Letter from the Education Editor: Nicky Morgan's central message is a welcome one


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The Independent Online

I am wholeheartedly behind both Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and her Labour opposite number Tristram Hunt in calling for more emphasis to be placed on character-building and promoting self-esteem amongst today’s schoolchildren.

It was the Confederation of British Industry which first campaigned for schools to produce more “rounded and grounded” pupils instead of the “exam factory” fodder they are currently receiving from schools.

Where I feel a bit uneasy, though, with Nicky Morgan is the insinuation that ex-armed services personnel are best placed to deliver that.  That conjures up an image more of emphasising  discipline rather than developing initiative.  It also seems to suggest teachers cannot instil these values in their pupils themselves.

As for Tristram Hunt, I would argue that overcoming adversity and setbacks and the development of character, resilience and the ability to bounce back is not uniquely a result of possessing the “British spirit” - as he is expected to say today (Monday).  I understand people in other countries can do it, too.

No, the central message from the two of them is a welcome one.  I just wish it did not have to be accompanied by language tailor made to make it appeal to Nigel Farage and his supporters.

Whilst on the subject of education, it was good to see Ms Morgan distancing herself from those who in the past have sought to caricature opponents to the Government’s reforms as “The Blob” - a man-eating amoeba Steve McQueen sought to do battle with in a 1950’s sci-fi movie.

She said she regarded the imagery as unhelpful - although she professed not to be sure who had first coined the phrase. (It was actually used by her predecessor Michael Gove in a Daily Mail article.)

Her comments are unlikely to endear her to many of her predecessor’s most vociferous supporters.  I am sure, though, that she will continue to be her own woman.