Gove Gone

Michael Gove, arguably one of the most divisive Education Secretaries in history, is gone. No longer Secretary of State, David Cameron reshuffled the hell out of him this week and like a crap football team, Gove was relegated to the position of Chief Whip.

By the looks of things, many teachers found out via Twitter and like a lot of news consumers, I too found out on the social media site. The unadulterated hatred for Gove has been existent during his whole tenure. I mean videos of him falling over were already made while he was still in the job, let alone demoted.

While tales of teachers whooping, fist-pumping, and planning parties spread across the Twitterverse, I waited for the announcement of his replacement. I knew it would be a woman (Cameron is aware of the general election hurtling towards him and he’s trying to play image for the electorate) so when relative unknown Nicky Morgan assumed the role, I wasn’t entirely surprised. While many mourned the loss of Gove, and more still rejoiced, I wondered how much of a good thing this actually was, and whether anyone would believe, as ferociously as Gove did, that children from an estate could do just as well as any other child.

New Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan

I read many pieces about Mr Gove’s demise, but three stood out as the very best for me: this by John Elledge in the New Statesman, a very good blog post by Cazzy Pot, and this Sp!ked piece by a lecturer at my alma mater the University of Kent. News of Gove’s surprise move was all over the media, including broadcast. It was while listening to a radio show that I heard a caller – a teacher – ring in to give her thoughts on the matter. After the presenter corrected her a few times, he went on to tell her that Mr Gove had been brought up on a council estate, to which she replied:

Well he doesn’t seem to reflect that in the way that he talks about education

I went ballistic.

As far as I’m aware and as pointed out in the excellent pieces that I’d read on his departure, Michael Gove was committed to improving standards in education and making sure children from less privileged backgrounds maximised their potential. His methods may have been rubbish, but I’m not in education so can’t quite judge. What’s important is that the radio caller’s comments referring to the way Gove “talks about education” illustrates perfectly why his crusade was a worthy one.

How pray tell do council estate dwellers talk about education? God forbid that anybody from an estate could ever talk about raising standards, or would focus on improving literacy and numeracy. No. We’re far too scummy.

My best guess as to why that woman couldn’t believe that Gove was anything other than a private school-Tory-by-default-posho? Too many, including faux liberals, still believe that children from a disadvantaged/ poor background have no aspirations. We don’t have books on our shelves, we have televisions wider than the wingspan of albatrosses, and nobody helps us with our homework when we get home. At least this is the spiel propagated time and time again in some media.

Too many people with left leanings think that young, black, poor, females like myself will automatically agree with – or worse, be grateful for – their views. That isn’t the case. Instead I’m faced with the reality that many on the Right despise the disadvantaged and many on the Left patronise the disadvantaged. The question that’s left is who then will defend and believe in those marginalised groups? The one person who had a shot at doing that has been rather unceremoniously reduced in rank.

I believe teaching is one of the most important jobs out there. There probably was no Education Secretary who generated so much hatred as Gove, and I sympathise with the teachers who he so mercilessly and arrogantly antagonised. However I question the decency of people who celebrate somebody’s loss of a job. Typical of life here in the UK: people love to see others fail.

Anybody who has the intent of trying to make sure children from certain sections of society have a shot at being great gets some kudos from me. He probably deserved it, but as one of those estate kids, I can’t help but lament his demise.

 

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My article in the Guardian

Hello.

I’ve been away from this blog since March. My first entry in months is not so much an education blog post, but more of an update: I’ve now written for the Guardian, something I’m extremely proud of and a dream come true.

I’ve given this blog a spring (or maybe summer) clean and I’m happy with the new, more professional, and frankly nicer look. I’ll resume updating this blog regularly, focusing on education rather than media news. The media posts will probably be archived somewhere but I’ll be removing them to give this blog more of a focus.

In the meantime, check out the article here: Want to earn more money? Here’s how to freelance as a student

My new profile on the Guardian website can be found here, under the education section.

