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Only the Dame could have stopped this pantomime…

Dame Peacock appearing on RTUK’s Renegade Inc. episode “Are the Kids Alright?”

The Head of Content at the Chartered College of Teaching (CCoT), Kate Hodge, this week released a bizarre statement of apology on behalf of its chief executive, Dame Alison Peacock (pictured above). The Dame was a guest on an episode of Renegade Inc. about the future of education called ‘Are the kids alright?’ In this statement, Hodge claimed – falsely – that Peacock was not aware that our independently produced television show is syndicated to and airs on RTUK.

Partnering with RTUK is something that we are proud about and something that we make absolutely no secret of on our website.

“When Alison took part in the interview, we were not aware that it would be syndicated on RTUK,” wrote Hodge, falsely implying that Renegade Inc. had acted deceptively in order to obtain an interview with Dame Peacock. “Had we been aware of the syndication deal, we would not have participated in the show.”

You can read the full (amended) statement here.

Not only is this statement blatantly dishonest, it demonstrates a worrying trend that furthers the McCarthyite atmosphere in which the media and commentators are now operating.

Renegade Inc contacted Dame Peacock, Kate Hodge and the CCoT for an apology. After many hours of ‘negotiation’ over two days, Hodge agreed to add a clarification which reads as follows: “For avoidance of doubt, we wish to clarify that the statement above does not imply criticism of the content of the video produced by Renegade Inc, which is an interesting debate between two education professionals and that we were not intentionally misled by Graham Brown-Martin or by Renegade Inc.”

Mealy-mouthed stuff isn’t it?

Dame Peacock and her college were well aware that Renegade Inc. is broadcast on RTUK because Renegade Inc.’s co-founder and host Ross Ashcroft told her just before filming began in the studio. He even told her the broadcast times. She could have bailed out at that moment if she has such a problem with RTUK. This exchange was witnessed and subsequently recalled by fellow guest Graham Brown-Martin and Renegade Inc. producer Olivia Lebrun. In-fact, Brown-Martin was the person who suggested we twin him with Dame Peacock.

The Department of Education had overlooked the CCoT when they awarded £72m of taxpayers money under the Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund. Graham pointed out to us that he didn’t feel it was right that the CCoT had missed out when it was doing good work. See Graham’s article about it all called Jobs for the Boys. So we are sure he’s also deeply confused by this PR play and the imputations made by her and the CCoT.

So to suggest that we were in anyway deceptive – ‘intentionally’ or otherwise is simply dishonest and actually defamatory.

Since filming, Dame Peacock told people that she enjoyed the episode and her time on set. She told Graham Brown-Martin that the experience was “great fun”. We can only assume then from the statement that their concern was less with Renegade Inc. but the network it is broadcast on.

Dame Peacock, Ross Ashcroft and Graham Brown-Martin on the set of Renegade Inc.

Since the College released its statement, Renegade Inc. has been subjected to claims that we are somehow in cahoots with the Kremlin. One Twitter user called our host and co-founder, Ross Ashcroft, “a Russian stooge”.  We are seriously considering printing this on a T-Shirt. We know our colleague Steve Keen would like one for Christmas.

The Chartered College of Teaching is responsible for perpetuating these unfounded claims for the sake of ‘saving its own skin’. We are unsure about what they are saving their skin from exactly.  Yes, Dame Peacock is an establishment figure who can’t undertake the most elementary research but for that failing do establishment types attempt to throw others under the bus? Seemingly they do. Maybe that’s how the club works.

The British establishment loves the programme 

Whilst all this needless hysterical noise was raging Graham Brown-Martin was in Kuala Lumpur as a guest of the British High Commission and British Council. The Renegade Inc. programme was shown numerous times there receiving nothing but positive responses. The programme has been shared widely in the region via the Foreign Commonwealth Office as part of their “Education is GREAT” campaign. Ironic isn’t it?

The college’s actions on behalf of Dame Peacock demonstrates a disturbing wider trend of McCarthyite selective self-censorship, based entirely on unsubstantiated claims, rumour, suggestion and innuendo. It’s worrying that educators, of all people, have chosen to participate in xenophobic depictions of Russia and its national broadcaster. And we are disappointed that Dame Peacock and the College has chosen to take a side when no sides needed to be taken.

What is it exactly are people like Dame Peacock and her team are afraid of? Surely her presence on the network – as a figurehead of the establishment herself – is exactly the kind of balance required to counteract the effectiveness of any attempts at subversion? Put simply: Knowledge is freedom and we fear what happens to democracy when so-called educators choose to take the side of the establishment.

No educator worth their salt should apologise for appearing on a network that offers views and opinions that run contrary to establishment narrative and provides much-needed context to the challenges we face.

If this is what the future of education looks like then we are all surely doomed.

The necessity of independence

For the record, Renegade Inc. is produced independently of any network and has total editorial control of all of its subjects and guest selection. If the CCoT team had bothered to do their research they would find that Renegade Inc. was crowd-funded through KickStarter and that we work with RTUK as our chosen broadcast partner. We chose RTUK over other networks as the ‘impartial, fair and balanced’ approach that other networks claim to provide, was unfortunately not reflected in their contractual terms and conditions.

RTUK have kept their word about editorial independence and we have no reason – whatsoever – to believe that this will change in the future.

Renegade Inc. would not have existed if our audience didn’t feel the need – as we do – for a truly impartial and independent media organisation. One that explains how the world really works with context and history. Independent journalism should be examining everything we got wrong about the economy, finance, business, policy, education and leadership. Do you really expect the establishment to undertake this job?

Peacock’s pride before a fall….

Speaking of leadership there was a distinct lack of it during this debacle. Dame Peacock went missing in action (MIA) when this nonsense erupted leaving her team to deal with it. In their last missive, they gave a non-apology ‘apology’: “We apologise if you feel that you were initially misrepresented, but we have made every effort to rectify this and the current statement with its note of clarification is clear. As you say, it would be great if we can all move on.”

What move on without an apology? Just a few well-crafted weasel words to sweep it all under the carpet? We said ‘issue an apology and let’s move on’. Not issue a non-apology apology and hope you can move on. Our lawyers actually want a retraction and an apology.

So what to do? Well… in… the spirit of education let’s learn the lessons:

But the big lesson here is never to go MIA if you are the top dog. Front up – pick up the phone and address the issue – humbly if you are wrong. Only the Dame could have stopped this pantomime – she chose not to – we are here saying “it’s not behind you”.


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