Hot on the heels of Sir Keir Starmer’s sacking of Rebecca Long Bailey as shadow Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, the actual Education Secretary, is reported to have told the Tory 1922 backbench committee that he is to cease consulting with the teachers unions about the safe opening of schools. Williamson is reported as saying he will get children back to school in September “come what may”.
Long Bailey was supposedly sacked for tweeting a link to an interview with Maxine Peake on the Independent website which contained a brief comment linking Israeli security services with the infamous knee-on-neck hold used by US police. She has, however, been a supporter of the National Education Union (NEU) and its opposition to under-controlled school re-opening and is supportive of modern teaching methods.
In a further attempt to curry favour with the most reactionary elements in the Tory Party, Williamson said he wants all children to face the front of the classroom when schools reopen in September. He had been shocked to discover that in many classrooms children were actually sitting at round or square tables facing one another! Apparently unaware of current teaching practice (let alone Covid-19 distancing requirements) or the substantial volume of research in this area, he considers it “wrong” and wants “the class to pay attention to the teacher” when schools reopen. Quite what he thinks has been going on in classrooms since the days of Cider with Rosie is perplexing. Perhaps he has been spending too much time talking to Amanda Spielman, the should-have-been-furloughed Head of Ofsted who has had nothing to do since schools closed than go around expressing her reactionary views. Or is he recalling his time as a Defence Secretary until he was sacked by Theresa May in 2019 for leaking classified documents? As Defence Secretary he might be dimly recalling the traditional army method of teaching soldiers how to dismantle and re-assemble a bren gun:
- show’em once
- show’em twice
- show’em three times
- get them to do it
- shout at them when they get it wrong.
if it worked for soldiers, why not children?
Meanwhile, what was Starmer up to? Did he sack Long Bailey to:
clear out the last Corbynite from the Shadow Cabinet and return to New Labour principles?
move Labour education policy back to more traditional methods?
appease the pro-Israel lobby?
distance Labour from the NEU resistance to precipitate school re-opening?
ensure Labour is not seen as hindering the wider re-opening the economy?
Perhaps it was one of those occasions when a multiplicity of discreditable ambitions could be furthered with a single discreditable action.