Chalk Talk: Schools Minister runs the gauntlet at conference
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.
Thursday 12 April 2012
With Michael Gove taking a break (aside from going on Newsnight to launch radical changes to A-levels), it was down to Schools Minister Nick Gibb to don the flak jacket for the Easter conference season. In actual fact, he coped quite well, coming to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' conference to praise teachers, not bury them.
It was only when he opened himself up to questions that things went a little bit awry. There was great mirth over his response that new chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw had dropped the phrase "satisfactory" as a grading for schools because it was too confusing for parents.
There was also a bit of scoffing as he said of the Ofsted site where parents can rate schools: "You can't just go on there and say anything." "Yes you can," came the response.
For the record, you can only respond to set questions, but you can reply with what you like.
Apart from that address, though, there was no ministerial presence at the conferences this year – the National Union of Teachers doesn't invite politicians and no-one turned up at the NASUWT gathering. Perhaps memories of withering right of replies from its general secretary Chris Keates are indelibly imprinted on ministerial mindsets.
Nick Gibb looked as if he feared the worst as Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, approached the rostrum for her reply to her speech. "Shall I stand here and take it?" he asked. In actual fact, it was not overtly critical – recognising both she and the Schools Minister had a passion for education even though they sometimes disagreed.
But there was enough bonhomie in the air, hopefully, to ensure a return next year. It would be sad if there was no contact over Easter between those that run the system and those who teach in it.
Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage
Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour
Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist
Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason
Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama
Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
Scottish independence referendum live: Latest news as Scotland decides Yes or No
Scottish independence: Final opinion polls show undecided voters could swing result either way
Scottish independence: Almost half of No voters have felt 'personally threatened' by the Yes campaign
Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 3 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
- 4 Scottish independence: Andy Murray backs Yes campaign in eleventh hour decision
- 5 Have you heard about the film Singapore has banned its people from watching? Well, you have now
£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...
£20000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to wo...
£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: An Academy based in Thetfor...
£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work at ...