I’m often naïve, especially in politics, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. Politics reminds me of my cub promise; I promise to do my best, to do my duty to God and the Queen, to keep the law of the wolf-cub pack and to do a good turn to somebody every day. I think I’ve managed the first and the last. It is often a case of pragmatism, and politics is governed by real life events, except that there do seem to be a number of bizarre ideas that get proposed on the way.
What I didn’t realise was that think-tanks and other groups were formulating plans behind the scenes, which, far from becoming the subject of dialogue, became a question of “How much do you agree?”; often with ambiguous question contexts.
I remember swallowing the promise before the 1997 election, that this time around there would be a period of consultation before changes would be enacted. It was something of a surprise when, quite rapidly, the National Strategies were announced, with almost daily press briefings about Literacy and Numeracy hours. It was a case of out with the old and in with the new; except that the old was actually doing quite well, and the new was a great distraction for an extended period.
Perhaps it is this latter point which concerns me most. The amount of time that is spent distracted from the real job of educating the children in each class, by the needs of the changed Government.
With that in mind, here’s a tongue-in-cheek look back and perhaps forward.
Calling a Spad a Spad.
Sire, we really need to wrap you in some nice new clothes.
That will be relatively easy. The last lot made a bit of a hash of things, as far as people think. That’s why they voted for you. All the work we’ve been doing behind the scenes in preparation for this point means that we’ll have time to seem like we’re implementing clear plans, while we engineer significant change without anyone noticing.
Nobody will notice, if it doesn’t affect them locally, so, unless we go too hard on things, we’ll get to within a reasonable time of the next election, when you’ll be able to claim that a great deal has been changed and that it is all having a significant improving impact, due to your rigorous approach. You must be sure to use that word at every opportunity and get the team to use it too, so that it is quoted often and you get a reputation for toughness.
We’ll work on how to sideline the possible opposition; maybe call them a name that resonates with the press. “Blob” and “Enemy of Promise” have a great ring. You won’t need to worry about handling issues as we are very well geared up to give appropriate soundbites and press releases from “senior sources”, who of course, will be unnamed.
We advisors will be on your shoulder at all times, to field questions, to source answers to anything difficult, although we know that you can handle yourself really well in public debates. You have a great way with words and are obviously well read. People respond to you positively.
If things get really difficult, I personally will get involved. This blogging lark isn’t too difficult and on Twitter it’s reasonably easy to start a fight, so, one way or another, we’ll emasculate the opposition. I’m looking forward very much to this fight sire. The pen is mightier than the sword; we have the press on our side and they can be easily swayed.
To be continued…
May 2014… One year from the next general election and where are we? Among many things:-
- Academisation; implemented and enforced in some cases.
- Free Schools; the main means by which additional school places can be created, despite there being a great need to accommodate a rise in the number of Primary pupils. Local planning therefore becomes difficult, if not impossible.
- Universal Free School Meals (Infants), starts September 2014, still clouded in uncertainty, due to funding, space and kitchen infrastructure issues
- National Curriculum change- starts September 2014.
- Assessment change- starts September 2014, if schools have decided on a system.
- SEND change- starts September 2014, but, as at May 2014, still clouded in uncertainty, not least because of assessment change impacting on decision-making, especially comparative data between schools.
- GCSE changes
- GCE changes
It’s ok sire. We are one year from the election. At this point, we start to say just how much we have done to change things. It doesn’t matter that most are starting in September. All we need to say is that we have been rigorous in consultation, in devising the best possible schemes using the best available expertise and that will set things up nicely. People have divided loyalties in education. Their local school is great, but the public believe that education as a whole suffers from trendy, lefty idealists having had too much influence for the past fifty years. And in reality, they won’t check the details. If you say this often enough and get a group of colleagues to corroborate it, then it will become a de facto truth.
Of course, this is the point to win the hearts and minds of the public, by saying that we have excellent teachers, doing a fantastic job, or something like that. There’s probably no point in being too effusive, just enough to make sure that the feeling is that everything is on track, the professionals are well trained and ready to go. The change of tone might be a little difficult, but, over a period of time it will distil itself into a new narrative.
The agenda for the next year sire, to be shared as often as possible, is the following;
- Schools are well managed and challenged by rigorous Ofsted inspections, weeding out the last remaining areas of concern.
- We have strong leadership at regional level to oversee the current and future Academised schools.
- There will be a return to very traditional values in all schools as a result of all the changes wrought and, from September, in place and having an impact.
In fact, I’ve been thinking. What if, now that we have set a target that 85% of Primary pupils will reach an “expected level”, which we have yet to decide, those children who don’t manage the expected level have to stay on in Primary education? In fact, we could have systems from the Early Years, with children having to stay behind to make the grade. Class sizes? I am sure that we can find a reliable study that shows that class size doesn’t make a difference.
We could, of course, also look at systems of accelerating some children, who achieve higher than their class, so they could transfer earlier. That would even out the class size issues and be popular with our voters, who hanker after a return to Grammar Schools. Actually, that’s something to consider. How about Free Grammar Schools?
I’ve got some other really great ideas brewing sire and can’t wait to get started on them. I’ll pop off and start work with my team and we’ll start to publish a few pamphlets and blogs, which reference the work of certain groups. They’ll get a press release too, so they’ll get some coverage, just dropping a few hints into minds in the run up to the election. It won’t hurt us to do that…
Post script. Nick Gibb, school’s minister wrote an article in the Independent on 7.1.15 which articulated very clearly a determination to pursue the basics agenda, backed up by textbooks.