As police were clobbering students in Whitehall last week, education secretary Michael Gove released his government’s harsh vision for schools.
His White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, builds on many trends initiated by New Labour and talks of reducing bureaucracy to ram through attacks.
Procedures for sacking teachers will be loosened. Pay flexibility will be increased.
Whitehall will take over procedures for barring teachers when the General Teaching Council disappears in 2012.
Stressing the need for “discipline” in school, Gove announced a “Troops To Teachers” programme. Instant detentions will become legal, as will frisking for pornography, tobacco and fireworks.
Headteachers will get powers to punish students for behaviour outside school—which could include attendance at protests. And parents will have less right to appeal over exclusions.
The paper also scraps the limit on the number of hours managers can observe teachers—opening the door to constant monitoring and bullying.
Gove is changing the definition of failing schools so that more will be classed as failures—and he will force them into academy status.
He is encouraging academy status for all schools, without any clear explanation of what financial, social or educational benefit will accrue.
Many schools will have to take responsibility for the training and development of teachers because those university courses are to be scrapped.
The private Teach First company will get greater control of the provision of teacher supply.
There is one minor welcome change. Teachers who have been subject to child protection investigations will no longer have that fact recorded on future job references.
At the moment this is mandatory, irrespective of the outcome, when the vast majority of cases are false.
Overall, this is a programme designed to break up the comprehensive education system by touting greater local “autonomy”.
In reality it will mean greater centralised control by private corporations and Whitehall apparatchiks.
The paper is ignorant about life in schools. Many of the proposals either already exist or are unworkable.
There is nothing here for students who see education priced out of reach and their job opportunities worsened by austerity measures.
Teachers refuse to act like coppers or bouncers inside schools. We will resist his authoritarian fantasies, alongside the students.