Chalk Talk: Jade Goody may have been lacking an education, but she knew its value

Our education leaders do choose some surprising role models these days. First it was the new chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, likening his role as a headteacher to that of Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry and the Man With No Name" films.

The headteacher, he was arguing, is a loner who has to make the tough decisions in life. Now Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has made what some might consider an equally strange choice by citing Jade Goody, the Big Brother contestant who died of cancer in 2009. In an address to academics at Cambridge University, he makes what I suspect may not be a correct assumption in these days by saying: "Jade Goody may be an unfamiliar name to many of you."

He says she "became a poster girl of general ignorance and terminal educational failure" after saying on the show that she did not know where or what East 'Angular' was. However, he added that "to her enormous credit" she turned this scorn into a highly successful media career. Before her death, she set up a trust fund for her two sons, so they could receive the kind of education to which she could not have aspired.

"Scorned as she may have been, almost by the whole nation, for her lack of education, Jade knew its worth," he went on. "If she merely wanted her children to be rich, she need simply have left them her wealth. But she wanted more – she wanted them to be educated; to have their minds enriched."

I suspect Gove's rationale for giving Jade a different kind of celebrity status to that which she enjoyed in life may have changed a few academics' minds. Unless, of course, he is right in his original assumption that they are far too buried in the world of academia to have ever heard of her or Big Brother!

Manchester University has just announced it is taking on 100 extra staff as a result of meeting all its targets this year. Just thought I'd sign off with a bit of good news amid all the gloom of recent weeks!

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