Stealing people’s dreams

First published June 2012

I came late to blogging.  Friends and colleagues would probably say that I’ve never been short of an opinion, but I’ve not really felt I’ve got much to say, or much authority to say it, since I left the Arts Council a couple of years ago.  Actually, I sit here reading the Guardian every day (thank God, or someone, for  the Guardian), snorting in fury at the antics of those who purport to govern us, hurling shouts of despair at the television news, and I do share things on Facebook, and tweet occasionally, so I thought it was perhaps time I joined the lay commentariat with a full-blown blog.   

Today I find myself preoccupied by a couple of issues in the education supplement of the Guardian, including one by Fiona Millar about the need for a middle layer between schools and government to drive school improvement.  Hmmm. Any guesses as to what might fill that role?   It’s already drawn quite a bit of comment on the Guardian’s website.  Check it out at http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jun/18/schools-local-education-authority-control

I’m not sure why I’m so exercised by what Michael Gove is doing to education.  It’s probably the time I spent at the late-lamented Creative Partnerships programme at the Arts Council. I don’t have children of my own, but I really worry about young people’s future.   At the Yorkshire regional Labour Party conference a couple of weekends ago, I asked Ed Balls, in a session on the economy, for his views on the link between education and the economy, and the need to get it right – and now.  It’s obvious that a generation of young people whose education allows them to be creative, confident and aspirational will be significant players in the economy of the future.  Ed Balls responded that when he went into schools and asked particularly switched-on heads to take him into a couple of classes that really mattered, they’d typically take him into a science class, and then they’d take him to a dance or drama session, and insist that these classes were giving young people all the skills for fulfilling careers. Ed Balls said that for political reasons, tackling Michael Gove and the mess he’s making of education is not the right thing to do just now; there are other things that have to be put right first.  But they will, they say.  

In the meantime, I’m reminded of a line from a novel by Australia’s national treasure Elizabeth Jolley.  In The Newspaper of Claremont Street, the main character Weekly, a cleaner, is upset about those who keep other people awake at night.  “Them’s stealing people’s dreams”, she says.  Well, that’s what I think Michael Gove is doing, too.

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