NEWS

In Praise Of Education Ministers

19 December, 2018

The average tenure of an education minister is between 18 months and 23, depending how far back you wish to go.

Mick Waters eloquently summed up each’s contribution in Thinking Allowed On Schooling. None have gained more affection than Estelle Morris. She still gamely supports the evidence-based movement, giving time, contacts and inspiration.

Some have money to invest whilst others have cuts to make. They want to listen, they try to listen but time is not on their side. The last two tried to do what they thought was the right thing only to find themselves with blood running down their backs.

Too many voices, too many mixed messages

If they listen to the department they hear one thing, they listen to the head teachers another, system leaders different again and unions another message. The Universities tell them to make teacher training longer. IT companies that they can solve all their problems digitally. And the accountants that we are spending more money on education than ever before.

Everyone wants more money for this that and the other. No one is concise.

Social deprivation grabs headlines, a stabbing leads for calls for tighter security. Data on cameras suggests they should be installed in every corridor and classroom. Everyone wants more money for this that and the other. No one is concise.

There are no magic bullets. There are three silver bullets and you need to invest now

Then someone pipes up and says pedagogy.

So they visit schools, prioritise an initiative, several if they are more ambitious, and the great wheels turn slowly. Nothing really changes much in the actual classroom. Some ministers praise the teachers, some praise the leaders, some criticise everyone but not for long.

Education is a vast oil tanker covering everything from traditional standards to liberal fancies. When more money is pumped in it becomes an irregular feeding frenzy. When the screws are tightened a diminished calling.

And on these waves the education minister, aside from the odd outspoken OfSTED chief inspector, is the don. Blame passes upwards, honours and the queens head downwards.

Mick Waters once said that back in the 70s they had ministries for everything, coal, iron, cars….

Maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The wise Mick Waters once said that back in the 70s they had ministries for everything, coal, iron, cars…. Today there is only the big four of health, defence, social and education.

Most of what they spend is on salaries, buildings and pensions. A wag had once told him that maybe if there was a Ministry of Sandwiches they may be more able to cope with the complexities.

So each time they offer more money let’s be thankful. Each time they visit be grateful. And each time they try to re-organise tell them that one day there will be a ministry of sandwich making and if they could prove their worth there….. they may not be just another distraction.

But if, and only if they can talk pedagogy, let’s vote for them.

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