Michael “Oiky” Gove may have been shunted off to the Whips’ Office to continue the theme of crashing ineptitude that he began while at the Department for Education (DfE), but his cheerleaders just keep on cheering, and spinning the same old baloney: Gove, in their retelling, was a Great Reformer. One of those spinning longest and loudest is Spectator editor Fraser Nelson.
Nelson, who is a highly intelligent man, must know that the substance of what Gove actually did is not unadjacent to Sweet Jack, yet on he spins. Free Schools are lauded, despite the programme going well over £1 billion over budget. Schools converting to Academy status are also praised, despite this being someone else’s idea, and despite the reality not matching his latest Telegraph article.
“The Blob gobbled up Michael Gove – now it’s coming for David Cameron ... The Prime Minister treats school reform like a dirty secret, but it is by far his greatest triumph” asserts Nelson. Yes, readers are still sold on the Strawman “Blob”, which is the stuff of invention, a mythical presence which is opposed to improving children’s education, while in the real world, it does not exist.
All those who are deemed by Gove’s disciples to be part of this “Blob” – teachers, educationalists, civil servants and administrators – want to improve education as much as Nelson and his fellow spinners. The characterisation is made purely in order to have something to blame, which at least makes a change from eastern European migrants. And Nelson’s example is deeply flawed.
After telling “‘If the Blob scents weakness, they exploit it,’ one school governor tells me. ‘That’s what’s happening now’”, which means he is still on speaking terms with the loathsome Toby Young, Nelson tells of “Inspiration Trust, a Norfolk-based group with a track record of turning around failing schools. It ... has now been dragged into something of a spurious row about having advance notice of Ofsted inspections”.
For “spurious”, read “reported in the Observer”. Inspiration Trust appeared to be rather well-informed as to when Ofsted would be calling by. Their excuse, that they were on some kind of long-term heightened inspection readiness, is interesting, but the emails seen by the paper suggest prior knowledge. Inspiration has made a legal complaint; tellingly, Ofsted has not.
And that is Nelson’s only evidence in support of his “Blob” Strawman. He makes no mention of all the Free School and Academy failures, and while enthusing over how many schools have converted to Academy status, says nothing about many of those conversions being urged by the DfE, or even forced on the schools concerned. Instead, he issues the usual right-wing prattle.
Education could be discussed rationally and impartially. But not by Fraser Nelson.