Lesson 78. Different Kinds of Bad

Lesson 78 on Coercion

Governments like to be in control of education.  It costs a lot and has the potential to influence people. And unless you are very watchful, not in the ways you want.

In the bad old days teachers and local authorities used to think for themselves.  Public opinion shrieked when they came up with something particularly loopy, so in general most schools did the same sort of things, though with local variations. Central government sounded off and cajoled and bribed, but didn’t directly control things. This irked those in power.

No wonder a National Curriculum and lots of inspectors to make sure everybody was toeing the current government line looked so attractive.  That was bound to make everybody learn the right stuff and, just to be absolutely certain, universal testing at every stage would show up any backsliding.

Parents, and other interested parties, who had been worried by the worst excesses of loopiness, thought it was probably a reasonable enough plan, if it helped pupils get a fair chance. In their innocence they thought it was just about making sure people learnt to read and write and got their GCSEs.

But this is where the different kinds of bad came in. As follows:

Your institution is bad

1. If you do not follow government curriculum directives (even if you think they are wrong).

2. If you do not adopt government guidelines (They may not be requirements, but any failings will be attributed to your neglect of these and you just try to prove any different!)

3. If you do not have acceptable policy documents in place as demanded by government regulations.

4.  If you have not identified your priorities in line with current government thinking.

This was probably not what parents had at the top of their lists, but never mind, because obviously the government knows best and all practitioners need in order to be successful in teaching is to do what they are told!

Now, best beloved, you can work out the darker implications of this story for yourselves. Let other pens deal with pain and misery.

I remember a canny old head who very early cottoned on that the best way to keep people off her back was to faithfully ensure the current pet government priority was boldly flagged up in her school through colourful displays and organised activities.

One day the Director of Education was asked by an senior official at Ofsted if he could recommend a school to visit which demonstrated excellent practice in a pet priority area. Off the top of his head he mentioned the canny head’s school.

Next thing he knew the furious canny head was on the phone.

“What do you mean by sending this man round to us!” she fumed.

“But Mrs CannyHead, you got such praise for all your multicultural initiatives,” he defended himself.

“Don’t be silly! That was last year! We’re onto information technology now!”


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