Teachers for Corbyn need a lesson

Published by ConservativeHome

Labour teachers 3a“The majority of teachers are disillusioned by the way the Conservative Party has approached education in the United Kingdom,” declares Brittany Wright, a teacher of English in the Midlands who is also her school’s G&T coordinator (ie of students deemed to be ‘gifted’ and/or ‘talented’). Continue reading

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UKIP’s grammar school policy is a dog’s breakfast

Published by ConservativeHome

nigel farage - manifesto1551. That was the last year – give or take – when there was a grammar school in every town. I know that because Chris Skidmore told me, and he’s a historian.

It’s fairly straightforward. Edward VI was on the throne, and there had been a few tussles between Church and State for the control of young minds. The Church wanted Latin used for chanting; the State for logic and grammar. So free schools were established (Michael Gove was not the first) to liberate the curriculum in order to inculcate the Liberal Arts and raise standards of attainment. Continue reading

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Michael Gove’s Quest for British Values in Education

Published by Huffington Post UK

Politicians leaving Downing Street, London, Britain - 27 Feb 2013In the wake of Ofsted’s alleged (and vehemently contested) ‘Trojan Horse’ plot by certain zealous Muslims to infiltrate and take over a number of schools in Birmingham, Michael Gove has insisted that all educational establishments must ‘actively promote British values’. In a rather ungracious response, Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt told BBC2’s Newsnight: “I’m not sure Michael Gove would know if British values came and bit him on the bum.” Continue reading

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Education? Qualification? Publication? No answer from Mo Ansar

Mo Ansar“Fascinating Twitter exchange between @MoAnsar and @Adrian_Hilton on education,” tweeted the BBC’s Nicky Campbell during a rather disheartening dialogue I was having with everyone’s favourite Muslim social commentator.

And fascinating entertainment it may very well have been for the steadily-swelling Twitter crowds who were gathering to RT, ‘favourite’ and butt in on the commotion. But educationally enlightening it was not. And I wouldn’t be writing about it now but for the peculiar fact that Mo Ansar hastily deleted a whole string of his tweets when he realised that he was being monitored not only by his adoring fans, but also by the eminent historian and author Tom Holland. Continue reading

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Oh What A Lefty War – a revolution victoriously revisited

Published by ConservativeHome

Oh What A Lovely War, (Theatre Royal Stratford East)

Oh What A Lovely War3“And here’s a donkey!” bawls Shaun Prendergast, the magnetic Master of Ceremonies in the revived 1960s musical satire Oh What A Lovely War, now playing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. And as we await the predictable screen projections of Sir John French or Field Marshal Douglas Haig or any of the other warmongering jackasses and dolts Joan Littlewood so clearly despised, up pops a picture of Michael Gove, to the girly sniggering and overblown applause of the audience. Continue reading

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Claudio Abbado and the importance of music in education

Published by ConservativeHome

Claudio AbbadoThe world has lost one of the greatest musical virtuosos of our time. The renowned and charismatic conductor Claudio Abbado died on Monday. You only have to contemplate his Mahler 9, Bruckner 9 or his Brahms 3 to appreciate the breadth of his interpretative capacity and the profound grasp he had of musical form. Listen intently to the pulse of his sound: the silences have a cavernous depth; crescendos soar in emotional ecstasy; and his adagios creep toward heaven almost in communion with the divine. He was as serene on the podium as he was silent in life: music was his worship, and that was the gateway to freedom – spiritual and political. For him, no movement should distract and no words deflect from the sanctity of sublime orchestral harmony. Continue reading

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Art tells us more about the First World War than any politician’s speech

Published by ConservativeHome

s end 3I had the fortune and great privilege when I was at school of appearing in productions of both R.C Sherriff’s Journey’s End and Joan Littlewood’s Oh, What a Lovely War!. Both, in very different ways, had a profound effect on my understanding and appreciation of the First World War, not least because my maternal grandfather (Gramps) – a veteran of both world wars – was conscripted to see me do battle in both productions. I can still remember meeting him in the school hall afterwards: I was eager for a pat on the back and words of praise, but all I got was watery eyes behind a damp hanky. There was I, the schoolboy, frolicking in the trenches of Flanders and waltzing to ‘Après la Guerre’ with Lady Haig. And there was Gramps, the veteran, for whom this was very real biography, and whose friends and colleagues were machine-gunned, gassed and buried on the Somme.

Journey’s End and Oh, What a Lovely War! are poles apart in their apprehension of the First World War. Sherriff’s 1928 play is an intimate, respectful tragedy about heroes, virtues, leadership and sacrifice. It speaks profoundly to pacifists and Just War advocates alike. Littlewood’s 1963 musical is an epic, irreverent romp through fluffy parodies and black-humoured allegory. It speaks volumes to cynics and sceptics without demeaning the memory of doomed youth. Sherriff wept with his fallen comrades, knee-deep in the muddy trenches of Passchendaele; Littlewood skipped with her pierrots, to an imagined dance of slaughter, bravura and vulgarity. Continue reading

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Twitter abuse and the joy of #BardPoliticians

Published by ConservativeHome

bard politicians“And there’s for twitting me with perjury,” cries George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, as he lunges toward the customary bloody stab-fest at the end of Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part III.

As an unapologetic Bardophile, I take the view that nothing escapes the attention of the world’s greatest poet and playwright – democracy, witchcraft, suicide, psychosis, England, Iceland, football and tennis: it’s all there. But ‘twitting’ during the Wars of the Roses was not a prescient reference to the emergence of Twitter: it is part of a tirade of insults among fractious brothers each vying for the Crown of England. Richard taunts Prince Edward, who declares himself better than all three traitorous and usurping brothers. King Edward IV, Richard and George in turn stab the young Prince Edward to death. Queen Margaret faints, and Richard skulks off to the Tower. Continue reading

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The malignant left-wing pathology of educational academics

Published by Daily Mail

Gove protestsAs the Socialist Worker alliance of teaching unions continue their disruptive ‘work-to-rule’ policy in schools, I see they are now agitating for further strike action. It has been announced that the comrades will walk out (again) and abandon their students this summer and autumn in protest at Michael Gove’s education reforms. We’re more than acquainted with NUT hyperbole and disinformation when it comes to the Government’s education policy, but I am intrigued by a contentious letter in The Independent on this subject which has been signed by more than 100 academics.

These eminent professors and teachers of education write on behalf of some of the nation’s most prestigious centres of learning. They are seemingly persuaded that the proposed reforms to the National Curriculum will damage education standards because the tedious focus will be on ‘endless lists of spellings, facts and rules’, spiced up with a dirge of ‘rote learning without understanding’. Continue reading

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A good cultural education makes good individuals and a good society

Published by ConservativeHome

Matthew Arnold quote

Matthew Arnold – poet, essayist and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools – famously wrote that culture is concerned with knowing “the best that has been said and thought in the world”. This has become the leitmotif of Michael Gove’s educational revolution: if children are not exposed to the classics of literature, music, theatre, dance, film, painting, sculpture – what we terms the “fine arts” – then society is impoverished, civilisation declines and future generations are inculcated with nothing but the banal, mediocre and vulgar.

Out go TS Eliot, Wordsworth, Elgar, Monet and Mozart; in come Carol Ann Duffy, Damien Hirst, Russell Brand and Madonna. Critical thought is abandoned for formulaic answers – who needs epistemology when you’ve got a WH Smith’s revision guide? And academic rigour is replaced with emotional intelligence – what’s the point of straight-A*s if the child has low self-esteem? Continue reading

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