We have the cancelled baseline tests, an entirely predictable (and predicted) mess.

We have KS1 spelling tests uploaded to the governments own website and left there for months. Causing the subsequent cancelling of the national test.

We have exemplar materials for a new testing regime delivered late and requiring correction and further explanation. Not once. Not twice. But five times.

We have the departments accounts effectively qualified by the National Audit Office in a stinging report.

We are still waiting for exam specifications to be signed off that teachers are expected to start teaching in September.

We’ll pass rapidly over their novel interpretation of the laws of physics and cock a blind one to the ministerial obsession with the minutiae of exclamation mark theory.

Then there’s the farcical approach to teacher training place allocation that was only changed because a Cambridge course had under-recruited and could have closed.

This is topped off by a laughable white paper, which claims they would be able to manage 22,000 academies when they can’t cope with the 5,000 they currently have on the books. And anyhow it’s difficult to see how they would convert them at three times the rate they have managed so far.

Rightly today @xtophercook asks “Is the Department for Education fit for purpose?”.

The baseline tests issue apart, no one of these is a resigning issue, insulated as ministers are from the sharp end by their various quangos and NDPBs. I’m sure some poor back-office flunky will get the boot (or a severe ticking off, depending what route they took into the Civil Service) for pressing the right button at the wrong time or vice versa or whatever it was. But what they must be are clear signs to ministers and senior civil servants that things in the future need to be different.

Any human being with an ounce of self-awareness would look at the litany of error laid out above and ask a simple question. “What did I do that I could have done differently?” And follow it up with “How can I avoid the same things happening in the future?”

The answer to both questions is the same, and to be honest, I’m a little fed up repeating it.

Every step of the way since it embarked on its reforms to the education system the department has been dogged by their lack of willingness to listen to anyone who didn’t wholeheartedly sign up to their project. Their rejection of any dissenting voice as being part of the “blob” demeaned them more than it did any expert whose views they were disregarding. This left them reliant on a group of voices that had one experience of the education system and had one view of how to fix it.

Our education system is complex. Before I was a teacher I audited companies. Some small, some large multi-nationals. When I started as a teacher I of course knew that no school would be as complex as any of those companies. It was obvious, wasn’t it? Well, I was wrong. An individual school is as complex as any company I ever worked with. The education system? The same, turbo-charged with rocket boosters. I was wrong. It’s a surprisingly easy and, if I may say, liberating word to be able to use about oneself.

To understand the education system you need to hear the views of many, many people. Many of them will inevitably disagree with what you want to do. Some of those won’t want to do anything but put barriers in your way. I can understand the frustration that engenders but you need to do better than just push everyone aside because of that.

Most of the people I speak to in education just want a system that works. No, they don’t agree with every reform but by and large accept a government has the right to reform things, however much they may moan about it or resist change. They recognise that means compromise. They are happy to explain their perception of what the issues are and ask how they can use their experience and expertise to help make things work. Their frustration is less that there are reforms, than that this basic professional courtesy has not been extended to them and the reforms proposed are weaker as a result.

So the answer to the questions I put above is quite simple.

It’s one word.



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