Hiatus

Hello to readers who follow or stumble across my blog.

I’m taking a break from writing here, for a month at least. I’m going to work on improving my skills (which includes trying to improve myself at work), increase my education knowledge, and just generally think about how to make a real mark as a writer and broadcast journalist.

I will (probably) from time to time be sharing things that I think are really cool on my tumblr, and writing more personal pieces on that page so please do take a look if interested: winifredflux.tumblr.com

I’ll be back hopefully sometime after Easter.

:)

I Quit My Job and Felt No Way

I handed in my notice at the start of 2014, without confirmation of any replacement role.

Sound crazy? Maybe, but nothing is as crazy as the way my old job at a PR agency made me feel.

Since graduating from a journalism master’s course in 2012, my wish was to work in broadcasting and contribute to making great speech radio. That’s why I have this naff alias, Broadcast Belle.

To attain this dream, I undertook some unpaid work experience just before exam season at a radio station, but I began to quickly run out of money. A girl needs toiletries and payment for public transport so just before my last exam, I left radio and accepted a job at a PR agency, focusing on technology. Those who know me, recognise the incongruity between me, Winifred, and tech. If one looks at me, ‘tech fiend’ would not come to mind. They would be right, on the count of me not giving a damn about technology.

However I took the job and even managed – through some divine act of heaven-sent glory to get promoted. Despite this, there was a persistent thought that niggled at my mind: ‘I don’t actually want to be doing this. Gat damn I want to be a journalist’.

This feeling only intensified after coming back from a placement at the Guardian, which I attended during some tactically taken holiday leave. The kind, wonderful, late Georgina Henry helped me obtain two weeks at the newspaper on the fashion desk, and introduced me to one of the network editors. I will be forever grateful to her, for her gentle, yet unwavering encouragement and help. She was a wonderful woman and one in a million.

After coming back from the plush offices at King’s Cross, I decided that I was going to live my truth. That truth and my mission was to be a journalist, no matter what. PR was not for me: the puffed up language, the meaningless terms (strategy, leverage, moving forward), forcing ‘selling’ a story/angle/product that you have no interest in let alone the journalist you’re harassing.

Please believe that PR professionals deserve A LOT of respect what I’ve just described is not easy, and work life balance is virtually non-existent in that world. The agency I worked at would be great for those who want to start and develop their PR careers. Some individuals thrive on being control freaks and making endless lists, but the low quality of life that came with a PR job was not for me. The radio editor who eventually took a chance on me said it sounded ‘soul destroying’. It was.

In pursuit of my journo ambitions, I juggled working well into the night for my PR job with pitching several newspapers to write original pieces. I eventually received a byline in the Independent online, and continue to contribute articles to this day. When I did get back in touch with the radio peeps, I realised that I’d have to devote weeks of experience in order to hopefully break through. So I quit my PR job for a crack at the BBC.

Handing in my notice without knowing where it was going to lead me felt cathartic, and sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do. When you live being true to yourself, there is less baggage to carry. I grew tired of hearing things that I didn’t believe in. No, digital is not the be all and end all of life. Most regular people don’t know what SoLoMo is, indeed, most people don’t care. We all have lives outside of the internet, thank goodness.

Try telling someone who cleans toilets or works in youth offending that social is the future or that cloud computing the best thing since sliced bread. Most people doing everyday jobs DO NOT CARE, and that’s where the problem lay for me: I did not want to be in an industry that wasn’t really providing some sort of public service. Being a journalist, I can talk to that toilet cleaner, or that youth worker and have a chance to tell their story and if not, then give them a story that resonates with them.

Many people probably think I’ve gone berserk, leaving PR for radio. Journalism is a difficult industry to break into, but I’m not in the habit of thinking negatively and I’m excellent at ignoring people who are not supportive or full of that green bile called jealousy. I have the self belief and determination to go far and it helps that I’m actually very good at turning my hand to nearly anything. There are opportunities and if you’re determined, you will get them. Look at me: I have now began my broadcast journey and gratefully, I haven’t looked back.

