Minister visited just one primary in six months

7th January 2011 at 00:00
Although he's in charge of curriculum review

It seems reasonable to assume that the minister overseeing a wholesale rethink of England's primary curriculum would make it his mission to find out what is going on at the chalkface.

But not, seemingly, for schools minister Nick Gibb. The TES can reveal that the politician charged with overseeing the Coalition's much-heralded review of the primary curriculum visited just one primary school in his first six months in office.

Mr Gibb, who has a number of additional areas of responsibility, including behaviour, attendance and assessment, did visit seven secondary schools and colleges in that time. But it would be an exaggeration to claim that these provided him with a national picture - all but two were in London.

The single primary to be honoured with his presence was St Stephen's School and Children's Centre in Newham, east London.

More recently he visited Elmhurst Primary, also in Newham, where he announced the introduction of Year 1 reading tests. He also dropped in on Trinity Saint Mary's CofE Primary in Balham, south London, where he launched the children's commissioner review. But this has not dampened frustration about his absence from the classroom.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, said: "It is so important for all ministers to visit as many schools as possible because the view from Whitehall is not the view from the frontline.

"It is important that policy is based on what is happening now in a wide variety of schools. If Mr Gibb would like to visit more schools, I have 28,000 members, most of whom would welcome him."

NUT general secretary Christine Blower agreed: "Visiting primary schools and spending time with primary-aged children is an education in itself.

"If (Mr Gibb) is to engage with the proposed review of the national curriculum and of assessment, he should really take the time to see teaching and learning in practice."

It is not as if he does not seem to enjoy the rare visits he has made. Mr Gibb's visit to St Stephen's - where he focused on the Every Child Counts initiative - apparently went rather well.

Headteacher Jane Johnson said: "He was very good; he obviously has a passion for teaching and maths and he went into classes and talked to children."

Mr Gibb's office refused to give details of any additional visits which may have been made in his capacity as MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Ministers meet regularly with teachers, pupils and educational experts at various engagements, both at the Department and externally."

Mind the trip: Here's where

24 June 2010

Hills Road Sixth-Form College, Cambridge

24 June 2010

Parkside Community College, Cambridge

7 July 2010 and 21 September 2010

St Gregory's School, Harrow

24 August 2010

Burlington Danes, Shepherd's Bush

6 September 2010

Westminster Academy

27 September 2010

Walworth Academy

28 September 2010

St Stephen's School and Children's Centre, Newham

5 October 2010

Queensbury School, Birmingham.

  • Original headline: The minister who's had time to visit just one primary in six months

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