Unqualified headteachers? Welcome to Michael Gove’s educational dystopia . .

Pimlico Primary, a new free school in London, made the news this week for hiring a  27 year old as the head teacher ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-22016045 ).  27 does seem a rather young age to take responsibility for a school, although an outstanding candidate with 5 years of experience in the classroom and as a deputy head could take the role and make a success of it.  Except this appointee has none of those things. Anneliese Briggs does not have a teaching qualification. Yes, that’s right, a school is hiring a headteacher who is not really  a teacher.

How in the name of feck did we get to this sorry state of affairs? I have nothing against Ms Briggs personally, and I think she is probably a victim in all of this caught up as she is in the ideological blitzkreig which Michael Gove is waging against state education.

Apparently what makes Ms Briggs suitable to be the leader of a state funded school (so we pay her salary), is her experience with the ‘cultural literacy curriculum’ of E. D.  Hirsch. Hirsch’s emphasis on the systematic teaching of facts and his creation of a curriculum which appears to follow a logical order has been the doyen of Gove’s eye for many years now, offering as it does a veneer of theoretical credibility to his curriculum reforms which are leading to a bloated and fact-heavy curriculum.  I too have experience of the concept of cultural literacy as a curriculum, and cutting the chase I can let you have my expertise for free right now, the cultural literacy curriculum is a load of old tripe.

Briggs was no doubt involved in Civitas’s ‘anglicisation of E. D. Hirsch’s curriculum ( http://www.coreknowledge.org.uk/coreknowledge.php ).  Maybe she even helped draw the wonderful diagram below, with its *amazing* insights into how a school curriculum is not just about core knowledge, but also about the school’s ethos and values.  Not that the diagram is wrong or anything, it’s just that it’s so glib and patronising.  The whole thing reeks of posh kids holed up in a London office thinking they have all the answers to education because they can draw a pretty diagram using PowerPoint.

It’s hard to know where to start with the debunking of the snake oil drenched chicanery of ‘core knowledge’, there’s just so much to go at.  But how about you just pause reading and quickly outline the story of Gawain and the Green Knight (from the top of your head, no Googling it). I don’t want you to quote from the original, just tell what the story is, and what it’s meaning is within Christian thought.

No doubt you rattled that off easily, but if you had trouble, then bear in mind that Civitas recommends that Year 5 children are familiar with the legend of Gawain and the Green Knight.  And if you teach in a school using the core knowledge sequence then you can’t miss this out, as the theoretical foundation of cultural literacy is that it is impossible to acquire later knowledge unless each interim step has been achieved. So miss out Gawain and his jolly green mate, and you’re stuffed when it comes to year 6 and you have to learn about ‘The legend of Culhywch and Owen’.. it will make absolutely no sense whatever to you. *

Gove, and his previous school minister Nick  Gibb have been obsessed with curriculum reform, because the curriculum seems, to the education outsider, the one thing you can grab hold of in education and change to impose your will on schools and bring the unruly teaching profession to heel.  But if  you’ve worked in education for even a short time (ie longer than Ms Briggs), you will soon learn that the curriculum is only part of the complex picture of education. Driving up standards and the quality of learning is not all about changing the curriculum, especially if your conception of the curriculum is a list of stuff to be taught and learned, rather than a more progressive view of the curriculum which is rooted in what we know about learning and child development.  Andrew Pollard writing of the pernicious influence of Hirsch’s ideas on the new national curriculum pointed out that  the new curriculum ‘neglects the way children learn’ ( http://www.ioe.ac.uk/64559.html ), but his views were ignored by Gove. Pollard has decades of experience in education and published his first book on primary schooling in 1985. If he was 27, had spent a few years knocking around in a think tank and spent a few hours once in a school, maybe he would have been listened to.

This whole story summarises what Gove is doing to UK state education.  He is using his pet free school project to create chaos and uncertainty, and undermine the professionalism of teachers in the most cynical of ways.  No doubt, Pimlico Primary will have lots of help from the DfE once opened (although we probably will never know how much as previous FOIs to determine levels of spending on free schools have been ignored or bypassed), so it will be a success and Gove can confidently declare that not only teachers not need to be qualified, but head teachers don’t need to be either.  And so the assault on state schools will continue as more are driven into the academy chains of the Tory backers and primed for profit making.

Welcome to the topsy turvy world of Michael Gove’s education dystopia, a nightmare from which we may never awaken.