Be brave and honest with yourself. If something is making you unhappy, why stick with it? That is madness. Living your truth eventually pays dividends, through personal happiness and life satisfaction, and eventually if you’re lucky like me, payment :)

Broadcast Belle Fact: I came up with my alias after looking for a relevant, punchy name for anonymous blogging. It’s based on my love for radio and was inspired by the syllable count of one of my favourite bloggers, Fleet Street Fox.

Is State School the New Black?

There was (kind of) a lot made this week about Michael Gove being the first Tory education secretary to send his child to a state secondary school. I was surprised but not surprised at the same time. I gained a new-found respect for Mr Gove, as I know exactly what being in an unfortunate state school can mean, and it isn’t the sort of thing I would really wish upon my child. Now they’re not all devoid of classroom control at all, as my two sisters went to an excellent one, but my personal experience wasn’t fab.

Cast your minds back to when there was widespread shock and condemnation on Diane Abbott, as she decided to send her son to a fee paying school. After years of seemingly socialist championing for the state education system, Ms Abbott appeared to do the mother of all hypocritical acts, by instead buying her son the route to a better education. Does this mean Michael Gove has done the inverse? Slightly. Gove, a Conservative politician and education secretary that invites boos and hisses like  a pantomime villain, is doing something quite un-Torlike.

Worryingly, there is a liberal-ese group of society that wishes to piss all over someone’s parade, something I noticed when comments were made about the ‘type’ of state school Gove had chosen. Let me deal with those naysayers who pointed this out about Grey Coat Hospital (the school Gove’s daughter will be attending from September) 

A state school, is a state school. Full stop.

Whether that’s Grey Coat’s, London Oratory (where the Blair sons went), Sacred Heart (where Blair’s daughter went, and where I got rejected *sob*) or the bog standard East End school where I was plonked, a state school is a state school. If one is going to have blind faith in the state schooling system and be good enough to support it, then one should look for the best provider. More often than not, it is a highly selective institution that can provide that sought after quality.

The Grey Coat Hospital: where Michael Gove will be sending his daughter this September.  Image courtesy of www.gch.org.uk

The Grey Coat Hospital: where Michael Gove will be sending his daughter this September.
Image courtesy of http://www.gch.org.uk

This liberal-ese rhetoric of blaming and guilt tripping needs to stop. While Diane Abbott’s embarrassing decision to send her son to a fee paying school stank of hypocrisy, it was also a demonstration of  aspiration, and stop-at-nothing hope for betterment. As a fellow migrant, I recognise the necessary dedication and aspiration one must have when beginning with nothing, and I can imagine that Ms Abbott’s Caribbean heritage mirrors the experience of Africans and migrants in general. An experience where as a visitor, you need to work damn hard to get the best opportunities within reach to achieve an equal footing in your adopted home. If more black people could just afford to do what Ms Abbott did, I’m sure quite a few would.

As such it worries me when certain parts of society judge parents for the schools they choose to send their children. When it became anybody’s business where another adult schooled their child, I do not know, but if you ask the very people who attended state school if they’d consider sending their child elsewhere, I’m sure many would answer with a resounding ‘yes’. Conversely, ask the private school bashers to send their Pippas and Harrys to the local comp, and you’ll probably get a cacophony of excuses and shuffling feet.

Myself, a product of the state system, would judge nobody on the schooling decisions they made for children. In the end, all right thinking individuals want the very best for their children, and if that means packing your offspring to the best education money can buy, then more power to you. The downside to private school (speaking as a child of Hackney pre-gentrification) is the possibility of losing a grip on the real world.

However some parents have enough faith in their children and in the state, to ignore the private route. When this happens, we should not nitpick and critically examine the type of state school selected, but rejoice and think even further, of how to bring up standards in every state school. The issue to be addressed here is how to convince a parent (and sometimes even a child) that paying for education is unnecessary. This is more likely to happen if we have a bustling marketplace of great schools on offer.

