Another view of Michael Gove’s reforms

Seumas Milne, writing about education secretary Michael Gove,  in today’s issue of The Guardian , argues the education secretary’s attempts to reform education may well be the work of a destructive ideologue. When on very bright columnist atttacks a man who, when he was a Times columnist Michael Gove, was thought of as one of Britain’s leading writers and thinkers – admittedly Gove’s  expertise was terrorism and foreign affairs – then one’s ears prick up.

,…. Gove is considered a Conservative success, despite his multiple failures. The education secretary is an ideologue in a government whose Tory base chafes at the constraints of coalition, a neoconservative who believes the Iraq war was a “proper British foreign policy success” and a Thatcherite traditionalist itching to give for-profit companies the right to take over state schools.

Which is why Gove is lionised by the Tory right and Conservative press as a true believer, prepared to transform English education in their own image. While Gove is courteous, a praetorian guard of apparatchiks does his dirty work, seeing off educationalists’ resistance to their permanent counter-revolution and running web campaigns against recalcitrant critics.

Milne has notes that setbacks, such as his being compelled to drop his twin plans to replace GCSEs with an English baccalaureate and introduce a single exam board for each subject, can be portrayed as a “tactical setback” by The Times and can be glossed over as his having  “lost a skirmish, but….still winning the war“.

They’re mainly right. Gove has had to drop his baccalaureate scheme but he’s forging ahead with plans to ditch modules and controlled assessment in favour of more traditional exams and 1950s-theme park rote learning. And his new draft national curriculum is a Daily Mail dream.

Milne rightly says that there is no evidence any of the so-called reforms that Gove’s proposing is going to make actual improvements in education itself.

…..Gove and his supporters are convinced that marketisation and privatisation are the route to transforming English schools for the better, though it must help that a whole “educational services industry” is also gagging to benefit.

In the long run, as Miline persuasively sees it,  the education secretary is morphing into being the right man to lead the Tories when his time comes.

But most of all, championing traditional teaching and the breakup of the country’s education system offer a powerful boost for Gove’s career. When David Cameron is finally unseated, the battle for the Tory succession could yet come to a fight between the incompetent Gove and Johnson . It’s a chilling prospect.


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