So another academic year draws to a close in Walsall. It is a time of transition, reflection and celebration and a wonderful opportunity to reconsider just how Michael Gove, along with Serco, can be utterly useless and evil all at the same time.
Attending a Year 6 graduation ceremony, a few tears had to be wiped away as the immaculately well behaved 11-year-olds in their caps and gowns received certificates from some local dignitary. Sadly, the tears were not just induced by parental pride. The 60 or so big kids in a little school will soon be little kids in a big school and after suffering a diminished education in Key Stage Two brought about by the twin threat of Gove and Serco, they head off into an uncertain future. They, and their parents and their teachers, have been betrayed in the name of ideology and profit.
Gove and Serco like the idea of Academies. Serco like Academies because, being out of Local Authority control, the private company does not need to spend any money on them and so can keep more of the lovely cash being wasted by Walsall Council on the Serco contract. Gove likes Academies because he is a blithering idiot.
In just a single academic year, Gove has managed to unravel a system that began to develop after Samuel Wilderspin opened an infant school in Spitalfields in 1820. His book, “On the Importance of Educating the Infant Poor”, lay the foundations for the right of a child to an education funded by the state through general taxation. The book is out of print, but given the resources available to Michael Gove, his summer homework should be to find a copy and read it.
After Gove rushed through the Academies Bill in his first weeks in power, the incompetent oaf was surprised to find that the offer to “outstanding” schools of Academy status was welcomed with all the enthusiasm of the prospect of a holiday in Libya. So plan B was initiated. The Building Schools for the Future programme was cancelled, leaving school buildings to rot. The message was clear. If you want funding to stop your school from falling down, become an Academy, sign here, sign here now. There was, however, still very little interest.
Within months, plan C involved a complete reversal of plan A. Instead of “outstanding” schools being offered the privilege of being privatised, “failing” schools would be forced into Academy status. Lesser ministers would have been at least embarrassed by this admission of failure, but not little Michael Gove. After being judged to have acted unlawfully in cancelling BSF and after being caught red handed fiddling his expenses, including a claim for a cot mattress, the words “crooked”, “conniving”, “inept” and “moron” are not part of his vocabulary.
Plan C failed because, in spite of the best efforts of Michael Gove, schools are actually improving even set against the arbitrary and ridiculous targets imposed by a public school millionaire. Undeterred, Gove has moved on to plan D. In a move worthy of Colonel Cathcart in Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, Gove simply increased the already stupid targets for GCSE and Year 6 SATS results by 10 per cent. This means that schools achieving the required progress in the Spring Term, are now judged as “failing” in the Summer Term.
Furthermore, rather than being reliant on the examining bodies to set questions that are impossible to answer and then place an infinite number of monkeys to mark the completed exam scripts, Gove is now interfering with the curriculum. As an example, the Year 6 SATS reading test this year was an article about speleology, not a subject one would expect the majority of 11-year-old Walsall children to have any knowledge of or, more importantly, any interest in. Surprise, surprise, the target for literacy has not been met. More “failing” schools consigned to the pothole of Academia.
Interestingly, the article about caves came from the Sunday Times, the mighty organ that employs the fragrant Mrs Gove. In 2009, according to his own declaration of interests, News International paid Gove £5000 per month for four hours work. Gove admires Joel Klein, another villain, who closed schools and privatised education in New York City. Klein is now a senior executive at the retirement home of choice for bent officials, you guessed it, News Corp.
So why is Gove and the rest of the wretched coalition government so hell-bent on destroying education? The answer is an obsession with control. The basic premise seems to be the desire to thwart any aspiration or ambition that the lower orders might dangerously nurture. A stupid population is a compliant workforce. Academies, free from accountability, the irritating scrutiny of locally elected representatives and, God forbid, parents, can set whatever agenda they like. It is more than coincidence that “sponsors” of Academies are usually either religious groups, contributors to the Conservative Party or both. With hollow rhetoric worthy of Goebbels, Gove dresses this scarecrow with talk of greater choice for families. That choice is Academy or “Free Schools”, a description that old Joseph G would have been proud of.
There are two major flaws in this attempt to dominate the curriculum and so indoctrinate young people. Firstly, there is no evidence that established and well funded Academies do any better under Gove`s farcical targets than the crumbling schools currently being bullied into submission. Secondly, producing an endless stream of factory fodder makes no sense as the government is laying waste to industry at a faster rate than it is laying waste to education.
There is, though, something more sinister in Gove interfering with the future of children. The current GCSE history course, for example, has been withdrawn without consultation, justification or explanation by Secretary of State Gove. It is to be replace at short notice by a course that is more to his liking. Medicine will be studied and reading between the lines of the new prospectus, it would seem that the course will concentrate on the importance of self-care and and personal responsibility for health. This is a noble and worthwhile “learning outcome” as they say at Serco, but with the not very subtle intention of tackling the obesity pandemic by stealth, and concentrating on health provision before the NHS was established, the GCSE is more about political dogma than history and a splendid preparation for the destruction of the NHS.
Add to this a module on “The War on Terror” and the rest of the course concentrating on “Germany 1919 to 1945”, history will be re-written by examination boards. It is unlikely that “The War on Terror”, a phrase coined by a war warmongering half-wit in the White House, will address the issues of the crusades, the 100 years war or the geopolitical addiction to petroleum. Teachers will find it difficult to offer this propaganda to any students other than the privately educated children of cabinet ministers. “No, no, no,” gush Gove`s department, “it’s not just about Muslim terrorists, it’s about Catholic terrorists too.” We should also be very worried that a “Dummies Guide to Fascism” is on the curriculum.
Should they survive beyond A-level, any student unfortunate enough not to have a very wealthy pater or mater, will need to think more than twice about entering higher education. EMA went the way of BSF and university tuition fees went through the roof thereby denying tertiary learning to all but the very well off. The latest insult to young people being denied the right to higher education comes from serial hypocrite Simon Hughes of the diet Tory Liberal Democrats. His big idea is to award three university “scholarships” to every secondary school to bestow in some X Factor style competition. The lucky winners will be allowed to ascend from below stairs and feast on the scraps discarded from the top table.
As for the runners up, they can contemplate a life of unemployment and, after learning of the wasteful NHS, our holy war against terrorism, lurid tales of the Weimar Republic, book-burning, intolerance and the persecution of minorities, will learn to know their place in society.
As for the 11-year-old graduates serving tea and cucumber sandwiches to their proud families, our tears will not be enough.
As for Serco…
Coming soon to a blog near you. A story so big it can hardly be told. Gasp at the intrigue, swoon at the vast amounts of money, laugh at the sheer incompetence. The rise and fall and rise again of the Serco empire in…
The Graduate – Part two.