues, the public at large, of the wasteful and deliberately divisive policies of this Government. They (not one man) have undermined public faith in teachers and our public education system, in order stealthily to give away our state assets to faith and business groups interested in their own agendas. At a time of supposed austerity, they have wasted millions on tin-pot inefficient ‘free’ schools and grand vanity projects (university technical college, anyone?). It will be a long hard road back to a decent, democratically accountable state school system. Let’s not waste too much time revelling in the discomfort of one person (though it has been enjoyable, hasn’t it?)

Sign this!

The news that Michael Gove, apparently against the advice of some at the DfE, approved the spending of £45 million (some say £40 million) on a selective ‘free school’ Sixth Form College in London, has outraged many, including Margaret Hodge and me. The school will be sponsored by The Harris academy chain which, in case you need reminding, was founded by, and is overseen by, Lord Harris (he of ‘Carpetright’ and ex-Tory Party treasurer and donor) and Westminster School, a private (as in ‘public’) school. Just to rub it in, Gove has overseen cuts to Sixth Form colleges around the country which, according to those who know, is resulting in teacher redundancies and cutting back on 16+ options.

Outraged enough, yet? I started to set up an on-line petition but then heard that the slightly more high profile National Union of Teachers had beaten me to it. So I went to their website and signed. You don’t have to be a member to do the same (although I am, personally). I’m just glad a national organisation is prepared to galvanise opposition to this travesty.

Here’s the link:


If you are a teacher who has just returned to school after a welcome break, beware, Michael Gove has rumbled you: admit it, you’re a member of an extreme left-wing organisation, aren’t you? Gove has, in parliament, referred to the National Union of Teachers and ‘other extreme left-wing’ organisations (by which, presumably, he means all the other teacher unions). He was seeking to justify his refusal to comply with a Freedom of Information request for the publication of free school applications that were unsuccessful, along with the letters of rejection. He was, he said, protecting those brave teachers who wanted to set up a free school from intimidation by the NUT and those other extremists. (Feel free to insert here any anecdote of Gove or his minions bullying or intimidating teachers, parents, schools or headteachers into becoming academies or accepting poorer negotiating rights, conditions of service etc.)

Gove never seems to be happy unless he’s name-calling – remember the ‘enemies of promise’ jibe? – or tilting at left-wing windmills (witness his recent ignorant and inappropriate diatribe against supposedly left-wing ‘myths’ about the First World War).

DfE defeated in FOI case over free schools

Well done the NUT for winning a long-running case against the DfE. They have finally succeeding in getting the DfE to release the ‘impact statements’ required for all the ‘free schools’ that have opened. You can view the first wave at

I think we’re entitled to ask what they’re afraid of. This government set up the rules so you can be sure they’re pretty soft. Proposed ‘free schools’ are supposed to demonstrate need or parental demand, and to show how the new school would impact on others in the area. However, all the evidence is produced by the group proposing the new school so pretty easy to ‘fudge it’. Crucially, the NUT have secured access to the documents only AFTER the school has opened, so no chance to use the information to argue against a proposed new school and no point in arguing retrospectively. Still, a useful victory.

End of term… (1)

Dashing off to make the most of my new status to ‘holiday’ during term time, I neglected to write about two minor ‘events’ that affected me at the end of term.

I was invited back to the school where I worked for more than three decades to help present some prizes. This was a year on from what was perhaps my own little ’15 minutes of fame’. In the absence of a ‘big wig’ from the Local Authority, I was invited — as retiring senior leader — to give the key-note speech. A large proportion of it was predictable, though genuinely-meant, praise for the way the school had developed in recent years and become in most people’s eyes a really good school. However, what caught the attention and has stuck in people’s memories, were my references to Michael Gove and Michael Wilshaw about whom I was less than complimentary, a view which was warmly endorsed by the strength of the applause from parents, staff and guests, including the local Tory MP, apparently, (maybe she wasn’t listening!).

This year, restricted to one minute, like all ‘guest presenters, I reminded the audience of what I had said last year and managed a little ‘sound bite’ which effectively said ‘nothing’s happened to make me change my mind’. Again, warm applause; also ‘presenting’ was retiring county secretary of a teachers’ union, who was rude about academies, the Chair of Governors, who vowed the school would never become an academy whilst he is in post, and a former student now local Labour councillor who promised to join everyone on the picket line if the school was ever threatened with academisation. A surprisingly political occasion and the strength of applause for all these comments left us in no doubt where the audience stood on these matters. Quite heartening.

It’s official: anyone can be a teacher!

Good to see that something sensible has come out of the Department of Couldn’t-Make-It-Up with Nick Clegg (what a hero!) putting the boot into Elizabeth Truss’s mad scheme for improving nurseries by increasing the child-adult ratio. However, in case you thought sensible was the new mad, this was immediately followed by the even dippier ‘Tommies for Teachers’ initiative (or whatever snappy title they’ve decided to give it). I think this was the winner of last month’s D of CMIU competition to find the most imaginative way to insult teachers a bit more. For those who haven’t been paying attention this means that anyone exiting the military can be fast-tracked into the classroom including, if they inconveniently don’t have one of those degree thingies, only having to do a couple of years of school-based training (I make that a degree in  one day a week for a year. Now that’s what I CALL dumbing down!)

Fortunately for me, a young man over at The Independent has done a very good hatchet job so go read at the link above.


Morning campers!

Morning campers!

Ran into an old friend of mine at the supermarket the other day and he told me that, today, he was starting life as a teacher at an academy. This wasn’t  his choice, nor yet the choice of many of his teaching colleagues who so far forgot themselves as to go on strike and earn a snide remark from Gove (swelling the ranks of the ‘enemies of promise’). However, like I imagine all good teachers would, he’s putting that behind him and going in determined to do the best for his students — a bit like he did before, really.

What will change, now that Mr Gove has decided he and his colleagues were failing their students and had to become an academy? Apparently, the uniform : all fancy ties and blazers, given free to all in a magnanimous gesture that has me wondering, how much did that cost (a quick flick of the abacus suggests northwards of fifty grand) and wasn’t there anything better to spend the money on? The teachers have not been treated so generously and have been told to dress ‘as if for an interview’, which will not be far from the truth, I’m thinking.

There was a time when I was anti-uniform but I have come to see the benefit of encouraging corporate identify and a spirit of pride in the school. However, I still don’t get the obsession with blazers and ties. Are these jumped up comprehensives trying to ape their betters in the independent sector?! Does it simply suggest ‘business’ and an aspiration to become stock-brokers and investment bankers? In the real world, fewer and fewer adopt this kind of dress and even top politicians often don more casual garb, dropping the tie at least. So why do our kids have to look like they’re extras on Hi-Di-Hi?

Invidious choice for heads over PRP

Why does the Department for Education persist in asserting that the introduction of Performance Related Pay for teachers will enable heads to reward the best teachers? The bottom line is, there is no more money in the system so ‘the best’ teachers (whoever they are) can be paid more only if other teachers are paid less or, as has now been admitted, if the school employs fewer teachers. Your favourite OFSTED chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has stated quite clearly that in order for heads to introduce this regime (and not to do so would be ‘illegal’ according to the OTHER Michael!) they will have to persuade their staff that class sizes will have to rise. That’ll improve education standards, won’t it!