Despite selectively leaking his proposals wrapped in feature-size parcels to the Usual Suspects in the Fourth Estate, Education Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove is not convincing all of the people all of the time, as parents and head teachers make their feelings known about his wondrous enforced upheaval in the curriculum, together with re-writing history and making pupils learn Imperial measurements.
This last made me despair, and I can quite happily recite the number of quarts in a gallon, chains in a mile, farthings in a groat and stones in a hundredweight. So the UK, to the evident pride of Tory MP Andrew Percy, still measures speed of road vehicles and the distance they travel in miles? So that puts us in a rather small minority, that’s what.
Not only does all of mainland Europe use metric, so do former bastions of Empire such as Australia. And New Zealand. And India. And Canada (James Delingpole won’t like that one bit). And, before anyone asks, Gibraltar. Hell’s teeth, seven years ago even Ireland turned its back on the mile and went metric. Just because we still use miles is stuff all to brag about.
And Gove’s suggestion that certain (female) historical figures should be erased from the curriculum because that would get him more brownie points from those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet is equally strange. Reactions have included misgivings from Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman, who is concerned about female role models for those like her young daughter.
But the most effective riposte seen by this blog thus far has come from head teacher Tony Ryan of Chiswick School, who, after consulting his staff, has given the Minister both barrels. Of his own supposedly privileged education he says “The quality of teaching was a matter of chance and if you fell by the wayside it was deemed your own fault”. I bet that rings a few bells with those of A Certain Age.
The changes, he notes, “are driven by a perception that the English system is falling behind progress made by teenagers internationally. This is by no means factual” which freely translated means he is accusing Gove of pulling a porkie. And there is no more comfort for “Oiky” in this line: “Mr Gove appears to be fixated on an education system that belongs in the past”.
On top of that, Ryan is also clearly sceptical of the utility of the proposed English Baccalaureate (EBacc) qualification, which in his opinion marginalises a number of subjects. The intervention is telling because Tony Ryan is not a misinformed ranter in a newspaper, but the head of a much improved school. And he gives the impression of being thoroughly fed up with Michael Gove’s behaviour.
One need only imagine what will happen as parents come to think likewise.