Whether you accept what I wrote yesterday or not, you must accept that while changing the function of any one Department of our system is going to cause an upheaval and confusion due to the change, for the professionals working in it, the general public who will be using the Department, and also initially, with hours of study for those involved in the change, and a high level of people involved in the change. Now multiply this by the number of departments that Brown is or will be proposing to change, and I doubt if there are sufficient civil servants and Parliamentary time to accomplish it. I have always objected, as you will have read, to the presence of unelected spin-doctors having such a strong input to Parliamentary policy. In any walk of life, if you are employed as an adviser, you need to sustain the dependence of your employer upon you, or you will be out of a job. Apply this theory to spin-doctors and it is then apparent that they have to keep coming up with new ideas on a regular basis. I suspect that this sweeping change policy, is a case in point.
Take targets, I have never understood how you can provide a target in a regime such as education, when the conditions of the place of work, the environment and the social status of that area, can be so disparate from another. Take a rundown area of London, where there is poverty, a considerable amount of mixed races, and all that that implies, but given the same targets as Milton Keens. It is illogical. Continuing with the example of education, if you remove targets, then the only way you can monitor the educational success of the school is by exam results, and it appears that under these sweeping changes we will be doing away with that yardstick. It is not a secret that schoolteachers have a preferences among the pupils that they teach, so how can you have an assessment system that is fair? Targets, in my view, are government tools for persuading the electorate that they are doing a good job. The fact that it and other demands force written returns is highly wasteful of the time of the staff, and the frustration that this accords, is detrimental to the efficiency of the system. In all of life pragmatism should be the first principle.
To prove my point, I quote my experiences as an instructor in radar maintenance in the Royal Navy during the war. It was an eye-opener to me. We were training young men in their teens and early 20s the skills of repairing delicate highly complicated, electronic units, which were totally new in concept. These young men would be sent to sea, entrusted with the maintenance of these items, totally alone as no one else on the ship would understand the work, they would make their own decisions without reference, except to a book or their class notes, yet the success and safety of the ship, depended on them. We had a unique system of examination. The pupil was allowed to carry any written material he chose into the examination room and refer to it, without talking. The exams in this case gave the condition that these young men were to face once they were at sea, to find a solution to a problem, solely from the information they had and the knowledge that they had obtained. We guessed who would come out top. In marking these men, and using the one who’s work was best, we gave him about 95%, and graded everyone else according. That is pragmatism. It is not necessarily applicable in many cases, but that doesn’t stop an element of pragmatism being used when setting exams and marking them.
The government, through its civil servants, has a totally different basis upon which to manage the various aspects of our lives. Few, I believe, have had experience in the world of commerce, education or medicine etc, with the result that there is little pragmatism, but rather an academic emphasis by those operating the systems. I believe that the control is better left at a local level, such as a county council, where there is the possibility of serious interaction between the professionals and the controllers, and where pragmatism can be implemented, will cost much less, and take into account local conditions, not, on the basis of memos from somewhere anything up to 400 miles away