Thursday, 15 May 2008

Scruffy logic in new Tory policy

Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, gets headlines by attacking 'scruffy teachers'. David Blunkett did much the same on school uniform twelve years ago. But the problem for politicians is that they can't impose new rules on every school, because more and more power is (rightly) delegated to headteachers and governors. And Gove talks almost in the same breath about free schools as he talks about a more rigorous curriculum. Isn't it time that politicians pointed out that there is a trade-off between greater freedom for schools - including the freedom, presumably, to set up schools that employ scruffy teachers - and desirable social and educational goals, which they imply should be the norm for all?

2 comments:

Rich said...

"But the problem for politicians is that they can't impose new rules on every school"

Quite. Which is why the article you links to says

"Conservatives would give full backing to schools that introduced smart dress codes for staff"

" “I’m keen to support those head teachers who are doing everything to enhance the professional standing of their staff,” [Gove]said today"

"While stressing that it was not for politicians to dictate what teachers wear, Mr Gove said that smartly dressed teachers gave the whole school a more professional atmosphere"

It is then only a hysterical overreaction from Chris Keates - counteracted by a far saner response from Mick Brookes - that mentions compulsion.

Conor Ryan said...

Rich, don't get me wrong. I'm all in favour of a businesslike approach to dress in school. And Chris Keates is probably over-reacting. My point is that it exposes a tension between what politicians say - and this is not even a party point, as it is as true of ministers - and what they can actually do. The best academies do have a strong code. But it isn't always parents who push such codes - I've visited schools where parents complain about a strong uniform code; and I can imagine a school run by 'liberal' parents who would make a fetish of casual dress. The issue isn't the value of uniform - I think it a key part of school discipline and ethos - but how you insist upon it in a devolved system. And whatever caveats Gove has given - and unlike his predecessors, he does provide such caveats, the purpose of the story was to get up in lights that the Tories will do way with scruffy dressing in schools (see the first paragraph of the Times story). My point is they won't - and can't.