On Friday, the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) published Something Can be Done in which it outlines a proposal for the Phoenix Free School, to be established in Manchester.

This school embraces the notion of ‘troops to teachers’, whereby ex-service personnel are fast tracked into the teaching profession.  The proposals for the Phoenix Free School appear to go one step further, as it “will be staffed entirely by ex-servicemen and women”.  Apart from the issue of whether such exclusions would be permissible under employment law, I very much doubt that it will be the case that all the school staff will be ex-service.  Schools are staffed by more than teachers.  To be fair, the document does go on to clarify that all “full-time staff will be ex-service personnel”, but this is not the same as “staffed entirely”.

Something Can be Done highlights some of the key features of the proposed Phoenix Free School.  The exposition of these features barely conceals a discourse of diatribe aimed at what it sees as liberal and progressive elements in education.   Common-sense, no nonsense is on the agenda.

Consider this example:

“Every liberal shibboleth taught in teacher-training courses will be discarded in favour of proven methods”

This suggests that “liberal shibboleths” are just that, but if you read on, you could arrive at the conclusion that the “proven methods” are themselves shibboleths.

The “proven methods” are proven to the extent that, in the summary of Something Can be Done the possibility of rolling out similar schools is posited, “if” the Phoenix Free School proves “successful”.  Given it proposes to use “proven” methods, why wouldn’t it be successful?

The school will have “no moral relativism”.  Ex-service personnel will help pupils to reject moral relativism, as they live by values of respect, discipline and loyalty. But, is it really the case that moral relativism is absent from the armed forces?  ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sounds unequivocal, and killing is considered an immoral act, unless you accept moral relativism.

There is a brief section on discipline, where it is claimed there will be discipline by consent.  However, some absence of consent is anticipated, and thus there will be a zero-tolerance approach to “indiscipline”.

Pupils will be grouped according to ability, yet all pupils will “be given the opportunity to excel”, overlooking the sociological evidence which suggests otherwise.  Similarly, the notion that “competition demotivates the losers” is dismissed as “nonsense”.

Something Can be Done concludes with the expectation that “the next time that riots break out in Britain”  (notice the prediction that there will be riots) few rioters would come from the many number of Phoenix Free Schools that the CPS hopes will be established.

[1]. Interestingly, in its report, the Daily Mail inserted, in brackets the word ‘jargon’ after shibboleth.  Did they think it needed translating?

[2].Goodness knows the format that the CPS chose to use in publishing Something Can be Done as a PDF document, but some screen readers may encounter problems.  I wonder if this is indicative of their approach to inclusivity?


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