Schools Minister Nick Gibb has a new enemy in his sites: ‘futurologists’.
Futurologists attempt to predict the future based on current trends. It’s an imprecise science – sometimes predictions come true, sometimes they don’t. And sometimes they don’t because people take steps to prevent a prediction coming true.
But Gibb wants some futurologists to be made redundant. He wants them consigned to the dustbin because some of them want pupils to be trained in ‘critical thinking’. And the best way to destroy them, Gibb says, is by starting a debate on ‘oracy’.
Is this the same Nick Gibb who reportedly described classroom talk as ‘ What has caused his apparent conversion to the view that oracy is a desirable skill?
It appears he’s been convinced about the importance of skilled questioning by teachers. But just as Gibb equates decoding with fluent reading, he appears to think teacher-led questioning is all that oracy is.
Well-structured questioning is part of oracy development, yes. But oracy is more than being able to articulate an answer.
Voice 21, an organisation connected to the outstanding School 21 which puts oracy at the heart of its curriculum, and the University of Cambridge have developed an oracydesigned to raise understanding of ‘the physical, linguistic, cognitive, and social and emotional skills that enable successful discussion, inspiring speech and effective communication.’
Much wider, then, than Gibb’s narrow definition of oracy as being able to engage in ‘structured dialogue’ with a teacher, important though that is.
Gibb made his plea to slay these wayward futurologists at a conference in January run by the Parents and Teachers for Excellence (PTE). His speech was reported in and but it was not published in full by the Department for Education as would be expected.
It contains much of the same stuff regularly regurgitated by ministers: ‘success of MATs’; ‘1.9 million more children in good and outstanding schools than in 2010’; ‘autonomy and accountability’.unearthed the transcript.
This padding is accompanied by praise for PTE for ‘diligently’ highlighting and celebrating ‘the quiet revolution’ allegedly permeating English schools: a ‘knowledge-rich curriculum’ (aka government endorsed) and ‘sensible whole-school approaches to behaviour’ (aka ‘no excuses’ rigidly enforced).
In other words, Gibb praised PTE for endorsing policies favoured by Gibb. Rather a one-sided ‘debate’.
PTE isn’t the grass roots organisation it claims to be. It’s a private limited company with two directors: Jonathan Moynihan, director of Vote Leave, and Dame Rachel De Souza, CEO of Inspiration Trust, the multi-academy trust . Its advisory panel includes not just Inspiration employees but many fans of former education secretary Michael Gove. All very cosy. And more top-down than bottom up. No wonder Gibb’s a fan.