Education in England appears to be undergoing not so much a policy review as sporadic and random assault, if recent decisions by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, are any guide to what’s happening.
First we have the school sports fiasco (personally I’m no fan of competitive sport, thanks very much; but surely all kids need to have exercise and learn to play in teams?); and then we have the probably even more awful scenario of Bookstart hitting the deck.
And that’s before we begin to think about ‘free schools’, untrained teachers or, dare we mention it, student fees.
Of course, Prime Minister David Cameron is attempting – unconvincingly in the view of some – to defuse both the school sports and the books-for-tots disasters; but he seems to be focusing on their impacts for politics, rather than for actual children at the point of (withdrawn) delivery.
Some might suspect all this is the outcome of confused or fuzzy thinking. I’m not so sure.
I have a sneaky feeling that there’s an underlying plan here, to muddy the waters and look a bit daft, whilst all the time sticking very quietly but firmly to the small state scenario. Perhaps the failure to see how dreadful some of this is for real children in real places is not a genuine inability to do so, but a steadfast refusal even to acknowledge that this critically important child-centred agenda exists at all.
It’s not much good for Education to ‘save money’ in the short-term, if the medium and longer term results will be so much more expensive for health, employment and other parts of our society. But we know that with the proposed trajectory this will happen; it’s happened already before, not least in the 1980s.
Only by refusing to contemplate all protests about the human (as opposed to overt, party political) costs, is it possible for the Government to continue with their current disastrously short-sighted options.
Those behind what’s happening now I fear don’t want a properly thought-through, coherent set of social policies. Maybe they want only to reduce the role of government and to cut taxes, regardless of everything else.
This is not a happy thought for the first day of 2011; so I just hope I’m soon proved very, very wrong.