Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Jobs From Hell News- Sir Digby

Taxpayer value- Sir Digby Jones outside the Ritz for the Advantage West Midlands Property breakfast... Sir Dig's fee was not disclosed

We've blogged the job from hell that is state school head teaching before (eg see here and here). The government micro-manages your job, expects you to implement and explain the impossible, and then blames you when it all goes belly up.

Which is why so many excellent head teachers are in despair, getting out as quickly as possible, and leaving a recruitment crisis in their wake. And why the government is about to take the desperate step of appointing heads from outside teaching altogther (here).

Now, self-appointed education expert Sir Digby Jones has waded in. As you may recall, Sir Digby is the portly gentleman whose choices on Desert Island discs included Bryan Adams' Robin Hood song. He chose it because "Well... everything I do, I do it for you"; which tells you a lot about what goes on inside the head of this self-promotion expert.

He's recently been appointed Gordo's "skills envoy", which allows him to tour the radio and TV studios ranting on about Britain's appalling "skills gap", how the workers are all feckless, and how schools and employers are letting everyone down by not providing enough business training.

Today he says "a generation of "cotton wool kids" are applying for jobs without any leadership or entrepreneurial skills. He blames a raft of politically-correct policies imposed by head teachers, including sports days which have been banned to stop children being stigmatised as "losers" if they come last."

And he quotes all the usual examples:

"Head teachers have forced children to wear goggles when playing conkers and outlawed the backstroke in case pupils hit each other in the swimming pool. A survey of science teachers recently revealed that 87 per cent had not allowed students to take part in experiments in case they were injured.

"We hear of school sports days where there are no winners for fear of causing permanent damage to the self-esteem and emotional development of the 'losers'. One of my colleagues at the CBI told me that when his eight-year-old was winning a race he was instructed to hold back to give his fellow competitors the chance to catch up.

There have even been reports of schools banning ball games and teachers refusing to referee matches for fear of the consequences of injury."

Now, we all agree that such a culture of risk aversion "is potentially fatal to our economics and social wellbeing". And it also no doubt goes a long way to explain the failure of our cricketers, footballers, athletes, tennis players etc etc.

But the question is who is to blame?

For the last forty years, state schools have had to deal with an avalanche of social engineering wibble crashing down on them from on-high. Inclusion directives, cotton wool directives, wiping noses directives, we-know-best directives... and under Blair it has reached levels few can withstand.

Laying into head teachers is laying into the wrong target altogether. All Dig will achieve is to drive even more of them over the edge.

Now Dig isn't dim, so why would have have singled out the head teachers rather than his friends among the ruling elite in Westminster and Whitehall? Lets' see...


I wonder if it might have anything to do with the fact they pay his wages? Well, on the face of it, no. He specifically refused a fee so he could maintain his "independence".

But then, we all know that's not quite how these things work. By staying close to government, Dig has "access". And access always means money (see his many corporate "advisory" appointments here).

And then there's his partner in this- Heads, Teachers and Industry, an "education charity" (President Sir D Jones). As a charity you assume it's totally arms length from government.

Except that.... well, looking at their website, you find the charity has a partner organisation in the form of a trading company- the HTI Leadership Centre. And the Centre is most definitely not arms length from government. In fact, they boast about just how many government contracts they have:

"The HTI Leadership Centre is involved in the delivery of a number of government-funded professional development programmes, regionally and nationally, on behalf of the NCSL, including:

The National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH)
Head for the Future
Headteachers Induction Programme (
National Remodelling Training (
Leading from the Middle (
Leadership Pathways (
Developing Capacity for Sustained Improvement (
Working Together for Success (

Quite a list- must bring in a bob or two, especially when augmented by renting out their plush West Midlands conference facilities to other government organisations and quangos.

It is yet another example of the concealed mutual dependency that has become so damaging to British public life (see Guido).

As for Dig, he's just an old-fashioned corporatist, the sort Ted Heath used to go in for. At root, his solution to our "skills gap" is yet more taxpayers money. Despite the fact that we're already spending around £10bn pa on the government's hopeless skills industry (eg see this blog and this).

It won't work Dig. What Britain needs is school independence and parental choice, not yet more public money and head teacher bashing.

If everything you do, you really are doing for us, maybe you could do that one little thing we'd all like.

Just shut the eff up.

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