Coffee House

The education big tent is collapsing

10 February 2014

The pegs are definitely coming out of Michael Gove’s education big tent, although it’s not just the Secretary of State who is pulling them out. Time was when Stephen Twigg could only make strangely consensual-yet-critical humming noises at the despatch box during departmental questions. Now Tristram Hunt is able to find sufficient difference between his education policies and Gove’s to go on the attack at these sessions, and Gove can snap back about the quality – rather than complete absence – of Labour’s education policy.

At today’s education questions, Hunt attacked on Ofsted: not just the row about Sir Michael Wilshaw, but on whether academies and free schools should be subject to the same level of inspection as local authority schools. He said that the ‘education secretary has, in the words of Sir Michael, unleashed a “smear campaign” against the chief inspector’ and added:

‘Is not the truth of the matter this – that Ofsted is inspecting the Secretary of State’s free schools without fear or favour and he doesn’t like it? The chief inspector wants to inspect academy chain and he doesn’t like it. On Friday, the Al-Madinah secondary school closed and on Sunday we learned of a new Ofsted purge. Surely the Secretary of State should be focused on raising standards, not politicising our school inspectorate system?’


Gove hit back that Wilshaw had never used the words ‘smear campaign’ and a spokesman for the Education Secretary has since said that ‘Tristram Hunt hasn’t just falsely attributed words to Sir Michael, he appears to have falsely attributed his own words from a Labour Party press release to Sir Michael’. You can read that release here.

But the fact remains that Hunt is now comfortable with denouncing specific aspects of Gove’s reforms, rather than just grumbling that Gove isn’t very nice about teachers as Labour’s education front bench used to.

Whether this matters or not is another debate: Gove might be leaving the Blairites behind for the perfectly good reason that he could always see further than they in terms of where their initial education reforms might lead. But education is now a battleground once again.

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  • jason green

    The truth of the matter is that no matter who you poll, Gove always comes out badly. Even amongst Tories support isn’t overwhelming.

  • andagain

    I can’t say I’m surprised. Labours vested interests are squealing. I’m surprised there was peace this long.

  • Nicholas chuzzlewit

    This is all very encouraging. Gove must be on the right track if the forces of ‘leftism’ are squealing so loudly. The leeches of the left will spend the last penny of our money to preserve producer interests and those twin pillars of their educational faith, failure and mediocrity. I bet Gove is delighted and believes that his ideas have been reaffirmed by that collection of losers.

    • realfish

      The disproportionate hysteria surrounding the non-renewal of Morgan’s contract (‘dismissal’ according to the BBC today – and every day), shows that Gove has really touched a nerve.

  • Nicholas chuzzlewit

    This is all very encouraging for Michael Gove. The more the forces of ‘Leftism’ oppose him, the more he should press ahead in the knowledge that he is on the right track. The leeches of the left will fight to the last penny of our money to ensure that mediocrity and failure remain the twin pillars of British education.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Oh dear. Never mind the big tent, the wheels are coming off Labours Quango Clown Wagon:-

    • andagain

      Interestingly, it is perfectly sensible to allow the areas you care about least to flood first. It is better than allowing the areas you care about MOST to flood first. They are just not willing to admit to being logical…

    • HookesLaw

      The flaw in the notion being put forward in ‘option 6′ is that you can move water around in a neat orderly way.
      But I am not sure that these proposals are anything to do with the cause of these current floods (they may be of course); the options seem to be about what what to do when there are floods; where to store the water.
      The proposal is to distribute floodwater to ‘the King’s Sedgemoor Drain’, which is an artificial river. This may be plausible – who knows – but can the river then absorb the flow?

      Colonel we may be able to agree that there should have been more dredging (perhaps) but given the amount of rain in recent months and over the last two years the fact remains that much of these floods seem inevitable – indeed they are not historically unusual. Quango Clown Smith has failed in his duty to explain and meet the suffering public.

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