“Trojans, don’t trust this horse.” Aeneid, Book II
I fell out with @theprimaryhead recently. It was over partnerships… This blog is not about partnerships, though much of @theprimaryheads ire is reflected here. I have recently been appointed the head teacher of an academy… This blog is not about academies. This blog is about politics- the politics that are responsible for both of the above and right now a sense that education is a battleground in which the most brutal and bloody stratagems are being played out in the dazzling frenzy of the media.
Let me start with ‘Britain First’. You may have seen their deeply disagreeable photographs shared by a school friend you regrettably befriended on Facebook. ‘Britain First’, according to its site, is a patriotic political party and street defence organisation and they exist because UKIP have not only fuelled right wing hysteria – they have gentrified aspects of it. So, if you see a picture of a D-Day veteran on a beach with a flag in a moment of reflective emotion – you can like (even though two pictures down it says, ‘Share if you are a warrior of Christ’). I have an education point in all this. I feel some of this current mania within the media is starting to show in more mainstream politics. I feel the recent ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal is a classic example. Suddenly Mr Gove is talking about the systematic failure of the DFE, Ofsted and the LEA. I think this is the very LEA that his politics has stripped down to a mere powerless acronym. It avoids the primary issue – LEA’s have no capacity to inspect what is going on in their schools. I can count the number of SIO’s in Bristol on one hand – and they don’t call me two fingered Joe because I am a cantankerous old man! Excuse culture at its very best. It is not just aspects of extremism that could (the evidence so far has been pretty flimsy) go unmonitored in schools, it is dodgy accountancy, bullying and narrow curriculums. They are happening and the evidence is almost overwhelming. Read the blogs, read the secret teachers, read the papers, look at the pay structure of head teachers and look at the weekly letters to Mr Gove from teachers and other influential people in education or arts.
Subterfuge is an art and in the current climate of mistrust of politics and politicians I see this as yet another example. UKIP are the flavour of the month. Give them what they want Mr Gove. Give them ‘British Values’, I am not looking forward to the ‘Britain First’ take on this. Thugs outside shopping centres under the flag of some cod political party spouting what it is to be ‘British’. Has it really come to this? I just wish Michael Gove could step back for a second and look over his Empire and have an epiphany (Not in the religious sense though!).
The fragmentations of Local Authorities have been badly executed.
Criticism of Ofsted has been bungled and in fighting has only caused further resentment.
Standards obsession on the new curriculum has effectively culled the eminence and impact of foundation subjects (It’s only a matter of time before some schools just do SPaG and Maths).
As much as the Trojan Horse scandal is a story – I don’t think it should be at the root of our fears (As certain parties and media moguls may want it to be). Is the evidence (when we see it) going to be any more worrying than other things that are happening in schools up and down the country since Mr Gove has taken office? I think the Trojan horse is chicanery which distracts us from the real deception here. Somehow we have allowed the piece by piece dismantlement of school accountability systems by a man who clearly seems to want his empire to account to him. We used to have to meet with our SIO three times a year. We had a relationship with them – even though we didn’t like them. That has gone. I could have an illegal gambling den set up in my office… If I’m careful I can keep it going until Ofsted arrives in about four years’ time.
The Trojan Horse is Mr Gove. He came bearing great gifts but they are turning out to be impossible to control. Truth is an interesting word. Who’s truth and what truth? The more I read about this story the more I feel that the truth is being buried beneath the wheels of a lumbering colossus.