Nicky Morgan has suddenly burst onto the headlines after a period of quiet for which we were all very grateful. The Sunday Times ran an article (on Sunday, of course) that there was to be such a widespread rethink on national testing in primary schools that it looked as though teacher professionalism in these matters was at last to be respected. Well, not quite. The Sunday Times, apparently, told us more or less the opposite of what the government was planning, which is worrying for a paper that is largely pro-Tory. The Guardian corrected the impression on Sunday evening, once it became clear that the ST had it all wrong. The Times this morning has this little collection of cameos pictured above. The “rethink” article contains evidence that the minister and the department she runs are saying diametrically opposite things:
A review of the change, which included a new baseline assessment of pupils at the age of five and tougher assessments at seven and 11, is expected to be announced tomorrow. The plans were part of reforms introduced by Michael Gove, the former education secretary….a spokesman at the Department of Education insisted that the tests would stay. “Contrary to reports, the new baseline assessments will not be scrapped. All primary school assessments at five, seven and 11 will remain,” he said.
Wilshaw, in the Guardian article, has found me to be a bad headteacher, by the way. I knew it!
“Talk to any good headteacher and they will tell you it was a mistake to abolish those tests,” Wilshaw has said. “In getting rid of those tests, we conceded too much ground to vested interests.”
Those vested interests, of course, are the children.
Today’s Times piece is mostly about the fact that a National Teaching Service is mooted, able to parachute in good teachers into communities where there are failing schools and about whose communities, their lives, loves, histories and cultures these parachuted teachers will know precisely nothing. That doesn’t matter of course, because a child is a child and has to be educated to the same industrial standard. Rubbish! You cannot educate a child until you have made at least some effort to learn their family and culture. It is, at the heart, not a process so much as it is a relationship. And as Andrew Curran was quick to remind us last month, it is love that is the heart of any successful relationship. As Ken Robinson says in Creative Schools which I am reading at the moment (p71)
The heart of education is the relationship between the student and the teacher. Everything else depends on how productive and successful that relationship is. If that is not working, then the system is not working.
Yesterday I was in a coaching conversation when we reflected that the success that the coachee had achieved with a class was the extent to which they were loved and encouraged, as a basis for future learning over the year. As tough as it had been, and might still be, that loving circle of encouragement was the basis for everything important that the children would learn. Relationship between student and teacher is the heart of everything.
In the Times this morning, it looks like the absence of love, relationship and encouragement – thus meaning a culture of distrust and mechanisation – will actually prevail in the policy of Mrs Morgan, whether or not she believes that this is actually the case or not.
The education secretary will maintain that the opposite is the case, with a review to look at how to make tests for seven-year-olds more accurate and rigorous. Ministers indicated that this was likely to mean replacing current tests assessed by teachers with externally marked tests. Controversial “baseline” tests for four-year-olds will stay.
More pictures of the honourable lady (or maybe the same one, as the Times seems to have a limited stock) will presumably follow tomorrow in whatever newspaper thinks this story is still interesting.