I’m not talking about Larry, the Downing Street cat. He has not died. I’m referring to the dead cat thrown out from Number Ten shortly after Theresa May became Prime Minister.
The ‘dead cat’ is a ploy devised by Sir Lynton Crosby, described as an ‘election-winning guru’ by The Sun. When things get heated, you divert attention from whatever is giving you flak by doing the media equivalent of lobbing a dead cat on the dining table. The expired moggy will then become the focus of attention.
The proposal to set up more grammar schools is a dead cat. And it’s beginning to stink.
You would have thought that a newly-appointed PM coming to power shortly after the Referendum would have more on her mind than the 11+. But much of the media salivate over selection and it’s the stuff of dreams for many Tory MPs and supporters of UKIP. What better way to distract attention from Brexit than by proposing new grammar schools.
But the dead cat’s been sniffed out: the Education Select Committee has described the grammar school policy as a ‘distraction’. And it doesn’t just divert attention from how to equip all young people with the skills and qualities needed for life after school. It overshadows looming education problems: inadequate funding; hastily implemented exam reforms, the growing realisation that academization isn’t a magic bullet, teacher recruitment and retention, school place supply…
Worse, the lifeless feline gives the impression that the Prime Minister and her team are fussing over small details when they should be concentrating on far more serious dilemmas. These don’t just arise from Brexit (although the former Education Secretary and Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, thinks negotiating trade deals is ‘simplicity itself’). There’s a resurgent right wing across the channel, ghastly wars in Syria and Yemen, a refugee crisis, terrorist attacks, cyber insecurity, an increasingly belligerent Putin, a Korean leader who likes to chuck missiles about and a tweeting chump in the White House.
And what was May’s first major policy announcement? Grammar schools.
The White Paper ‘Schools that Work for Everyone’ should be cremated and the ashes scattered. Nothing less will eradicate the dead cat’s stink.