Get under the spin of advisers

21st July 2000 at 01:00
I READ Michael Barber's speech to some foundation in Washington (TES, July 7) with a growing sense of disbelief. Clearly, he must actually believe his own spin. Most teachers and school leaders see things rather differently.

Yet during that period when the state education system was being systematically undermined and continually denigrated by the Conservatives, one was grateful to know that there was one government adviser who was not a complete fool or an outright charlatan.

Now that our New Tory government is so enthusiastically demonstrating its own commitment to imposed solutions, increasing divisiveness, simplistic slogans and tabloid concepts, there are one or two questions which its chief education guru might care to ponder: Why hasn't the Government begun to address the issue of our iniquitous admissions system designed to ensure that "to him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath"?

Why do so many Government policies - in particular "Excellence in Cities" - seem designed to increase this gulf still further?

What is the difference between diversity and selection?

If secondary schools are so bad at key stage 3, how come key stage 4 results improve year on yar?

Why does the Government declare policies as successful when they have scarcely begun to be implemented ("Excellence in Cities" again)?

Why are we once more in the throes of a teacher-supply crisis?

Why are teachers yet again taking industrial action in a way that threatens the day-to-day efficiency of schools, never mind their ability to cope with the next cunning wheeze emanating from Downing Street?

Why does the Government promote ability-setting right the way down to the nursery when no one has ever been able to demonstrate its efficacy?

Why do Government supporters persist in peddling the myth that there are significant differences in the outcomes of "similar schools" when Barber's former colleague, Harvey Goldstein, calculates the real difference to be around 2 per cent?

Finally, since Professor Barber is so sure that he knows all the answers, why doesn't he go and improve a school? He could take David Blunkett and Estelle Morris with him. I understand there are already several suitable vacancies at "fresh start" schools, and we can confidently predict that more will arise in due course.

Phil Taylor


Stamford high school

Mossley Road

Ashton-under-Lyne, Tameside

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