If Michael Gove wants charities to support schools, he needs to put his money where his mouth is.
I work for a charity. It is not a cuddly charity though: you won’t find people gladly emptying their purses because we’ve shown them a picture of a cute animal or a starving child. For the people we work with, our work is important; but to most it’s mundane, and mundane doesn’t pull at heartstrings.
The Government also says our work is important. So important, in fact, that it sees us as a crucial provider of support to schools.
Lord Nash – one of Mr Gove’s education ministers – recently told the House of Lords that the Government is committed to the area of the curriculum that we deal with. Defending that commitment, he pointed to us and other organisations that already ‘offer a range of support to teachers’.
We do. But it costs money.
Charities are also spending a lot of unpaid time and energy advising government departments in the absence of experienced civil servants (government cuts, remember). The Big Society idea appears to have been not much more than Government washing its hands of huge chunks of responsibility and culling its experts. The expertise that Mr Gove’s education system needs now lies outside of government.
But the Government can’t let go. Politicians are meddling with the system more than ever. The new National Curriculum, for example, has been widely criticised for the lack of professional input to its design. As ASCL leader Brian Lightman put it:
‘Drafting a curriculum is a highly specialised and professional task. Unlike previous versions of the national curriculum, which were drafted with a heavy involvement of teachers and school leaders, these proposals have been driven and closely directed by politicians without that professional input.’
The Government can’t have it both ways. It’s still under the delusion that people can do more with less, but we can’t. If it really wants us to fill the holes it’s created, it needs to give us the proper support to do so. Mr Gove and his ilk must stop believing that struggling charities can support their flagship public services for nothing.