A bag of amnesia, anyone?;Last word

15th October 1999 at 01:00
THERE I was, all set to win a trip to Moscow and a handsome trophy in a business management competition, when I read the small print. The competition is open only to those aged 16 to 19 and university undergraduates. Damn! In order to win you had to introduce a new product for a crisp-manufacturing company, and then launch a marketing campaign for it. I had come up with a winner and must share my bag of crisps with the world. The idea came from reading The TES interview with William Hague a couple of weeks ago.

Wee Willie Winkie has

apparently decided to attack bureaucracy and government interference: "All our policies will be in the direction of more localisation rather than centralisation; less regulation from the centre rather than more regulation."

He seemed to have forgotten that his own colleagues started all this centralist mayhem, so he should have added: "And I'm a cheeky little tinker."

Once again the arsonists demand credit for calling the fire brigade.

My new prize-winning product was a crisp called "Amnesia" - fashioned in the shape of Hague's head. Throw away your Prozac, just eat a bag of Hague Amnesias and you conveniently forget everything that ever happened. My marketing slogan was: "Want to be vague? Munch a Hague."

I offer Wee Willie a few historical questions to counteract his attack of amnesia.

Question 1 is easy. Who said this and to whom? "The Secretary of State has taken more powers under the Bill than any other member of the Cabinet - more than my right honourable friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for Social Services".

Was it (a) Brutus to Julius Caesar? (b) Nelson to Napoleon? (c) Mrs Khan to Genghis? (d) Edward Heath to Kenneth Baker? It was, of course, the last of these.

Ministers used to have few

central controls over schools. But in 1988 Kenneth Baker was busy taking 366 additional powers, one for each day and a spare one for leap year. Later he increased these to more than 400.

Question 2 is also easy. Did Conservative ministers subsequently revoke any of the controls? The answer is no.

Kenneth Baker-Clarke and

Kenneth Baker-Patten actually added hundreds more, laying down the detail for contents of school report forms, attendance registers, national tests, the length of the deputy head's toenails and in what key to sing For Those in Peril in assembly, though I might have imagined the last couple of these.

When Kenneth Clarke was minister we got a letter saying he had approved one of our courses. A week previously we had received a different letter saying that the whole scheme was ended. Under Clarkie the bureaucracy went backwards from death to birth, the opposite of the Big Bang - the Big Squish.

If Wee Willie wants to befriend the teaching profession, here are a few more questions and answers. Who started the attacks on teachers? (Keith Joseph). Who continued them? (Baker, Clarke, Uncle Tom Cobley). Who said that a third of seven-year-olds couldn't recognise three letters of the alphabet, ten times higher than the actual figure? (Kenneth Clarke). Who accused teachers of being Luddites? (John Patten).

So here are a few things he might consider saying if he really wants to cut the mustard. "I'm afraid we made an almighty cock-up of education. We were the ones who started the tradition of burying schools under bureaucracy and box ticking. We were complete wallies and should be ashamed of ourselves."

He might go on to say: "I will consign all think-tank advisers with rotating eyeballs to the nearest rest home, where they belong, rather than let their 'advice' dictate policy. My ministers of education will not, in future, be monumental prats. I will show the door to quislings and camp followers who try to ride on the coat-tails of an authoritarian regime."

Unfortunately, all Wee Willie can propose is parents voting to get rid of heads and schools being allowed to pay teachers whatever they can get away with. The loony tunes, sadly, are alive and well.

So pass me the bag of Amnesias please. Mmm.

That's better. I've forgotten him already.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today