Obscurity on Ofsted will only damage education

3 Feb 2014

Running a public body, I imagine, is a hard job and something that some even in the highest positions cannot manage. That said, there are those who do a very good job at it. Over the past few days, there have been accusations from the outgoing Chair of Ofsted, Baroness Morgan, that the government is playing party politics with our education system. The Baroness, a Labour Peer in the House of Lords, has accused the Coalition of appointing the organisation's new chair on party loyalties to the Tories. If this proves to be true, it would not only cause a stir in the world of politics and education alike, but would surely be against the law. Although discrimination laws do not cover party politics, there would be some questions to be answered about political parties favouring their own, as opposed to someone from the opposition, for public appointments. Nevertheless, this would be hard to prove.

 

Despite this, Baroness Morgan has a point. If we are to have an education system fit to teach kids who may one day fulfil high ambitions, we want a person that is up to the job of keeping high standards within schools. It is important that an Ofsted leader has the experience and credentials to maintain a good education for young people, not just reinforce party loyalties.

To put it into a situation that is familiar to me, I would not recruit a volunteer just because they were my friend. In the same way, Michael Gove should not appoint a chair of a public body just because they are in the same political party as himself. It would be wrong for the children in the schools, but also fundamentally corrupt. Is this what we want our children and future generations to be taught is right? In schools that are regulated by Mr Gove’s circle of friends, I don’t think so.

Despite this, the Coalition makes a good point, in that many of their appointments to high posts have been from the opposition. To name one other, the incoming Chief Executive of the National Health Service is an advisor to the Labour Party. This is progress, but it needs to be set in stone that Michael Gove is not using party links to appoint a new chair. This I have yet to see. If he knows that he is not doing what Baroness Morgan alleges, what is he afraid of? Why not release the names of who is up for the job?

I accept that there are issues with this, but this is the only way that we can be 100% sure that he is being transparent. There is, however, the chance that the Baroness may be playing party politics somewhat herself. Overall, there may not be an answer to this debate, what would put a spanner in the works is if Mr Gove decides to actually appoint someone from either the Liberal Democrats or Labour however. This would prove, once and for all, that he is not up to his usual tricks. A child’s education is valuable, even though the Education Secretary may not realise it. Please Mr Gove, don’t play games with this.

Backbench Minister for Education

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