Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Stephen Twigg's faulty thinking on free schools

Stephen Twigg made an effort to move on Labour's policy on free schools in his speech this week, but he is not there yet.

Take his complaint that:
Under Michael Gove’s policy, millions have been spent opening schools in areas with a surplus of places, while children elsewhere face a shortage of places.
I pointed out the flaw in this argument when Labour was still in power:
Surplus capacity will tend to exist in areas where the schools are bad, because parents there are more likely to pay to send their children to independent schools or to make more effort to work the state system to get them into schools further away.
And I concluded:
As things stand, the government will allow new schools only in areas where parents are perfectly happy with the existing provision.
Somewhere at the root of this faulty reasoning is Labour tractor-production approach to social problems: all children are the same and all schools are the same and what matters is the total numbers. There is no sense that children and their parents are individuals and a dynamic force with goals and wishes of their own.

The same faulty thinking lay behind this complaint from the same speech:
Under Michael Gove’s policy, increasing numbers of schools are able to employ unqualified teachers. When we know the key to standards is the quality of teaching, this is the wrong approach.
That sounded great until it was revealed that the Labour MP Tristram Hunt is in the habit of teaching the off primary school class on the Spanish Armada.

It's not just that this is a neat ad hominem argument against Labour: it's that I cannot imagine anyone more likely to inspire a class than Hunt.

If free schools use their freedoms to bring in people to the classroom from outside the teaching profession, then I am all in favour of it.

Despite Twigg's efforts, Labour still gives the impression that it is speaking for the teaching profession rather than children and their parents.


Phil Beesley said...

Were you involved in the BA Festival of Science held in Leicester ten or so years ago? I don't think that any of the showmen and women had a formal qualification for teaching teenagers, but they put on a good show.

Jonathan Calder said...

I was busy subbing newsletters 10 years ago, but festivals are a good example of the contribution "unqualified" people can make in education.