David Laws’ warning on Sunday of the ‘corrosive impact of self-interested political meddling in schools’ was greeted with the incredulous nonchalance of a teaching community up to its neck in change, implemented by a self-indulging egomaniac who caused chaos while being propped up by none other than David Laws himself. The irony, it seems, was entirely lost on him.
After perhaps the greatest period of change implemented in the shortest period of time in well over a generation, politicians are beginning to change their tune in an effort to sound more melancholic to the education sector prior to next year’s general election. With teachers up and down the country crying out for more effective leadership and support, the official opposition have impressively conjured up the perfect solution, waving their magic wand and watching all of our troubles disappear once we have uttered a few words swearing allegiance to our kids and our workload. The gimmick reeks of desperation emanating from a Shadow Secretary clutching at more straws than a masturbating scarecrow. There is a real dilemma facing us next summer when we vote: who is the least idiotic of this group of self-styled Etonian éclat of educational elite? (Uttered without the slightest inclination of sarcasm)
Between now and next May we will no doubt be inundated with gimmick and nonsense in equal measure as the all-too-similar political parties battle to secure our ‘X’ next to their names. As a general rule, most of us will read, ridicule and reposit to the deepest edges of our memory these empty promises and nonsensical ramblings, only to be recanted in the staffroom whilst bemoaning the state of this nations governance. Indeed that was the initial reaction of most this morning, ‘David Laws; warning of the whims of ‘here today,gone tomorrow’ politicians? The Lib Dem who clung to the shadow cast by Gove? Ring Alanis Morissette up there and tell her to add a verse to that song of hers!’
But what if what he said was actually, dare I say it, a good idea? Surely removing education from the hands of politicians, most of whom themselves haven’t even had experience of the state school system, can only be a positive thing. No politician should ever again be able to rewrite the curriculum to suit their own ideology and personal interests in the manner Gove did. An independent body could ensure continuity and cease (or at least ease) the constant to-and-fro nature of the education system in this country. It would also prevent goal posts being moved and politicians manipulating the system to present the image of huge improvements when in reality very little has changed. There would be a sense of accountability, a word that has been rammed down our throats in recent years while public servants and politicians wreak havoc and run.
Of course, like many of these announcements, there are more questions than answers. Would the government choose the ‘independent’ body members to match their agenda? Would the body add fuel to the debate raging between traditional and progressive teachers? Would new school builds be allowed to choose whether to belong to the Local Authority or become Free Schools automatically? Would all schools (state, free or otherwise) be compelled to work within the remit of such an authority? Would school funding be distributed evenly? Where do Ofsted fit into a new picture?
David Laws’ announcement this morning may have more to do with attacking Gove than it does any real passion for systematic change, but it nonetheless presents the idea of removing education from the cusp of political games and point scoring. I, for once, will pass on the chance to read and ridicule and call for this one to be investigated further.