* Just for the record I had to study Gawain and the Green Knight at university, but I never really got on with it, so I missed the lectures and tutorials and in the exam answered on Chaucer instead. I still have no idea what Gawain and the Green Knight is about, I know a Knight is involved and he is green, but my ‘core knowledge’ fizzes to a halt then. Thank god cultural literacy was not invented when I was a student or would have been stuffed for any literature written after 1370 which would have had serious ramifications for my degree .

It wasn’t so I graduated with a 1st.

Profit-Making State Schools, Why this is a terrible idea (part 2)

In profit warning part I ( http://bit.ly/WCI8ut ) I argued that neoliberal pressure to allow schools to make profits were absolutely nothing to do with raising standards or improving outcomes for students. The motivation behind allowing companies to cream off profits from running state education is purely about profit and the enrichment of the elite who will own the largest stakes in these companies.  If profit making companies are allowed to run schools, then standards will actually drop as they have done in the liberalised markets for energy and rail.  Nor will the tax-payer make any savings, as the government will fund these schools places at least the same level as non profit-making schools, and pressure from neo-liberals may even create the same kind of distortions we are going to see in the NHS as ministers bend over backwards to create favourable conditions for profit making for private enterprise.

Allowing market forces into education will not work for many reasons.  When people talk of market forces and competition, it is interesting to probe what particular markets they are holding up as successful and vibrant examples of the capitalist genre. One such ‘market’ is food retailing and the domain of the supermarkets. It is true that competition to win the ‘weekly shop’ has led to unprecedented choice and value for Britain’s shoppers. The large supermarkets constantly innovate to get us through their doors, and for those resistant to the might of the big chains, many towns offer alternatives such as traditional markets, organic outlets and so on.  As an example of competition and the profit motive driving up standards, it is hard to argue with food retailing, although the bullying tactics of the large supermarkets in squeezing margins out of their suppliers such as dairy farmers do reveal how even this text-book capitalist template has its negative consequences*.

Schools are not supermarkets; education is not food shopping.  If Tesco was a school, you would get to visit the supermarket as prospective customers on an open day and the manager would show you a powerpoint presentation of the facilities, for this is mostly what happens when parents set out to choose schools. If you liked it, you could put your name down and if successful you would then be allowed to shop there for the next 4, 5 or even 6 years. You’d better hope you made the correct choice, as you would only be shopping there and you wouldn’t be able nip along to another school to take account of a special offer, or a juicy 3 for 2 deal.  You could transfer to another supermarket if they had a spare slot for a customer and you could bear doing all of the paperwork.  This is the fabled ‘choice’ held up by Neo-liberals as the consumer pay off for accepting a privatised alternative to a state service. The choice here though is nothing but a chimera; you can’t shop around, split your shop up to get the best value or stop going to a particular store altogether as you can do with your weekly shop. Once the decision is made, you are captive, and captive customers can do nothing to influence the quality of the service they get.

Profit making schools will probably do many things to ensure that they deliver a healthy profit to shareholders and senior management of the parent company. Firstly, as a school’s main budgetary outlay is staffing, particular the cost of teaching staff, they will seek out the lowest paid teachers (those with little experience), and whenever possible employ unqualified teachers on the lowest wages. Michael Gove’s announcement in July 2012 that unqualified teachers can now work in academies and free schools suddenly makes sense, paving the way for a way for profit making chains to commence the profit-seeking race to the bottom.

Profit making schools in Britain may also look to the Charter Schools of America for handy tips on how to boost the bottom line.  Reports on the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago ( http://on.msnbc.com/WWxtrK ) reveal how they see parents as nice little earner on the side, and have created a system of ‘disciplinary charges’ to fine parents of students they believe have broken school rules. Some students have racked up hefty fees for their parents for what seems like trivial infringements.  The potential for abuse here is astonishing.  Schools needing some extra cash can simply mete out detentions to students (whether justified or not), and then soak the parents for ‘administration fees’. The ultimate irony is that a student with a poor disciplinary record is far less likely to be offered a place at another school, so the family is trapped into handing cash over.  Schools will also no doubt be tempted to inflate other costs for parents, the school trip could no longer be a cost-neutral exercise, but have a hidden surcharge to boost the coffers, and the uniform could only be bought from the school, again with added margin to rip off the parents and enrich the schools shareholders.

