Chalk Talk: Are champions ready for the challenge?
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Wednesday 22 January 2014
Off to the North of England education conference – the traditional curtain raiser of the year.
Although, to be precise, it's not quite the North of England education conference because it takes place in Nottingham, which, when I last consulted a map, was in the east Midlands.
Not to worry, though. There was one year when the North of England conference took place in Cardiff. Perhaps the organisers should rename it the North of Watford education conference. Thankfully, it's returning to Manchester next year.
It was the usual assembly of the great and the good in education – the Labour shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt; the chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw; and the Schools Minister, David Laws.
With a historian (Hunt) in opposition to an erudite scholar (Michael Gove), I suppose it was odds-on that we would start with a history lesson.
Hunt did not fail us. He started by referring back to 1642, when King Charles I chose Nottingham to raise his standard against what he perceived to be "a dangerous clique of zealous ideologues, bent on centralising authority, imposing unwelcome forms of discipline and with a very divisive view of the saved and the fallen".
"Not so very different from public policy today," suggested Hunt. There were no prizes for guessing what he was getting at.
It was good to a see the return of John Dunford, the former general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who is now the Government's National Pupil Premium Champion.
The word champion was much in evidence last week, with the unveiling of a new scheme involving what the Deputy Prime Minsiter, Nick Clegg, calls a "champion's league" of head teachers. The 100 high-performing heads, David Laws revealed, will be held in readiness to take over the headships of schools in challenging circumstances.
Whether it will work is not clear, according to Dunford's successor as general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Brian Lightman.
Heads are, it seems, now more reluctant to take on challenging schools because of the fear of being sacked if results don't improve quickly enough.
There's also the matter of what will happen at the schools they leave, which will still require good leadership.
That's the story of the conference this year. Roll on Manchester next year.
Antonio Martin shooting: Black teenager may have tried to ambush patrolman, says police officer's lawyer
Orphan kangaroos spend Christmas without their parents
Northern Lights above Britain: Stunning Aurora Borealis illuminates Northumberland sky on Christmas Eve
New route to Mars could make manned mission much cheaper and easier
Isis 'did not shoot down Jordan war plane' before capturing pilot, says US
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...
£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...