We have become used to the sad spectacle of the homeless, begging money from us as we pass through city streets that, for them, never will be paved with gold. Perhaps, Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, skipped over one as she entered her new home at the Department for Education in Great Smith Street, London. If so, it might just have been the inspiration for her new initiative to improve our schools.
This initiative consists of sending out a begging letter, under the “Conservatives” banner, asking party members if they can give her 20 quid to support the great work the Conservative Party is doing for the education service. ‘”Every child deserves a great education and the chance to get on in life…donate £20 today,” she pleads. Perhaps, she had the local ‘down and outs’ in mind when she added that, “We have to keep going to secure a better future for our children and grandchildren.”
Her bizarre letter seems to suggest that kids these days have never had it so good even if we do, now, need to cough up some cash to keep things going in the right direction.
This sense of self-congratulation is endemic in the world of education. The reality is rather less rosy. The UK performs poorly on international league tables of educational attainment, even lagging well behind developing countries such as Vietnam. Employers complain on a regular basis about too many illiterate, innumerate and unemployable school leavers. Examination grade inflation reached record heights under the Coalition Government. Many universities these days have to run remedial courses for undergraduates.
The previous Education Secretary, Michael Gove, certainly had the desire to improve matters but his ideas proved so toxic with the educational establishment, he had to be sacked. Clearly, Nicky Morgan is being directed by her political bosses, but does she need to be quite so supine in their clutches?
Her begging letter is an embarrassment. It is likely to bring scorn and ridicule upon her head. Already, I am beginning to feel a twinge of sympathy for her. She should not have to resort to begging. Her job is a rotten one and this is a rotten time to be doing it. Last week’s front page of “The Big Issue” was headlined, “What’s school for?” It is question that the Education Secretary may well be asking herself.
Any depressed and lonely MP whose own political ambitions may have been thwarted should consider poor Nicky sitting in her office at that entrenched bastion of failure, the Department for Education – trying to negotiate the terms of her Government’s surrender to the educational establishment, the ‘Blob’, and trying to look cheerful about it.
As the old song says:
“…how can you tell me you’re lonely,
And say for you that the sun don’t shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind.”
If ever a politician inherited a poison chalice, that politician is the Right Honourable Member for Loughborough, Nicky Morgan.