Thank you Michael Rosen, but no thanks to Michael Gove

The “Dear Mr Gove” column by Michael Rosen in the Guardian has become a much anticipated and much enjoyed piece of writing. Even so, it’s a great shame that such a “letter” should need to be written – and remains unanswered by its recipient.

This week Michael Rosen wrote his “open letter” to highlight the problems of ideologically  driven education with its perpetual focus on the acquisition of knowledge as the most important aspect of schooling, and one that is increasingly failing many of our young people.

Here’s a delightful quote that illustrates the point emphatically:

“You have shown them [Cabinet seniors such as Cameron and Osborne] that you can offer the economy an army of 16- to 18-year-olds who will have failed. Thanks to you, these will be people who have failed, failed and failed again through the many-layered exam system and who, as a result, won’t see themselves as talented people who on occasions happen to have not succeeded, but rather will see themselves as failures – intrinsically, essentially, irrevocably dud.

 Clearly, this army should have no lingering sense that they might be can-do people, a feeling about themselves they might have acquired from a time at school when they completed a project, finished a module, investigated, discovered, created or invented anything; interpreted for themselves some evidence or a piece of writing. You’ve abolished all that.

Instead, you and your colleagues need these failures to have had a sense that their education was a sequence of knowledge injections which in their case, didn’t work; the injections didn’t “take”.”

 Well said, but oh so true!

Can we really afford for this to continue a minute longer?

If we are looking at comparable analogies in business, here’s a thought. Would any business model succeed if its “clients” were given a product unfit for purpose? Would any business receive further funding if the product didn’t fit a significant and growing percentage of its “customers”?

 “Wherever we look in the education system – curriculum, assessment or structure – you have built in a guaranteed failure rate.”

Our children and young people are NOT clients or customers and neither are their parents, yet increasingly they are being treated as such without the ability to respond when a product is unsuitable, thus leaving swathes of children and young people feeling as though it is they that have failed and not the product.

The failure continues to be illustrated by Mr Rosen.

 “The way you have secured this for your cabinet superiors is to lock into the system constant competition: with norm-referenced exams, pupil competes against pupil; with performance-related pay, teacher competes against teacher; with league tables based on exams, each “autonomous” school “freed” from local authority planning, school competes against school. The result of all this competition is of course that many must fail: pupils, teachers, schools.”

 There is an alternative to this that maintains stringent accountability without the stifling nature of a strait jacket. No wonder Michael Rosen appears to be cross.

Perhaps, as we mentioned in a previous post, it’s time for Michael Rosen’s readers to add weight to his letters. Perhaps the time has come for everyone who reads this to send an actual letter to Mr Gove, thus reiterating that Mike Rosen is far from an isolated voice. Perhaps the time is right for the masses of parents, carers, pupils, teachers, support staff, educationalists, commentators and all those from industry, businesses and public sector to join together and write similar letters every time Michael Rosen chooses to do so publicly.


About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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