Inconvenient truths need to be told

16th September 2011 at 01:00

Gerard Kelly writes a brilliant editorial column. Provocative, challenging, often very insightful, he is a master of building up one side of the argument only to knock it down in the final sentence that upends all that went before.

But he doesn't always get it right. Sometimes, and last week's column was a case in point ("Doom-mongers dance to the tune of discontent, but they're out of step with the public", 9 September), his powerful polemic results not in insight, but in shallow sound bites.

Railing against the education doom-mongers, of whom education union general secretaries are, apparently, prime examples, the esteemed editor argued that the Coalition's education policies are the jewels in their crown: free schools and traditional subjects are popular with the public. Resistance is futile.

Before we shut up shop and go home, however, let's pause for thought. Surely it is far too early to judge the popularity, or otherwise, of the Government's school reforms? Parents who like the sound of choice and competition may well be less keen when their child is not of the right religion to be admitted to their nearest free school or they cannot afford the #163;400 it can cost to buy the school uniform for their local academy.

And while many schools are well led and managed, there are many others where stress levels are rising through the roof because of unmanageable workloads caused by unrealistic and unattainable targets, testing and petty bureaucracy that saps energy and lowers teaching standards.

Government policy, even when well designed (and we don't see too much of that at present), always has unintended consequences. It is my duty to report these inconvenient truths and to speak truth to the powerful. This does not always make for good editorial material but, in the scheme of things, it is far more important. Sorry, Gerard.

Dr Mary Bousted. General secretary, ATL.

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