Open Thinkering


Is Michael Gove systematically dismantling English state education?

Would you trust this man with your kids?

Is Michael Gove systematically dismantling state education in England?

I’m not sure.

To believe so presumes competence, intention and strategy on his part. Most of what I observe is an ill-informed sociopath flapping about at seemingly-random educational targets.

See what you think by looking at these BBC News stories since the beginning of the calendar year:

So no need to be a qualified teacher in England any more. This news, of course, was buried by being announced on a Friday in the school holidays, on the very day of the Olympic Games opening ceremony. Perhaps that was to avoid another strike by teachers like the one in November 2011?

From where I’m sitting, this looks like part of a wider move to centralise schooling in England. There were huge financial incentives for schools to become academies. Now, even if the money’s not there, there’s certainly political and other kinds of pressures bearing down on headteachers and governors.

Once English schools all become academies they’re outside of local authority control but under the direct control of Whitehall. Gove may bleat that academies have powers to do this or that, but when there’s no buffer between the headteacher and the all-powerful politician in control of the money, there’s no real contest.

Michael Gove is the most power-hungry, dangerously reactionary, and misguided millionaire Secretary of State for Education we’ve had a for a long time. He proposes yachts for over-privileged, taxpayer-funded families and gives out religious texts inscribed with his name. Meanwhile extra cash for the most deprived boroughs is turned down and, in the midst of one of the most sustained attacks on the profession in living memory, teachers are expected to roll over and accept performance-related pay.

Who will rid us of this troublesome beast?

Image CC BY-NC staticgirl

22 thoughts on “Is Michael Gove systematically dismantling English state education?

  1. Who will rid of us of him indeed! Michael Gove has only one plan and that is to take complete control of the Education system, transferring all control to central government. He dismantles everything that is good about our education system to satisfy his power hungry whims, it has nothing to do with making education better but creating a personal fiefdom. 

    1. Hard to disagree with that, Kevin (sadly). 🙁

      Thanks for making me aware of the removal of the QTS requirement for teachers – talk about burying news!

  2. Sounds similar to what is occurring in the United States. First, there was No Child Left Behind, which has turned out to be a complete shambles, but, Congress seems unwilling to dismantle it, then there’s Race to The Top, and now Commin Core. A colossal mess.

      1. I am not sure you can have it both ways.  In the Blog you extol the virtues of the old fashioned shout from the front lecture style (maybe I exag..) then in the reply you slam the same techniques as used by such as Coursera (STanford Uni startup) which takes shouting to a virtual level.   And to paraphrase Sir Ken the worldwide teacher attack leader if its a miracle that we are born how come after 20 or so years of teaching the brightest head to Wall St (and international branches) and before you can say Skolympians knacker the world economy.  What ever happened to morals in the system that you seem to be defending from an Aberdonian who is trying his best.

          1. Ah well beauty is in the eye of the beholder … lets try this:  You cannot deny the popularity of Sir Ken (maybe you are a fan) with his number 1 Ted Talk (8 million cannot be wrong) and your badge scheme rides on the back of such general educational distrust – Michael Gove is simply pandering to this wisdom of the crowds movement.  Teachers are doing an excellent job but as we all know times are achanging and progress sometimes has pain.  As the famous VC man said just because you diagree with him it does not mean you are in the right.  After all more people voted conservative than have been to the Olympics this year.

  3. Doug , I share the concerns expressed in your post . I’m equally confused as to there being  a deep (dangerous) philosophical ideological strategy behind his rhetoric and action or  just blind incompetent ideology;  I’m really not sure . The current government seems to consistently take an extreme political policy stance and water this down when their rhetoric prompts negative “public”response . Either way its very very dangerous indeed.  Gove et al have already succeeded in undermining what was an improving (but not perfect) education system from pre-school to university whilst paradoxically massively increasing costs and burden on the taxpayer .

    1. Indeed, but when considering this further I think this move is actually primarily financially-motivated.

      If I returned to teaching as a standard classroom teacher (without responsibilities, and outside London) then I’d earn £31,552 as I’d be on M6:


      The maximum an unqualified teacher can earn, meanwhile, is £25,016:


      Given performance-related pay has been mooted, I’m guessing that will be used as a smokescreen for Academies to be able to set whatever pay they like for teachers. In that scenario, I should imagine that unqualified teachers pay will go up, whilst qualified teachers pay will go down – thus saving the Treasury money but damaging the profession. 🙁

  4. It seems he is intent on Balkanising every aspect of schools’ infrastructure in England; the onus being on taking away power from local authorities and er, giving it to central government. 

    His motives often appear to be autobiographical rather than strategic; he is intent on changing social mobility and this is his way of doing it I guess. 

    The fact that carpet manufacturers and other Johnny come lately provisioning organisations are able to act as instigators of batch processing hermetically sealed academy chains with their, also, newly hatched parasitic feeder fish who make a healthy profit out of this new ecosystem, is, of course, beside the point. 

    The one good thing is that this has provided a window of opportunity for organisations such as Computing at School to organise themselves into an effective lobbying machine that has been able to enrich and open up the curriculum but that has merely been a side effect. Not all teaching organisations are as focused or as imaginatively active in this area. 

    There is obviously a disdain for and an ignorance of theory of education in favour of extraneous target driven and mechanistic pedagogies focused purely on academic achievement and an outmoded assessment system i.e. Ofsted.

