Richard Garner has been the Independent's, and more recently theipaper's education correspondent for many years. He has now retired and last Thursday wrote a fascinating retrospective on the changes upon which he has reported. I put the article on one side to consider again.
Find it here.
He notes some things of tremendous interest.
I had, for instance, forgotten that the abolition of corporal punishment in schools in 1986 was passed by only one vote. Mrs Thatcher, who would have voted against the measure, was delayed in traffic. Nice to know that traffic congestion isn't all bad. And it reminds us that Thatcher was not really a reformer at heart - she was a keep-it-as-it-is conservative in oh so many ways. Had she got there she would only have delayed the inevitable. Can't imagine the Major government ignoring such an issue, especially once they had their own mandate in 1992.
He records that the arrival of literacy and numeracy hours in the early days of the Blair government under David Blunkett's management was also a great drive upwards in standards. I reckon that the 1997 Labour Government (or New Labour as we must now remember not to call them again) had been sitting on its hands for so many years (eighteen in fact) that it did all its best work within eighteen months.
He applauds independent scrutiny of schools, noting in passing that the current chief schools inspector is proving too independent for Michael Gove's liking. The 'I thought we were friends' line ain't working. Academies will get just as much of a pasting under him as any LEA controlled school.
With some back-bench revolt afoot the current government, Garner says, may struggle to get their academisation legislation through.
And he ends with this:
'...treat teachers as professionals, not guinea pigs for constant change. After all, you wouldn't dictate to a brain surgeon how he or she should do their job, would you?'
Thanks Richard Garner. You have educated me.