Terry Mackie’s verbal bombardment of the Minister for Education continues. One of his verbal bombshells (well … you know what I mean …) has landed on target. Please make the effort to watch his column on the Western Mail. I hope to elaborate, and to persuade you that this is something worth doing.
Terry rightly takes Leighton to task for setting Paul Murphy to urge Welsh students to try to get into something called Oxbridge. I freely own that there’s something bizarre about an Oriel man such as Paul encouraging the young to seek admission to other colleges, let alone that place out in the Fens. After all, they were chucked out for being too intense in the Middle Ages, went on to invent things like Puritanism, and have become steadily more intense all the time. In any event, as Terry says, far more important a question is how well our institutions here in fact educate their Junior Members. Terry seems to regard the Pisa criteria as the gold standard of pedagogical efficacy and, whatever a reasonable person’s might be about that particular roadshow, he is obviously seeking some consensual perception that would help us understand better what is happening to our educational system.
One of Leighton’s assets is that he is not Michael Gove. However, he is steadily squandering this asset with his constant fidgeting and foot-stamping. We can easily understand why some of the suits spreading across our universities and colleges like a computer virus make him angry. The continued captivity to the deviant curriculum paradigm originating in Late Victorian England is a worry, a very great worry. However, Leighton’s standard trope of merging, de-merging, re-merging, and re-demerging is worth than doing nothing. The relationships between the ci-devant University of Wales, its sea-divided succursals, and one or two former Anglican institutions in Dyfed, are more convoluted than anything in the Kama Sutra. An organization constantly subject to, well, re-organization, is an organization that bleeds. Many of our educational institutions have been haemorrhaging severely for some time. Whatever Leighton’s aims may be, and whatever our views of those, Leighton’s constant fidgetings and rumours of fidgetings can only frustrate them.
Yes, we need reform, and yes, we need vigorous open debate in order to achieve them. Leighton’s current approach frustrates both reform and debate. What would cure this?