Sunday, 2 February 2014

The Inspectors, Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

Micky Gove, with an axe, hit poor Lady Sally forty whacks.  When he saw what he had done, he began to think of Cameron. Apologies to Ogden Nash, that master of contemporary verse.  They don't teach that stuff in schools any more.

Ofsted, of which Lady Sally Morgan is or was the boss, better known to fans of George Orwell as the Office For Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (there's a mouthful for you) is a non-ministerial (???) office of state packed with Officers appointed under the Crown to do what they want according to outline briefs gently suggested to them by a government which largely ignores Parliament.

For those who do Geography its head office is located on Kingsway, Holborn, London.  It's immediate neighbours include the vast tracts of the Empire of the London School of Economics; Lincolns Inn Fields with The Temple a briefs throw away with all those lawyers and the monuments to the Crusader Marshall family; St. Andrews Church home church of Bomber Command with a statue to "Bomber" Harris and the Law Courts.

The anthropology of this is fascinating, a subject not done in schools but amply provided for in the British Library of Political and Economic Science, to be found at the LSE, along with a host of would be lawyers and social engineers.

If I understand the main media correctly, there is now a crisis of discipline in education with teachers fleeing the schools and concern that they are not preparing children for Life, whatever that may be two or three decades hence.  Also, Childrens Services around the land seem to be facing insurmountable difficulties with major failures routine. 

On top of this the skills being dealt with by the many and various training places at great effort and expense seem to be those destined largely to put people into the Benefits Agency queues at the earlier opportunity never to be employed.  From what I gather the whole lot, rather than doing what might be done, is entirely geared now to meeting Ofsted targets.

Unluckily these depend on class attendance, so if the railway employees scattered across the landscape cannot attend class because of weather conditions, the low attendance is still the teachers fault.

The figures are then subject to interpretation and personal judgement by persons flying around in cars from place to place doing calculations who may or may not, mostly the latter, know much or anything about the actual activity taking place.  They in turn are subject to targets and calculations by their managers who are then etc. who are also etc. etc.

Bigger fleas have littler fleas upon their backs to bite 'em, littler fleas have littler fleas and so on ad finitum, according to the famous Liverpool comedian Arthur Askey whose sister was a teacher and whose close friend was head of an Approved School (residential penitential school in those days). 

Arthur is forgotten these days and nowhere to the found in all those Media, Stage and Drama courses preparing youngsters for life.  You will not find much Latin as well.

On the BBC News the readers have been weeping into their autocues about the fate of poor Sally, insisting that she was dismissed.  It is a little more complicated.  In 2010 she was being shoe horned into the job by the Labour government and the Coalition honoured the promise.  It was a term contract which is now up and Gove wants a change of face.  Media speak says this is "dismissal" and "political".

So who is our Sally in the political alley?  Did she rise through the ranks of teaching and social services to high status before being selected for the most senior job after a generation of devoted work at the coal seam or something?  Certainly, she qualified as a teacher and did some time teaching Geography.

Then as with numbers of others in one form of teaching or another she moved into the political ranks and rose and rose to be one of Blair's key babes.  The Ofsted job was essentially the payoff for political services rendered.  As Connie in "Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Spy" might have said she is a Blair trained, copper bottomed, first rate, Downing Street sofa trained hood.

So forget that winsome hurt look and the deprecating manner and all that sincerity and the rest.  She is one of the Labour government's hard cases who went for the political jugular when necessary and took no prisoners.  She has inflicted management speak and targets and a ruthless inspections and calculation systems at political urging that are having the reverse effects to those claimed.

In the UK we have had government management by political apparatchiks of one kind or another.  Some are essentially political, others of financial services and some from the media.
The result is that the great game of government is being played on a circular pitch where the goal posts are moved around according to the latest whims of those in charge.

There is a possibility here which is connections again.  She grew up and went to school on a particular patch by Liverpool. 

As it happens once I knew a man who worked there in the 1960's and was Harold Wilson's constituency agent.  It is possible, but not certain, that Sally grew up with Harold as the gang leader of that particular alley.

So it is not just Blair and Brown; it might just be Wilson as well.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe some of the fuss about poor Sally is that insiders already know who is to replace her and don't like it.