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Friendly Fire By Educational Secretary

Opinion / April 19, 2013

Who would want to be a teacher, more importantly who would want to be a student in the UK at the moment? Ever since his appointment as Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove seems to be lobbing mortars into our teaching resources in an attempt to instigate fundamental changes.

Common with the military application of this weapon it is designed to maim and terrorise rather than mend. The onslaught by Education Secretary has had a disastrous effect on teachers. Moral has slipped, stress has increased and a colossal number of teachers have left the profession. Educational initiatives have come and gone, perhaps they were strategically designed to weaken the enemy than achieve a breakthrough in education.

The recent Easter conferences held by the teaching unions heralded distrust in the government’s approach and threatened industrial action. Crucial to the evolution of our educational programme is its total integration with the teaching resources and its relevance to the future needs of the UK. Our performance, measured against targets set in the UK is lamentable. But targets are by default open to manipulation, which defeat their purpose. Emphatic reliance on such data would be horribly flawed. What is required is a fundamental review of the educational programme designed to stretch our children to match the demands of a now truly global market and the evolving needs of the UK. This has to be achieved in close association with teachers. Their intimate involvement in the design and construction of the programme is surely no great shock. If you want the system to work you have to lead not demand.

At the moment our Secretary of State for Education seems dramatically out of touch with his troops. He is lobbing mortars on teachers, achieving nothing but bloodshed. Of course there is a battle to be won. Our position in the world educational league tables is appalling. The rising stars in educational programmes are seen in the Far East and Scandinavia. Issues surrounding the curriculum, length of the school day and holidays are the latest mortars to land. And for good measure a final barrage announced teaching assistants, all 220,000 of them could end up on the scrap heap.

The teacher strikes in Denmark and adverse reaction in France to the increased school working day appeared to have encouraged rather than dissuade a similar strategy by the Educational Secretary of State.Teachers are backed into a corner and like a wounded animal can only attack to defend themselves. The resultant impasse could take months to resolve. In the meantime a cohort of children will be devoid of their education, a situation that will do absolutely nothing to jack the UK back up the educational league tables.

Maybe the best strategy is for Michael Gove to be relieved of his cabinet duties and allowed to concentrate solely on developing an educational strategy he, the teachers, children and future employers will be proud of. An educational plan fit for purpose developed in close association and agreement with the guys who will implement it, and those who will benefit from it. Now that’s a novel concept.


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