The blind belief in the power of the markets, despite the overwhelming empirical evidence of failure in energy supply, rail transport and so on is a very real form of coercion through which the state forces people to accept a second-rate service simply to increase the wealth of a narrow elite.  Profits created are either the result of cartels (as with energy), or state funded monopolies (rail, and education if that ever comes to pass) being handed tax payers’ money. Nor does the state itself shrink as most free market advocates would wish, as government still has to fund these services through general taxation and have regulatory oversight to correct the most egregious failings of these quasi-markets create.

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* This was written before widespread contamination of Beef by Horsemeat was discovered in UK and Irish foods. Rather than modify the blog, I merely ask the reader to reflect on how the failure of the supermarket supply chain impacts the arguments made here about the perfectibility of markets.

This blog was originally published on The Backbencher

Dead White Men: Michael Gove and the New National History Curriculum

Portrait in oils of Michael Gove

Michael Gove is at the centre of another controversy. This time it’s over his planned new National History Curriculum.  A ‘leak’ to the Daily Mail over the Christmas period led them to write ‘Some of the greatest figures in Britain’s past are to be restored to their rightful place in history, thanks to an overhaul of the school curriculum.’ (link – warning this takes you to the Daily Mail site)  Gove it seems is no fan of some of the figure in the old (New) labour history curriculum, including William Wilberforce (leading light in the campaign to abolish slavery), Mary Seacole (Jamaican nurse who showed extreme courage in the Crimean war), and Amy Johnson (you know, the one with the plane).  Instead Gove is insisting that schools teach first and foremost the history of England through its Kings, Queens, and major political and religious figures.

To seasoned education observers, the obsession with ‘the curriculum’; can sometimes get a little tedious. Although the curriculum specifies the content which is to be taught, it’s a very reductive viewpoint indeed which equates learning only with content. Learning is a process, and being a historian is a lot more than being able to rote learn the dates of every British monarch.  Far more important are the skills of weighing up conflicting evidence, creating narratives and understanding how events are linked.  History is after all, just a collection of narratives; this is given away in its very name! Figures such as Seacole are very useful to history teachers; they illustrate how people can overcome prejudice (in Seacole’s case both racial and gender based), to achieve remarkable things.  Most of what we learn at school we forget, but stories such as Seacole’s have the potential to inspire young people.  This is far from being an inclusion of the ‘PC brigade, or the loony left’ as the charge from Gove goes, but rather an opportunity to examine a fascinating period in British history and the prevailing social attitudes.

It is telling that the figures which Gove wants taught are from the monarchy, the church and mainstream politics (Churchill, Nelson etc).  Gove’s history curriculum sits proudly on his shelves in plush red leather with gold-tooled lettering.  He is clearly impatient with the stories of ordinary people who challenged the status quo or fought for social justice, or women (like Johnson), who took on male dominance in a field like aviation and proved themselves equal if not better to men.  Kings and Queens (of Britain) rule by divine right (this much I learned in my history lessons). God *tells* them they are in charge and this supremacy cannot be challenged in the earthly order. This suits Conservative ideology very well, it shuts down the narrative of uppity commoners getting to big for their boots. Studying the monarchy is an exercise in knowing your place and the lives of common people, their struggles, the battles they fought to achieve a modern democracy disappear from view. So Gove’s history curriculum is purpose built to reinforce, albeit on a very subliminal level, the agenda of his government, which is proving itself to be the most reactionary and socially regressive in living memory.  Cameron’s cabinet is dominated by white men with an unshakeable belief they were born to rule, so it is very fitting that the history curriculum is stacked in a similar manner.

In specifying so closely which figures are to be taught in History lessons, Gove shows himself to be quite the control freak, eager to wield his power so his particular take on history is the one played out in the exercise boards and whiteboards of the countries’ school.  But if he is a control freak, he’s a hugely conflicted one as his flagship free schools don’t have to teach the national curriculum, nor do any of the academies. They are free to teach whatever they want, they can base their entire history curriculum on Malcolm X if they wanted to.  Gove’s tenure as education secretary has been nothing but a mess of badly thought out policies and ideological blindness.

Ex-teacher to set up investment bank in Hackney

A former teacher is spearheading a plan to set up a brand new investment bank in Hackney using apes instead of people as a traders. It is the first time that an attempt to use Simians to gamble with other people’s money has been made, and experts are split as to whether it will be a success or not.

Adam Wanner-Sense decided to launch the bank after reading a statistic that investment bankers could get filthy rich with as little as 11 seconds work a day.  Adam explains ’35K for the average teacher is shit money anyway, I want people at my new bank to all be in the top 1% of earners, and my plan to use apes to make the trades is fool-proof’.

