The Legacy of Michael Gove

Why did the teaching community celebrate when Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, lost the education brief?

Michael Gove will now be Chief Whip which is clearly a demotion.  David Cameron protests too much because he needs Michael Gove to be a close ally, strategist and ultimately the Rottweiler tasked with maintaining Party discipline.  Keeping order among MPs is no easy task.  It is also not glamorous.  Michael Gove’s reach will now be limited to working within the Conservative Party.  It is unwise to let a Rottweiler off the lead.

Teachers, teaching unions, and the community of the Pressare rejoicing.  Will anyone be sad to see Gove leave the frontbench?  What is Michael Gove’s legacy?

Michael Gove was right to try to drive up educational standards.  Under the Labour administration, the average child was expected to attain 5 GCSEs at grades A* to C.  The Coalition would like to see the average child attain their best 8 rather than best 5 GCSEs.

The Coalition Government has introduced the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) as the performance measure for students to reach by the age of 16 at Key Stage 4.  A student’s performance, when they take their GCSEs, will be measured across 8 subjects, not 5.

‘Expected progress’ measures a student’s progress based on prior attainment.

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) consists of three baskets.  Basket 1 contains compulsory core subjects which are English and Maths.  Basket 2 contains a choice of three other academic EBacc subjects from a menu of Sciences, Humanities and Languages.  Basket 3 contains the last 3 options which include approved vocational qualifications, further EBacc subjects and other GCSE subjects.

The Coalition Government are right to insist on numeracy and literacy and embed this strand of learning into all GCSE subjects and post 16 provision.

ICT should include some computer programming but not at the expense of learning how to use software, cloud and social media.  Both development and understanding of software and expertise in its use matter.

It is very dangerous for Free Schools and Academies to opt out of the national curriculum.  The double standards, which are a consequence of the plethora of exam boards, demonstrates the problem.  This lack of consistency will only increase if the national curriculum applies exclusively to maintained schools.  The conservatives believe in small government.  The Liberal Democrats believe in minimum standards and a fair opportunity for all to attain their personal best.  The beauty of the Scottish system is that there is only one exam board so everyone meets this single standard.  As the educational landscape fragments, chaos will intensify until a new Government re-introduces the national curriculum.

Learning needs to be contextualised, practical and vocational to give young people skills for life as well as rigorous academic training.  Children need to learn employability skills and to keep pace with technology, as well as to think independently.

Michael Gove was wrong to take world history off the curriculum: the civil rights movement in America; the impact of communism in Russia, Eastern Europe, Cuba, Yugoslavia and China are vital in current understanding of the world today and in recognising the possible flash-points.

The previous Labour Government were right to consult teachers because teachers are highly intelligent, optimistic and humane role models in an increasingly frantic and fragmented world.

Students must learn about wealth inequalities both in Britain and abroad: the difference between the often frenetic pace of life in the West, compared with the extreme, heart rending poverty of developing countries.  Countries which are devoid of the basic necessities, enshrined in British law after the Second World War.

Beveridge was an economist and social reformer, a Liberal Advisor to Lloyd George in the landslide Liberal Government in 1906 that changed Britain forever for the better.  He was tasked with rebuilding Britain after World War II.  Beveridge identified 5 Giant Evils: Squalor, Ignorance, Idleness, Want and Disease in 1942.  He introduced the welfare state that protects the most marginalised, while encouraging individual enterprise and innovation and condemning idleness in every event.  Beveridge was fundamentally a humanitarian who understood the importance of dignity: ‘man is the measure of all things.’

Britain is one of the most civilised nations in the world with a rich democratic heritage.

The challenge for Nicky Morgan, the incoming Education Secretary is to ‘listen and learn.’  (Tony Blair, upon being re-elected in May 2005.)

Education needs to evolve and keep pace with changes in society, particularly the digital revolution, while tackling global wealth inequalities.  Only time will tell whether Nicky Morgan succeeds in her mighty endeavour.