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Does Newsnight want Michael Gove to run Scotland's schools?

Did you watch Newsnight Scotland last Thursday (BBC2)? If not, courtesy of iPlayer, you can catch it here at least for the next few days. The first 7 minutes is an excellent film report, followed by what was supposed to be studio discussion, with Keir Bloomer and Ken Cunningham (School Leaders Scotland) in Glasgow and Alex Massie of the Spectator in Edinburgh. But it was discussion so strongly led and stage-managed by Gordon Brewer that I was left wondering if he wants Michael Gove to run Scotland's schools.

Because I was away at the IPG conference, I watched it for the first time yesterday, and, with mounting disbelief, again today. Gordon Brewer had a clear agenda, and seemed to go well beyond the role of chairman in order to promote his own enthusiasm for league tables and for punishing "failing schools". Alex Massie of the Spectator was his willing accomplice, and clearly Gordon Brewer knew he could count on his support. A habitual interrupter of almost interviewee, Gordon Brewer even interrupted himself to bring in Alex Massie to agree with him.

Considering that the item was created and broadcast in Scotland, just after the publication of a major report, you might have expected it to address how to improve Scotland's schools. In fact, with under 3 minutes remaining, Keir had to interrupt Gordon Brewer to suggest that the panel should talk about Scottish education.


Students of media studies might view this programme carefully when considering the role and techniques of a neutral chairman. Here are some verbatim quotations from Gordon Brewer: "England has come from behind and is now ahead - that's the bottom line on this ..." and he interrupts Keir's response to say "The way to make that distinction is by doing what they do in England which is by using school league tables". Keir then suggests discussion of Scottish schools, rather than English, and Gordon Brewer interrupts again to insist on his league tables as the only way forward, and breaks in again to assert that "On average, it's working in England" - as if all failing English schools have been turned around by outside interventions. And he quotes from his own experience and perceptions while working in London.

Gordon Brewer is of course entitled to his personal enthusiasm for league tables and labelling failing schools. But did he really want to listen to, or even to hear, what his invited panellists had to say?


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 11, 2013 6:51 PM.

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