Gove – but not forgotten?

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The Govinator updates his Facebook page

First of all, All Change Please! would like to bid a not-so-fond farewell to Michael Gove who has single-handedly dedicated his career to provide the source of much satire and amusement over the past 6 years. It’s a bit late, but at least now he’s discovered what it’s like to fail to reach the expected standard in a subject he apparently never wanted to do in the first place.

Meanwhile, back in the real world…

1s-5911677287_e5c5bc4431_b.jpgManagement for Dummies:  it’s as important to Plan and Check as it is to Do and Act…

Total Quality Management, or TQM, consists of organization-wide efforts to install and make permanent a climate in which an organization continuously improves its ability to deliver high-quality products and services to customers. TQM was one of the buzzwords of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In its time working in the public and commercial worlds All Change Please! encountered some amazingly inept management that usually involved ill-advised human resource appointments, over-investment in inappropriately specified technologies, under-spend on marketing, systemic communication problems, inflexible administrative procedures and layer upon layer of blame culture – all of which contributed to a climate of complete inability to produce high quality products and services. So much so that All Change Please! decided to name it, and came up with the alternative acronym TCM, which stood for Total C**p Management. Thus the letters TCM became appended to many management announcements and directives posted on notice boards, and while it meant nothing to the management teams, communicated plenty to the work-force members in the know.

But in all All Change Please’s! lifetime of experience it has never encountered anything on the grand scale of the current omni-shambles that laughingly likes to call itself the UK parliament. Yet our politicians continue to carry on as before – concerned more with fast-moving Strictly Come X Factor Game of Thrones style contests to decide who will be the next party leaders rather than to actually doing anything in the immediate future to sort out the major meltdown they have collectively fueled. What the referendum revealed was the scale of the underlying problems of unemployment, low-pay, lack of affordable housing, underfunded public services and the depths of racism, all of which the majority of politicians seem happy to continue to ignore.

This is surely TCM of monumental proportions, and while certain media-savvy personality politicians have since resigned – without taking any subsequent responsibility for their actions – our government and democratic management structures and procedures remain completely unchanged. We live in age of highly toxic, compassionless, just deal with losing and move on ‘F**k You‘ politics where all that matters is who is best at lying, threatening and gambling to gain power though fear, intimidation and destruction, and at present there does not seem to be any mechanism for changing it.

Indeed as Tory MPs and the press successfully use Mothergate to rid themselves of Andrea Loathsome before the grass-roots party members have a chance to vote for her, Theresa May or May Not sort everything out – the only remaining applicant – has been offered the post of ‘morning-after woman’ tasked with the unpleasant and unenviable job of cleaning up the horrific mess left by the last administration after the previous night’s riotous shindig before all disappearing off to have a quiet lie down. As the media report May ‘sweeping’ into Number 10, as soon as the door shuts behind her she’ll be given a broom and told to start with the cabinet room floor.

Despite all this, things in the world of education seem to muddle along as usual. In the recent EBacc debate Nick Glibb continued to just keep repeating the same old out-of-date statistical nonsense and never actually answering the questions posed or seem to express any admission that there was perhaps the need to consider and discuss the issues being raised. Then the recent SATs test results revealed that, by a remarkable coincidence, while something in the region of 48% of 11 year-olds have now already been branded as failures and want to Leave school as soon as possible, 52% were on course for Oxbridge glory and voted to Remain. The problem is that, following the principles of FU politics, while the 52% will be rewarded with lessons leading to the narrow, highly academic EBacc, the 48% are also destined to spend five years following the same curriculum that the SATs have just demonstrated is entirely inappropriate for their needs, before eventually being forcibly relocated to a College of FE to undertake what will be seen to be lower-status vocational courses.

As All Change Please! writes we wait nervously to see who will be the next Education Secretary in a State, hoping and praying it won’t be offered to Ms Loathsome as an olive branch – after all she has had children and went to school once herself, so she’s eminently qualified for the job. And, even more importantly, will All Change Please! be able to come up with a suitably satirical new name for the lucky incumbent?

