Watch this short video – it contains an interesting comment from a Swedish headteacher, Eva-Lott Petersson – “our government trusts us to do the job”. This, clearly, could not have been spoken by anyone in the UK – not even by someone in the armed forces, and definitely not anyone in a health “trust”.
It is a key issue, the mistrust of teachers, and a powerful control weapon used by the Department of Education in the way that it treats heads. It says one thing with its mouth, but its actions bespeak a darker, more controlling motive.
This is all old ground, but it sets the context for a second comment in this video:
“a big difference between the UK and Sweden is….that it is not the child we should evaluate, but it is the processes in the school, how we do things; we should evaluate that, but not the child”.
This means that what would be inspected (and there are no inspections of the type we would imagine for this age group) would be things that the teachers actually had control over, not things they did not.
There are of course, many and deep reasons why the current administrations in Sweden and the UK act the way they do, not least historical. But it is hard to escape the conclusions that as a nation, Sweden has decided, as have other Scandinavian countries, that this is what we want for our children and we are prepared to pay for it because in the future we will reap the benefits. Not being involved in major wars with belligerent allies also helps, of course, and frees up money for investment in children.
Meanwhile, Mr Gove is having a pop at those who are criticising his Ebacc, in a speech to the Social Market Foundation entitled the Progressive Betrayal, also reported here. I don’t know if they are getting a little paranoid, but yesterday I had a charming letter from Elizabeth Truss, Minister of state for something (children? do they have a minister for those?) responding, I imagine, to my letter to David Laws who had responded to my letter to Gove (do these people never reply to the letters they get sent?), but answering questions I don’t really remember asking. Mostly, she wrote about the Ebacc, about which I write three lines in my letter. Are they getting a little sensitive? Anyway, in due course, I shall write back to Ms Truss – her ideas for Nursery worker qualifications need addressing anyway – with a suitably polite reply.
Less polite – acerbic, even – is the monthly missive from Michael Rosen to the Secretary of State. Having a conversation with a head of a new free school in the east end of London on Monday reminded me of the fact that there is a huge disconnect between the needs of families, especially poor immigrant families, and the sort of thing that Gove is saying to the SMF. This Letter from a Curious Parent addresses the issues with poetic wit.
I would love it if our government said to our schools – we believe in what you are doing and trust you to do it; we will provide the funding to make it necessary and we will abandon our class dogmas, on both sides, to put children’s needs first.