Time to Account for Education

Time to Account for Education

So, Nicky Morgan is to push ahead with her choice of OFSTED Chief Inspector, despite the misgivings of the Parliamentary Select Committee chaired by her fellow-Conservative MP Neil Carmichael, and the teachers unions. This is not her first attempt to swim against a tide of opinion from all political directions in pursuit of the imposition of poorly considered policies upon the nation's children; other examples include Baseline Testing for four year olds, and the uniform academisation of England's schools. Had Ms Morgan, a trained lawyer who once specialised in corporate law had her way in forcing all schools to become academies, the parent governor system would have been scrapped and the day to day running of schools would have been placed in the hands of business managers, who Ms Morgan proposed 'have the right skills'.... in fact those who come from very similar backgrounds to her proposed appointee, accountant Amanda Spielman.

The principle reason for such widespread objection to Ms Spielman's appointment as chief inspector for schools is the fact that her previous experience does not include teaching experience of any variety; an attribute that she shares with Ms Morgan. However, in the strange 'Through the Looking Glass' milieu of Ms Morgan's Department for Education it seems that parents and teachers are no longer considered to have 'the right skills' to make judgements about appropriate care and education for the nation's children; what is apparently needed above all else is an accountant and market analyst. As the Acting General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers comments 'It is a sad indictment of this government's attitude to education that they place such little value on the experience of teachers and head teachers, that they would not consider such a background necessary for the chief inspector's role.'

While the current Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw demonstrated in post that he knew very little about the devekopment and learning of young children, as an experienced teacher he did at least know what the day to day job entails within the wonderful helter skelter world of classroom teaching. He reiterates an amusing example that every teacher can relate to; the girl who asked him "Sir, have you thought of doing something else with your life?" My own fondest classroom memory is that of a lively, deeply dyslexic seventeen year old boy in one of my Year 13 sociology classes commenting 'you know, Miss, I always had a shed-load of opinions, but this subject has taught me how to tell people about them'. As a teacher of over twenty years standing, my highly varied classroom experience has convinced me that the balancing act that those who provide education and care for the nation's children need to perform does not relate to neat rows of figures on a spreadsheet, but to deal with each arising situation with a carefully considered fusion of subject knowledge, teaching skills and emotional intelligence.

The key question that Ms Morgan must answer is whether the government's intention is for state education to be wholly handed over to business managers, in a model resembling National Health Service Trusts. This is what the current evidence was already beginning to suggest, as I outlined last month on this website, and the appointment of Ms Spielman is yet another brick in this growing wall. This is of grave concern, as the devastating legacy of putting business managers in charge of the National Health Service is now clearly evident. And indeed, similar failures in the academy system have already begun, with Michael Gove's flagship academy chain now in disarray, following 'serious concerns about its use of public money and governance' including a £400,000 salary paid to the 'executive' head.

Nearly three years ago, when Mr Gove was Secretary of State for Education, children's author and parent Michael Rosen wrote him an open letter, commenting: 'Your legacy is the near-complete destruction of local democratic running of schools.....You cite Tony Blair, who talked of schools being "freed" from "politically correct interference from state or municipality", but then you forget to tell us that this new freedom is controlled by a political interference from somewhere else: from one person - the education secretary'. National events over the past few weeks have now largely determined a damning legacy for both Michael Gove and Tony Blair, but the fate of England's schools still hangs in the balance.

Our children are our most important national asset. As such, I have a suggestion: given the huge importance of the teaching and nurturance of our future population, the government should now offer a referendum for the parents of England to decide whether they agree with Ms Morgan that accountants, lawyers and business managers earning six figure salaries have the 'right skills' to preside over the education and care of their children, or whether they would prefer to leave this vital job in the hands of the parents, teachers, head teachers and local representatives who currently work in partnership on the nation's school governing bodies. This would surely be an excellent example of the fundamental British values of democracy that she purports to espouse.

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