Lord Nash v The Institute of Education

Phil Taylor's picture
This story appeared in the Guardian on Tuesday:

I was intrigued by the idea that a non-elected former banker, Tory party donor and academy sponsor should be in a position to reject the bid of the world-renowned London University Institute of Education to run a Training School. He's able to do this as an Education Minister and he's able to wield such power because he has been 'ennobled' (don't get me started).

It would be fair to say that there is no organisation in the world better equipped to run a Training School than the Institute. An Ofsted report in January described the IoE as "outstanding" in every aspect and last month's QS world university rankings placing it top globally for education.

The Institute's reputation has been earned, unlike some reputations we can think of. It has over the years employed many of the most influential figures in education: Basil Bernstein, Karl Mannheim, Richard Peters, Harold Rosen, Peter Newsam, Peter Mortimore and numerous others.

Many thousands of successful teachers and head teachers look back, like me, on their time at the Institute as a key point in the development of their educational philosophies and a lifelong commitment to education. You were exposed to a wide range of ideas and were encouraged to see that a good education might not be a carbon-copy of the education you had yourself received.

This story should have been on the front page of the Guardian rather than tucked away in as a diary story.

It will be interesting to see how the story develops. It may well make the front pages eventually.
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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 13/03/2014 - 17:06

The rejection of the IoE bid does seem odd. It appeared to tick all the boxes:

1 It appeared to serve a genuine need for places;
2 It was proposed by a parent group who've been campaigning for a secondary school in the area for eight years;
3 It was supported by an outstanding and experienced education department.
4 It had the support of Camden Council.

Yet it was turned down - allegedly because it didn't meet the rigorous criteria. Would that be the same criteria that gave the go-ahead to Discovery New School, Al-Madinah, IES Breckland, Kings Science Academy and the Phoenix Free School? Or is it the criteria which fast-tracks academy sponsors to the approved sponsor list, or allows non-existent trusts to become approved sponsors, or allows sponsors under investigation to remain approved?

A cynic might say the bid was turned down because of its association with the type of teacher training establishment Gove is trying to move teacher training away from. Never mind that it's been rated the best in the world; that Ofsted's judged it Outstanding only a few weeks ago.

The parents behind the bid aren't happy.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 13/03/2014 - 17:14

Private Eye also thought a cynic might conclude the bid failed because of its link with university teacher training. The proposed school, Holborn UTS, wouldn't "fit with the Govian project to do away with university-based teacher training altogether, to get trainee teachers away from those dubious world-leading intellectual lecturers who might infect them with Marxist ideas".

Phil Taylor's picture
Thu, 13/03/2014 - 17:35

Glad it's made the Eye. I just hope it's picked up very widely: Newsnight, Channel 4, Panorama for starters. It has the makings of a major scandal.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 13/03/2014 - 17:47

Phil - I am, as you probably know, very critical of free schools being opened in areas with surplus places or ones which appear to be proposed by people with little experience of education (eg Discovery New School) or where middle-ranking teachers think they can avoid gaining necessary experience and appoint themselves heads (eg Kings Science Academy).

But this project appeared to be needed so I can't see any objection. Apart from, of course, the fact that its proposers weren't the kind of people Gove and Nash wanted to run schools.

Phil Taylor's picture
Thu, 13/03/2014 - 19:25

Yes, Janet, as you've made clear, this proposal should have been judged to meet several very important criteria. The rejection seems to rest on very thin ice.

I wonder if it will be possible to challenge it legally?

John Mountford's picture
Thu, 13/03/2014 - 20:12

This is a very sad day for education in this country. Anyone with an unbiased view of education who has been watching the unfolding farce of education governance, will be asking, how can this happen? I have been working for some time to rescue education from the political strangle-hold that ties its fate to the cycle of general elections. It is symptomatic of just how ridiculous matters have become that a mere party sponsor, not having relied on the democratic process to rise to power, can act as Lord Nash has done. If this is an example of representative democracy in action, it has to be challenged, as Phil Taylor suggests.

Meanwhile, I would urge anyone with an interest in the future of education to join with me in calling for a new form of education governance. It is nothing short of lunacy that the political party in power at any time can determine the direction of education reform on the basis of the personal ideology of any politician. This should be rejected by the electorate, even if the party in power happened to have half decent ideas about what reforms are needed, which the present crew have demonstrated they do not!

It is interesting that several professors at the IoE have felt unable to join the campaign at www.ordinaryvoices.org.uk, despite showing an interest in the general principle of ensuring that the long-term reform of education is free from political 'tinkering'. Maybe they will see now the need to join with a small but growing number of ordinary people who recognise that the system of governance has to be changed in favour of our young people's long-term interests. No political party has demonstrated the vision to commit to such a radical reform. It is time this happened.

Phil Taylor's picture
Fri, 14/03/2014 - 08:03

Thanks for this John. I was previously unaware of ordinary voices (I'm a full-time carer for my wife who has young onset Alzheimer's so don't have much time for all the things I want to do). I've signed the petition and wish you success.

I've thought for some time that education is one of a number of areas (health and social care are others) which are too important to be left to politicians, particularly the current bunch.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 14/03/2014 - 08:41

Phil - you might be interested in the latest National Audit Office report on adult social care in England.

Phil Taylor's picture
Fri, 14/03/2014 - 10:52

Thanks Janet, I'll have a look.

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