Tuesday, 31 July 2007
Saturday, 28 July 2007
Monday, 23 July 2007
Tuesday, 17 July 2007
Sunday, 15 July 2007
In marketing parlance, there is a problem with the Labour 'brand'. In using that term, I am not referring to something superficial, such as the way that we package the party. I am referring to the spontaneous associations and reactions that voters have when they see the words 'Labour Party'. The way we are seen in modern Ireland.
What does that mean – that there is a problem with the brand? It means that the Labour Party does not conjure up in people's minds, much less inspire, a definite sense of what the party stands for and how it relates to their day to day lives.
As a party, we tend to think of ourselves as having a core working class vote. According to the RTE exit poll, more people in the ABC1 category vote for us than do the C2Des. Its not that we are loosing our traditional base – its that our traditional base is being eroded and has changed. Affluence has changed the way people think about themselves. If we ever did, we do not reflect the aspirations of most of the new middle class – people in working class occupations trying to live middle class lives. People whose parents in some cases voted Labour, but who themselves do not vote Labour. We have not persuaded them that we will improve their lives, and certainly we have not persuaded them that we are worth the risk, as they see it, of changing
Irish New Labour beckons, perhaps?
Saturday, 14 July 2007
Thursday, 12 July 2007
Wednesday, 11 July 2007
These are not the only issues. Why should we require those who already have a level 2 (GCSE-standard) qualification to continue studying, if they don't want to? Why can't more young people start apprenticeships at 14? Is there enough independent careers advice to guide young people to the right course or work-based training for them - far too many young people stay a year in the sixth form to do AS levels for £30 a week educational maintenance allowances, when they'd be better off at college or starting an apprenticeship. If we want young people to learn while they delay leaving, we should be getting those issues right before we legislate. That would be the flexible approach to promoting opportunity.
UPDATE: Gordon Brown has confirmed that this will be part of the legislative programme in the autumn. When the original plans were published, it was envisaged that compulsion would not be introduced until all the Diplomas were ready, meaning it would not be enforced until 2015. It is vital that time is used to make staying on an opportunity rather than a punishment for those who wouldn't otherwise do so.
Tuesday, 10 July 2007
Ed Balls has pledged to consult on a number of other educational issues. On primary maths, he is putting into practice a commitment made by Gordon Brown in his Mansion House speech. It will be important that there is as much emphasis on finding why some schools with similar intakes do much better than their peers as there is on reinventing the numeracy strategy. On school discipline, the measures introduced in Tony Blair's last schools bill have only just become law: the challenge here is spreading consistent good practice to all schools. Alan Steer's excellent report should be the government's starting point. It has wide support in schools.
Monday, 9 July 2007
Sunday, 8 July 2007
But, in today's Sunday Times, Lesley White reports: "The more cross and exasperated Campbell became about journalists, the more he deflected attention from the message. Blair became concerned. “He said, ‘The trouble is that the press are now more interested in you than in what you are saying’.” An example, he says, is his “bog-standard comprehensive” gaffe at the time of the 2001 education white paper [sic]. “Tony had said that before you know . . . It was his phrase. When he said it publicly no one had picked it up.” "
This may well have been a Tony Blair phrase, though I never heard him use it. But, ironically, the one person who uttered it most in my presence for months before the Green Paper was Peter Hyman, then a strategy adviser in no. 10 who has been reborn as a first-class history teacher in one of the country's best comprehensives. I always argued strongly against its use - and knew that David Blunkett, for whom I then worked, would have hated it, as he made clear after its use - because it was never true to say that most comprehensives were 'bog-standard'. Indeed all the academies subsequently established and most specialist schools are comprehensives (even if their intake could often be better balanced). And one of Labour's biggest achievements has been to increase the number of comprehensives where more than 70% of young people get five good GCSEs from 83 in 1997 to 604 last year. I was furious when Alastair used the phrase in lobby because I felt it undermined a strong Green Paper in schools. I'm sure I wasn't alone: I can't believe (Alastair's partner) Fiona Millar, who has since become a doughty defender of a very narrow view of comprehensive education was any more enthusiastic.
Friday, 6 July 2007
Monday, 2 July 2007
Now one of Gordon Brown's first acts is to split the department in two: creating the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills . But, to what purpose? There are in Ed Balls and John Denham, two able cabinet ministers. Ian Watmore will be an excellent permanent secretary at DIUS. And science is back at one of the new ministries. But, as Mike Baker points out here: "With one parent giving each its undivided attention, there may be some gains. But where does that leave the middle child, known as Further Education? The answer seems to be: caught in the middle of a complicated custody battle, spending some time in each parent's home."
Surely Mike is not right to suggest also that it is merely a ploy to concentrate more control of education at no. 10?