How do I respond to a Gove?
Take a look at his policies. Get to know the man. Look at his progress so far. Predict the final outcome.
His stated aim is to give all pupils, including the most disadvantaged pupils in this country, a first class education, full of rigor, and to enable them to walk into the best universities. Educated according to Gove, they will then take their rightful place alongside other high achievers around the world.
So how is he going about it?
He wants to hand over the control of schools to crusading head teachers and to outstanding providers of education, so that his primary aim can be achieved.
Handing over control will be achieved by means of academies and free schools, which will be free from LEA influence and the restrictions of national terms and conditions. He has little concern for who provides these schools, or little interest in how they are run, as long as they achieve his stated aim. Recently we have started to see the results of this and are likely to see even more in the future.
He has decided that the curriculum and exam system needs a complete overall. As a result it will better meet the needs of the pupils. The new curriculum and exam system will be brim full of rigor. He knows that this new curriculum will deliver what is best for the children of this country.
He wants to free teachers from the control of militant union leaders, who are the enemies of achievement and progress for all pupils. The best teachers, trained or otherwise, embracing his reforms, will then rise to the top, and be in the vanguard of his reforming education policies.
Finally, he wants all schools to be the subject of rigorous inspection, by an inspection team led by whoever he decides will carry out his wishes.
I paraphrase, but I think that is a fair summary, based on what I have read and heard.
In Mr Gove’s world it is that simple. If he hands over the control of schools to “crusading” head teachers and “outstanding” providers of education, then all will be well. The disadvantaged will be saved, just like he was saved, and achievement for all will be the norm. Everyone will follow in his footsteps and become leaders of industry, leaders in government and leaders of men. Britain will be a land of opportunity for all. The only barrier to personal achievement will be the lack of aspiration in individual pupils.
If only it were that simple.
Providing a first class education for all, and especially the most disadvantaged is bloody difficult. If it were his aim, he’d take time to find out why the most disadvantaged struggle to achieve. He would understand those struggles. He would talk to the people who understand the problems of teaching the most disadvantaged. He would listen to the disadvantaged, and not assume that his experience of education is the solution to all the problems. He would listen and understand. That is one of the most difficult things to do. It takes time. It takes patience. It costs money.
Listening and understanding demands that employers respect and consult with their employees. That is something Mr Gove does not value. It gives parity to employer and employee. And as we have heard recently, that sort of parity is unacceptable. The employer is right, even if the employer is wrong.
So Mr Gove does not listen to others, especially those he does not like or respect. He does not need to understand the difficulties of others. He has no time for patience. Why should he be patient when he has the answers. He needs to act. He needs to remove all the obstacles to his reforms. As long as we believe in him and his primary aim, all will be well. All the problems will be solved and we will zoom to the top of the latest education league tables.
Sadly for Mr Gove he has been unable to hide his aim, the destruction of the two main teaching unions, The NASUWT and The NUT. Not because they are enemies of achievement and progress, but simply because they represent a workforce who are prepared to stand up. Stand up and argue their case. For fair pensions. Fair and progressive pay. Reasonable terms and conditions that enable them to provide a professional teaching service to the pupils they serve. And argue that there is an alternative. Therein lay Mr Gove’s biggest problem. A united and determined workforce.
In Gove’s world all that is required is the destruction of the collective influence of teachers and their militant leaders.
So how do we respond to Mr Gove. We could accept his primary aim, a first class education for all pupils. How we achieve that is where the differences start to emerge. We tell him, as we have done, we are prepared to enter talks on all aspects of education policy, pensions, pay, curriculum, exams, school structures, the lot. But we are not here to do his bidding or stand in fear of his inspection teams. We are here to fight for what we believe, a fair education for all and the changes to our society that will enable that to happen. We are here to challenge and listen to him. We are here to challenge and listen to his inspection teams. We are here to defend our terms and conditions.
In a week when one teacher took action alone in their school, you had better be prepared for thousands of teachers to stand together in 2015, because they will. Teachers do not give in. Everyday they argue their case.
You had better be prepared to be patient Mr Gove. We have plenty of time. Have you?
You had better be prepared to listen, or will you continue running scared.
- Dear Mr Gove… (secretteacher6.wordpress.com)
- In Michael Gove’s world Jane Austen, Orwell and Dickens will die out | Polly Toynbee (theguardian.com)
- New GCSE curriculum to be more demanding, says Gove (theguardian.com)
- Tories talk up a crisis in education then try to make it worse (socialistworker.co.uk)
- Michael Gove: Death of a Salesman (handhclp.wordpress.com)
- All seven and 14-year-olds must take exams, says Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw (schoolsimprovement.net)
- Michael Gove stands by school reforms (theguardian.com)
- Education in brief: Michael Gove and the Pisa results (theguardian.com)
- Michael Gove challenged by Lord Adonis to fund North East schools (thejournal.co.uk)
- Michael Gove admits Government should spend more cash on poor pupils (mirror.co.uk)