What were you doing on Christmas Day? While many of us were tucking into turkey and trimmings, the Education Secretary, it seems, was defending her schools’ policy in a Christmas Message. Given her recent announcement that she is a fan of King Henry VIII, this should not come as a complete surprise. In its Boxing Day edition, The Times, reported that, “Nicky Morgan hit back at her critics yesterday [Christmas Day]” after an “ally of Mr Cameron recently said that she was ‘stumbling.’"
Presumably, Nicky’s yuletide initiative was pre-planned but just how desperate are things in the Secretary of State’s office if a December 25th offensive is deemed necessary? What is more important on Christmas Day – turkey or teachers, plum pudding or pupil punishment, mince pies or a ministerial press release? For heaven’s sake Nicky, get a sense of perspective, get a life and enjoy Christmas!
True, she has come under fire and been dubbed “Mrs U-Turn” for changing her stance against gay marriage and for rejecting Michael Gove’s guidance to teachers that pupil punishments might include a jog around the school playing field. In a letter to a group that promotes physical exercise, she states that she had “asked officials to revise the guidance immediately and to remove any suggestion that running might be used as a form of punishment.” Responding to this U-turn her Conservative MP colleague, Philip Davies said: “What a load of politically correct claptrap. I remember having to run round the rugby pitch a few times when I misbehaved at school. It seemed to me like a perfectly reasonable punishment having done something wrong.”
If not exactly running, Mrs Morgan is, certainly, feeling ‘jumpy’ at the moment, and with good reason. The world of education is, largely, unexplored territory for her. Promoted to a position of power that appears well beyond her experience and capabilities, she has decided on a ‘do nothing’ and ‘offend no one’ strategy and, what is more, she feels the need to keep on telling us this, even on Christmas Day.
Her aides made clear to The Times that “she made no apology for ending Mr Gove’s ‘war against all’, saying that a more consensual approach would prove more effective”. The educational establishment, the Blob, has to be appeased at all costs.
Have the ghosts of Education Secretaries past been haunting her? Their photos line the reception area at the Department of Education – an unprecedented and unmitigated phalanx of failure. Michael Gove stands out as a partial ‘success’ only because of the ineptitude of his predecessors. Sadly, any ‘success’ he had was offset by naivety and a complete lack of nous about how to avoid alienating the people who have to implement his reforms - the teaching profession.
If you seek a monument to our education secretaries look at the state of our schools and of educational standards today, compared with the best in the world. Ask yourself how, according to the OECD, the UK can be the only ‘country’ in the world where the retired generation has a higher level of educational attainment than the generation of recent school leavers.
With a marginal seat to defend Nicky Morgan wants “peace in our time”. Her Christmas message, however, is testimony to failure and to surrender.