On the Government’s own terms, “the education department has probably been the most successful, and unsurprisingly was highlighted by David Cameron in his age of aspiration conference speech. The education secretary, Michael Gove, has assembled a handpicked team to drive reform relentlessly and take on what he calls "the blob" – the education establishment,” wrote the Guardian
So how has this “handpicked team” contributed to the work of the Department for Education (DfE)?
First, it’s ignored the majority of English schools – the 18,000+ that are not academies. The DfE Home page
contains links to Academies and Free Schools, but no links to Maintained Schools. Clicking on Academies takes the reader to a colourful page
with up-to-date information, subheadings, more links and a video for an “Academy in Focus”. In the side bar is a link to Maintained Schools – this leads to a bland page
containing a few links to articles (only one is dated 2012) giving information about different types of maintained schools.
Second, the “handpicked team”, Education Secretary, Michael Gove, and other education ministers have continuously broadcast misleading information. Ten examples are listed on this thread
which was published before the UK Statistics watchdog expressed “concern”
about the DfE’s use of data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests for the UK in 2000. The watchdog concluded that ‘it may be difficult to treat an apparent decline in secondary school pupils’ performance as “a statistically robust result”’. But that warning didn’t stop Lord Hill telling the House of Lords on 18th October 2012
, “We know that the UK has fallen back in the PISA rankings…” before saying, “ Across the board, performance in sponsored academies has improved at twice the rate of maintained schools.” But, as regular readers will know, this claim does not stack up when the results of sponsored academies are compared with those of similar schools*.
So, apart from ignoring 18,000 English schools and giving out misleading information, what else has the DfE “handpicked team” done for us?
The DfE set up the Stakeholder Advocacy Group (now disbanded) to recruit heads sympathetic to Government policies
to provide favourable quotes. A Special Advisor cleared incorrect data
which was published in the Daily Mail. The DfE has acted “unobtrusively” in paving the way for profit-making firms
to run English schools. Gove has been accused of leaning on Ofqual
. Carping by Education ministers and others has been blamed for creating a climate of fear
. Schools complain that intimidation
is being used to force them to convert to academies…
The “handpicked team” has been very “successful” indeed – in deception and intimidation. At the same time it has promoted its favourites (certain academies, chains, head teachers and free school proposers) while dismissing those who disagree with Government policy as “Trots”, unenlightened bigots and members of the “blob”. The “team” promotes parental choice but treats with disdain parents who are loyal to a school the Government deems as failing.
But the “dedicated team” couldn’t correctly answer this sum: 77-73. Its mathematical whizz-kids got the answer 15
Still, the pantomime must go on
*See Do academies get better results, or improve more quickly, than other state schools?
in faqs above.