Monday, 3 February 2014

Gove, Ofsted and Free Schools

‘Ministers who appoint their own partisans to run what should properly be independent inspectorates breach one of the cardinal principles that help to ensure trust in government and to enhance good policy management. Michael Gove's sacking of Lady Morgan, a Labour supporter who nevertheless supported school reform, as chair of the Ofsted inspectorate – and his reported wish to appoint Theodore Agnew, a Tory donor and insurance magnate, in her place – falls squarely into this category. It is not the only recent example of such an approach in this government, although there are some counterexamples too. The tactic also seems designed to promote men at the expense of women, which recklessly sacrifices another important principle.’ Guardian 3/2/14

Over the last few weeks we have had illustrative stories about the doings of Gove.

  • Heads complained that following an Ofsted inspection, they were receiving phone calls from agents promoting the ‘academisation’ of state schools. The callers quoted the as yet unseen Ofsted report so clearly had access to it before the school did. 
  • This is part of the drive to make all state schools academies free from lea control. That in itself may be laudable - what isn’t is the subtext of putting control of groups or clusters of these schools in the hands of private companies who have shareholders to satiate.
  • The much lauded (by a handful of right wing obsessives) Free School policy has been somewhat undermined by events on the ground. With little oversight, religious fundamentalists in Derby were allowed to go ahead with their unenlightened medieval curriculum paid for out of public funds.
  • At a time when there has never been a greater need for understanding the complexities of modern life we are giving significant funds to people who believe that girls are inferior and should be educated apart from boys - if they are to be educated at all. 
  • These funds have to come from somewhere. 6th Form Colleges complained today their funds for vital courses in Maths and English to pay for this untried, untested and incoherent piece of folly. 
  • Almost half of the Free Schools opened so far did not achieve their predicted numbers with some being barely half full. A local authority maintained school with such figures would be ripe for early closure.
  • The National Audit Office has recently highlighted the rising costs of this scheme. £6.6 million on average is earmarked for building costs for each new Free School. These schools are not ‘free’ to us taxpayers. They also deprive good schools of essential repairs or upgrades as the money is diverted to the ideological folly.

Tories are no strangers to cronyism - a charge frequently levelled at Labour (with some cause) but they are quite simply breathtaking in the insouciance with which they feather the nests of their supporters. 70% of Tory party funding comes from the City - Bankers and Financiers. Anyone still surprised at the lack of action to arrest the spivs and gamblers who devastated our economy?

One slight note of hope in all this morass: when first in post Gove talked of having a ‘big tent’ hence the appointment of Baroness Morgan. As the election nears, the big tent has been junked for a much smaller, right-wing tory version as Gove scrambles to get in place as many of his wacky ideas as possible. Todays talk of breaking down the walls between private and state schools is yet another precursor to increasing privatisation (oh how they love it - despite G4S, Crapita and all the rest grabbing and running). The Swedish model of Free Schools which Gove took to heart is currently collapsing under claim and counter-claim of fraud and mismanagement - and falling results. 

Further thoughts from 'Wonderblog'

Maybe New Labour also did this but it doesn't make it right.
Furthermore, this story is taking on a life of its own because Gove is raging out of control.
His first move at Education was to send out bibles to every school, while many of the buildings were failing apart. Last week we hear that creationism is to be taught as scientific fact. Plus his flagship policy of free schools is a mess because they don't have to recruit qualified teachers, they don't have to follow a curriculum and they're sucking huge amounts of money from state schools. And still going bankrupt.
Now he's getting rid of the head of the one organisation that might actual provide independent analysis of his policies to make way for a lickspittle who will ask no questions, will approve whatever mad plot Gove concocts next and who will also, no doubt, swell the Tory coffers with donations.

This is corruption writ large and rubbed in our faces. I don't care about one bureaucrat or another but I mind very much when the entire future of our nation's education is being trashed by a madman who ignores evidence in favour of his own swivel-eyed ideology. And even more worried that everyone is powerless to stop him. ‘Wonderblog’ 3/2/14

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