This morning on the Radio it was announced that Robert Buckland had announced that in the light of the reactions from a range of Councils and Teachers that the Government was going to set out in listening mode over the decision (or should we now call it a proposal) by his Government to open the Primary Schools on 1st June. I personally would like to applaud that Buckland is willing to do this. However we need some form of system that prevents him and his colleagues from having to declare such changes. It was perfectly clear to me back a week ago when after the Government claimed that Schools would open on 1st June and Teachers began to respond that the Government had handled this approach very badly. It was almost as incoherent as the Prime Minister on Sunday night telling everyone who could not work from home, to go to work the following morning. On the following day the Government promised to publish guidance to employers and some Ministers stated that the starting day would be Wednesday. Then a couple of days later on Friday 15th May, five days after Johnsons inept broadcast, the Daily Mail published a front page news piece written by Jason Groves and Josh White claiming that it was the teaching unions that were preventing the teachers from re-opening Schools. It has since emerged that only 5% of teachers are happy to open Schools on 1st June so it would appear that Groves and White are also not very good at being in listening mode, given that Josh is supposed to be the Mail educational reporter.
After hearing the report about Robert Buckland claiming that his Government was in listening mode I checked it from the internet and discovered that in May 2014 that the Government was in ‘listening mode’ over passive pensions push according to local government minister Brandon Lewis, then in October 2015 Matthew Hancock told the BBC reporter James Naughtie “The House of Commons, which has precedence on these financial matters, has considered it, but we are in listening mode” on the subject of tax credits. In December 2015 IPSE Director of Policy, Simon McVicker, said: “The Government is back in listening mode” which related to IR35 issues. Then again in June 2017 Simon McVicker stated after the Queens Speech “It is commendable that the Government intends to listen to business in the new Parliament” and then four months later in October 2017 Theresa May claimed that she was in listening mode at a Number 10 housing summit today with attendees from housing associations, councils, developers and the private rented sector. Clearly it is better for the Government to enter listening mode than for it to not do so, but what would be even better is for Robert Buckland to persuade his whole Government to stay in that mode for the next 55 months. That would then assist Conservative MPs like Caroline Ansell who yesterday used facebook to tell her constituents that the Schools would be opening in June, although she did not respond to people who were making comments to question that approach.