Given the title of this article, you’re probably expecting the author to be a closet socialist with a burning hatred for the current government and all that the Department for Education is doing. Nope, it’s me: a self-proclaimed “ultra progressive” who, for some curious reason, is still a member of the Conservative Party. Well you shouldn’t be too shocked! I’ve written before about why I am coming close to defecting and why George Osborne's economic policy of austerity is wrong. Worse still, I’ve ditched The Economist for The New Statesman, torn the Conservative 'We’re All In This Together’ poster (see right) off my wall and I keep the Lib Dems’ 2010 manifesto and the Communist Manifesto at my bedside. And, to add to all that, I’m writing about why Michael Gove, our current Education Secretary, should be sacked.
(source: Wiki Commons)
Recent news has revealed an endemic problem with the manner in which the Department for Education has treated leading figures in its affiliated agencies, with the deposing of Baroness Morgan, the Chair of Ofsted and a staunch Blairite that has supported Gove’s reforms, raising more than a few eyebrows. The decision could hold its own if there was a clear difference in opinion between Gove and Morgan – but there isn’t. Both support academies and both support greater autonomy for teachers – there is no fundamental conflict. Then why give her the boot? Increasingly we have seen other government departments appoint former Tory ministers and supporters to executive positions in these agencies: Sir Chris Patten, the mastermind behind John Major’s victory in 1992, now heads the BBC Trust and William Shawcross, widely considered to be sympathetic to the Conservatives given that his wife worked as an advisor to George Osborne and Boris Johnson, is currently chair of the Charity Commission. There has been some media speculation that Gove is eyeing up Theodore Agnew, a man that has donated well over £134,000 to the Conservatives, as Morgan’s successor. This might be a cynical analysis, but these appointments scream one word: cronyism! Agnew would not bring half of Morgan’s experience to the Department – but then you might suppose that his position would be a mere “thanks for the dosh!” from Gove. I suspect such a suggestion isn’t that far from the truth.
One simply cannot ignore what it is that Michael Gove is up to. The greatest concern lies with his treatment of teachers and his vision of a reformed curriculum and exams system. I recently asked my sister why she decided to leave the state sector in favour of the private. Her response undoubtedly reflects a considerable number of teachers: during teacher training, she planned to work in an inner-city comprehensive and inspire kids to better appreciate her subject. However, government policy has driven her away: low wages and reduced pensions have given rise to a damaging push factor to emerge in comprehensives across the country.
An exodus of highly-qualified teachers towards private education threatens to undermine state schools. Gove has also fallen down on another key area that has a dramatic effect on the future attitudes of schoolchildren. Since 2012, a number of arts and humanities subjects were disapplied from the National Curriculum at Key Stages 1 & 2, including music, history, geography, art and design. This has been fuelled by Gove’s belief that there must be heightened focus on “the core subjects” (english, maths and science). The consequences are alarming, yet passed off as trivial by the Education Secretary: it goes without saying that arts education allows children of all ability to enhance their creative skills, whilst humanities enables greater cultural understanding. Gove’s reforms run the risk of stunting such key development at such a young age: technology and innovative thinking is a rising economic output for our nation, and citizenship also remains central to the individual’s view of society – Michael Gove is a threat to both.
It’s often said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the most important minister other than the Prime Minister himself. I’m inclined to disagree: it is through education that future generations are skilled and introduced to the ideas that will inform their later lives, and so it is the Education Secretary’s decisions that are most vital. Sadly, the current guy running our schools and controlling teacher’s pay is a man that is ideologically blinkered and will never desist from his destructive policies. Some call that “principled”. I call it dangerous, and it is for that reason that Michael Gove needs to be shown the door.