28th May 2010 at 01:00
The policy wonk whose heart isn't in it

Monday - When does "discussion" mean "disarray"? When Lib Dems and Tories are talking about education. As in "new ministers, along with their political advisers and departmental civil servants, were in discussion today ..." Happily I am miles away from all the tantrums, in a country house 15 miles north of St Albans. Ballsy, in a typical act of childish defiance, has rented the place for a week. He's telling himself - and to a lesser extent other people - that it's possible for Labour to reflect, regroup and recover the initiative. A crack team of imagineers, including yours truly, has been convened for some seriously lateralised thinking.

Tuesday - Our first task is to "articulate the dismay ordinary people should feel" about Labour losing control of education. We decide the second best thing would be to point to some of Ballsy's brilliant initiatives at the DCSF. Rap Mathematics, for example. Colour-coded paperwork. Preference for Wikipedia over the "elitist" OED. A deadline for making all pupils "multi-faith". Cash rewards for five to 11-year-olds who tip off the police about smoking parents or cruelty to the environment. An education industry controlled by PFI robot millionaires. Of course, the best thing is to point to these initiatives on the new DfE website and discover they've all been completely erased by The Gove. Brilliant. This way, nobody's disappointed.

Wednesday - Key theme for our reflectathon is Choice. According to parent feedback, Team Ballsy talked too much about the choice between him and The Gove and not enough about the choice between good schools and shit schools. Now Ballsy's in no position to offer any choice at all to parents. On the other hand, there's always the unions. After some discussion we decide Labour should talk up inequality of opportunity for teachers. Some get to go to delightful rural schools and are highly valued. But urban comprehensives with inadequate children hold teachers back and prevent them from achieving their full potential. We need to boost teachers' "aspirational life chances". Every Teacher Matters.

Thursday - We have devised something called the Teacher Premium. It identifies teachers who suffer from lack of motivation, or stupidity, and whose disruptive, nihilistic attitudes poison staffrooms. Unlike the widely discredited teacher voucher system, the Teacher Premium initiative aims to improve attainment among low-achieving teachers by channelling funds to the schools they're working in. You can't necessarily solve a problem by throwing money at it, but the problem of poor teachers who want more money is an exception.

Friday - Ballsy looks a bit distracted at the plenary session: "I care passionately about education. I've led by example. After all, I went to private school. Likewise I care passionately about ambition, so thank you and goodbye ..."

Please send your suggestions to

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,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today