Chalk talk: The two Michaels now appear to be the best of friends
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 26 March 2014
Last weekend's annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders could really have been renamed "the two Michaels show".
First we had the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, saying what splendid changes the other Michael – chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw – was going to make to the Ofsted inspection process (good or outstanding schools will henceforth be subjected to a more light-touch inspection regime).
Then it was Sir Michael's turn to tell the conference what changes he planned to make.
It happens like that in today's world because, of course, Sir Michael had floated the changes in an earlier interview on the BBC's Today programme.
Michael – Gove, that is – was a little coy when his former work colleague, the Times journalist David Aaronovitch, asked him if he thought more of his fellow Conservative MPs should send their children to state schools. He would not presume to tell other parents where to send their children.
Aaronovitch rephrased the question, asking if he felt his fellow MPs needed to be so scared of the state system. "It's a beautifully phrased question, which I'm going to shamelessly ignore," Mr Gove replied.
All in all, though, the session – in which one Michael followed the other – reinforced the image that all is sweetness and light between the two Michaels, following rumours of a spat earlier this year. Interestingly enough, though, on a panel the following day, most members said they could not care less whether the two were still friends or not.
Indeed, the whole question of how much influence politics should have over the education system emerged during the Question Time-style session on Saturday morning. The former Education Secretary Baroness (Estelle) Morris pointed out that two political parties – the Conservatives and Labour – had made pledges in the run-up to the last election to promote synthetic phonics. You would not get them insisting doctors only use penicillin to treat patients.
One example of a government initiative too far, said one head teacher from the floor, was the "troops to teachers" scheme advocated by Mr Gove, whereby former service personnel were fast-tracked into teaching jobs.
"Why not turn it on its head – and have teachers to troops?" he suggested. Trouble is, he went on, what skills would he have to go and bomb villages?
"We might have done better in Afghanistan if we'd had more teachers and a few less bombs," one panellist observed.
Miley Cyrus address Robin Thicke VMA controversy: ‘He wanted me as naked as possible, but I got the heat because I’m a woman’
Most expensive city to live in for expatriates: Luanda, Angola takes number one spot with Hong Kong and Zurich in top three
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal get peerages
Moody neurotics are more likely to be creative geniuses, study says
Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
Stock up on canned food for stock market crash, warns former Gordon Brown adviser
- 1 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
- 2 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 3 Miley Cyrus address Robin Thicke VMA controversy: ‘He wanted me as naked as possible, but I got the heat because I’m a woman’
- 4 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 5 How the NHS is being dismantled in 10 easy steps
Negotiable: AER Teachers: Outstanding East London primary school seeking an Ea...
Negotiable: AER Teachers: Southwark primary School looking for teaching assist...
£24,451 - £27,061 per annum: Royal College of Music: The Royal College of Musi...
£35 - £45k DOE + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Optimisation Analyst is...