- Posted by Josh Cronin
- On 9th January 2012
In an unprecedented move, the new UK government has announced that the Minister for Education will be the scouse comedian, John Bishop.
This announcement has come as a shock to the entire education community with political commentators also questioning the appointment. Although no one can question the comedian’s ability to make people laugh, there are significant misgivings about his inexperience and lack of relevant credentials to take the UK’s education system to another level where it may compete with innovative countries such as Finland, Hong Kong and Canada.
One opponent to the appointment, who cannot be named for legal reasons said:
“…This is an absolute joke. We will become the laughing stock of the education world. What does this man know about inspired leadership, learning methodology and the many social challenges that teachers currently face in our classrooms. So what if education becomes more enjoyable and entertaining. Children go to school to learn – not to have fun…”
This is a view shared by many ministers and leaders in education who feel that the key to managing behaviour in schools is firm discipline and focus on traditional subjects such as reading, writing and mathematics.
This afternoon, one of John Bishop’s supporters from the JOKE Union (Just OK Education) responded with the following statement at a hastily arranged press conference Live at the Apollo:
“…I admit that John is not a qualified teacher and has never taught formally before. He has never worked in educational establishments and, in fact, he did not spend much of childhood at school.
However, his observations of society are very accurate and he builds a strong rapport with people from all walks of life. He realises that there is much more to education than literacy and numeracy, although he understands how important it is for all children to acquire these skills in order to become economically independent.
John is a strong believer that all children should find and nurture the many talents that they each possess to help them lead responsible, rewarding and enjoyable lives for the benefit of themselves, their family and friends and the wider community which they belong to…”
First of all, I hope that my namesake, the other John Bishop, does not take legal action over defamation of character by association with the position in question. Secondly, I am pretty sure that he would not accept the role if it were ever offered to him.
I am trying to understand what qualities are needed to lead the teaching and learning profession during this time of significant change. In business terms, it is rarely someone from the grass roots of an organisation who masterminds a programme of transformational change, with CEOs of large firms often switching industry sectors because they have an experienced skill set which often includes inspired leadership. This skill set does not necessarily have to include any specific knowledge or understanding of the products or service being offered.
Personally, I would like to see Stephen Fry bring his passion for learning to the role and watch him quietly go about his business, attracting disciples along the way, like he has done so successfully with his award winning “Q.I.” television series. His thirst for knowledge, combined with humility and humour, would make him both a stimulating and popular choice. In particular, his capacity to acknowledge and appreciate interests and opinions different to his own, as evident in his recent appearance on “I’ve Never Seen Star Wars” where he had his ear pierced and took part in a boxing session, would make his suitability for the role very compelling indeed.
If we can return to scousers with an excellent sense of humour, surely Sir Ken Robinson would be on many people’s short list for the role of Education Minister. His credentials and beliefs speak for themselves and he would have the emotional intelligence required to work the political arena as well as the educational one. One may argue that the role would stifle his own imagination and this is something that should be avoided if we are to continue to benefit from his current impact on innovation, creativity and education. And I am not convinced that he would want to trade in his LA lifestyle for the many trials and tribulations that would undoubtedly accompany the role.
It is a strongly held belief that the culture and ethos of schools are a direct reflection of their headteachers. By implication, this would suggest that the leadership from Whitehall has an influence on the performance, emotions and attitudes of headteachers. Regardless of political uncertainty and the state of flux we are experiencing, what remains crucial is the positive impact that headteachers can have on the lives of children within their care.
The significance of this role should never be underestimated and, more importantly, undermined by passing trends or whatever happens to be flavour of the month. Every child is unique and, by implication, so is every school. Headteachers know what is in the best interest of their pupils and must act accordingly, without waiting for validation by or agreement from any higher authority.
Many fans of Arsenal Football Club have been critical of Arsene Wenger for not compromising his beliefs about how his side should play the game. They have been commended for the style of football they play but have been unable to secure any significant silverware since winning the FA Cup in 2005. Some “experts” would prefer Arsenal to spend money in the transfer market to bring established players into the side, as opposed to developing young talent through their academy system. When Arsene hangs up his coaching boots, the one thing that he can be content with as he enjoys his retirement is that he stayed true to his own beliefs, regardless of what was happening around him, at other clubs and in the world of football as a whole.
My own football career never really took off. I was very good at underperforming and using the poor performance of my many managers as an excuse for not committing fully to what I could achieve on the pitch. This is something that I still regret. I never made it to being a professional football player. I have committed to not making the same mistake again.