Thanks to Yorkshire Eveing for printing [most of] this on Tuesday.
Well, as the summer holidays fade and the new school term beckons, teachers, parents and school students are bracing themselves for the results of the Gove’s latest machinations.
Whichever schools he now has in his machine-gun sights, in his defence it must be said that his own education did not prepare him for his current job. And also it must said he follows a long line of incompetent, stupid and dangerous education secretaries.
Education should be for children, not for industry. School should be the place where children can discover themselves, and be encouraged to follow their talents as they emerge. A place where they learn to count, not a place where their efforts are counted.
But schools have become exam factories; teachers who generally go into teaching in order to do good find themselves being ordered to raise grades, not raise children. A set of good grades doesn’t guarantee you a job. It just gives your bosses-to-be a bigger pool to dip into.
Schools in Leeds have been pointlessly closed as the simplistic measurements that are league tables, and the often dangerous commentaries that are Ofsteds cast their shadows over them. Some schools were closed on the spurious grounds that they had “surplus places”. Local Leeds schools in local areas: Royal Park, Foxwood, Agnes Stewart, Wortley, Miles Hill, Asket Hill [to name but five of the thirty-plus] were closed leaving their localities without that educational and social meeting place. And only two years later finding the schools either side over-crowded, and even being built upon for extra classrooms.
It was a private education company [wrongly named on both counts: Education Leeds] that did most damage in Leeds, and it now is a conservative government pushing even more “education” into private hands.
Never can it have been a more miserable time to go to school. Between League tables, Ofsted, and the strange raising of the exam grade bars, all governments have done since the eighties, it seems, is to discover new ways to belittle teachers, and stress out their pupils. But I already knew the world was crazy when “satisfactory” became not good enough.
Watching in dismay, as Education Leeds erased history, one school after another, I asked what would X factor winners and gold medallists do when they wanted to go back to their old school in triumph to celebrate. Well poor old Nicola Adams who won the first boxing woman’s gold for Team GB, went to inner-city Church of England mixed Agnes Stewart High School, and that was erased, educationally cleansed, and merged with . . . another church high school in the locality? No, with a secular boys only school – the only boys’ school in Leeds. And located nearby. No. Three miles away in the suburbs.
Could life get any worse? Yes, it could, but only if “good people do nothing”.
Victoria Jaquiss FRSA teacher, writer, steelband leader, ex-school governor