Last week, after demonstrably losing it with the Guardian’s Suzanne Moore, the @toryeducation Twitter feed fell silent. Its last broadcast was on Wednesday. While being welcomed by the more discerning observer of the education scene, many of whose sole regret was that it did not happen a lot earlier, this posed a problem for Michael “Oiky” Gove’s propaganda initiative.
Telegraph? Prompted by me? Ooh no, no, no, no, no, no ..... yes
But not to fear, there’s always the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs, which the paper has wisely decided is not worth putting behind its newly erected paywall (I shan’t miss Waterfield and Booker and their flagrant dishonesty, and nor will all those who will head instead to the hated BBC). Here, the teaching unions and those pesky academics are lined up for target practice.
And opening the batting is the loathsome Toby Young, telling his fans “Teaching unions declare war on Ofsted in last-ditch effort to protect mediocrity”. Unsurprisingly, Tobes’ real target is not school standards – probably as well, given his own “free school” hasn’t got any exam results just yet – but those pesky things called teachers, many of whom join trades unions.
Tobes doesn’t like that. He’d much rather have a non-unionised and therefore more easily bullied and browbeaten workforce. So he’s all in favour of employing those who haven’t taken a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), despite state schools insisting on the qualification, and for very good reason: it means the holder has been trained as a teacher. Minor point, eh, Tel readers?
On top of that, Tobes wants to see teachers’ pay and conditions changed so they’re that bit easier to shove around. Of course, he doesn’t put it that way, preferring such terms as “flexibility” and “motivation”. Then he goes totally gaga and pretends that all local authorities are controlled by rotten lefties, who are, in his paranoid world, in league with the teaching unions.
Then the second thrust of the Tel blogs pincer movement hoves into view, mounted by, appropriately, Harry Mount. His chosen strawman is easily gleaned from the headline “Teachers who hate knowledge – the horror! the horror!”. Mount believes that those not in favour of rote learning of lists of otherwise useless information “hate knowledge”, whilst in reality the one in this position is him.
But he does understand that his drivel is so dull that it needs a photo of Cameron Diaz to liven it up. And let’s cut to the fact of this matter. Lists of dates are stuff all use without context. Times tables do not teach facility for number (something I noted last year). Children aren’t being trained to win pub quizzes. And we already know that Mount and his fellow saloon bar bores are incapable of grasping this.
But it keeps the rant going while Gove’s polecats are away, so that’s all right, then.