Tag Archives: Nicky Morgan

Nicky Morgan and the EBACC OUTRAGE!

Nicky Morgan

Nicky Morgan said in her recent speech to Policy Exchange that:

I think every child should study maths, English, history or geography, a language and the sciences up until the age of 16 – Not because I think these subjects are the only ones that matter – I can see the masses poised behind their keyboards waiting to be outraged by the mere suggestion I might believe this to be the case…because these subjects are the academic core, the foundations of a good education that ultimately will keep options open for young people’s future.

I was in the audience and stood down from tweeting or blogging about this, I did not want to be accused of being poised by my keyboard waiting to be outraged…

I mean, why should I be outraged? What could possibly have outraged me? I want my daughter to have a good academic education… I have nothing to be outraged about.

Morgan protests that some people think she may be anti arts and she often comments about how important the arts are but then she goes and gets a headline like this in the Telegraph: “pupils ‘held back’ by overemphasis on arts

She is reported to have said:

If you didn’t know what you wanted to do… then the arts and the humanities were what you chose because they were useful, we were told, for all kinds of jobs… We now know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. That the subjects to keep young people’s options open are STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths… Because the skills gained from studying these subjects will come in useful in almost any job you care to mention; from the creative and beauty industries to architecture.

The intended message might not be that STEM subjects are the only ones that matter but, the more you hear this kind of rhetoric from the Secretary of State the impression might be made that she believes that science, technology, engineering and maths are the most important subjects.

Hang on, isn’t there a problem here? Let us look at these two statements, the one from her Policy Exchange speech and the other from last year at the launch of a campaign called ‘Your Life’. In the first one Morgan defends the Ebacc in the second she waxes lyrical about the importance of STEM. Only Science and Maths feature in both, ‘Technology’ and Engineering, among others, do not. If the subjects to keep a child’s options open are STEM then, surely, STEM should feature in the Ebacc? Computer science features which might ‘suffice’ as a technology option but only at the possible expense of another science. This means that the Ebacc trumpeted earlier this week as: “the foundations of a good education that ultimately will keep options open for young people’s future.” has been shown up by the same Nicky Morgan not to be. This Morgan says that “the foundations of a good education that ultimately will keep options open for young people’s future,” include technology and engineering and not the humanities.

By implication Morgan believes that the humanities being useful for the job market ‘couldn’t be further from the truth’ and therefore the inclusion of history as part of the Ebacc as ‘the foundations of a good education that ultimately will keep options open for young people’s future… couldn’t be further from the truth.’ (And as for Geography, well I’m reliably informed that it might be a science anyway…) With recent reports stating that entries for Design and Technology GCSE are down by 29% are our young people able to keep their options open or not?

This is an outrage!!! What is the Ebacc for? It expands children’s options in one breath and in the next breath it limits children’s options. This mess is due to the possible intention of ‘engineering’ for darker purposes than the means towards the pursuit of wisdom. If you want the foundations of a good education to be carved in the stone of an Ebacc then you would start from the premise of breadth, as a good education includes a wide range of pursuits, it includes sport, technology, engineering, voluntary work, the arts, the humanities. You would not start with the view of what an academic education from the starting point of the Government’s rather limited little list. With the intention of getting 90% of pupils to take the Ebacc what damage to young people’s futures might occur?

As the Ebacc clearly doesn’t include all the subjects that Morgan believes: ‘keep options open for young people’s future’ I think it is about time what constitutes the Ebacc is put under review.

Fail again. Nicky Morgan on Academies


A wonderful moment this morning on BBC Breakfast News, our esteemed Secretary of State was asked: “How many academies, currently, are unsatisfactory?” She replied “Well it’s not abow, byah mmm nyah obviously academies…” caught on the hop, Morgan began to try to defend the indefensible by ignoring the question. The Interviewer, Charlie Stayt, pointed out some people say that: “Just turning a school into an academy does not make it a good school… You’re suggesting to us that this is the absolute answer to any problems with schools: they become academies, so could you just tell us how many academies are falling below the standards?” The answer came back swiftly, though quietly: “No….”

It’s worth watching here

It brings to mind the oft quoted line from Samuel Beckett’s piece Worstward Ho:

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

What follows is worth looking at too:

Now the other. Sick of the either try the other. Sick of it back sick of the either. So on. Somehow on. Till sick of both. Throw up and go. Where neither. Till sick of there. Throw up and back. The body again. Where none. The place again. Where none. Try again. Fail again. Better again. Or better worse. Fail worse again. Still worse again. Till sick for good. Throw up for good. Go for good. Where neither for good. Good and all.

So on, somehow on marches ‘Academisation’, all business values and managerialism, being brought into an education sector that is itself falling for business values and managerialism without the need to be turned into academies but we’re sick of the either so we’ll try the other… Whether it works or not… But what works is our mantra, that Blairite creed: “What counts is what works…” has now turned into “What counts is what we say works…” which it always was but… somehow on…

Turning our backs on the bad old days of ideology is one thing, pragmatic managerialism is another, sick of the either, try the other…

But all this is ideological. The online Oxford English Dictionary defines ideology as: ‘A system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of… political theory and policy…’

So let us argue about ideology, rather than pretending it’s all about figures of numbers of failing schools and about the need for every child to get a great education. Every child should get a great education but how to achieve that is not by trying to hoodwink people into believing in easy solutions, tell us the truth and involve us in the conversation.

Go for good. Where neither for good. Good and all.

Brave New World


Two pieces of news attracted my attention today, one a speech from Nicky Morgan the Secretary of State for Education in England and the other a tweet from Andreas Schleicher the Secretary of State for Education in the World.

In her speech at BETT 2015 Morgan trumpeted that: “Already we have begun to produce destination data on school-leavers to identify where they end up. We aim to include them in league tables by 2017… In future, we could try to link qualifications to tax data too, in order to demonstrate the true worth of certain subjects… On my regular tours of schools across the country, teachers have shown me apps that can scan and mark almost instantly – saving hours of work,” According to this article in the TES she thinks: ‘Lesson plans are increasingly being curated, Ms Morgan added, helping to “reduce duplication” in the system and helping to “spread good practice from school to school”.’

In his tweet Schleicher trumpeted that: “PISA: A Tool for Improving Teaching and Learning…” Linking to this website it includes the joyful news that: ‘We will explore PISA’s approach to assessing student knowledge and skills. We will also consider ways in which PISA can be used as a tool to help teachers reflect on and improve teaching and learning in their local contexts.’ And that, if you complete the PISA course you will: “Demonstrate knowledge of the ways in which PISA assessments can be used as a tool for improving teaching and learning [and] Apply knowledge of PISA tests to adopt innovative approaches to teaching and learning”.

And lo, it came to pass… this is our brave new world.

Now, I’ve got nothing against data or technology but I do question the ideology that wants to use it for such bizarre ends. If we end up with a list of top GCSE and A level exams to take if you want to earn the most and therefore pay the most tax and everyone takes these exams what then? If we all teach the same lesson plans and mark with the same APPS using research to inform us as to ‘what works’, what then? If we manage to get everyone to pass the right exams with the right grade and they all line up at the Pearly Gates of, er, Oxbridge… What then? If everyone then leaves Oxbridge clutching their passes into the higher echelons of the media, the law, politics, acting, footlights ‘fools’ and the wherewithal to be a bearded barista, what then?

Well maybe we can try to be the most magisterial medias, loquacious lawyers, pithy politicians, accessible actors, funny fools and brilliant beards in the whole world IF we use PISA as a tool for improving teaching and learning…

What a comfort to know our future is safe…

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin…”

Aldous Huxley