“Tailored pathways” in English education: Guardian Diary 31 Aug 2011

Letter to Michael Gove, Education Secretary featured in Guardian Diary 31 August http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/aug/30/stephen-bates-diary-michael-gove Perhaps he will now reply

Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Education
Sanctuary Buildings
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BT                                                                                          17 June 2011

As the first Education Secretary for many years to be a professional writer, you may be interested to read the following wondrous passage from material on your Department’s website. I discovered it by accident while searching for something else.

“Nine different tailored curriculum pathways are offered at Key Stage 4 at a maintained school in the south of England. Each pathway is tailored to suit certain abilities and interests. In addition to the core curriculum, the pathways all offer a different selection of extra GCSE subjects for pupils to choose from, or a particular focus – such as a BTEC in Sports Sciences or Performing Arts – or a more vocational slant such as a college-linked course in engineering.”

To be totally fair, this passage was not produced by your Department but by the New Schools Network. But it has your Department’s imprimatur, and indeed it is offered as a model passage for applicants seeking to form a free school.

Personally, I would reject out of hand any applicant who promised to create a “tailored pathway.” There are many possible attributes of a pathway, but being tailored is not one of them. (Or is it meant to be lined with tweed or worsted?) Not content with being tailored, this remarkable pathway also provides both a core, like an apple or like the Earth, and a focus, like an optical instrument, and indeed a slant, although any common or garden pathway can be set on a slant.

This is the finest mangled metaphor I have seen since Labour’s 2010 election supremo, Peter Mandelprop, claimed that the Tories would pull the rug from under the bumpy road to recovery.

To be serious, this kind of writing suggests that the author has lost all connexion with the meaning of words, an alarming attribute in anyone with responsibility for education.

Richard Heller

31. August 2011 by rkh
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