Is the tide turning for the humble state school? Perhaps. We now have a new chunk of state schools that are doing amazingly well, particularly in my hometown of Hackney and let’s not forget the brilliant results we find in places such as  London Oratory and Little Miss Gove’s Grey Coat Hospital. However, I don’t believe that the state school is quite the new black: unfortunately private schools will always be en vogue if there aren’t enough state schools that offer the same quality.

Broadcast Belle Fact: Grey Coat Hospital School was originally for boys.

The Merits of Merit

This week my heart soared when I read that three young lads from Newham were on their way to some of the best schools the country has to offer. Ishak Ayiris will be heading to Eton, after landing a two year scholarship through the Pupil Premium, while his fellow schoolmates Irfan Badshah and Alexis Marinoiu, won prestigious scholarships at Winchester and City of London. Today I then read that more schools in England are using ‘lotteries’ to decide on intake. This led me to ask, what is the best way to accept secondary school pupils?

In theory, when a popular, good school is over subscribed, those who decide on intake can apply a lottery system whereby a child’s name is pulled from a ballot. However in practice, is this what happens? I do not work in a school, so can’t say for certain, but to me this does not seem like an effective way of getting into a school. What does it mean for merit? Is it taken into consideration? Who’s to say that these boys would have got into their respective schools, if they were to have relied on a lottery? Any answers to these questions would be gratefully received, because right now I think it’s a bit of an attack against genuine merit. If I can be proved otherwise, why that would be fab.

Stories like Ishak Ayiris’ always strike a chord with me: young, children of migrants, living in some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the UK, unfortunate school. However it demonstrates that your life chances do not always make or break you. There is a softly softly approach to so many things in UK society, including with regards to young people. The world is not fair and trying to force it to be so can stifle aspiration. Sometimes – even if you are a child – you can make your own luck through to hard work. I welcome any opportunity to encourage working diligently. Perhaps this is my youth is speaking (or possibly my bitterness to living too far away from my chosen good secondary), but I think that the best way to admit people in anything, is through merit.

Broadcast Belle fact: Newham is the 15th largest London borough by area

Tough Young Teachers want R-E-S-P-E-C-T

All I’m askin’ is for a little respect…

Aretha Franklin’s rendition of this song was on loop in my mind last week when watching Tough Young Teachers. A show that chronicles the journey of six fresh Teach First recruits, Tough Young Teachers is the latest guilty pleasure of mine in the education reality television genre, after the warm gooeyness that was Educating Yorkshire. Tough Young Teachers makes me cringe more, mostly because I’m watching young people thrust into their first teaching role, and well, just learning as they go along. More cringe worthy are the begging pleas for respect.

I asked blogger, Fullbright scholar, and Teach First alumnus Laura McInerney whether it was normal to hear newbie teachers expecting respect. She said yes. I entered a state of bewilderment.

Why anybody would expect teenagers to respect them the moment they walk into a classroom as a teacher is beyond me. Perhaps it’s because I remember being a teenager (it wasn’t that long ago believe me), and the reality of an inner city, crap struggling school. This isn’t a boarding school in Nigeria my friends – things are rough outchea and respect is rarer than 5 A* to C grades.

What do teachers do to gain respect? I haven’t got the answers; I’m not a teacher, trainee or qualified. However there are a few things that I remember the teachers from school doing, which usually earned the respect (not fear) of my fellow learners:

  • they didn’t try to befriend us
  • they actually taught their subjects well and displayed an interest in what they were teaching
  • they listened to what we had to say
  • they didn’t show fear a.k.a they showed who was the adult

Respect isn’t free, and hopefully the Teach First cohort of this show will learn how true this is when it comes to secondary school children. I’m rooting for them despite their idealistic, somewhat naive outlook at the beginning of the series and I’m looking forward to watching again. Not just because my old ICT teacher Mr Hartnett is on it and I can’t stop laughing at him being on television.