What we don’t know is whether the new appointee – and indeed Team Df-ingE – will simply continue with more of the same destructive ill-informed ’spin now and explore the consequences later’ approach, or take the opportunity to provide a much needed review of education problems and policies, and a fresh start. With Gove’s demise and the evidence of the extent of his mis-judgement and complete loss of credibility over Brexit, perhaps his equally absurd education policies can now be challenged more effectively?

 

Photo-montages by All Change Please!

Janet and John Can’t Get No SATisfaction

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The other day All Change Please! was drivin’ in its car And that man came on the radio And he’s telling me more and more About some useless information Supposed to fire my imagination about how good regular high-stakes SATs are in schools. Oh, no, no, no!

Back in the present day the 2016 KS2 English Reading Booklet and Test have now finally been published so we can all see what the fuss has been about. They can be downloaded here.

The three short stories are quite extraordinary in their unbelievable inappropriateness to 10 year-olds living in the 21st Century. They paint a vivid picture of a long-gone fantasy world, in which there are no computers, socially-deprived housing estates or even sadly-deluded politicians.

The first story is a Royalist-inspired adventure in which two children, who might just as well have been called Janet and John, sneak off from a posh garden party. They row to an island in the middle of a lake to find a monument to a woman who married a prince and might have become Queen had she not been killed in a row between two families. For obvious reasons the woman’s name is not Diana, though, come to think of it, we’re not actually told it isn’t.

The second is a story set in colonial South Africa and is about white giraffe-riding, obviously a common experience for all children. All Change Please! didn’t believe it was possible to ride a giraffe until, unlike the 10-year-olds taking the test, it was able to check it out on the internet and discovered this article. Apparently giraffe-riding was a Chipperfield’s Circus act of the 1950s, which is probably where the author originally encountered it. Well, at least it wasn’t a black giraffe.

And lastly comes an Attenborough-style Natural History account of the demise of the dodo, complete with a ‘modern reconstruction’ of the bold Truth about what the bird looked like. All we can do is to hope that these tests quickly become as extinct as the dodo did.

Meanwhile the booklet is lavishly illustrated throughout in entirely authentic 1960’s children’s book artwork, which sadly All Change Please! is old enough to clearly recall.

 

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It’s not Rocket Surgery…

All Change Please! has therefore followed the man on the radio’s advice and duly fired up its imagination to anticipate that following the Df-ingE’s highly successful introduction of new high-standard KS2 tests in English and Maths – which most adults (and politicians) would be unable to pass – there are now proposals for one-size-fails-all SATs in other areas of the curriculum.

Just remember that the Df-ingE are convinced that children enjoy taking tests and showing off exactly how much they don’t know. And as is now well known, simply making something more difficult to achieve is guaranteed to raise standards and increase social mobility – something so obvious to anyone who once went to school themselves that it’s surprising that no-one has thought of it before…

As a result of a 6-year-old, already labelled an academic failure, successfully hacking into the Df-ingE’s rubber-keyed ZX Sinclair Spectrum computer, All Change Please! has been able to preview some extracts from the proposals for the new KS2 SATs.

Science: Children will be able to write an essay explaining the principles behind rocket science and the procedures involved in complex brain surgery, and present a convincing argument as to which one is actually the more difficult.

Mathematics: Children will be able to solve Einstein’s unsolved problem.

Geography: Children will be able to explain, using maps and diagrams, how the socio-economic and geo-physical nature of the area in which they live either makes it easier or more difficult for them to answer this question.

History: Children will be able to recite the Magna Carta in full in just a minute, without any hesitation, repetition or deviation.

Languages: Children will be able to translate the recent Education White Paper into Latin, and back again.

Art: Children will be able to use their painting by number skills to create a 100% accurate reproduction of the Constable’s ’The Hay Wain’.

Music: Children will be able to sing and accompany themselves in a performance of all six verses of ‘Rule Britannia’.

Design & Technology: Children will be able to design and make a working time machine that takes them back to the 1950s where they will discover that education was not as good then as the current government likes to think it was.

When asked for confirmation of the proposal, the Df-ingE’s anonymous errant AI computer ‘spokesperson’ app clicked and whirred, and switched itself off and on again a couple of times before automatically and erroneously spewing out the following standardised response:

‘The evidence is clear that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chance of gaining good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances.’

