Nick Gibb, Schools Minister, has been re-interpreted by the Telegraph on its front page (Saturday 21 Jan edition). If you read what he actually said you will of course see that, as usual, the words of those who speak and the gloss that the press puts on them are two different things. So, what’s new? The essential argument is that schools that get a load of C grades at GCSE (thus boosting the percentage of 5 A*-C grades) but not an equally balanced bunch of As and A*s are letting their children down (probably right) and therefore should be placed on a “list of shame” – Telegraph’s words, not Gibb’s.
Gibb is not a particularly popular schools minister. He is credited with putting Michael Gove onto the very narrow curricular path he currently favours (as if Gove could not have thought of that all by himself), but even he does not deserve to be re-interpreted by his own side. A quick wordle of the article will show you the main emphases, but the real thing it shows once again is how the subtle thinking and desire to improve schooling in England that the current crowd undoubtedly have is perpetually hamstrung by clinging to an outmoded ideology of education.
An example. Education in the province of Alberta is constantly held up by the current government as a particularly “high-performing jurisdiction”, as is Singapore, as is Hong Kong. These places do education very well – so do New Zealand, Ontario, Finland, and yes, accountability plays a part in their success. But that is not the whole story. In fact, it is not common to all (accountability is entirely local in Finland, for instance, and the idea of accountability as pushed for years by Michael Barber et al. is a long way from what most countries try). Behind the success of most of these countries and provinces lies a well-thought out vision and purpose for education that is linked to the nation’s view of itself, is a skills- and values-based curriculum (NOT subject based ones) and a strong and enduring commitment to play and wholeness in the early years of education. Finland does not even have a national inspection regime, and backs local authorities to drive education with a strongly local agenda. Have we some work to do here?