    There should be a 21st century model for mentoring and encouraging personal expertise and community building based on theory and career building – where are the entrepreneurial models in schools – perhaps they will evolve now – I personally dount it with Whitehall holding the purse strings and the direct power mechanisms. Innovation will happen in this environment but not with such an antediluvian assessment system such as Ofsted which has proved its ineffectiveness for 20 years now.

    This Balkanisation and disenfranchisement will bring with it all the drawbacks of fragmentation leading to some excellent expertise in some areas and obvious casualties in other e.g. the recent bankruptcy of the The Schools Network. What it will not do is change anything much except the focus for blame when the policies fail which they inevitably will. 

    1. I agree, Leon. So we’re back to the situation where to get change made in the education system you have to have friends in high places.

      So much for social mobility and meritocracy. 🙁

      1. Yes – I don’t think this is Left / Right wing thing either but rather the political classes being entirely out of touch with education because they have a “legacy” model in their heads based on what happened to them, often, in a more privileged  environment. Flatter, more agile organisational structures that are more locally grounded with social outreach would be an alternative but I don’t see that coming soon somehow.

  5. Never mind being able to have a ‘James Dyson’ teaching (on 25K – I doubt it!) in our schools. There is a bigger threat to heads being replaced by non- teachers on rather better salaries. It’s about time these turkeys stopped voting for Christmas. ASCL…can you hear me!

      1. The ‘voting’ refers to the number of converter academies who play into Gove’s hands. I’m also disapointed at the lack of resistance and advice some ‘unions’ provide for their members. Its great when teachers resist these moves but would be so much more effective if so-called leaders woke up too.

  6. Hi Doug, 

    discussions are overwhelmingly against the decision to allow ‘unqualified’ people to teach. On the whole, I’m with the majority – but of course I’m not going to comment just to say ‘yes yes I agree’. So here goes my attempt, leaving the financial debate to one side, to balance the argument…

    My brother (BA & MA in History & American Studies) has worked as a TA for the last 5+ years (earning £12k ish) – passionate about teaching and helping kids. He works in a particularly challenging school in Liverpool (it might be an academy, but not 100% sure). Let’s just say, it’s not great. He’s been hit by a flying chair recently when trying to stop a kid attacking a teacher. And yet he’s still passionate about teaching when many of his QTS colleagues are not (which often gets him down). He has received a lot of great feedback about sessions he has run (and for some time was seconded to manage the behavioural unit). 

    For the last 3 years, he has been unsuccessful in applying to study a PGCE at various HEIs in the north west. 

    If this recent decision regarding QTS gives him the chance to step up (and get paid an average salary) then I’m all for it. 

    My only other point, is that even though academies can employ non-QTS teachers, it doesn’t mean that a) they will, or b) these new teachers won’t be any good. I would expect a Head Teacher would be particularly stringent about the teachers they employ. There are plenty of poor (and qualified) teachers, so I’m careful not to suggest qualified == good, and not qualified != good. HEIs often employ lecturers based on research rather than teaching (and they can be particularly bad at the latter, despite doing a PGCert).

    So just a few thoughts for you! 🙂

    Hope you’re well. 


    1. Thanks for the comment, Peter. 🙂

      I’ve no doubt that your brother would make an *excellent* teacher. He’s got half of what makes one – experience.

      But there’s another half to it. As far as I know he might go home and read educational thinkers, find out the latest educational research and be applying it in the classroom every day. He might be taking home ten class sets of books to mark each week.

      He might have a tutor group for whom he has a duty of care, and have to do break duty in between a full day of teaching. He might have to do parents evenings. He might have parents phoning him up asking why he’s done such-and-such.

      He might have to write several new schemes of work every year because of changes made by the government. He might be told that the subject he’s teaching is a ‘soft’ one and should be done away with. He might be subject to societal pressures meaning he has to protect his social networking accounts. He might be seen as a ‘glorified babysitter’.

      What I’m trying to say is that there’s more to teaching than ‘getting a piece of paper’. QTS is only the start of the process. To some degree, your brother’s done it back to front in gaining the experience before the theory and the strategies. But he *does* need that theory, that pedagogy, and those strategies.

      Additionally, just as your brother can’t prove easily that he’s got the skills to manage a class, so new teachers now are going to find it difficult to prove that they can teach if they move overseas. Even though I’m not in the classroom at the moment, if I wanted to move to Australia (or some other country) I could prove that I’m a qualified teacher. Is that going to be the case in a few years’ time?

  7. Doug, lots of thought provoking comment and discussion re your post . 

    Im not in the QTS- good ,Non/ QTS not so good camp both have merits but when you look at the curricula for *most* current PGCE courses they actually contain very little pedagogic theory , compared to 30 or 40 years ago. QTS is, arguably, increasingly more focussed on the delivery of curriculum and the administrative functions supporting this ; more “craft” (in the sense of the production of utility product) than profession and  does, in my view, need a significant overhaul. Paradoxically in this context one could also take a view that the PGCE is one of the instruments Gove could apply in order achieve his “social” objectives for education if, as he seems intent on doing , the PGCE is in the future “delivered” independent of universities , where pedagogic theory underpins much of what schools of education do all be it more at post graduate level.

    Perhaps somebody should start an open non-political debate about the “purpose” of education? 

    1. I have no doubt that further along the line we’ll move back to some kind of ‘credentialisation’ for teachers. But it will be *much* more in the hands of the state. 🙁

      1. I do agree there is a need for pedagogic understanding, buit Paul raises an interesting point RE PGCEs. 
        I’ve put my alternative views (largely quoting this) on this topic down here

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