Orwellian equation: satisfactory = unsatisfactory

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27 January 2012


The right-wing Tory Government appointed a new chief inspector of English schools this month. He is Sir Michael Wilshaw, formerly principal (that is, head) of Mossbourne Academy school in the inner London Borough of Hackney.


According to a report by Fran Abrams in the UK’s Guardian newspaper on 24 January 2012, Wilshaw has not set out to endear himself to teachers.


He apparently maintains that good head teachers would never be loved by their staff, adding: “If anyone says to you that staff morale is at an all-time low, you know you are doing something right.”


Michael Gove, the Tory Education Secretary, who appointed Wilshaw, has described him as a “hero”.  Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary from the waste-of-space “Labour” opposition party, has declared himself equally happy with the appointment.


Teachers themselves, unsurprisingly, are less than delighted. One poster compares Wilshaw to a South American dictator. Another critic said: “The lunatics have taken over the asylum.”


Wilshaw’s department is responsible for visiting schools to check standards, after which the schools are given a rating.  In an Orwellian touch, Mr Wilshaw has allegedly decreed that in future a “satisfactory” rating will be regarded as “unsatisfactory”.


Wilshaw also believes that his department should look at whether head teachers were being too generous to failing teachers when allocating performance-related pay.


In her report, Fran Abrams gives an account of a visit to Wilshaw’s former school: “Walking through Mossbourne Academy’s long, high, glass atrium you have to speak in whispers, for every classroom door is left open to reveal rows of neatly uniformed children, heads-down in concentration. You could literally hear a pen drop.”


Rules matter here, says Abrams.


Discuss (using Anglo-Saxon expressions, where possible). Write on both sides of the paper. Answers should be not more than 300 pages long.




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