Yes, indeed that’s probably true – every extra day spent outside school in the real world probably does have a lasting, very positive effect on a pupil’s life chances.

The EBacc: Gibb’s own-goal?

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Oh No!  Gibb’s scored an own-goal! 

Dear Mr Gibb

As you may or may not have read, a few weeks ago Liverpool Football Club announced substantial match-day ticket price rises. The supporters united and left the ground 13 minutes before the end of a game, possibly causing their team to concede two goals and draw the match. They announced further action over an extended period of time, and it looked like the start of a long, acrimonious battle between the club’s owners and its supporters. But then a few days later, the club made an unexpected announcement and admitted it had been wrong to raise its ticket prices and that they would be frozen for two years and be unchanged from last year’s prices. The supporters were naturally both surprised and delighted and full of praise for the club’s owners. Peace and harmony had been restored and club and supporters could get back to what they were there for – to encourage the team and win matches and trophies.

Now let’s apply this sequence of events to teachers and the DfE. The responses to the EBacc Consultation, and their coverage on social media, along with the recent NSEAD survey into the provision of the teaching of Art in our schools, clearly indicate the extent to which teachers are unhappy with your current stance on the introduction of the EBacc as a performance measure. They’ve not threatened to walk out before the end of their lessons, but an increasing number are leaving the profession and morale is poor because their experience tells them that what is being imposed is not in the best interests of the majority of our children, many of whom will in future be further denied access to inspiring, well-taught courses they would have succeeded in.

It remains to be seen what the DfE’s response to the EBacc consultation will be. Because you asked for suggestions for ways of implementing the scheme, you could simply ignore the criticisms that were widely made in the responses. There’s nothing to stop you carrying on with your intentions as before and simply dismiss the fact that you are acting in conflict with the wisdom of the majority of the workforce. But if you were unaware of the strength of their feeling before the consultation, you certainly do now, just as Liverpool FC’s owners discovered about their own supporters.

And then of course there’s the problem of finding enough academically experienced and qualified teachers to deliver the EBacc. The more the DfE keeps telling teachers that “While we recognise the challenges [on teacher recruitment] that school leaders face in particular areas, we are working with the sector to address them with constructive action.”, the more they know you haven’t a clue what to do about the situation.

There is, however, another approach you could consider, and that is to give way on what is an undesirable and undeliverable policy. You’ve just shown that you do have the capacity to listen to Primary School Heads over their concerns about the marking timetable for the new end of KS2 SATS, and to make some appropriate and welcome concessions, although of course you still need to go a bit further than that in the long run. I’m sure you could now find some clever words that would enable you to reconsider and modify your approach to the EBacc as an accountability measure without appearing to do too much of a u-turn.

And if the you did, teachers and headteachers, just like the football supporters, would all be surprised and delighted and praise the DfE for listening to what the profession had said about the undesirability and impracticability of the EBacc and for taking their concerns into account, acting quickly and decisively averting a crisis. Peace and harmony could be quickly restored and everyone could get back to doing what they were there for in the first place – to encourage children to learn and do well in school and flourish for the rest of their lives, whether they end up at Oxbridge or not.

A manager of a football team who does not have anything like a big enough squad to play in exactly the particular way he wants them to can’t expect to win many matches. All he can do is to anticipate a glut of transfer requests and for top players to move abroad rather than want to transfer to his team, while the club quickly drops into an even lower league. A manager who has lost the confidence of the dressing room is doomed to failure: it’s essential for him to work with the players, to maximise their abilities and strengths and believe in them, and not just arbitrarily impose what he believes is the only right way to play.

So Mr Gibb, which is it to be? Are you about to score a disastrous season-defining own-goal and become seen as being even more toxic than Gove, or to admit that perhaps there’s more to teaching and learning that you realised, and that you are prepared to listen to and consider the advice you are being given by the profession? Surely you can see that Education is too important to be left to politicians alone?

Is that a Yes or a No, Minister?

Yours sincerely

All Change Please!

PS. I recently came across these two photos – they make an interesting comparison, don’t they?

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