It’s been an eventful end to the week for Michael “Oiky” Gove and his retinue of polecats, as the criticism, even from his own side of the political divide, continues to rain down and the petulant and destructive behaviour of his special advisors (SpAds) continues to dismay those who thought that the Department for Education (DfE) was all about helping educators, rather than self-promotion.
And going for as much self-promotion as he can get his hands on has been head polecat Dominic Cummings, who has been named in a remarkably frank article posted by Merlin John Online, “DfE pulls cash to gag own computing expert group” with the sub-heading “Political pique and a special adviser lie behind a clumsy attempt to silence dissent”.
As the article explains, “The Department for Education (DfE) has withdrawn financial support for its Computing Expert Group in a bid to stifle criticisms of the narrowness of its computing curriculum ... In a bid to close down the group, the DfE will no longer pay subsistence and transport costs of the 30 or so teachers and teacher educators who have given up their time free of charge”.
Apparently, merely criticising The Great Gove is sufficient to cause the deeply unsavoury Cummings to go apeshit and have the plug pulled: “He instructed a senior civil servant to inform group chair Bob Harrison that the proposed closure was a result of the continuing independent stance of group members on the computing curriculum for English schools, and the constructive criticisms they voiced”.
Sadly, this mean-spirited and petty intervention was not successful: “the group will continue its work, and will look for support from elsewhere”. That the group was much appreciated for its work was in no doubt. The article cites teachers who have conceded that, without its services – provided by those who had given up their time for free – they would not have known where to start.
Disturbingly, the erratic and vindictive behaviour of Cummings is well-known among educators: a citation in the article begins “One group member from industry, who did not wish to be named because of the fear of victimisation by the DfE”. There are others not wishing to be identified. Many are mystified: “Quite why Dominic Cummings was so motivated to want to close down the group remains a mystery”.
And that the group has been scapegoated is inescapable from the conclusion “the DfE’s Computing Expert Group appears to be catching the political flak for retaining independent viewpoints following a highly divisive process with questionable leadership”. Or, put more directly, Dominic Cummings is not fit to be given control of any significant activity involving human participation.
Who let this singularly unpleasant individual through the door? Do tell, “Oiky”.