I’m a big fan of paying attention to what people and organisations actually do rather than what they say they’re doing.
Let’s take Michael Gove as a for instance. Last year I asked whether there was evidence he is systematically dismantling English state education. If we take the 30,000ft view, what’s changed since then? Certainly nothing in terms of the trajectory in which he’s trying (and largely succeeding) to take state education in England.
If you’re a teacher, you’re not really Mr Gove’s audience. If you’re a parent you might be – but only if you read his semi-official outlets such as the Daily Telegraph or Daily Mail. So who is Gove’s real audience? Well the Conservative Party for one (he wants to be the next leader) as well as big business. Both applaud his moves to introduce the logic of the market into state education.
The ideals of the right in politics include lower government spending and private enterprise competing in a marketplace with as little regulation as possible. This is the future for our schools in England under Michael Gove; Academy chains, already growing larger, will be allowed to make a profit as the ‘saviours’ to progressively-defunded state schools. Chomsky was right.
There’s nothing new about Gove’s approach, apart from a maybe a new kind of clinical cynicism. Schools will be forced into becoming Academies by hook or by crook. He’s already changed the Ofsted inspection regime, caused chaos via the EBacc, and suggested lower pay for teachers (under the smokescreen of ‘performance-related pay’). We can look at all of these things as separate examples of a floundering Education Secretary who doesn’t know what he’s doing, or we see them as the constituent parts of a approach by a manipulative politician who plays Realpolitik.
What concerns me about Gove’s proposals is the assumption that rigour consists of a very particular method of assessing young people’s knowledge, understanding and skills. I say this as a former teacher and senior leader, as someone who is currently involved in education on a national and international level and, most importantly, a parent. The ability to sit still and concentrate for three hours on examination questions testing feats of memory does not sound to me like a 21st century skill. Which pieces of the complex puzzle of human knowledge, skills and understanding are not captured under such a system? I’d suggest many.
I’m closing comments here so that you can comment over there. 🙂
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.