Gove dons tartan longjohns to do battle with the Blob, says the DT

Janet Downs's picture
Doughty Scot, education secretary Michael Gove, needs his tartan underwear (with a St Michael label, presumably) to fight the amorphous Blob, wrote Allison Pearson in the Telegraph.

The Blob spouts Blobbledegook, Pearson said. How the DT loves these Blob puns. Toby Young’s invented a noun, Blobbery, and an adjective, Blobbyest. Pearson thinks the Blob is also a country: Alice lives in Blobland.

But like many articles attacking the Blob*, it contains misrepresentations and factual errors.

According to Pearson, the Blob “is full of zombies who believe that children should be drivers of their own education”. This relies on the misrepresentation of “child-centred”, which, as the head of the London Academy of Excellence, Robert Wilne, pointed out on Newsnight**, is where education should be focused. This heresy presumably identifies Wilne as a member of the Blob which is rather unfortunate because the London Academy is a flagship 16-19 free school opened last September. But “child-centred” is misrepresented as “child-led” which implies children just please themselves in anarchic classrooms.

“Passive learning”, Pearson explains, is when pupils listen to the teacher. That’s correct – up to a point. Explaining things is one method of imparting knowledge but it isn’t the sole method. Pupils have to do something with that knowledge, whether it’s writing an essay, giving a presentation, or any other activity which Pearson appears to think have no value.

“Great teachers”, she says, have for centuries been telling pupils “interesting things that they need to know”. True, but again, only up to a point. First, it’s not necessarily a sign of great teaching. There are times when a teacher will enthral a class with something s/he is passionate about. But there are other times when pupils drift off while a teacher drones on. And “great teachers” don’t just rely on telling pupils things. Socrates is famous for his technique which involved questioning his pupils not telling them.

The Blob, Pearson writes, produced “a system where one in five children leaves school unable to read or write.” The facts don’t support this. The threshold for literacy is a Level One qualification. According to School Performance Tables, 99.3% of the GCSE cohort in 2013 gained at least one Level One qualification. 95.3% gained at least Level One in English and Maths. The difference between 100% and 95.3% is not 20%.

“Collaborative Learning” receives another thumbs-down. Pearson defines it as “15-year-olds chatting among themselves.” But collaborative learning includes such things as setting up and running a company (Business Studies/Young Enterprise); producing a newspaper (English/Business Studies); presenting a mini-play (English, Languages, History, Drama), doing an experiment (Science, Technology) or preparing a group recitation of a poem (that, surely, should receive plaudits from Gove of the Brightly Coloured Hose).

Pearson does, however, have huge admiration for the Tough Young Teachers on BBC Three. But their difficulties had been made nightmarish by the Blob and their “child-centred” nonsense, she explained. Pearson described the behaviour of one boy as an example of the Blob’s malign influence. But the school’s head, David Clark, not cited by Pearson, said this boy, who had joined the school after three years in a Pupil Referral Unit, was particularly challenging. Clark has criticised the BBC for focusing too much on disruptive pupils.

So perhaps Pearson should be given 100 lines. She can choose from the following:


I must refrain from making puns using the word Blob.

“Child-centred” is not “child-led”.

100% minus 95.3% is not 20%. It is (fill in the gap).


I must not fantasise about Michael Gove in brightly-coloured pants.

*See the LSN quiz to discover if you are a Blob member.

**The Newsnight episode is currently available here. The interview starts about 12.35 minutes into the programme.
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Brian's picture
Fri, 07/02/2014 - 19:36

Thanks, Janet, that's ruined my Friday evening! I made the mistake of following your link to the DT article and reading it. Good grief, what ill informed and / or deliberately misrepresented claptrap.

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