The plan has already attracted opposition from investment banks in the nearby City of London who are adamant that the bank will take much needed money away from them.  At a meeting, one banker Chetwyn Montague-Pretzel (the 3rd) said: ‘The evidence from other countries where teachers have set up investment banks is disastrous,, they know nothing about what we do, there is no way a teacher can understand the complexities of banking. And even if they did and made a shed load of cash like we do, how can we be sure they would spend it on the right kind of things, like Simply Red CDs, cocaine and Porsches?’

When asked about his lack of experience in running an investment bank, Mr Wanner-Sense said: ‘my complete and total lack of experience in investment banking (indeed any kind of banking) should not be a cap on my aspiration to run a trillion pound hedge fund right here in Hackney.  For too long, low expectations and a culture of failure has been accepted here, but we are going to change that .  We sat round a table and did some quadratic equations and we are sure our business model is 100% sound.  Basically we take the money from people’s pensions funds and savings, we then skim off a huge chunk for ourselves and give the rest to the monkeys and they tap away on computer terminals, “”investing”” it. If it all goes to plan we’ll be loaded’.  When asked to comment on what would happen if all of that money was lost as a result of poor lending decisions, greed and weaker regulatory oversight than that which applies to a mother’s union coffee-morning, Mr Wanner-Sense said: ‘that’s a good fucking question but we thought of that too. If we lose all of the money, we get on a plane to somewhere exotic and the UK taxpayer will step in with billions of extra money to save the bank because by then we’ll be too big to fail; it’s what the apes call a ‘win-win’ situation.

Hackney Free Bank opens on 1st November.

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Image of man with monkey courtesy of ross-hawkes, licenced via Creative Commons, available here http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosshawkes/5529772412/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Forever Young . .

Today Toby Young published a piece in The Spectator. The majority of it lives behind a paywall, but the first two paragraphs caused a bit of a stir amongst the good folk of twitter as the founder of the West London Free School eased into his usual combative style to defend Michael Gove’s championing of a two tier exam system at age 16.

The concept of inclusion seems to have particularly got Toby Young’s dander up as he rails against this ‘ghastly, politically correct’ word.  According to Young, inclusion has created conditions of quite unbearable egregiousness in the British education system, through, for instance, its insistence that wheelchair ramps are installed for disabled students.

I’ll wait for a few moments whilst you go back and read the end of that last paragraph again.    You back?   Good, now you have seen (and probably clicked the link to the Spectator original to check I was telling the truth) that indeed Toby Young is intensely annoyed that schools have to install wheelchair ramps so children using wheelchairs can get into the school. And his ire does not die away quickly, he soon turns to a berate a mythical ‘special needs department’ where students with dyslexia and mentally ill parents are pandered to.  For his encore, and definitely warming to his theme of how dysfunctional humanity and the halt, the lame and the blind will be the downfall of any right thinking society, he opines that laws on equality will prevent any exam that isn’t ‘accessible’ to a “functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six”.

No doubt Young sees these evils as an inevitable consequence of the unnacceptable meddling in education of the state and big government.  This is after all the man who celebrated the sentiments of Grover Norquist who wanted to shrink the government, drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the battub (http://bit.ly/Mjz7CI)

This is fine Tory fare; grandstanding to a stale smelling legion of Bufton-Tuftons sat swilling gin in country clubs and wanting a return to a 1950s pedagogy pickled in aspic and the certainties of a class system  where children were sorted into sheep and goats at age 11 and nothing challenged this status quo for the rest of their lives.

But certain uneasy questions remain. The first is why, if Young is so anti-state and anti-government, that he chose to found his free school with tax payer money. The last time I checked DfE funding is raised by general taxation, and the setting up of the West London Free School was therefore paid by the very same state which Toby Young would like to murder, leaving only a neo-liberal paradise of private provision in its wake.  The true costs of the WLFS are not yet known, as Gove’s department has been less than transparent with figures, but if Toby Young went beyond the facile flashiness of his puerile political beliefs he would have to confront the gaping paradox of why he didn’t found the West London Free School using private capital and make it fee-paying. Or will it be the case that he’ll not drown government in the bath-tub, just subject it to a protracted period of water-boarding.

The second question to remain is Young’s simultaneous commitment to a genuinely comprehensive system  (no selection) and the offensive and divisive comments we read in The Spectator piece.  Put simply Young cannot have his cake and eat it.  He has a perfect right to argue that some children are illiterate savages with no hope of redemption, or they come saddled with physical or mental disabilities which will drag education down to a hopeless pool of mediocrity.  But arguing that his school can be genuinely comprehensive and non-selective whilst holding these opinions is simply not tenable.

