The National Association of Head Teachers’ annual conference in Birmingham over the weekend of 18/19 May 2013 displayed little warmth or confidence in the education policies of a government which claims to be giving school leaders greater freedom and flexibility in the management of their schools.
The Education Secretary was visibly taken aback by the angry and derisive response from head teachers in a question and answer session on the Saturday. Ahead of the conference he had been likened to a “fanatical personal trainer” who urges schools to jump higher and run faster…(paying) no heed to “the damage he is causing to the body or the system”.
Faced with this, Mr Gove fell back on the lament that he was striving for higher standards in schools. Told of the stress caused to the profession by current policy initiatives, including the inspection system, his response was:
If you think Ofsted is causing you fear I am grateful for your candour, but we are going to have to part company.
Russell Hobby of the NAHT has gone on the record to draw worrying parallels between colossal and damaging failures due to similar policies already in place in the NHS, notably the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust scandal, warning:
of the dangers of management by data, we need only turn to the more human tragedy of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, where patient care was sacrificed to meet the targets.
The same forces are rising within education. The effects will be more subtle but equally devastating.
This comes at a time when the current government’s preferred system for the delivery of education to school age students, academies and free schools, are under fire, losing credibility, and subject to calls for tighter scrutiny amid concerns of financial irregularities by certain leading providers.