Broadcast Belle fact: Teach First is an educational charity which in July 2013 was reported to be  the biggest recruiter of graduates

Blogs for the Week Ending 18th January 2014

Broadcast Belle:

Always interesting to discover new blogs through this roundup, and it’s always equally nice to find a post of mine included.

Originally posted on The Echo Chamber:

View original 1,475 more words

Wet Playtime

Some of my worst playtimes at school were due to the rain.

Yes this may seem like a random thought, borne out of nowhere after a considerable absence from blogging since before Christmas, but the recent spate of bad floods made me think back to the pitter patter filled playtimes of yesteryear.

Whether it was being made to read books that I’d already read, being able to draw and use crayons for more than our allocated hour a week or so of art class, or fighting with the other children to relish being in the play corner, wet playtime at primary school was always a flurry of busyness. What I want to know today as a 24-year-old woman, is what do children spend wet playtime doing now?

The plethora of technology available especially for children these days means that what is considered a past time nowadays would be thought of as antisocial back in the day. Being glued to devices such as mobiles, tablets and televisions is not only noticeable in adults but also children who haven’t even reached double digits in age. While this is usually the case at home, can the same thing be said at school? I know that laptops are now used in classrooms up and down the country as educational aids, but are they also the go to source of fun during playtimes that have been ruined by rain? While hangman or heads-down-thumbs-up were the most fun things my generation could hope for during a damp break, do children now reach for the digital devices?

Teachers, I’d love to know what your classes do for fun during wet playtime. I’m sure there are a variety of ideas for dealing with rain messing up playtime, as after all, this is England.

BroadcastBelle fact: A Nimbus cloud is the type that produces precipitation.

So You Think You Can Tweet?

Now that the trial of former Lostprophets frontman Ian Watkins is over, I feel safe enough to be able to mention the topic. I am not going to talk about the depravity in this case as I could never cope with doing that, but instead I’m going to talk about the law: in this case media law.

Now,  a strict eye-opening year of learning media law back in uni, coupled with my trusty McNae, equipped me with enough knowledge of how not to be (much of) a twat online. From contempt of court, to anonymity orders, to copyright law, to coroners rules, media law is a minefield –  best believe that’s just the tip of the iceberg –  and statute exists to ensure the smooth running of the justice system. How just this system is, well that’s another conversation which I refuse to look at here, but I digress. What has become increasingly obvious in the world of social media is the distinct lack of awareness to these laws.

Unfortunately Peaches Geldof appears to have not been privy to any of the relevant legislation, as demonstrated by her tweeting while the case was live*. Though she apologised, Peaches may now face criminal charges for naming the two women whose babies were abused by Ian Watkins – the women also happened to be defendants in the case.

We see this a lot of the time in the UK. People get (rightly) outraged by the supposed protection defendants in court cases receive. However this was not the case (excuse the pun) here. These women did not receive anonymity for the sake of it, they received anonymity to protect the identities of their children.

You see, victims and alleged victims of sexual offences, from groping to rape, are granted lifetime anonymity under Section 1 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. That’s the victims. If that means that a defendant isn’t to be named because they are related to that victim (and identifying that relative would thus identify said victim) then the defendant is not to be named.

Make sense?

We’ve seen people on social media platforms be completely ignorant of this and other legislation relating to anonymity and contempt laws. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking seriously about including some explicit law classes in schools, especially in this era of open social media. That’s why in some ways I feel sorry for people, because I was not aware of these laws until I did my post grad. Then in other cases I’m not sorry at all, because a normal human being would just mind their business. The Attorney General Dominic Grieve has been flexing his muscles since being in the role, and he must have caught wind of the tweet, as the CPS tweeted soon after.

Peaches Geldof is listed as a journalist when you Google her, but no journo worth their salt disobeys trusty McNae.

My friend McNae Image courtesy of NCTJ and Beyond

My friend McNae
Image courtesy of NCTJ and Beyond

*Sidenote: a case is deemed to be ‘live’ from the moment of arrest, but there are other times too, so double check.