Men of influence behind shift in educational values

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The Independent Online
TRADITIONALISTS and right- wingers are wielding enormous influence over education policy because ministers have appointed several to key government advisory jobs.

Although he did not name them, Sir Malcolm Thornton's attack last week was largely aimed at the right-wing 'think tanks' such as the Centre for Policy Studies and the Institute of Economic Affairs. Those bodies feed ideas into the Downing Street policy unit, and their active members are closely allied to some of the most prominent appointees to advisory bodies. The six figures profiled here are all instrumental in implementing the more 'traditionalist' curriculum and testing regime.

Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, chairman of the School Examinations and Assessment Council.

Quote: 'Anybody appointed by the Secretary of State is a political appointment.'

As Professor Brian Griffiths he headed Margaret Thatcher's Downing Street policy unit. He chairs the Centre for Policy Studies, and was behind Baroness Thatcher's letter to Kenneth Baker in 1988 saying that proposed tests were elaborate and complex. He believes in pencil and paper tests, spelling and grammar and is opposed to changes to A-level. Before the Number 10 job he was professor of banking and international finance and ran the City University business school. His messianic approach stems partly from the fact that he is a convert to Conservatism.

David Pascall, chairman of the National Curriculum Council.

Quote: 'Questions relating to spiritual issues are inherent in most subjects in the curriculum.'

A grammar school boy, he was sponsored by BP to Birmingham University. He was seconded in 1982 to the Central Policy Review Staff and in 1983 to Margaret Thatcher's policy unit. He is manager of BP Exploration Control and Business Simplification Programmes. A devout Christian, he wants to raise the standard of religious education.

Mr Pascall is more willing to accommodate professional opinion than Lord Griffiths, and prefers to persuade rather than antagonise teachers. He has won classroom support for simplifying the national curriculum, but is nevertheless reinforcing, for example, the role of grammar and spelling.

Dr John Marks, member of SEAC and NCC, chair of SEAC maths committee.

Quote: '(HMI) have failed to act as the guardians of a good system: they are the the dog that didn't bark.'

An Open University tutor and a former polytechnic lecturer and school teacher, he is secretary of the education study group of the Centre for Policy Studies and Director of the Educational Research Trust. Lord Griffiths is on the trust's advisory council.

Dr Marks, author of dozens of pamphlets, has a history on the educational right. He was co-author of Whose Schools? A Radical Manifesto, published in 1986, which contained many of the ideas that have since become Government policy. It called for the removal of schools from local authority control and the reintroduction of selective education.

Lord Skidelsky, member of SEAC and chairman of its history committee.

Quote: 'The quangos (the Government) created are staffed by the opponents of its reforms. There has been an amazing carelessness about appointments to these bodies.'

Robert Skidelsky sits in the Lords as a Conservative. Professor of political economy at Warwick University and biographer of Keynes, he supported two teachers who refused to teach GCSE history which they said lacked rigour and entered them for Scottish O grades. The two, Anthony Freeman and Robert McGovern, were appointed to the SEAC history committee.

He wants national curriculum history to place more emphasis on facts and less on skills such as source evaluation. He argues that parents should be given the power of 'exit' from schools, with per capita grants following pupils to the school of their parents' choice.

John Marenbon, member of SEAC and chairman of English committee.

Quote: 'Among those who theorise about English teaching there has developed a new orthodoxy which regards it as a conceptual error to speak of 'correct' English and which rejects the idea of a literary heritage.'

A director of studies in English at Trinity College, Cambridge. He recently listed Pope's Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot, Milton's Lycidas and Dryden's The Cock and the Fox among the top ten books which children should have read by the age of 16.

He is married to Dr Sheila Lawlor, deputy director of the Centre for Policy Studies and formerly of Conservative Central Office. The centre published his pamphlet on English which attacked a 'new orthodoxy' among teachers and Her Majesty's Inspectorate in the teaching of language.

He said they regarded standard English as 'simply one dialect among many, in no way superior in itself to Cockney, Scouse or West Indian creole.'

Anthony O'Hear, member of the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Training. (CATE)

Quote: 'For too long education has been a state within a state with its own corporatist culture of welfare dependency and levelling dogma and practice.'

Professor of philosophy at Bradford University. He was appointed to CATE by ministers despite opposition from some civil servants who thought his views were too extreme.

At the last election he advocated a Conservative victory to preserve education, 'an area previously hobbled by bureaucracy and mediocrity'. He also said that the Government must find ways to ensure that classrooms 'cease to resemble playrooms or psychological laboratories'.

(Photograph omitted)

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