Remembering Robert Lowe

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I thought of Robert Lowe this morning.  He was the minister responsible for education policy who introduced Payments by Results into English schools in 1860s.  This is such a pellucidly clear policy that it needs no explanation here.  As he noted in parliament at the time: "If it is not cheap, it shall be efficient, if it is not efficient, it shall be cheap."  You can read what Spartacus has to say here.  Ever since, Education (and other) Secretaries of every stripe have been plying this calculus as they try to get maximum results from minimum funding.  It's called value for money, of course and is now more prevalent in the NHS than in schools.

But I hear that the government may have found a way out of this problem, at least as far as teacher training is concerned.  I'm told that it's on the point of adding climate change to the teaching standards that govern all such programmes.  It can do this at zero cost (apart from a smidgeon of civil service and parliamentary time), and so, to paraphrase Lowe, it will be cheap whatever the results.

As to the results, we should not have high expectations, and I'll say why in a future post.


Lowe was a controversial figure and Wikipedia quotes an epitaph was suggested for him by one of the wits of his day:

Here lies poor old Robert Lowe;
Where he's gone to I don't know;
If to the realms of peace and love,
Farewell to happiness above;
If, haply, to some lower level,
We can't congratulate the devil."

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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