Proposals to set up free schools in DfE buildings

Janet Downs's picture
The Independent referred briefly to the free schools conference but only as a backdrop to other news. A DfE spokesman announced that bids were being sought to set up free schools in DfE buildings, including Whitehall. The identity of the parental group who is pushing for the new schools is unclear, perhaps because there isn’t one, but the spokesman explained the thinking behind the plans:

“The idea is to concentrate civil servants' minds on their "mission" – educating children – as they walk to their offices in the morning,” he said.

I am sure that civil servants will leap at the chance to teach. There would be no shortage of DfE personnel adept at manipulating statistics, so Maths would be covered. And Sir Humphrey Appleby could give pupils lessons in obfuscation and spin while throwing in some ancient Greek and Latin, so that’s politics and foreign languages sorted. But who could offer English and History? Perhaps Ministers will help out here - Mr Gove, maybe? I’ve no idea who could teach Geography, RE and IT, but I’ve marked Mr Pickles down for PE.
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Thetis's picture
Thu, 03/02/2011 - 19:08

I have made the suggestion already for a democratic school on this spot: I support student voice and would like more democratic ed principles in schools anyway so why not bring democracy in education to Whitehall? Civil servants, ministers and students could have an equal vote on the business of the day - choosing teachers, establishing rules and electing the Secretary of State for Education, giving the present one the chance to make lunch or drive the school minibus. Civil Servants would then walk by the school with a certain respect - allowing children to pursue their education unencumbered by bizarre antediluvian ideology.

Gerry Newton's picture
Thu, 03/02/2011 - 20:06

This is really pretty juvenile stuff, and further undermines what might have been a useful place for real debate.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 04/02/2011 - 09:27

Definition of satire:

"the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc."

Even Mr Gove has had a stab at satire. See him here doing a spoof interview with an armed robber on Channel 4's "A Stab in the Dark".

You'll find it at the 6.34 mark. It has to be said that the spoof is a little short on jokes and the audience is strangely silent.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 04/02/2011 - 09:41

I have been accused of lowering the tone of debate so I will quote the Ancient Greek satirist, Aristophanes:

"As you battle in words and in thoughts of the mind,
Let us see which is better and which lags behind;
We're concerned in this contest for Socrates' sake;
For the future of Learning, no less, is at stake."

(The Clouds. Lines 953-956)

The character Right idealises traditional education: "I'll tell you about the way boys were brought up in the old days... children were supposed to be seen and not heard. Then, all the boys of the district were expected to walk together through the streets to their music-master's, quietly and decorously, and without a coat, even when it was snowing confetti... [the teacher] made them learn some of the old songs by heart ... that's the sort of discipline that I used to rear the men who fought at Marathon."

(The Clouds: lines 961-968, and 1011-1012)

Thetis's picture
Fri, 04/02/2011 - 11:54

Janet - marvellous stuff. You're rather more Horace than Juvenal - though that may change, depending on the next news from the DfE.

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