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Dec. 5th, 2011

It's an exciting time to be in teaching. On the one hand, there exist Ofsted inspectors who will penalise you if you did not mention diversity and health and safety during the lesson that was being evaluated, whatever the subject you were actually trying to teach. I'd love to be able to say that was frivolous hyperbole on my part, true withering satire worthy of Clarkson himself, but it's an actual current example from further education.

But, you cry, what about the other hand? Well, it turns out to have a hole in it. Due to Britain's moral collapse, the government are sending bibles into every school with a new introduction by Education Secretary Michael Gove. As yet there is no word as to whether the Education Secretary plans any expansion of the scheme, but I await developments with interest.

Many UK schools have not yet allowed themselves to be bounced into becoming Govean “free” schools. Their resistance is an affront and ultimately futile: a new curriculum is being introduced for them, with virtually every lesson so hopelessly micromanaged that it is utterly impracticable, while private companies are waging a ceaseless offensive—sometimes charming, sometimes not—against the boards of dissenting schools. The practical and financial pressures being exerted on schools to transform tell their own story about how desirable it really is to become a “free” school (apparently we're not letting the market decide here after all) but will ultimately prove too much for most.

Amusingly, Michael Gove's vision of a “free” school is a school where he gets to dictate exactly what children must be taught about family life—so, not quite as free as we would have had you believe. Conservatives are said to be delighted at the news that “free” schools and academies must promote marriage, although I haven't seen any figures for whether these delighted Conservatives include the gay ones[1] and the single parents. Now there can be no argument, since it will be official policy, that marriage is simply the best and most important thing that ever can possibly happen, and any other form of family unit is grotesquely deformed and irredeemably deficient. My esteemed colleague put it best (she often does):
“In my experience, the extent to which a man goes on and on about the importance of marriage in general, and of his marriage in particular, is in direct proportion to the likelihood that later on he will touch my bottom in the kitchen.”
Still, at least there's no reason to doubt the government's word when they assure us it's sensible that any academy or “free” school that passes its Ofsted inspection with flying colours will not then have to be inspected again. The only reason for an inspection afterwards would be if, essentially, someone pulled the emergency cord, and you can imagine there might be quite some pressure from a private concern not to do so. But this is simply to save money and lift a restrictive burden from the government's flagship schools; in no way would it enable flaws and failing standards in those schools to remain usefully undetected.

As the riots this summer showed us, what our schools urgently need is to be freed from the manacles of old discredited educational theories and immediately re-manacled to even older discredited educational theories. “There are just too many sodding arbitrary HR targets,” teachers are saying up and down the country. “Where's a toxic deluge of ideological flummery and righteous hypocrisy when we need it?” Don't fret, gentle toilers, your parched days in the desert are at an end. Here comes the rain.

[1] As chiller has pointed out, gay people of course can't marry, and Gove's fundamentalist preaching on marriage ensures that gay children, like generations before them, will be learning the important lesson that they are inherently worse than the other, normal children around them. Mind you, since they came to power the coalition have gone out of their way to teach disabled people of all ages this exact lesson so I suppose they're consistent here, as long as you accept being gay as a disability.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Dec. 5th, 2011 02:36 pm (UTC)
The "promoting marriage" guff has apparently been around as a condition of funding for academies since at least 2001 (page 12). Not that this excuses Gove for perpetuating this crap.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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