Reality can be a terrible thing to behold, especially for those who have decided their own particular world is something different. So it is for the loathsome Toby Young, who has chipped in his ninepence worth to “In my manifesto … education policy ideas for 2015” in the deeply subversive Guardian. Had he seen some of the other contributions, Tobes might have stopped and thought.
More bad news, eh Tobes?
“If there's a change of government ... I hope they don't make changes to the new national curriculum, the new accountability measures or the new GCSEs and A-levels. All these reforms need time to bed-in and further changes now would be disruptive” he warns. But Anthony Seldon, head of Wellington College in Berkshire, writing in the same article, is not of one mind with him.
“I'd like a see a new government that's brave enough to do away with GCSEs and introduce the International Baccalaureate. The fact that our kids grow up in this global world and we have a diddy national education system with quaint little exams called GCSEs is madness. The IB is the best exam system in the world, and everyone should be doing it”. So much for those new GCSEs, then.
And Tobes’ insistence that employing unqualified teachers is fine and dandy also fails to find favour, this time from a head teacher in the state system. “We'd like to see a professional development programme leading to qualified teacher status (QTS) after a maximum of two years' induction and a master's-level professional qualification after five years” says John Tomsett.
He’s part of the Headteachers’ Roundtable and says “The Headteachers' Roundtable recently published its own election manifesto. Top of the list is great teaching; so much of the policy change over the last four years has been about structures and accountability, we've lost sight of the basics”. So, for one head, “great teaching” and what Tobes dismisses as a “union-approved slip of paper” go hand in hand.
Then we come to the question of Free Schools. Tobes is unequivocal on the issue: “If there isn't a change of government, I would like to see turbo boosters under the free school programme”. So a for-profit school would be OK, so long as “it can guarantee above-average pupil outcomes”. But no rational educationalist would put their name to such a guarantee. There are too many variables.
And there is the example of what happened when one for-profit organisation was let loose in the playground – that brought us the shambles that was, and perhaps still is, IES Breckland. The right-leaning Free Schools advocates were dead keen on that enterprise, until it went belly up. Plus, as John Harris has pointed out, the Free Schools programme is proving flawed and costly.
Welcome to the real world, Tobes. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.