Cleverly disguised as a fly on the wall, last July All Change Please! was able to listen in to a conversation between Sir Humphrey Appleby and the Minister in a State about Education.
Ah Sir Humphrey, what can I do for you?
Well Minister, you remember that consultation we did on the EBacc, asking people for suggestions as to how we should best implement it?
Yes, yes, the one I told you to hide the results of somewhere that no-one would ever find them?
Well it’s just that an awful lot of people responded and have been asking when the report is going to be made available, and I’m rather afraid an over-enthusiastic unpaid intern has managed to find and publish it.
Oh well, it can’t be helped I suppose? Can it? Did anyone make any helpful suggestions as to how to make the EBacc work successfully?
Not exactly Minister, no. It rather seems as if most of the responses were more in the form of a suggestion that perhaps the EBacc wasn’t actually a very good idea and would be impossible to implement anyway.
Well that just goes to show how ungrateful the teaching profession is, doesn’t it? We spend our long expenses lunches dreaming up vote-winning policies, and all they do is complain.
Have you read this new book ‘The Wonders of our Government’ Humphrey? It explains that “British politicians meet, discuss, debate, manoeuvre, read submissions, read the newspapers, make speeches, answer questions, visit their constituencies, chair meetings and frequently give interviews.” I mean, what more do people expect us to do?
Err, I think you’ll find the book is actually called ‘The Blunders of our Government‘ Minister, and the suggestion is that politicians don’t “deliberate and take the time to weigh the claims against the evidence, to ask for more information, to reach out and consult other parties who knew more or would also be affected by the action that might be taken. The consequence could be off-the-cuff decisions, made in isolation, in a hurry.”
Well of course I couldn’t be expected know anything about that, could I?
No Minister! It’s just that I think they may have a point… Our hastily implemented EBacc policy has meant that the latest GCSE results show for a fact that the number of secondary school students taking art and design qualifications in the UK has fallen to the lowest level this century.
How many times must I tell you Sir Humphrey, there’s no such thing as facts, just cleverly selected statistics. So for example we simply state that there is no evidence of entries in arts subjects declining as a direct result of the introduction of the EBacc, and that the proportion of state school pupils taking at least one arts subject increased from 45.8% to 48% between 2011 and 2016. There, that sounds rather strong and stable doesn’t it?
Yes, but there’s also the matter of the rise in the number of students failing the EBacc subjects they’ve been forced to take, when they might have taken other subjects they could have passed. I suppose we could use the diversionary response approach and get Nick Glibbly to state: “These reforms represent another step in our drive to raise standards, so that pupils have the knowledge and skills they need to compete in a global workplace.”
By George Osborne, I think you’ve got it!
One final thing Sir Humphrey, I would suggest a further delay in publication of the EBacc report. They’ve waited this long so I’m sure they can wait a bit longer. Make it towards the end of July, just as Parliament breaks up for recess and all the pesky teachers go off for the summer to their villas in the South of France – then it will all be old news by the time they come back in late September and everyone will be more interested who is going to replace the MayBot before the Party Conference, and what will happen in the subsequent cabinet reshuffle…
Indeed yes, Minister….!
Of course, it’s just possible that some of these annoying education blogs will wait until the Autumn term is just underway before writing about it, but we’ll just have to hope that all those ungrateful teachers won’t have time to read them as they will be too busy having to explain the new grading system to parents and coming up with good excuses as to why most of their students failed our new more rigorous A levels and GCSEs…
Ah, yes Minister, that reminds me. Well, it’s just that you perhaps ought to know that in the end the new exams were so difficult that actually no-one managed to get a pass grade, so we, err.., err..,
Well, out with it..
You did what? Why did no one tell me?
Well, err., I think it probably happened last month while you were away in your villa in the South of France, Minister.
But my policy was that by making the examinations more difficult, children and teachers would work harder and standards would rise. This makes just a complete nonsense of my reforms.
Yes indeed, minister. Oh, and could I just warn you that your consultative-sounding ‘Putting our policies before the people‘ slogan could be taken more than one way?