Back on the Chain Gang

I’m deliberately digging this out, dusting it off, and putting it back out there. They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It’s also true that those who DO learn from history are doomed to sit by impotently while others repeat it. Today’s announcement that the Government is finally giving up any pretence at local autonomy, and is imposing a structure on schools which is essentially competing firms running school franchises in what is essentially a private marketplace is shocking. Not just because of the clear attempt to privatise a key public service (and the determined attempts to pretend this isn’t what is happening), but because it has been tried before. On a smaller scale, to be sure. But it was tried, and it was a disaster. And guess which DFE civil servant was clearing up the mess last time ?

Continue reading

Tristram Hunt’s Observer Piece : Replying to Nothing is Hard

Tristram Hunt has written a piece for The Observer .    I wouldn’t say I’m excited by it. I had to read it twice in case I’d missed any actual content the first time. But sadly, I hadn’t. There just wasn’t any content. Anyway, I’ve helpfully indulged in a little Kremlinology and pulled it apart for any readers too depressed to be able to face reading it raw themselves.  Continue reading

Up the creek without a paddle : Mossbourne again

There’s been a great story in the last two days about one of my old favourites, Mossbourne, announcing that it plans to select some of its children by “aptitude to row”.

Immediately, a brief spat broke out between those who saw this as a proxy for selection by “aptitude-to-have-wealthy-parents”, and those who thought such carping was merely left-wing nonsense; nothing wrong with boats; rowing isn’t posh etc etc. I even got involved myself a bit below the line on the Guardian website.

During that discussion, one fellow contributor pointed out that Mossbourne is near the River Lea, and there is a boat club there which is a community club going strong for many years. So apparently it was perfectly normal and to be expected that local schools should focus on rowing, and it was merely my prejudice which prevented me from seeing that rowing is a sport for all which, apparently “lots of state schools” practice (I’ve never, ever come across one, and while I’m sure there are some, I think we may be stretching the definition of “lots” here).

Anyway, I’m going to keep this blog very short, and merely post this

This is the Facebook photos page for that nearest rowing club. They look like lovely people having a lovely time. Now look again. This is in Hackney, remember. Go on, see if you can work out why some of us might consider this to be simply another cunning way to reserve spaces in Mossbourne for those from the most affluent of local backgrounds.

“Aptitude for rowing”. My arse.

Toby Young and the West London Free School : how to avoid educating your community.

I don’t know Toby Young, although I’ve heard him speak on educational matters, and as a result I’m not what you’d call a fan of his. He’s often invited by the media to represent pro-Govian views on education. And who can blame him : few can be ignorant of the fact that Gove gifted his good friend Young a school to play with. The West London Free School is the flagship school of Gove’s flagship programme. The proud boast of its founder and fans is that it will bring rigour, challenge and success to an inner city area, succeeding where all those terrible state schools previously failed.

So inevitably, I decided to have a look at its statistics. Continue reading

Mossbourne Academy : the model for us all ?

Ah, Mossbourne. It’s time to talk about Mossbourne. After all, everyone else does. It is, without question, politicians’ favourite school for posing with children to underline both their fundamental humanity, and also their commitment to “rigour”, “standards”, “Wilshaw” and all the rest of the meaningless clichés which have come to replace any mature, evidence-based policy-making in education. Continue reading

Harris the Hero?

Recently, Michael Gove wrote what may have been his own epitaph in the Guardian. It was an article about his “hero”, Philip Harris, who was ennobled for services to the Conservative Party (he was/is a major donor to the party). Harris has been given control of the budgets of more than a dozen schools under Gove’s regime, including several who were forced kicking and screaming into the Harris empire against the will of parents, governors and staff. This famously modest man instantly renamed all the schools he took over after, er, himself. He then took on an equally modest figure in Daniel Moynihan, his chief executive, who pays himself the generous salary of more than £300k (last figures some time ago – now probably more), who I once met when he didn’t know I was a teacher. The way he spoke of teachers – all teachers – in that meeting left an indelible mark. Hence my interest in Harris. Continue reading

Tristram Hunt : a historian who doesn’t use evidence ?

This morning, the Sutton Trust report on academy chains was produced. It’s a weighty piece, which anyone can read from their website.

Sutton Trust Report

Being an education anorak, I read it. Then I saw this tweet from Tristram Hunt :

 “Today’s Sutton Trust report – more evidence of the transformational impact of Labour’s sponsor academies programme on disadvantaged children”

And I almost wept. Continue reading