Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Has the Educational "Berlin Wall" Received A Fatal Blow?

The long overdue scrutiny of Ofsted is happening now amidst a great deal of 'smoke-and-mirrors' political activity. It is irresponsible for the comfortably-off older generation to play politics with the education of our young. If Ofsted had been doing its job properly, we would not be dealing with the sorry results of the OECD findings. Therefore, it is entirely proper that new leadership be sought for Ofsted. Competent leadership at Ofsted is part of the business of returning Education in this country to the very high standards of the past. Competent environmental management might have mitigated the dreadful scenes of flood devastation we are all witnessing. We can no longer rely on the many unaccountable and expensive Quangos that supposedly run things for us. These highly paid professionals are more concerned with "looking good" rather than "being good". Whether in Educational or Environmental management, at the moment, success seems to measured not by results, but by the persuasiveness of the rhetoric.

Michael Gove's plans for State Schools are idealistic; we need idealism, vision and courage to take on the advocates of the "low, one-size-fits-all curriculum and let's socially engineer University intake" ideology. That we still have top-class Universities shows the resilience of past high standards, as even our best Universities have been under pressure to select students based on perceived potential "poor thing she/he comes from a disadvantaged background" rather than actual achievement. If Michael Gove's plan comes to fruition, in future, it will allow all selections for University candidates to once more be based upon true merit and achievement rather than on nebulous judgements flowing from SAQ profiles that accompany UCCAS applications.

Longer school hours, more academic content in the curriculum, removal of soft wishy-washy subjects, a broad-based baccalaureate-type selection of subjects and a range of extra-curricular activities for all students is, I believe, the tried and tested way to ensure all young people in this country benefit from this country's first-world status. It isn't trendy I know, but other successful countries know that this solid approach works. The return to tried and tested maintenance of our rivers by dredging may not have the glamour of the trendy "let's preserve our wildlife", but it just may save livelihoods and homes by increasing the capacity of our waterways.

The question remains whether Mr Gove's vision can ever be implemented. As I look at the army of flood victims and weary volunteers who are doing their best in these dire circumstances, they remind me of concerned (pushy?) parents who have struggled over the years against a tide of low expectations and the contrary winds of professional indifference. These parents are just like flood victims trying to do their best for their families. The desire to survive and succeed cannot come from the top alone, no matter how well-intentioned. Ultimately, the job only gets done because individuals (salaried or not) simply roll up their sleeves and get on with the job.

PS Talking of salaries, on the 13th of March 2014, The Times Health Correspondent, Chris Smyth, has written a seriously depressing article about an NHS chief (HR manager) who has quit the NHS but will continue to get £310,000/- for the next two years from the NHS whilst also drawing a salary as an "organisational development consultant (whatever does that mean?)" to the University of Leeds. Her area of expertise is apparently HR, training, leadership development and communication which she is passionate about. Heaven help the poor put-upon conned taxpayer, who I am certain, in a crisis, will not be able to call upon these "passionate" over-valued individuals, paid huge double salaries to do public sector non-jobs.

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