Which is why, when I asked him on twitter, what the West London Free School would do when troglodytes, dyslexics and wheelchair users applied to the West London Free School, he blocked me rather than supply a credible answer to a reasonable question.

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Update: the full text of the Spectator article is now on Toby Young’s Blog (http://bit.ly/Mn2Pa2).  The remainder of his argument is that a two tier exam system will not ruin the life chances of those not selected for the upper tier (O level) exams and that 14 year olds are robust enough to cope with this.  As evidence for this argument he cites a case study, namely himself who was initially in a mixture of O level and CSE classes but then returned to study to gain A levels and a place at Oxford.  If only Young could find one other person who struggled with CSEs and then became a success he’d have TWO case studies, and of course as the plural of anecdote is data, he’d have a rock solid research-based educational argument.

There is also an addendum where Young explains his comments about the troglodyte and takes special care to show he is talking about a ‘dumbed down curriculum’ rather than children with SEN.  So it turns out that a ‘troglodyte’ in Young’s bestiary is not a child with SEN, merely a child of very low intelligence, and by the same logic a wheelchair ramp in a school is not part of the school’s commitment to inclusion, it is merely a symptom of the dumbing down of the curriculum.  And if you find this logic hard to follow, and his explanation for his comments convoluted, then feel free to join me in the CSE group at the back of the class.

We’re going on a Gove Hunt

Michael Rosen has written an open letter to Michael Gove this week (http://bit.ly/wOR2vl). Rosen is critical of Gove’s policy and approaches, I think it’s fair to say he’s not Gove’s biggest fan.  Rosen’s classic children’s book casts the bear in the role of the scary monster, but what if we were to face our modern day demons and go on a Gove hunt….

The Rampant Politicisation of Education

It is nearly the end of 2011, so time to look back and think about what has happened to education in England during 2011.  When thinking what to write here, one theme struck me as paramount, namely the rampant politicisation of the education agenda. It seems that every single facet of education from the way schools are funded, to the buildings they inhabit, to the exams the students take, to the pensions the teachers have to live on after years of service have been subjected, this year, to a ramping up of political pressure.

Of course education has always been politicised, it is state funded from general taxation and each political party quite rightly has its own beliefs on the best way of spending that money. The series of decisions in the 20th century to make schooling universal were political in nature. Since that time, any further decisions about what happens in education have been entangled within political structures and caught up in the nuanced (and not so nuanced) party politics of the day.  But it seems to me that since the coalition has come to power and begun running education in England and Wales this politicisation has intensified and crucially it has become more divisive.

So what is the nature of this politicisation and how is it being manifested? Firstly it is related to the evidence base used to frame national debates about educational standards.  Paranoia about standards in free fall as exams become ever easier was part of the wallpaper during the New Labour years, and that motive has not disappeared. But there is now a new kid on the block in the form of  the PISA programme which Michael Gove has used as the groundbass for nearly every speech he has made to show that standards in English schools have been falling relative to our international counterparts. Gove seized on the PISA scores which show England falling back from 7th (out of 32 countries) for reading in 2000 to 25th (out of 65 countries) in 2009 (1).  Once Gove sat down in the big chair at the department for education he had of course to trash the previous administration’s performance in education.  This, for once, is not solely the fault of Gove, but rather a function of the black and white, yabooh politics which seems to be as British as ‘Fish and Chips’. No Secretary of State in an incoming government which has been out of power for 13 years could admit to achievements by their predecessors.  Instead a narrative of rapid decline and an imminent crisis with millions of illiterate school leavers flooding the streets had to be quickly sketched out so the right wing press could portray the coalition reforms as saving the nation from sure destruction.  But the PISA data, just like any data, can be contested, and in October even the TES accused Gove of cherry picking PISA data by not entering English schools into the Problem Solving tests (2).  Commentators are split as to whether English pupils would do even worse on the problem solving tests than they do in reading, maths and science, or whether they would actually steal a march on other countries by showing some flair for problem solving and lateral thinking.  We will never know the truth, but as John Bangs states in that article, if you are going to use PISA as the benchmark then you can’t start ‘pulling back’.  The exam system has been further tainted late in 2011 by revelations that exam boards were coaching teachers on the content of exam papers.

