Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education appears to be in the news these days almost as often as Nigel Farage. But if he listened more and spoke less, I’m sure he’d get a better press.
I don’t doubt he wants to see our children receive a great education. Who doesn’t? Yet Gove has continued to ignore those, who more than anyone else, know about education. I’m talking of course about teachers. But rather than listen and engage, he seems to be basing his entire approach on a political ideology rather than accept the input of those working in the sector. Indeed, the voice of the profession – the teaching unions – is largely ignored.
A good reminder of Gove’s attitude towards the unions was seen back in March last year. Writing in the Daily Mail, Gove attacked those “enemies of promise” he claimed were hell bent against improving educational standards. In particular he pointed a particular finger at 3 of the 100 academics who had criticised his policies; and went on to infer a Marxist plot supported by union militants who were against any concept of teaching excellence. That a supposedly intelligent individual can come out with such drivel is worrying. Worse still is the fact that he holds such a senior position in our government.
Such attacks I’m sure must demoralise teachers and frustrate union activists. Not least because teaching unions have something important to say. They do after all, represent many thousands of teachers so I believe should be credited with some knowledge of what is best for the education sector.
For example, I was reading Shaping Education, the education manifesto from teachers union ATL the other day. This was developed after a wide-ranging consultation with their members and is in effect, a set of policy recommendations for the next government. It’s key points include:
- Young people need an assessment system and curriculum that are broad and balanced. The union says the coalition’s narrow academic curriculum and the over-reliance on testing ignores the skills and attributes young people need to live a fulfilled life.
- Transition from school to FE, HE and work needs financial support and excellent careers guidance.
- Education and students’ futures need to be prioritised over profit. The union wants an end to the dismantling of state education through free schools and academy conversions and a return to local accountability. They point out that £637 million has been diverted from the education budget to set up free schools for fewer than 22,000 pupils.
- Education professionals need an end to excessive working hours and a genuine career path through a national pay structure and CPD. The union wants to see a return to the requirement for teachers to achieve qualified teacher status.
- Schools and colleges need an accountability system based on collaboration, with local inspection and a new role for Ofsted. The union says higher standards can be built but only if the expertise of teachers and leaders is fostered in an environment of professional respect.
To me these demands seem very reasonable, and those reonsible could hardly be described as the enemy of promise.