You may not have heard of Robert Peal. And, until this month, parents who send their children to the West London Free School (WLFS), domain of the loathsome Toby Young, may also not have heard of him. This will soon change: Peal has just joined WLFS as a “Teacher of History”. He has a starred First from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He is a product of Teach First.
Not only that, Peal has a Masters in history from the University of Pennsylvania, which he gained under a Thouron Scholarship. All of this is singularly impressive. But he is also an education research fellow at right-leaning think tank Civitas. Moreover, he has published a highly partisan view of education in the UK (titled Progressively Worse – read about it HERE).
Peal’s work at Civitas has included a contribution to “Core Knowledge UK—a knowledge-based primary school curriculum inspired by the ideas of E. D. Hirsch”. Hirsch lauded his book as “a fine, detailed, persuasive work of scholarship”. Other notables commenting included Simon “Enoch was right” Heffer: “Shows the damage wreaked on children by trendy educationists over many decades”.
Even Michael “Oiky” Gove praised his work, hailing “one of the brightest young voices in the education debate”. But there seem few fans from the educational mainstream, and therein lies the problem. Partisan authors are free to ply their trade, but what happens when they appear in the classroom? Tobes is already mimicking Hirsch with his “What every parent needs to know”, remember.
Why should this matter? Ah well. Whatever methods are used to do the teaching, children should not be so much as aware of the teacher’s politics, let alone be directed towards a partisan viewpoint. There is a danger here of political zeal spilling over into the classroom: after all, with Tobes as co-founder of the WLFS, and being a partisan Tory, there would be no shortage of potential encouragement.
And those parents who read highly partisan papers like the Daily Mail – Heffer’s current berth, after the Maily Telegraph ditched him – may have already seen Peal’s writings: “The worst behaved pupils in the world? You'd better believe it: As a study says schools are even more anarchic than we thought, the shocking testimony of a once idealistic young teacher” was published last April.
The Mail has just performed a routine misrepresentation of OECD findings on graduate literacy levels: creative retelling is its business. Of course, Robert Peal may have no problem keeping his politics out of the classroom. But the coincidence between his thinking and Tobes’ makes one wonder if their innate mutual idealism can be kept in check for long. Time will tell.
In the meantime, in case Tobes hasn’t mentioned his past, this blog will.