Coffee House

Gove versus the ‘enemies of promise’

4 January 2012

Michael Gove has never been timid in confronting the education bureaucracy, but his
attack on them today is particularly — and noteworthily — unforgiving. Referring to those truculent local authorities that are blocking his schools reforms, he will say in a speech that
starts in about ten minutes:

‘The same ideologues who are happy with failure — the enemies of promise — also say you can’t get the same results in the inner cities as the leafy suburbs, so it’s wrong to
stigmatise these schools.

Let’s be clear what these people mean. Let’s hold their prejudices up to the light.

What are they saying? “If you’re poor, if you’re Turkish, if you’re Somali, then we don’t expect you to succeed. You will always be second class and it’s no surprise your schools are
second class.”

I utterly reject that attitude.’

It comes on the back of an article in yesterday’s Times (£) by the former director of policy in No.10, James
O’Shaughnessy, which upbraided an ‘educational establishment’ that ‘always finds ways to frustrate and oppose’. O’Shaughnessy is now setting up a ‘new
social business that aims to operate schools and to provide educational services based on a blend of traditional values and positive psychology’ — so the reformers are clearly in the
mood to smash through the roadblocks.

But what’s, perhaps, more telling is that Gove’s words today are attached to an announcement that the government plans to press ahead with converting 200 of the worst-performing primary schools
into academies. And his speech is being delivered in an academy that took over a failing primary school and dramatically improved it. This, I imagine, is part of a very concerted effort by Gove to
provide better schools for younger pupils, which are currently in great shortage thanks to our
country’s baby boom.

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Show comments
  • Hexhamgeezer

    Peter Oborne in today’s DT reports claims that ‘teachers comprise…..roughly half of the Labour party membership’.

    If this is true (and you could add non-member supporters/sympathisers to the list plus any LDs) I would suggest that Gove enlists more explicit and regular vocal support from his colleagues. The fight is not so much a one to improve the lot of the disadvantaged but one against the Left Establishment and this should be made explicit. Any Perm Secs and/or LA officials who wish to get in the way need to be warned of the consequences. As should dave’s libdem weasels.

    As thatcher saw the miners then, perhaps dave should see the educational commissars now.

  • Doctor Wankenstein

    Ian Walker ~ ‘The biggest barrier to success in school, especially at primary level, is lack of parental involvement, something schools are almost powerless to do anything about.’

    Biggest barrier my eye – it’s partly about parental involvement, but it’s more to do with the quality of teachers, their teaching and giving them back disciplinary powers – those are the fundamentals lost through the creation of a nanny state and years of dumbing down education in order to cater for the foreign intake – parental involvement is of course beneficial, but it’s not essential to the issue and shouldn’t be seen as an excuse – are you and Ed P lefties?

  • Dimoto

    Don’t worry, Mr Nelson will be along in a minute to assure us that Christine Blower is the epitome of sweet reason.

  • Jon stack

    He’s doing the easy bit well. Simply bypassing LEAs with the promise of independence and extra cash is an obvious move for any Headteacher and board of governors who resist statist brainwashing. The next step is more difficult: deregulate admissions policies, in particular the existing policies that tie schools’ admissions to local catchment areas. Let parents have their say at last.

  • Cynic

    This, I imagine, is part of a very concerted effort by Gove to provide better schools for younger pupils, which are currently in great shortage thanks to our country’s baby boom.” I think you missed out some vital information there; thanks to our country’s immigration fuelled baby boom.

  • Marcher Baron

    … he will say in a speech that starts in about ten minutes: …” I had no idea you could foresee the future. Will Camelot win this year’s Derby?

  • Mudplugger

    Gove is much smarter than he looks – which is fortunate.
    He recognises the educational establishment as a well-practiced sinecure-preserver with no interest in the quality of outcomes.
    His tactics of dismantling the power-bases of the progress-stoppers are to be applauded – let’s hope he isn’t stopped before the beneficial effects start to flow.

  • Ed P

    Ian Walker’s comment is spot on.
    There are parents unwilling or unable to understand that their children’s education is also their own responsibility, not just the school’s. Encouragement and help with homework make a big difference.
    But there are also parents incapable of assisting, due to their own educational shortcomings – the lost NuLab generation fed ample political nonsense, but not taught to read & write properly. Their children will need extra help and it will take a generation to correct the harm done. Gove’s struggle will need huge support, unlikely to be forthcoming from unionised teachers.

  • Ian Walker

    The biggest barrier to success in school, especially at primary level, is lack of parental involvement, something schools are almost powerless to do anything about.

  • Disillusioned Tory Teacher

    What a pity he wasn’t so gushingly supportive when Copland School in Brent asked for his support…

  • daniel maris

    Getting the right structure in place is helfpul. But it’s really only scratching at the surface in terms of inner city education – where sometimes the pupils speak 50 different home languages; where gang violence and identification is prevalent; where teenage pregnancy often interrupts education; where children often have a very diffocult home environment; and where young people are often poorly nourished.

    Putting it all together I think we probably need to start thinking seriously about weekday boarding schools which will allow pupils to experience the benefits of good nutrition, quiet study and so on.

    Of course that needs to go hand in hand with improvements in discipline,welfare reform and addressing petty criminality.

    Only then will you see a major improvement in schools. Calling an inner city school an “academy” doesn’t of itself achieve anything.

  • dorothy wilson

    There was a recent article in my local paper – the Nottingham Post – quoting some union bod who claimed academy status was being forced on schools whether they wanted to go that way or not. This theme was then picked up in the leader column.

    Given that the Post is in the Daily Mail stable this is an indication of just what Gove is up against. But more power to his elbow!

  • Archibald

    In debates on TV, he comes across as a grown up politician who doesn’t enjoy party politics and the pathetic auto-pilot mud-slinging that so many opt for these days, but can more than hold his own under attack. Add this to the great work being done with schools, and you have to wonder if he’s a possible future PM. We certainly need more like him, driven by facts and results, not ideology and party colours.

  • Andy H

    It is time some of the roadblocks were removed.

    For too long the unelected have stood in the way. If this were a private sector organisation then the CEO would have removed them.

    It is time that some of these civil servants are removed.

    If you are not doing your job as determined by the executive then you are at odds with your contract and therefore this should be terminated.

    Just because they are in the public sector does not give them the right to be political.

    Either get on with the task in hand or step aside…

  • starfish

    I think Mr Gove is actually being quite clever

    Rather than taking on the educational establishment he is ignoring it and appealing directly to parents and teachers who actually want to achieve something in education and not spend their days filling in forms and accepting the medicority doled out by LEAs and the ducational establishment

  • Heartless Curmudgeon

    Excellent! – but like many other people of good heart, I wonder if or when he will be blocked, – either by reason of spineless expediency or sheer weight of opposition.

  • David L

    Challenging bureaucratic inertia, which leads to mediocrity in education is long overdue. More power to Gove’s elbow.

  • Stephen Barr

    If there is one thing all parents (whoever they vote for) can be positive about, it is the ‘Gove reforms’ for empowering schools to do their job.

    I smile every time I think of what Gove is actually achieving. In a government of midgets, this guy is moving mountains! The skeptic in me worries about when he will be stopped, but the hopeful side wonders if he just might do it!

  • Sean Haffey

    Education is the most important thing we can do for the future of our country.

    Anything that blocks this or reduces its effectiveness must be swept away.

    Good for Gove

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