Stories + Views
UK at education summit for high performing countries – why no publicity?
Somewhere there is a parallel universe – one where the United Kingdom joined an International Summit of high performing and rapidly improving educational systems (based on PISA results 2009). UK is not “rapidly improving” since its PISA scores remained static between 2006 and 2009. So in this parallel universe, UK must have been one of the high-performing countries.
But Mr Gove and Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, are always saying how the UK, or rather just England, needs radical reform in its educational system if it is to be among this group of high achievers.
In the report about this summit, there was even a photo of a Mr Gove lookalike as he gave a speech which captured Mr Gove’s fondness for patterns-of-three, high-sounding phrases and imparting misleading information.
Mr Gove’s double said that Government policy in England was “tight on knowledge, loose on school context, and tight on measurement” which makes it sound like an ill-fitting pair of gym knickers. His twin then said that giving more autonomy to schools would “unleash greatness” and seemed to take credit for a “new program”, Future Leaders, which actually began in 2006.
So, UK attendance at a summit for high-performing educational systems must be in a parallel universe, right? The truth is the summit was not in a parallel universe – it did happen. It was in New York City on 16-17 March 2011.
But surely the appearance of a UK Secretary of State at an international conference would be newsworthy? Apparently not. There is no record of a press-release on the DfE website and no speech published on Mr Gove’s website. Could this be because admitting that the UK had attended a summit of high-performing countries would undermine Mr Gove’s assertion that the UK is not among the best?
Or could it be because not all of the summit’s findings would have pleased Mr Gove? The finding that “tough-minded collaboration beats tough-minded confrontation”, for example, would not appeal to politicians who talk of free-school shock troops crashing through complacency. The recognition “that teachers are experts in teaching and learning” is likely to be ignored by non-teacher politicians promoting their pet theories whether it’s synthetic phonics, “our island story” or the non-use of calculators. The advice that education reform needed to be approached cautiously within a realistic timescale which might extend over several Parliamentary terms had already been discounted: the Government railroaded the Academies Bill through Parliament with the speed usually reserved to terrorism legislation and the Secretary of State boasts about the rapid pace of his “reforms”. The stress on the importance of teacher morale in raising the quality of teaching is brushed aside as irrelevant by a Minister whose recently-recruited Ofsted chief inspector told the TES that “if anyone says to you that ‘staff morale is at an all-time low’ you will know you are doing something right.”
Perhaps there is a parallel universe – one which separates England from the rest of the world.