Haringey Council shows how not to provide educational vision

Having a vision for an important public service is a good thing, whether you are the sort of person who laps up visions for breakfast or the sort of person who hankers for a golden pre-jargon age when vision meant something to do with your eyes. Either way, knowing what you actually are trying to achieve overall is what saves you from drowning in detail and being blown every which way by passing events.

So the concept of a local council drafting a vision statement for education in its area is fine. The problem with Haringey Council’s attempt is the content.

If it wants children in Haringey to learn how to be repetitive, unnecessarily wordy, full of jargon and yet elusively vague about what they really mean, then the vision document is sure to be a handy guide.

If, on the other hand, Haringey Council wants children to be well-educated, able to express themselves concisely, avoiding gratuitous jargon and being specific about what they really want, then let’s hope the children don’t get any ideas from the vision statement.

It may only be a draft, but it’s dreadful.

Where there are hints of substance, it’s very doubtful that they really mean what they say. Take this, for example:

[We] will not rule out any option where it provides an opportunity for success.

Any option? Even if it involves a Michael Gove pet-project, selection, privatisation in some form or more private funding? Or even all four at once? I doubt very much that’s what Haringey’s Labour councillors really mean. A more honest and meaningful vision would be to say:

We will try our hardest to make work the educational policies of the party which runs this council.

That would at least mean something, whether you agree with it or not. But saying you’ll consider any option is only something you should do if you mean it. Really mean it.

And what do you think Labour’s reaction would be if someone were to suggest, say, closing several state schools in the borough and instead sending the children to private schools? Insist that as per the vision they won’t rule it out, or rule it out immediately as unthinkable?

Then there are the questions people are being asked about the draft, including:

We want our schools to compete with the best in the country. Do you agree with this…?

That’s either impressively pointless (who is going to say, “no, it’s wrong for our schools to be the best”?) or suggests a fanatical sect of 1970s ultra-left caricatures holding out in some dark corner of the council demanding that the cult of achievement be overthrown and Haringey lead the way to revolution by insisting on mediocrity. It’s a meaningless question that is pointless to answer.

If that’s the best Haringey Council can do, pity the teachers, the schools and the children.

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