Yesterday brought a strange excursion from the loathsome Toby Young, as he went off on an accusatory rant about Wales. Tobes has discovered that the Pisa rankings for schools, that he has tried to pin on Tone and Pa Broon, despite his team and therefore Michael “Oiky” Gove having been in charge for more than three and a half years, are worse for Wales than England.
So off goes Tobes on a suitably selective spin about how those rotten lefties have made a mess out of education in the Principality, despite Labour not having had overall control in Wales for much of the time since the Welsh Assembly came into being. A higher than average percentage of public sector employment is also held to be behind the school results, as if this influences all other employment.
Quite apart from the suspicion that the Pisa rankings are not the be-all and end-all of educational achievement, and that there are other potential factors at work here – such as problems in dealing with the loss over the years of much of the employment that depended on mining and heavy industry, together with the health problems that those industries left behind – it does appear to be a “look over there” exercise.
Might there be more less than totally favourable news coming down the track on the subject, for instance, of Free Schools? You betcha, says Sarah: another Free School has confirmed that it has parted company with its head teacher. “Lee Faith who has been in charge at the school since it opened in September 2012, is quitting his post, making him the latest in a long line of headteachers to leave their jobs at free schools after less than two years” reports the TES. Where that?
That’s the Greenwich Free School: “The Greenwich Free School’s governing body confirmed the departure of its head to parents on Friday, adding that it was ‘sad’ to see the Mr Faith go. The school is known for the long hours it keeps, teaching from early in the morning and in to the evening”.
The last sentence sounds a little like someone is trying to import the much-vaunted long hours culture of countries like South Korea, which does very well in Pisa rankings at the expense of children having a life outside non-stop schooling. Small wonder that Tobes would rather talk about Wales and play yah-boo at Her Majesty’s Opposition in support of his hero “Oiky” than mention it.
As Russell Hobby of the NAHT noted, “Heads of free schools are under immense pressure from the government to get good results”. The list of the departed, of course, also includes Thomas Packer, first head teacher of the West London Free School, Tobes’ own baby. And that’s another thing he doesn’t seem keen on discussing. But the departures are happening, so talk about it we must.
And saying “look over there at Wales” will not stop those discussions, Tobes.