DfE clichès: test your knowledge

Janet Downs's picture
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Read any article about education in England and it’s likely to contain a quote from a spokesperson from the Department for Education (DfE).

There’s a certain repetitive quality to these quotes – my theory (unproven) is that they’re not spoken by a human at all but churned out at the push of a button by a select-a-quote machine. But whatever the source, the same ones reappear.

So, how well do you know the DfE clichés? Try this light-hearted quiz and find out.

A: What are improving fastest?
1Yeast-based buns
2Sponsored academies
3The wages of executive principals.

B: What do we have the best generation of?
1Young teachers
2Canadian ice hockey players
3I-Pads

C: What is the best way to turn around “underperforming” schools?
1Apply feng shui theory
2A sponsor
3Tweak admission criteria to discourage pupils likely to bring down exam results

D: What have schools been struggling under for years?
1Local authority control
2Constant interference by politicians
3Leaky roofs and asbestos

E: What do academies have that local authority maintained schools don’t?
1Lots of extra financial and administrative responsibilities
2A government department PR machine which praises the former
3Freedom

F: What is stagnant?
1Performance of English pupils in international league tables
2Flood water
3Wage growth

The answers.

A: The clichè is “sponsored academies”. The correct answer, however, is executive principals’ wages.

B: The cliché is “young teachers” – but young teachers will grow old just as those who’ve stuck it for more than a few years grow old (or, rather, more mature). Their fate, however, will be to be brushed aside by the next generation of brilliant, amazing, best ever young teachers.

C: The clichè is “sponsor”. The real answer is tweak admissions criteria. Score extra points if you said (a) get rid of poor performing pupils at the start of year 11, (b) introduce an expensive uniform to deter those who buy uniforms from high street chains, (c) take pupils off roll by sending them to off-site provision or (d) introduce an “unashamedly academic” curriculum with the stated aim of getting all pupils to Oxbridge – this will put off those with Level 3 Sats.

D: The clichè is “local authority control” which hasn’t existed for decades since Local Management of Schools was introduced. The correct answer is constant interference from politicians whose expertise is matched by their ignorance. For some schools, the answer will also be leaky roofs and asbestos – particularly irksome if money’s being siphoned to a new free school round the corner.

E: The clichè is “freedom” but it’s illusory. Non-academies can do most things academies can do. The correct answers (two) are a Government PR machine which praises academies and academy chains while giving little publicity to LA maintained schools, and lots of extra admin, legal and financial burdens.

F: The cliché is “performance of English pupils in international league tables”. This description is applied even if the stagnation leaves English 10 year-olds in the top ten globally in TIMSS tests or has 15 year-olds scoring above-average in Science. It would be insulting readers’ intelligence to tell them what the correct answers are.
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