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This a guest post by London teacher Jo Bardsley who tweets at twitter.com/JoBardsley.
It isn’t exactly surprising that Labour wants to create military schools in order to ‘raise aspirations’ in deprived areas. This is the latest in a long line of educational disasters from both sides of the party line. Never mind the train wreck of Gove’s hate campaign, I mean, educational policy; Labour has also carved its own swathe of destruction through the educational landscape.
Academies were a Labour brain bastard, where pupils are judged not by the content of their character but by the length of their tie. Labour is also responsible for Teach First, which runs on the idea that public school is a natural preparation for excellence, so training is redundant. It didn’t work in the trenches and it certainly doesn’t work in education, yet every year a bunch of posh kids are given 6 weeks training and then turfed into the classroom.
I must admit that military schools did seem like a new low, but then on reflection, they are the natural progression from academies. They are just meaner, more repressive and possibly armed. What’s the harm in that?
The ideas behind academies and military schools spurt from the same mucky source; a deep seated fear of difference. In deprived areas, especially urban ones, the kids are all different colours. That is scary. The answer is to make them all look as uniform as possible. Make sure that their ties and skirts are the right length and maybe we can disguise the fact that they aren’t all white. Even better, put them all in camouflage and then we won’t see them at all. Especially if they are standing in a really straight line. Because the ability to stand in really a straight line and wear a tie that dangles below your nipples is a vital component in the acquisition of skills that will prepare you to pass exams.
It is too obvious to say that behind the military school idea is some wheezing ex-military bod. Education policy was ever thus; Gove is trying to turn every school in the country into a clone of his prep. I’m constantly surprised that he hasn’t imposed mandatory rice pudding with mandatory jam on Tuesdays. Blunkett’s memories of mean boys and low expectations led to the demolition of specialist provision for all students with special educational needs and so on.
The problem is that everyone has been to school, so everyone thinks that they are an expert on education. Applying that logic, we were all born, so we all ought to be skilled gynaecologists.
What would be truly revolutionary would be educational policy based on understanding rather than political point scoring or fear of diversity. But to do that we would have to do the unthinkable – we would have to consult people who are trained and experienced in education. We would have to ask the teachers.
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