Can we possibly believe Boris Johnson on FE?

Sarah Simons does not have great trust in the new prime minister. So can she believe him this time?

Can Boris Johnson be believed when he says FE is a priority?

Boris is pro-FE. He says so, so it must be true.

Why on earth would anyone have cause to doubt the man who admitted to fuelling early anti-European rumblings by magicking-up stories that the EU was to establish straight banana enforcers and ban prawn cocktail crisps? And there was that unfortunate Brexit bus kerfuffle too. 

As well as a plethora of well documented misunder-fuck-ups in regard to, for example, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Liverpool victim-shaming, making up quotes, buying £300K of illegal-to-use water cannons, reciting a colonial-era Kipling poem inside a Myanmar temple, and that's not to mention Turkey, losing £43 million of public money on a garden bridge vanity project, joking about dead bodies in Libya, aaaaaaaall the affairs, and…Oh I can't be arsed to go on. You know what he is.


Background: May urges Johnson to make FE funding increase happen

News: FE funding a 'priority', says Boris Johnson

Quick read: Apprenticeships and skills minister post downgraded?


Plummy-waffle

Boris is the answer to the question: "What would happen if The Muppets introduced an affable racist character?" He embodies the idea of go big or go home. Big personality, big ideas, big lies. So there are more than a few reasons to raise a suspicious eyebrow at every word of plummy-waffle that topples out of his face hole. So why, when he says he’s FE-curious, do we believe him?

Simple. Because we want to. I certainly want to believe him. But the evidence we have so far could go either way, dependent on where you sit on the optimist/pessimist scale, or indeed dependent on the fine tuning of your bullshit-ometer.

And that evidence is the six-day late announcement, then lack of appointment of an FE and skills minister. Is it part of the pro-FE plan to bung us in the with the rest of education, so as to raise the skills profile and perhaps streamline funding between sectors? Or was it one of those times when you know you should have done something, but can't quite pop your finger on what it was, so you improvise and hope no one notices?

We noticed. For nearly a week we noticed. And nearly a week is a long time in politics.

So why was there such a delay? 

Scenario 1

The prime minister recognises that post-16 education adds great value to the country and is essential to its success in a post-Brexit economy. Rather than recruit a separate skills minister role (alongside Nick Gibb as schools minister, and Jo Johnson as universities minister) it was thought more effective to place the remit directly with Gavin Williamson, the newly appointed education secretary and thus demonstrate the sector’s prominence.The six-day delay in announcement was simply to dot the Is and cross the Ts of such a shift in priority.

If this is near to the truth, then WELL DONE BORIS!

Or…

Scenario 2

Boris is having an afternoon snooze in his mahogany panelled man-cave, or "office" as the grown-ups like to call it. He is sunk so deep within his high back Chesterfield, that to the untrained eye he could pass for a heap of last week’s washing.

Alongside a hoarders’-style tower of red crayoned shoebox busses and just in front of a shrine to Mr Tumble, a massive whiteboard has been wheeled in. Upon that out-of-place, and frankly unwelcome management tool, lines of sticky notes with words on them are placed in a grid – minister of this, secretary of that.

Boris wakes up with a snort. He gazes sleepily at the yellow paper squares, and sighs. More homework? Who can help him finish his tasks so he can play out? “Nanny!” he booms. Nanny doesn't come. He remembers that she said something about finally standing on his own two feet, but he thought she was playing one of her pranks. Silly nanny!

Boris lumbers to his feet, his own two feet, while muttering something about Winston Churchill. He strides out towards the whiteboard. Oh no! While he nodded off some trickster had tied his shoelaces together. Was that naughty goblin Mr Gove up to his old mischief again?

Boris lurches forward desperately grasping the air for something to break his fall. But alas, he topples straight into the whiteboard, setting all the sticky squares of paper fluttering over him like a shower of yellow butterflies.

If nanny comes back she’ll be so cross with clumsy Boris. He might not even get his bedtime hot choc-choc. Panicking, he scrapes at the well worn carpet, gathering all the pieces of the puzzle and thwacking them on the board into a patchwork of job titles. Hmmm, it does look like the work of an easily distracted serial killer, but he’s sure no one would notice. After all, he checked everywhere to make sure he found all those little yellow job squares: chancellor, Brexit secretary, health, universities, he was absolutely, positively, definitely sure he’d found all the jobs.

“All in a day’s work” he thought, as he snuggled back into his nap chair.

Well done Boris.

Who knows what really happened. But whatever the reason for the delay, let’s hope that this time, this time Boris is telling the truth.

Sarah Simons works in colleges and adult community education in the East Midlands and is the director of UKFEchat. She tweets @MrsSarahSimons

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