There is sometimes a tendency in schools – or businesses or any other large organisation, I suspect – to do things the way they have always been done. The mantra of “if it ain’t broke” and similar phrasings show our tendency to prefer the status quo.
But, with drivers such as Ofsted, league tables and forced academisation, schools are now forced to look at what they do in great detail to drive out poor practices and supplant them with better ones. The focus – at least in theory – must always be on the benefit for the students. There are plenty of arguments about how this is achieved, and Mr Gove is very quick to condemn the unions and others for preferring to defend their own priorities above those of students. In some respects he is right. The work of schools should be entirely focussed on achieving the best outcomes for students. Schools’ methods, practices, processes and approaches should all be geared to be for the benefit of the people whom they are intended to serve.
And the same ought to apply to government.
MPs are very quick to remind us that their purpose is to serve when it comes to election times. But the way in which government is so often run does not match that focus on those whom it is intended to serve. I’m thinking particularly of the latest in a long line of soundbites drip-fed to the Tory-friendly media in advance of proper announcements. Once again, teachers, schools and indeed opposition MPs find out about the latest radical changes to education policy and accountability not through parliamentary processes, or even a formal press conference or release, but through an article in the Telegraph.
Sam Freedman (@Samfr) – who knows more than most about the “workings” of policy at the DfE – could say only that it’s been happening for years.
Sam Freedman (@Samfr) September 29, 2013
He is, of course, right. The Labour government were doubtless equally guilty of this. But that doesn’t mean that we should just allow it to continue.
Much as a school should have the interests of students’ education at the very core of all that it does, so parliament and government ought to have the interests of democracy at the core of their business. That is, after all, the only reason we have such organisations.
It is too easy for politicians to dismiss the arguments of those who say that “it doesn’t matter who you vote for”, when they also show such dismissive disdain for the workings of parliament. Now perhaps it is too easy because too much power has been devolved to individual ministers and departments? Perhaps it’s because the party system holds a stranglehold over the decisions and choices of individual MPs? But whatever the cause, it isn’t acceptable.
Members of Parliament have a duty to hold the government of the day to account, and it seems they are no longer willing or able to do so. Something needs to change.