Sunday, September 07, 2014

Tristram Hunt: if it looks like a duck...

Downton Abbey meets Labour Party policy. So Labour's education policies come down to demanding that private schools help us poor state folks with some private school noblesse oblige. The last thing state schools need is to be patronised by the private sector. Labour needs to be firm on scrapping their tax breaks and charity privileges. There is no evidence that private school teachers are better than in state schools. When I was a school governor that last thing we would have wanted was some private school types from Brighton College coming into our school to 'tell us how it's done'. Let's be clear here - we have NOTHING to learn from you.
After the Thornberry disaster, labour should be worried, very worried. It's not that their education policies are bad, they're downright dangerous. Hunt is remote, his policy ideas either anodyne or irrelevant. What's clear is that this continues in that grand old tradition among posh folk, that 'what was good for me in education' is damn well good for you. It is so obviously driven by his own private school experience. Like Miliband, he needs to go - now.
Earlier this year I gave a talk on 2500 years of learning theory, the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Tristram Hunt, the Labour shadow secretary of state for education was on after me in another room, so, given the impending 2015 election, I trotted off to see what the future holds.
Bad news folks. The future, if Labour win, in education, is anodyne. Tristram, who looked every inch the public schoolboy dressing down to appear like one of ‘us’, comes across as a bright and affable Oxbridge type, who is largely clueless when it comes to the real world. Son of a Blair created peer, he’s the product of that odd form of social mobility, the socialist who gives their son a posh sounding moniker and sends them off to private school. To be fair he hasn’t become a hideous freak, like Toby Young, but he may get power, which is worse. If asked what party this lad was in from this photo alone, what would you guess?
Gove Malt with a little water
He, like Gove and co, is besotted with OECD and PISA. His opening gambit was to parrot out the PISA results and worry about the looming 2018 tests. He’s already worried about falling off the leaning tower, before he’s even in power. Why? Because the next round of tests are bang in the middle of the next political term. Rather than present a real vision for education that tackles the ideological obsessions of the right, he simply buys into their vision and adds a little water to their expensive and elitist, single, malt whisky.
You’ve been quangoed
His next pronouncement was even worse. He wants to fund a ‘Royal College of Teaching’. Just as we’ve recovered from the implosion of the General Teaching Council, he wants to do that old Labour trick of quangoing a problem. This is a sop to teachers but it we’ve seen it all before. These quangos come and go. They are overfunded, badly managed, populated by previous quango-types and largely ineffective. They now have a half life of maybe 3-4 years. It’s like bonfire night. We spend all that time building a huge tower of babel, then rightly see it as a pile of rubbish and burn it down.
A little less
On vocational learning he will continue with the madness of forcing GCSE Maths down the throats of everyone right up to the age of 18, even for students who want to take a more vocational route in life. How do I know this? I asked him. He refuses to consider a separate functional maths qualification and has no real ideas on the hollowed out vocational heart of our educational system, the real reason for our low international, economic performance. The US is still the world’s most vibrant economy and they perform even worse than us in PISA.

I’ve been a lifelong Labour member and supporter. But there comes a time when you no longer recognise the values of a party, you drift apart. I have nothing in common with the current homogeneous crop of Oxbridge think-tank clones, who have little experience of the real word and little contact with the people they profess to protect. Tristram, Miliband and co look like ducks and if they look like…… They float across the surface, quacking away, in their neat little first suits, their little feet furiously paddling beneath but they are bereft of ideas, policies and even charisma. I had heard from others that Tristram was a Gove-light and this was confirmed yesterday, with a charming little speech that played to the gallery of teachers (tossing them a quango) but in reality was continuing with the policies Gove has introduced, just watered down a little and delivered with with a little less scorn.

1 comment:

Paul Hopkins said...

Donald, Hi, Like you I am a lifelong Labour bod but also find the current crop "cut out clones" and remote from the way of life, I and the people I know, lead. I write to TH asking what would he do differently after the current 'Gove'rment. His reply:

"Should Labour come into power in 2015 we will inherit a very fractured landscape caused by Michael Gove’s relentless ideologically driven overhaul of the schools system. However, I do not believe that undoing every single reform will help teacher or students as it will cause more disruption"

So nothing then ...