Cuts? Bring 'em on!

28th May 2010 at 01:00

Dear Michael Gove,

I understand you save money, so I hope you won't mind if I make some suggestions. You'll be amazed at how much you can save and, more importantly, how little schools will suffer.

1. Bury Ofsted

To use a fashionable phrase, it's not fit for purpose. It has grown so bureaucratic that it doesn't remember what education is supposed to be about. Its tentacles reach into so many public areas, I'm surprised it isn't inspecting my wheelie bin to see what I'm throwing away. It doesn't raise standards, or experience schools as they really are, and it employs too many questionable inspectors. Just because Tom, Dick and Harry have been through the education system doesn't mean they are all suitable to inspect it. Replace it with small, local teams of skilled, experienced advisors and inspectors, accountable centrally.

2. Get rid of Year 6 Sats

Teachers are skilled professionals - learn to trust them. They know exactly what children should be able to achieve each year and can assess them accurately. But APP (Assessing Pupils' Progress) is so complex it needed a handbook to explain the terms it uses. It would be laughable if it wasn't so ludicrous. We don't need convoluted systems designed by crusty academics who haven't a clue what goes on in a classroom and who think teachers have 48 hours in every day.

3. Get rid of the Department For New Initiatives Every Five Minutes

If that means letting hundreds of civil servants go, so be it. Send 'em to me - they can listen to children read. We need, to paraphrase Greta Garbo, to be left alone. We're fed up with glossy handbooks, heavy booklets, piles of "information" CDs. Come to think of it, still send a few CDs - they're handy as coffee mug coasters.

4. Get rid of the Department For Gathering Useless Data

There you are: another skipload of civil servants released. You probably don't realise how much irrelevant information our admin officers are asked for. Mind you, I have been amused by the jargon used to justify it. And I have had much fun filling your forms in with ludicrous statistics and silly sentences. Which, incidentally, you've never questioned ...

5. Get rid of School Improvement Partners

They're not partners, they're data inspectors, checking schools haven't fallen apart between Ofsteds. They don't improve anything and they're expensive. Come to that, you can lose all the data, too. If I chucked all mine in the bin, my school wouldn't suffer in the slightest. Why? Because we know what we're doing and we don't need pretty graphs to tell us stuff we already know.

6. Oh and there are lots more ...

The National College for School Leadership? Trim it mercilessly and send prospective heads out to shadow successful ones. The Training and Development Agency for Schools? Name something useful it's done. Becta? Now there's a tree ripe for pruning ...

7. Now send all the money you've saved straight to schools

Heads know what they're doing, and what they want to spend it on. We don't want a repeat of the "initiative" whereby deprived schools were given #163;22,000 for playground games equipment. By the time the centrally appointed consultants, designer sand fitters had taken their sizeable cut, I ended up with a storage shed, lines painted on the asphalt, and some buckets of hoops and balls. Pop into school and I'll tell you how we've suffered from any number of central initiatives like that.

Well, there's something to chew on. Now, then, is the Health Secretary around?

Yours, Mike Kent

Mike Kent is headteacher at Comber Grove Primary, Camberwell, south London. Email:

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