Bring us Heads who support free schools and academies, Gove’s advisers told civil servants

Janet Downs's picture
Michael Gove’s advisers asked civil servants at the Department for Education (DfE) to create a database containing names of head teachers who supported Government policies, the Guardian reports. The Stakeholder Advocacy Group (SAG) was set up last year but later disbanded when civil servants became worried that they could be breaking the Civil Servants’ Code which requires political impartiality. There was also unease about how names on the database were chosen.

It’s likely that most of the head teachers chosen were at schools judged Outstanding. There were hundreds to choose from – 20% of English schools were Outstanding according to Ofsted. However, being a head of an outstanding school alone would have been insufficient. Heads would need to be willing to act as advocates in DfE PR campaigns.

It’s not likely that any head teacher would be listed if s/he opposed Coalition policies. There might even be a second database called, say, Heads Opposing Policies in Education (HOPE), containing names of heads who vocally contest these strategies – such heads would be singled out for punishment, not praise.

Let’s hope that those who would be on the HOPE database speak louder so everyone can hear.

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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 18/07/2012 - 08:30

This culture has kicked right down into schools with those who command the respect of their peers and have the ability to respond to children being systematically discredited, removed and replaced with those who understand that their job is to tell those 'above' them what they want to hear.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 18/07/2012 - 19:48

I remember when Harold Wilson brought a bunch of scientists (you could tell 'cos they were wearing white coats) onto the stage at Labour Party Conference to endorse his 'white heat of technology' blether.

(Actually, I don't remember it, but ...........)

The Gove Spads' wheeze is certainly better than to allow vested/producer interests to have an unmediated run at slagging-off policies that have a democratic mandate.

Lest we forget: Gove's education policy applies to England, where the Conservative Party won the lion's share of the vote and the lion's share of the seats in 2010.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 18/07/2012 - 20:01

Oh for goodness sake Ricky.

I wonder if you still think that the people who told Gove what he wanted to hear were those who had ability?

They were the easily led and the ones with vested interests Ricky - why on earth would anyone with real proven ability on the ground have supported his policies? They were mad policies - not grounded in evidence or rational argument. Yes some of the headlines were great and right but the policies contradicted those headlines.

The Conservative party were trumpeting about how they were clearing out all the people with vested interests but its was blindingly obvious that the people with vested interests had never had it so good - all they had to do was parrot Gove and they were given everything. All the people with ability and dedication who could command the personal respect of others and who were usually in the way of those with vested interests were gone.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 19/07/2012 - 09:11

Rebecca - I think the choice of heads was actually more subtle. First, they had to be heads of outstanding schools. There were plenty to choose from as I indicate above -but Gove chose only a small number. They not only had to support Gove but be seen to do so by making videos supporting conversion, proposing free schools, setting up academy chains, providing soundbites for DfE press releases or allowing their schools to be used as backdrops for one of Gove's speeches.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 19/07/2012 - 09:26

In 'normal' times, heads tend to be promoted because they can command the personal respect of the colleagues in a way which will ensure they are able to lead when it is necessary for them to lead.

There are certain personal capacities they tend to have which include the ability to understand and work with a wide range of people in a constructive rather than a destructive way, the kind of life experience which allows them to respond to routine situations in education rapidly and effectively and complex situations in a measured way and so on.

The main problem in education we have seen in recent years is the promotion of those who are expert in telling those above them what they want to hear above those with ability who can command the personal respect of their peers. This creates cultures in schools where heads who are far less able and intelligent than those they are managing have to use system of managerial bullying and control to stay in power.

By rewarding heads (and their schools) according to their skills in sucking up to him and by opening schools where the senior team have to believe in creationism and so on Michael Gove is substantially exacerbating this problem.

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