Secretary of State, Michael Gove, praised English head teachers at the annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers
(NAHT) on Saturday. His admiration of NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby and his colleague Kathy James was so fulsome that Mr Hobby joked later that he thought it was a ruse to make NAHT members distrust him.
Mr Gove quoted a report
by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which had found that head teachers in England were among the best in the world. He blamed the media for not reporting this. But it wasn’t just the media – the Department of Education (DfE) didn’t mention it either. At around the time the report was published, the DfE printed a press release
putting a negative spin on the number of pupils (six in seven) who gained a place in their first-choice secondary school. Schools minister, Nick Gibb, used the statistic to say that academies and free schools (all good) would raise standards in other schools (by implication, not so good). Boris Johnson missed the report as well – he was busy blaming
some “chillingly bad” London schools for the riots. A few days before, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools, used the discounted 2000 PISA UK figures on Radio 5, the same figures that the DfE repeats endlessly despite knowing that OECD has expressly warned against using the 2000 figure
It’s true that there’s nothing certain sections of the media like more than berating English state education. But much of the negativity derives from the Government which publishes misleading data and rubbishes non-academy schools. There are still about 1,600 secondary schools in England that are not academies together with 95% of primary schools yet the DfE tells heads of these schools that academies and free schools will show them how to do better. No wonder heads are annoyed. And, Mr Gove, you can’t put all the blame on the media