The Tory Party spin machine has been fired up this morning by Michael “Oiky” Gove, as he seeks to head off anyone in the press to whom the thought may have entered that the latest bad news for educational standards in England and Wales might be down to him. Because more of those international league tables are being published, and things are not looking good.
Yes Oiky, it's your responsibility
This is a pre-emptive strike, as results are not yet out, but as the deeply subversive Guardian has observed, “The relative positions of England, Scotland and Wales are expected to be little changed when the OECD releases its latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) on Tuesday, setting off another political battle over the direction of England's state schools”.
Now, the Pisa rankings have been used by “Oiky” in the past – and, naturally, by his retinue of polecats and devotees such as the loathsome Toby Young – to lay into Labour, backed up with the usual talk of “dumbing down” and of course “grade inflation”. The latest figures, it seems, will also be used to blame the rotten lefties, who are presumably still running the DfE (maybe not).
So here’s the Gove excuse: “The results due out this week are a verdict on the last government. These tests were taken in 2012 by children who had been educated almost entirely under Labour and before most of our reforms had even been introduced ... The real test of our reforms will be how we do in a decade's time” to which I call bullshit.
The results from the 2009 Pisa tests have been available to the Government for three years now. Had the state of the education system been so glaringly deficient, then where were the remedial measures to set things right? In any case, at least two thirds of pupils’ time in school has been under Gove’s watch since the last series of tests. The excuse is starting to wear thin.
And “Oiky” has a problem if he tries to wheel out the best-performing countries as comparators: Finland insists on qualified teachers in its classrooms, and as Gove’s shadow Tristram Hunt has observed, “In Shanghai all teachers have a teaching qualification and undergo 240 hours of professional development within the first five years of their career”.
Instead, “Oiky” and his cheerleaders bang the drum for unqualified teachers, on grounds that they are unable to quantify, while blaming someone else for shortcomings in the system. But the buck has stopped with Gove for three and a half years now, and if he can’t show some sign of improvement over that timescale, one has to wonder when – or if – he ever will.
Stop making excuses, “Oiky”. Not good enough. Must try harder.