Strategy and Tactics

Francis Gilbert’s latest post is about how concentrating on good teaching, rather than creating academies, is what really improves schools

Here is my response:

This article seems to be suggesting that the strategy behind the introduction of academies was to improve the quality of general educational provision in this country. This is to confuse strategy, “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim”, with tactics which refers to how one orders or arranges these actions “especially during contact with an enemy” (definitions from The strategy was never anything but the breaking up of the publicly owned and publicly accountable state system of education. One central tactic of this strategy was to present itself to the public as a well-meaning desire to improve standards. As noted in this article it has done no such thing. Nonetheless the long-term or overall aim, the strategy, is moving ahead nicely. It is the same distinction that Ken Loach draws attention to in talking about ‘austerity’ in the UK: “Judged by its own stated goals, government (austerity) policy isn’t working – borrowing will be around £61.5billion higher than planned. Of course the reality is that austerity policies are actually designed to dismantle the welfare state, bring down wages and fully marketise the economy, destroying all the social and economic gains of ordinary people since the second world war. So from the government point of view the policies are working.”

4 comments on “Strategy and Tactics

  1. The great thing about a conspiracy theory is that nobody can argue against it, because any evidence against it can be explained away as being part of the conspiracy.

    But why should anybody believe it?

    • “The conspiracy theorists must also include the New Schools Network and Policy Exchange. Their report ‘Blocking the Best’, published before the last election said for-profit schools were on the cards – all that was needed was for schools to be made ‘independent’ (as academies and free schools are) and they could outsource running the school to for-profit providers (as happened with IES Breckland).
      And the conspiracy theorists must also include Michael Gove, who supported ‘Blocking the Best’ and said he would be happy if Serco ran schools.
      At the same time, the academies programme moves schools from the stewardship of local authorities to control from the DfE via their funding agreements.”
      Janet Downs

  2. Note the progression here:
    A. The academies/free schools program is driven by a wish to break up the UK’s publicly funded and publicly accountable state system of education
    B. This is a ‘conspiracy theory’
    A. Here is evidence that this is indeed an explicitly stated intention (it even includes allowing for-profit providers) i.e. it’s not a ‘theory’: the motivation behind the academies program is clear from the ‘Blocking the Best’ report.
    B. OK, it’s not a ‘conspiracy theory’ but the more blatent money-grubbing aspects of it all haven’t happened yet (very much) so why must we dwell on the clearly stated intentions of some of the key architects of all this school reform?
    A. “I’m more interested in unravelling the plans of these people.”
    Thomas Cromwell (BBC. Wolf Hall. Episode 4)

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