This morning we noticed that the water in the large pond on the allotments has suddenly become crystal-clear. Throughout the summer and autumn it has been as black and forbidding as Albert’s vest, now we can actually count even the fish which lurk near the bottom. They must feel like Mrs Biggins when her curtains come down for their annual wash. But why does it happen?
Anyway, our attention today has been focussed on our primary schools. One of my fellow hen-keepers, Bill, has a niece who has just qualified to teach, and tells me that the government is proposing to reduce the number of times that a trainee can re-sit the final exams. Judy had to take the test three times and under the new rules she would have been fired off after two. Given the lass clearly has an affinity with small children and knows her subjects well that would have been a pity. But here’s the rub, Michael Gove has specifically excluded academies and free schools – run by private companies or other organisations outside of County Council control – from the new proposal. Now just why would he do that?
Character assasination is not our thing but it has to be said that Michael Gove always reminds us of those ’upper-class twits’ which used to feature in Monty Python. That’s his funny side, but there is a darker one. His behaviour toward those schools that have decided to stay within the state system is nothing short of dictatorial.
A perfect example is provided by Downhills primary school in Tottenham. The school has been told that either Gove will make an “academy order” or the governors can vote to do so themselves “by no later than 27 January 2012 ”. The school, he has ordered, must be taken over by “a business, university or private school”. Whichever emerges they will be free to use unqualified teachers.
This year Downhills has passed the acceptable rating of 60% and is making good progress, despite being in a difficult catchment area. Labour MP David Lammy is a former pupil and he is outraged by what is happening. There is, he says, no evidence that forced acadamies work in the primary sector and the Downhill children are being used in an attempt “to experiment with 100 years of proud history”.
Downhill’s head is Leslie Church. He says that the school has worked hard to improve the quality of teaching, but there is no alternative than to obey since Gove’s department is asking for a response without allowing any alternative. He worries that the move will mean that the school no longer has ” democratic accountability”. At present there is a democratically elected governing body, and a democratically elected local authority. Both have the power to change the head if they have cause for concern, neither has done so. Right now both parents and councillors see themselves as responsible and “behave in a supportive way”.
This is beginning to happen right across the country and, in the view of many educationalists, will have an adverse effect on primary schools where parent involvement is a major factor. Of course if the governors, who are elected by parents, decide to make such a move that is an entirely different matter.
But Gove is gaining a reputation as a little dictator. Before it is too late someone should remind him that we do still live in a democracy. Just!
TEST YOUR GENERAL KNOWLEDGE WITH THE WEEKEND QUIZ;
1. Which former First Lady was nicknamed “The Smiling Mamba”? 2. Who had hits with “Joanna” and “Celebration”? 3. Where would you see a facula? 4. Who played the title role in “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”? 5. Which country has a unit of currency called the Leone? 6. The seaside town of Westward Ho is in which county? 7. Oloroso is a type of which drink? 8. Back in the charts in 2005, in what year was Bananarama’s first hit? 9. Which Wonder of the World statue was at Olympia? 10. In which century did William Caxton establish the first English printing press?