It’s been a week and I’m still reeling at the General Election result. It’s not that I thought Labour would win rather that I thought – as did many others – that they would give the Tories a run for their money and be able to forge alliances with smaller parties. My worry was – and is – twofold: one, the Tories would see this majority, slender as it is, as a vindication of their five years in office and two, they would see it as a mandate for further, vicious policies.
You see, I’ve been here before. The Thatcher years. In her regime – and Major’s -, teachers seemed to be public enemy number 1 for reasons I never fully understood. It was the start of the over-regulation, the distrust and the visceral hatred with and of education and teachers that has run riot over the last five years.
Here were sown the seeds – Keith Joseph started curriculum reform and was the first SoS to sign off subject syllabuses, he planned to introduce tuition fees and started the reform of teachers’ pay and contracts. He was loathed and reviled at the time. Now he seems almost benign. Hot on these heels came Kenneth Baker, he of the National Curriculum – yards and yards of colour coded, highly prescriptive but often strangely vague curriculum requirements devised by subject boards who each thought they could fill all the available time. A king a week in history! It was here, in my view that the fear started – teachers believed they had to cover everything in the rainbow folders a completely impossible and soul destroying task. Not only that, he stripped away 5 days of holidays for training. He could, perhaps, had been forgiven for that if there was ever anything on offer worth a candle. And in Kenneth Clarke’s rule we were landed with the SATs which have come to tyrannise both students and teachers and lead directly to the data driven model of education we now endure.
As if that were not enough, we had to endure the sneering that seems to be the hallmark of the Tories. I offer John Patten’s assessment of the well-respected Tim Brighouse as:
“a madman … wandering the streets, frightening the children”. This from the SoS who presided over the implementation of Ofsted: the state’s bully boys.
And now, here is the flowering: It’s a straight line from these men to Michael Gove who gave us curriculum change after change – sometimes after the course and the term had started – who upped the ante with new inventions – the Ebacc introduced in order to have something to announce on a political show and named on a whim and who exerted total control over the syllabus of practically every subject. In his regime Ofsted became the military arm of the Government marching in like storm troopers rewarding and punishing on dubious criteria, making and, more often, breaking careers. Ofsted where all must bend the knee and tremble at the prospect. It was government by whim on a spectacular scale and no thought for the children in the middle and the teachers burning out trying to keep up.
It’s a straight line from Patten to Gove on the sneering front. Labelling all in education “The blob” and teachers as “lazy enemies of promise”.
And who knows what Nicky Morgan is really about.
I’ve dedicated my whole working life to education and seeking to make better lives for children, many of whom face challenges that would fell the likes of the sneering, over-enunciating Gove. I deserve better – we all deserve better – and I was hoping the general election might be the path to the start of something better.
I shudder to think what’s round the corner and I hope those teachers who voted Tory and those of all stripes who wanted to make a point or to teach Labour a lesson are well pleased with their night’s work. Labour may not be perfect. It may have struggled – in the face of a vicious right wing press and Tory scaremongering – to give an account of itself but with all its faults and failings it is still the better, the best and, for me, the only option.
struggled – in the face of a vicious right wing press and Tory scaremongering – to give an account of itself but with all its faults and failings it is still the better, the best and, for me, the only option.