Mistletoe and whine

It’s New Years Eve. A time to reflect on the year gone by and review the good, the bad and the ugly. Maybe write a Nurture blog, or tweet a list of your favourite blogs, or a list of your favourite bloggers.

Well, you can do that if you want. And I’m not criticising those that do. Me? I’m going to write about something that irritates me. I say irritates, it actually makes me sick to the core, but who wants to hear that at this festive time of the year?

And this is it.

A “problem” is identified.

The cries ring out “something must be done”.

“Something” is done.

A report is published showing that “something was done”.

Everyone pats themselves on the back.

Nothing wrong with that you say? Problem identified, rectified, praise handed out?

Well the issue is this – usually the something that is done is not something that will address the problem. It is, more often than not, something that will address the visibility of the problem, or provide some visible evidence of activity that enables back patting. And quite often, the problem isn’t even a problem.

Time for an example.

Lets ignore the scores of children killed by road vehicles very year. Leave aside the thousands of kids being terribly abused by adults up and down the country. Put out of your mind the tens of thousands of homeless, hungry children. We have to do that because those problems are in the category “too hard to solve or make it look as if we are making headway”. Indeed, any light that is shone on these areas often only serves to make those who want their backs patted look worse.

No, we’ll ignore the difficult issues and concentrate on, for example, “British Values”. I could have picked many other issues but this is a nice easy target, so why not.

I may have misinterpreted the government line on this but it seems to me that the gist of their argument is that schools (state schools in particular – obvs) are failing in their duty to teach children that being British means it’s important to be nice to each other. To respect each others views. To respect democracy. You know the stuff. Essentially all the things that ensure our children grow up to be adults who don’t rock the boat rounded, law abiding citizens.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my country, warts and all. Being nice to people, democracy, respect. All those things are good. And I believe they are deeply embedded in most the inhabitants of these isles. It’s not just Brits who are like that, obviously. But I like to think that generally we do it particularly well.

Here’s the problem. The reason they are deeply embedded is that that schools (and the rest of civil society) already do all this stuff. Generally they do it very well. As is evidenced by…well, by Britain and the people we are. And where they don’t there are already mechanisms to help prevent it doing harm. Will it sometimes go wrong – of course it will, in the same way sometimes a child will run out around the safety barriers into the road.

So what’s your beef, Cameron? (me I mean, not that Cameron).

It’s this. I don’t think we have a crisis/problem/issue in schools relating to the inculcation of British Values. It’s an issue (like many others) created to enable someone to say they have solved the issue and get patted on the back. In a year or so a report will be published explaining how the number of British citizens heading off to Syria is reducing, all because of our work in schools. The report will point to the increased visibility of the issue in schools and the changes made to how children are taught. They will use school websites to evidence this – just do the following Google search “site:sch.uk british values The DfE have recently reinforced” and see how many identical webpages you come up with. They will point to the number of Ofsted reports which highlight the increase in the number of schools which now have webpages devoted to British Values – “This didn’t happen before we bravely stepped in to tackled this issue” they will cry. “We have SOLVED the problem!”

This isn’t evidence of change, or of problems solved. It’s evidence of an increased workload placed on schools to make a politician look effective.

And that’s why it irritates me. No problem is solved. Schools get to work harder for no educational benefit. And some no-mark politician takes the praise instead of them having to work harder to solve the real problems that exist. Backs are patted all round.

Happy New Year to you all.



One thought on “Mistletoe and whine

  1. Yes – and ironically, one of the (perhaps mystical) values I used to associate with the British, was their ability to do the thing that needed to be done. I’m thinking particularly of the 19th Century and the actual solutions created by people who had acquired some actual expertise and had a long-term view of what was necessary.

Comments are closed.