Tristram's interview on Channel 4 News on 3 February has been rightly judged to have been dire.
Tristram was responding to Michael Gove's announcements about how he intends to raise standards by making schools as unpleasant and stressful as possible for pupils by threatening them with 'lines', detention, litter picking and graffiti removal duties, as well as making them attend school until after 6pm and halving their holidays.
The presenter was angry and aggressive. She peddled lots of myths such as the urgent need for 'reform' of state schools, the superiority of private fee-paying schools and how those that know something about education and how children learn (the blob), are frustrating our brave, radical, crusading Secretary of State in his mission to ensure that in future if you wake up in Gas Street Comprehensive you could be confused into thinking you were in Eton College chatting with future Tory Prime Ministers.
Although Tristram struggled to make any points at all in the face of the presenter's onslaught, the few he got in were largely confined to 'unqualified teachers' and general burbling about the need for co-operation rather than confrontation. Having scented blood, these puny defences were nowhere enough to fend off the questions.
I am just a sad old retired head that believes that just as marine architects need to understand the Principle of Archimedes, it is a good starting point for a person that intends to revolutionise the school system to know something about education and how children develop and learn. Such heresy makes me not just part of 'The Blob', but the very essence of its stickiness and general nastiness.
Here then are some suggestions for countering leading questions. I have left some spaces (???) to be filled in by those more knowledgeable than me.
Presenter - Do you agree with Michael Gove that the state school system needs reforming?
TH - For Michael Gove, reforming is just another word for privatising. I want all state schools to become better at helping children develop their abilities and knowledge so they can acquire important skills, understand difficult concepts and so make wiser decisions. I am not in favour of privatising state schools and I don't believe the public is either.
Presenter - Don't you want the proven success of Academies and Free Schools to save children from the underachievement of failed bog standard comprehensives?
TH - Labour's Academies were well intentioned, but Michael Gove has used the legislation that created them as a platform for proliferating such state funded but "independent" schools against the wishes of parents and local communities and handing their control to various organisations that even include commercial education businesses, all of which lack effective accountability and oversight,
Presenter - So you oppose Free Schools then?
TH - My emphasis is on ensuring that every child has a right to a place in a quality local school. Providing and funding schools is very expensive and a large drain on the taxpayer especially at a time of cuts in public spending. School places therefore have to be provided to match local needs, not to feed the pet theories of rich individuals, exploitive education businesses, special interest groups and religious communities. Michael Gove's favoured schools are not properly regulated and there are growing numbers of financial and other scandals. For example, ??? The average cost of running a Local Authority School is £??? per pupil. For Academies it is £???. For the new tranche of Free Schools it is £???. For example, ??? Free School is costing £??? per pupil. This is a disgraceful drain on limited public funds.
Presenter - Why don't you want all children to have the advantages that a private fee paying school provides?
TH - There is nothing that is good about fee paying schools that cannot be provided in state schools and there are plenty of things that state schools can do that fee paying schools can't. For example, providing a first class local school for every child, democratically accountable to local communities.
Presenter - Then why is it that standards are higher in Academies and Free Schools than in bog standard comprehensives?
TH - They are not. This government and regrettably also the last government have been successfully fiddling the figures for over ten years to persuade journalists like you to believe these myths as facts. The numbers of failing Academies and Free Schools is growing. For example, ???
Presenter - Michael Gove wants schools to be free to innovate, not be controlled by 'the blob' in the form of local authorities and teacher's unions. What is wrong with that?
TH - Local Authorities have not controlled schools in respect of curriculum and behaviour policies for over twenty years, if they ever did. It is actually the heads of Academies and Free Schools that lack these freedoms. They are told how to run their schools by unelected and unaccountable sponsors, rich private individuals, academy chains and, increasingly, commercial education businesses. Teachers' unions have never sought to control either, but they are quite reasonably worried about maverick private employers attacking their working conditions, for example by increasing their hours and introducing zero hours contracts. For example, ???
This is all just off the top of my head as a first reaction to Tristram's very poor start. Surely the office of the Shadow Secretary of State for Education has research resources. If not then why not?
The best advice of all for Tristram Hunt is to study Local Schools Network every day as his homework, then get his office to do the further research needed to produce the bullets needed for him to decisively puncture and see off the neoliberal fantasies of Michael and pressure groups like Civitas.