‘Pob’ v ‘Blob’: Who is winning the hearts and minds of teachers?

The May 2014 Salon was a discussion of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s war against ‘The Blob’ –  his name for  left wing teachers and teacher trainers.

Our speaker, teacher and author, Toby Marshall, writes:

“In 2010 the UK Coalition set out a programme of significant educational reform. In the ‘Foreward’ to its first white paper ‘The Importance of Teaching Education’ Education Secretary Michael Gove argued that England’s school system was unjust as it failed to off…er high educational standards to all and in doing so it reinforced rather challenged social inequalities. Tacking the “grim fatalism” of those who believe that “deprivation must be destiny”, argued Gove, is “the great progressive cause of our times”.

On assuming power Gove, and his cohort, identified those who they felt were responsible. They named them the Blob, a nexus of left wing educationalists, clustered primarily in university departments of education, with a reach that extended into Local Education Authorities, government Quangos, as well as the teacher trade unions.

Within weeks Gove and his cohort set about attacking the Blob, shifting teacher training away from university departments of education, closing down multiple government quangos and promoting the expansion of union and LEA busting Academies and Free Schools (which report directly to the Department for Education, set the own employment conditions and now constitute more than 50 percent of secondaries).

This year Gove’s mission would seem to be complete, just in time for the next General Election. In September a new National Curriculum for England will be introduced, with a Blob-busting focus on facts, truth, knowledge and traditional academic subjects.

So with all of this furious activity can it be said that Michael Gove’s has achieved his objectives? The Blob has certainly attempted to frustrate his ambitions, deriding him, slow hand clapping him, likening him to that irritating children’s TV puppet Pob. But in what practical and concrete terms can it be said that the Blob has achieved its objectives. More teachers than ever are now being taught outside of universities – indeed they no longer even need to be formally trained – LEA’s are increasingly marginal and Gove’s restorationist curriculum of traditional academic standards goes live this September.

And yet, at the same time, it also feels that Pob’s victories over the Blob are Pyrrhic. Yes school standards and the structures have been radically changed, but does Pob, and his small cohort of right wing policy wonks, stand alone on the battle field? Have they won over the hearts and minds of England’s teachers? Will their curriculum be subverted, or ignored, in practice? And what use are new school structures and incentives when that most precious of all educational resources – energised and freshly trained new teachers – are now quitting at alarming, and highly costly, rates?”