The irony of her attack was that her whole philosophy was based on the notion of vested interest. Greed was good, there was no such thing as society and everyone became a consumer. Schools entered the marketplace, and parents accordingly shopped around.So appealing was this philosophy that Tony Blair has never questioned it. Choice and the needs of the individual are still the buzzwords in any policy document We all want the best for our children. The difficulty with getting the market to deliver is that markets require the weak to go to the wall.
In other words, the people who produce the worst products fail. As children are the only product in the education system, that means that the least successful schools and the least successful pupils will fail.After 20 years of a consumerist philosophy, a public-sector mentality is beginning to kick back And it is different; it has to be. For a public service to survive we have to accept that, for example, rural buses will always be uncompetitive, and that poor children need money thrown at them. We may never send a letter to Penzance or Plockton in our lives, but people live there and their service needs to be as good, or as bad, as mine in London, irrespective of cost.This, then, was the lesson teachers were trying to give Estelle Morris at Easter. If you want a decent education system, you have to pay for it. But the subtext of that message was even more important, and significantly different from my conference days in the Eighties.
In a strange way the unions may just have learned their lesson from Thatcher. In arguing their case they were in effect saying: “We are all in this together; parents, children, teachers alike.” There is no “us and them” any more, or perhaps more accurately, “you and me”. There is only what “we” want, what we really, really want, as a society.Whether the withdrawal of labour will achieve this is a moot point. But in a democracy we have to have some mechanism for challenging the powers that be. The essence of democracy is not whether or not we can vote, but whether we can get rid of a government once it is there, or dissent from the prevailing view. The question remains; as Thatcher has now gone silent, can a truly collective voice be heard again?The writer is a lecturer in education at King’s College Londoneducation independent.co.uk.
I was recently asked to help judge a primary school’s annual writing competition Afterwards I wanted to go home and put my head in the oven. Afterwards I wanted to go home and put my head in the oven.
Not that the children’s work was bad On the contrary Most wrote with style and enthusiasm. But their subject was “A Memorable Day”, and the memorable days for many of these children were, quite simply, heart-breaking. Story after story told of family break-up and domestic upheaval.