Hinds’ Legs on an Educational Donkey

In an interview with The Guardian today and reported and commented on by that paper here, they single out three areas with which the Education Secretary has strong views and/or concerns.

Before commenting on those – because my ESCD* has kicked in – I will just explain why I have an inherent distrust about Damian Hinds as he has, in addition to those three specific points, expressed his concerns regarding teacher workloads and the stress this causes:

I don’t believe it. Why don’t I believe it? Well, he is a Conservative Education Secretary, but more broadly, in my 38 years of being directly involved in secondary education I have never come across an Education Secretary who does seem to have any genuine educational nous about this national area for which s/he is responsible, apart from, that is, Estelle Morris [which is 1 out of 18 from 1980 to the present] and this is a relative judgement.

I think it is political posturing where it is ‘sensible’ to express a concern about teacher stress because in so many ways it doesn’t require very much for him to express this and appear that he has a knowing care and concern. Sceptical? Well, 38 years and 17 Secretaries of State for Education….

Now to these three areas of special interest, highlighted in italics as quoted in today’s Guardian with my brief following observations. Damian Hinds is reported to have:

  • Defended the new, tougher A level, and GCSE exams as helping to prepare pupils for the real world.

I have written about this before, but it is this buzzsaw word of ‘tougher’ exams that sums up the complete nonsense of the sweeping statement because it naturally represents no personal comprehension of how teaching and learning can be made to challenge whilst at the same time enable students to demonstrate their understanding and skills in a variety of subjects. It also represents no awareness of how subjects have been designed and implemented to apparently deliver their new ‘toughness’. ‘Tougher’ in English as a subject  – my area of expertise – just means harder for students to access and engage with. I don’t believe – I really don’t – that Damian Hinds has an iota of appreciation of just how in English [A Level, GCSE, and SATs] students are best taught and learn. And this complete ignorance is enough for him to declare that it will ‘prepare pupils for the real world’. What, rather than the ‘fake’ world? Does he really mean the ‘world of work’? ‘Prepare’? Is this about knowledge? Is this about rote learning? Is this about understanding and appreciation? Is this about transferable skills? Is there any further thought and feeling than a soundbite?

  • Rebuked primary schools that put pressure on young pupils to do well in their national assessments or Sats.

Well, this takes the biscuit. Or donkey’s carrot. Still, if the Head of Ofsted can make such similar deeply ironic comments about teachers teaching to the tests because of government targets and league tables by which they are judged [by Ofsted] then I guess the Secretary of State for Education can be as dumb.

  • Warned grammar schools that their expansion would only succeed if they took more children from disadvantaged families.

Actually, I have no real trenchant comment on this other than I have noticed over recent weeks the profound hypocrisy when this government, especially the Prime Minister Theresa May, constantly invoke the principles of democracy [e.g. because the referendum vote was democratically ‘in favour’ of Brexit – that is despite the subsequent unravelling of the misinformation and subterfuge exercised by those primarily in support of Brexit – we absolutely must follow it] how May is by and large autocratically responsible for the grammar school expansion policy despite almost all of the professional advice against it and the fact that in most polls on this issue – in lieu of an actual referendum vote on it – the vast majority of the public have no will for the expansion/extension of grammar schools. So really Hinds’ view on this is the least of any concerns we as a democracy should have.

*ESCD: Education Secretary Cynicism Default

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