The second major locus of politicisation in education is on supply side reforms to schooling, namely the free schools and academy agenda.  This is the coalition answer to what they see as years of failure prior to their taking office and can be summed up in the word ‘autonomy’. Gove constantly talks of the need for autonomy and how this can raise standards in schools. ‘Autonomy’ has become a rather totemic word, seemingly imbued with magic powers and resisting attempts to unpick exactly what it might mean and crucially how Local Authority schools lacked ‘autonomy’.  Reforms in this area have been radical and far reaching and the impact will be felt for many years.  In the very early days of the coalition, the academies bill was passed but not given the usual period of scrutiny for a major bill.  The chair of the Education Select Committee lamented this rushing of the legislation (3), and he is a Conservative himself so unlikely to be rocking the boat unless he felt very strongly about this.  Using governmental powers reserved for times of terrorist attack to force through education reforms is itself a highly suspect act and not allowing proper debate of the changes was an affront to the democratic principles and standards of the country which traditionally the Conservatives have purported to support and uphold.  The result of the bill was to create a dash for schools to become academies as not only the rules but the whole philosophy behind the principles of academies was changed overnight.  New Labour created the academy programme to allow sponsors to take on schools which had been failing; but Gove opened up the process to any schools with ‘outstanding’ OfSTED ratings and dropped the need for a sponsor to work with the schools. At the same time the concept of the ‘Free School’ was launched. From a legal, technical and financial perspective a free school is an academy, but groups (such as parents, or academy chains) can apply to create a school where none existed before.  The word ‘free’ in ‘free school’ is a piece of political bunkum without parallel. Free schools are anything but free in terms of cost to the tax payer. There have been repeated attempts to get information about the costs of setting up a free school, but these appear to have been successful (5).  Many people have strong suspicions that free schools are in fact very very expensive schools, hoovering up bucket loads of cash when budgets to other schools have been under attack.  Free schools do appear to be free from having to teach the national curriculum, but late in the year a story broke that the Secretary of State was requiring academies and free schools to teach promote marriage and protect students from ‘inappropriate teaching materials’ (4). Failure to toe the line and teach this conservative cultural agenda could lead to a school’s funding being cut. So essentially the Secretary of State now has direct control over what is taught in schools and the legal and technical powers to close any which do not comply. When schools were funded at arms length by government with the local authority acting as proxy this threat was not possible and schools were somewhat protected from caveats from Whitehall. So the word ‘free’ in free schools has more spin on it than a Federer serve, it is slippier than ; it is a word which has been hideously interfered with and abused in the most cruel and unusual way.  As a result the word insults the usual way in which we bring semantics and syntax together to make sense of language.

The final way in which education has been overtly politicised is a very cunning move on the coalition’s part. Free Schools and academies float free of local authority control so they sit within a local community where people are as likely to object to them as they are to support them. The localisation agenda here is used to create conflict within communities as supporters of either the LA schools or the academies/free schools do battle as to what types of schools will serve their communities.  Opposition to academies is nothing new, but  a new phrase ‘forced academisation’ entered the educational lexicon this year to describe a school being forced to become an academy against the wishes of the local community, the governors and/or the staff.  One wonders if politicians who take to platforms to protest their profound desire to improve the ‘life chances’ of young people bother to reflect on how the creation of so much conflict at a local level was a help or hindrance to improving educational outcomes.

We should expect more rather than less direct political intervention in the coming year and further polarisation over the types of schools which are seen as successful or desirable. I end the year convinced of one thing namely that education is far too important to be left to politicians; and hoping for another namely some vestiges of objectivity creep into these debates.

1: DFE (2010) Secretary of State comments on PISA study of school systems, [online] available: http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a0070008/secretary-of-state-comments-on-pisa-study-of-school-systems date accessed 13th December 2011.

2: Times Education Supplement (2011) Mr Gove fixes new PISA problems by ignoring them [online] available: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6115609 date accessed 13th December 2011

3: BBC (2010) Academies Bill rushed through Claim [online] Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-10664722

4: Daily Telegraph (2011) Free Schools and Academies must promote marriage [online] Available:  http://tgr.ph/uPlItc

5: Whatdotheyknow.com (2011) Costs for Current Free School Projects [online] Available http://bit.ly/vuCJtc.

Image is Creative Commons. Provided by user: ‘regional cabinet’ on Flickr.  Amended by author by the addition of a speech bubble of parodic nature in response to the news tht the Secretary of State wants free schools and academies to promote marriage http://bit.ly/rEz5y2.