Yes Minister, OK Minister

10th February 2012 at 00:00

So, team, what's the state of play with schools at the moment? I'm slightly out of touch. I've been trying to drum up enthusiasm for buying the Queen a new yacht. Can't think why the idea hasn't caught on.

Well, Minister, we're pushing ahead with turning everything that moves into an academy, of course, but there are concerns. Morale is low.

If morale is low, heads are getting something right. Sir Michael Wilshaw said so. We need to get teachers moving. Too much grumbling about their pensions, in my view. But this administration intends to give Britain a world-class education. Drive up standards. Apply rigour. And for that, changes are needed.

But every administration says that. Teachers are finding it hard to manage the constant changes.

They're far too complacent, Simon. Look, they work from 9 till 3 and get 13 weeks' holiday. Wish I did, frankly. Need to pull their socks up. That's why I'm making it much easier for heads to get rid of the duff ones.

But, Minister, you could be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. What about an NQT who's basically very sound, but needs some behaviour management support?

Either you can do it, Nigel, or you can't. My aim is to get the dismissal period down to half an hour.

But there's no denying behaviour is a problem. The standard of teaching is generally very high, but children can be extremely challenging these days. Schools are apparently paying them to truant during Ofsted.

Shows how devious these teachers can be, Elspeth. Fifteen per cent of them are hopeless, anyway. Someone very important once said that.

I think it was proved that the figure was plucked from thin air. And studies tend to show that behaviour is becoming much harder to manage.

Well, I'm personally sending every school a King James Bible, and I've signed every one. That should give schools a sense of moral purpose. And if the children aren't behaving well, they're bored. Schools should make more use of the technological revolution. Give every child an iPad, a Kindle and a managed learning platform, and forge the way ahead with personalised learning.

I think educators feel that schools should be about something more than that, Minister. And with little money to play with, they're finding it hard to keep equipment up to date.

Can't they sell off their playing fields or something?

A previous administration has already forced them to do that, Minister. It's one of the reasons why we have obese children.

Well, our new no-notice inspections will sort things out. Keep schools on their toes. See which schools are really up to the mark.

But Ofsted criteria change every half-hour. We can't batter heads like this. We won't have any left.

Always plenty more, Elspeth. That's why we're saying prospective heads no longer need to attend the National College for School Leadership. Be better to get good business people in charge of schools anyway. Can't think why people imagine you have to know something about education to be a head.

But the NCSL has already cost a fortune, Minister. So has Ofsted. So did the school improvement partners we've just got rid of.

It's only public money, Simon. It's not as if our salaries are on the line. Talking of money, I'm having a whip-round for the yacht project. I wonder if schools would like to make a contribution. I'll write to them all ...

Mike Kent is a retired primary head. Email

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