As you may remember, in May 2014 Michael Gove (remember him?) appointed Andrew Carter, Headteacher of South Farnham School, leader of a school-centred initial teacher training (ITT) provider and ITT lead on the Teaching Schools Council, to chair a so called ‘independent’ review of the quality and effectiveness of ITT courses.
He asked Carter to look across the full range of ITT courses and will seek views from those involved across the sector to:
- Define effective ITT practice;
- Assess the extent to which the current system delivers effective ITT;
- Recommend where and how improvements could be made;
- Recommend ways to improve choice in the system by improving the transparency of course content and methods.
To support him in his work, Carter has appointed a review panel comprising a diverse range of expertise in June. The group will provide expertise and support in developing the review’s conclusions and recommendations.
Members of the group are:
- Professor Samantha Twiselton, Director of the Sheffield Institute for Education (SIoE) at Sheffield Hallam University;
- Sir Daniel Moynihan, CEO of the Harris Federation;
- Dr Louise Walker, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Peer Mentor Co-ordinator in the School of Mathematics at the University of Manchester;
- Judith O’Kane OBE, Executive Principal of Melland High School and Director of Education at Bright Futures Educational Trust;
- Daisy Christodoulou, Research and development manager at ARK.
Sadly, this is nothing short of a scandalous selection of political appointments, the majority of whom have little if any meaningful experience of ITT.
Thankfully, Sam Twiselton and Judith O’Kane – two strong women I’ve heard – are on the panel. I hope they will add some sanity to discussions. I have no problem with their appointments.
Firstly, Daniel Moynihan (remember him – he’s the CEO who earns north of £320k and can’t even find time to fill in his own profile on his own website). He has some pretty scary views on education that you can read here. The performance of his own organisation in turning around ‘failing schools’ is equally poor. You can read about that here. What’s his main qualification? Lord Harris, whose company he works for, is a close friend of David Cameron and his companies have donated a little over £2m to the Tory party in recent years. What’s in this appointment for Moynihan I wonder? An online PGCE run by his organisation? Don’t bet against it.
Daisy Christodoulou is a well known and controversial figure in education. Since the demise of Katherine Birbalsingh she seems to be the new Tory female ‘expert’ on education that is wheeled out on occasions such as these. Research and development director for ARK, let’s hope her contribution to this review is more productive and positive than her book which has been heavily criticised by many and contains more myths than it seeks to dispel. What’s her main experience in ITT? She did the Teach First programme. She’s also written a short article for The Spectator on a related issue (but really all she was doing was promoting her book). That’s good enough it seems. However, Daisy seems amply qualified when considered against the next reviewer.
This leaves us with Louise Walker. What’s her background. A quick read of her profile at the University of Manchester (and it didn’t take long) reveals that her research interests are ‘geometries and graphs related to finite simple groups’. Yep, that’s it! Apparently she teaches on three units and has a grand sum of three co-written publications, the last of which was in 2006 and none of which have anything at all to do with ITT). Here’s a link to the third part of the ‘saga’ (sounds like Lord of the Rings doesn’t it, but without the plot, characters, setting or, in fact, anything hobbit-like at all). It begins:
The main object of our attentions is G, the point-line collinearity graph of G. Here we shall be concentrating almost exclusively upon D3(a), the third disc of a ¡ a is a fixed point of G. For further details, background and notation, not to mention statements of the main theorems we are endeavouring to prove, see Sections 1 and 2.
I hope you are staying awake class? If I was Louise, I’d step down from this appointment out of embarrassment. I’m sure she is a great mathematician and leads the undergraduate programme at the university brilliant. But she has no experience or expertise in initial teacher education.
So, 60% of his panel have no experience in initial teacher training at all. So, why have they been chosen? That’s a good question and one that I would urge you to ask Nicky Morgan via Twitter. Sam Freedman, Gove’s ex-advisor and now research director at Teacher First, when asked yesterday by myself about these appointments, said that ‘it’s a good group of people with innovative ideas about ITT’. However, good ideas without experience of the sector is a recipe for disaster. I’ve got good ideas about loads of stuff but I’d never want to sit on a Government review. There has to be an alternative agenda here and I think anyone who has followed policy in this area for more than a few months will know what this is.
My only hope is that their report will be completely ignored, being published as it will be in December in the run up to the next general election. Whilst I respect two of the appointments, the remaining 60% of the panel have no credibility in this sector and deserve no serious attention from those submitting evidence to the panel. If Nicky Morgan has any sense, she should immediately dismiss them and find some people with appropriate expertise, independent minds and innovative ideas for ITT. Here’s one suggestion from me – Andy Jones, ex-Dean of the Faculty of Education at MMU, but now working at a private agricultural university in Shropshire who has bucket loads of experience in this area, no political axe to grind and no vested interests either.
Really Andrew it’s not that hard to find good people if you look carefully and don’t get bullied by DfE officials and ministers.