I returned home today ever-so-slightly dazed after one of those days you’d rather forget, where the children’s domestic and social woes take on far greater importance than the Wilshaw Gove collective. (That should have been a 60s band!). Make the tea for wife and Normletts (home-made southern fried chicken, as you ask) and sit down to update myself on today’s national and international events. The first thing that catches my eye, the image of Gove at lectern, delivering his wisdom to the Conservative Party Conference! Quick read and Mrs. N has to administer the dried frog tablets!
Our illustrious leader (alleged, precious little evidence of this GCSE cockup wise) had once again remarked on his deep seated belief that we are responsible for the attainment gap between the poor and Tories, sorry, rich. The phrase he used – apparently borrowed from that most respected of social egalitarians, George Bush – was “the soft bigotry of low expectations” and the sheer hypocrisy took my breath away!
This “soft bigotry” would be as opposed to the rather more obvious Hard Bigotry of the coalition’s policies. The deliberate design of accountability targets to punish schools with low ability or challenging profiles, the use of statistical manipulation to affect the results of tens of thousands of our learners and their chances for the future, the continued drive to push more and more public money into the bank accounts of their friends in business and the constant denigration of a profession whose reason for existing is to help others grow. This is bigotry against true public service in favour of private enterprise. The free market model of schooling that the coalition promote depends on inequality to succeed – of course they don’t want the old system to appear successful. That is why so much energy has been spent on moving goalposts, misquoting figures, illegally changing results and running our system down. The electorate need to think it is broken if they are to let you sell the system off.
But, apparently, it is we, the very people who fight the low aspirations day in and day out, who argue with disaffected parents about the need for their children to be in school, who draw a line society fails to enforce and say ” no, that is not acceptable” to the violent and abusive and who care and nurture even while our charges try to dull their unhappiness and despair with illicit substances and risky behaviours; it is we, once again who are at fault. I am starting to wonder if the profession should take out a class action – slander and libel – against Gove and his cronies. After all, where is the evidence? We are constantly lauded as the best generation of teachers, ever. Results had gone up consistently (yes,I know – but we don’t make the system!). So where, exactly is the evidence of our bigotry? Of course, Mr Gove has a slightly chequered history with evidence – seems he can be a little selective (perhaps a sign of things to come). Remember the Swedish free schools? Wasn’t quite what he claimed. American charter schools – variable. Singapore – looking to us to make their well drilled offspring more creative and critical.
So, having let off this steam, tomorrow I’ll return to the rhetorical coal face – 14-19 meeting, lesson observations, year 9 coding lesson, year 10 networks, etc, etc infilled with praise, discipline, extra praise for the battalions of key stage 4 – along with constant encouragement and promises that the system will be fair next summer and yes, there is a point! Because, whatever massively disingenuous statements The Gove makes to increase his hopes of becoming party leader, only we truly care day in, day out about the individuals, those who really are not just a number. That’s why I go on despite the heartburn and lack of sleep. If we don’t do all we can, they’ll have them back up chimneys faster than you can say ” new grammar schools”.