Mr Gove, Stop it!

So much for our determination to remain positive in adversity! When Mr Gove speaks so dismissively and disrespectfully of people who’ve spent years and years in education, then a response is required. The people that Mr Gove has chosen to criticise today have spent a lifetime in education thinking carefully about the needs of children and young people, assimilating their own learning and practice based on strong EVIDENCE.

In today’s Daily Telegraph over 120 renowned professionals have written a letter to highlight their concern about the lack of educative play in the new National Curriculum. They reiterate the fact that in Scandinavia children don’t start formal learning until 6 or 7, and that the focus on play and on social and emotional learning enhances their “academic success” in subsequent years as opposed to it being detrimental to their learning and progress.

Mr Gove’s response to this? The “so-called experts are misguided”.

The “spokesman” for the Department of Education said,

“These people represent the powerful and badly misguided lobby who are responsible for the devaluation of exams and the culture of low expectations in state schools.

We need a system that aims to prepare pupils to solve hard problems in calculus or be a poet or engineer — a system freed from the grip of those who bleat bogus pop-psychology about ‘self image’, which is an excuse for not teaching poor children how to add up.”

How dare he! Whilst we acknowledge that these may not be Gove’s exact words, do you honestly think that any such statement gets out of the Department of Education without being checked and approved by the Secretary of State?

These “bogus pop-psychologists” include the former Children’s Commissioner, eminent academics such as Guy Claxton and Richard House from the University of Winchester, and Lord Layard from the London School of Economics, key union leaders and a host of other highly sensible, highly experienced practitioners who’ve spent decades actually working with young children in a nursery setting. If we could, we would certainly add our names to this letter and state quite clearly now that we wholeheartedly support every point that has been raised in this excellent letter.

To say that we are sickened to the core and incensed by such comments is an understatement. The appalling and impertinent manner of response from the “department” is almost as bad as their obstinate refusal to accept the reality of evidence, as outlined in such important reports as the OECD findings on world “attainment”, that young children need to learn through play and should not have a formal education inflicted upon them before their poor brains have matured enough to cope with the onslaught that Gove and his like are suggesting.

Has either Mr Gove or his “spokesman” ever set foot in an early years teaching session for longer than the obligatory ministerial visit? Has either Mr Gove or his “spokesperson” spent longer than a few days considering the value, worth and necessity of getting primary education right, listening to practitioners, taking on the vast amounts of evidence and affording some proper thinking to the importance of the development of all the intelligences?

As primary practitioners we absolutely object to the notion that we’re so brain-washed in our pop-psychology that we use it as an excuse not to teach a child how to “add up”. We’ve spent hours and hours sitting patiently with children, waiting for the penny to drop, urging them, encouraging them and then rejoicing with them as they finally work out how numbers join together or how words suddenly have meaning when they’ve employed all manner of reading cues to decipher a previously meaningless text. The sort of joy that comes from seeing a child “get it” is almost indescribable, and something that Mr Gove has never ever experienced because HE’S NOT AN EDUCATIONALIST.

Undoubtedly, we shall be writing more about this subject in the very near future, but for now, we would urge our readers to look at the “Too Much, Too Soon” campaign and consider the possibility of supporting this important challenge to Gove’s miscalculated intervention into the world of early education.

(The five objectives of the campaign are to:

1) re-establish the early years as a unique stage in its own right and not merely a preparation for school
2) protect young children’s natural developmental rights
3) prevent baseline testing
4) reinstate the vital role of play
5) call for an English developmentally appropriate Foundation Stage for children between the ages of 3 and 7. )

Mr Gove. Let our children be children. Let them learn. Let them be, and leave it to those who know what they’re talking about to decide what is best for them. We’ve got years of experience. We’ve mountains of your beloved evidence. We know what we’re doing.

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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10 Responses to Mr Gove, Stop it!

  1. Howard Mansell says:

    The Gove-authorised reaction is much worse than I thought – its appalling. The sad fact is that if the opposite case existed, whereby parents (i.e. voters) were clamouring for change, then the policy would simply go with it, no second thoughts or doubts – because Gove et al have a solely political agenda: not interested in the expertise or experience of those who know better. Hence it is Gove who is the pop-educationalist, playing to the ignorant masses. Same with votes for prisoners – ignore the European Court, play to the masses. I dare them to follow the masses on reinstatement of capital punishment. Until we have an enlightened majority of parents I don’t see any hope of change.


  2. Pingback: Brunel and Wordsworth didn’t do SATS | Hunky Dory Early Years

  3. Dominic says:

    A very good piece. The obsession this government (and particularly Mr Gove), has in turning the clock back in education is astounding. I wish education was not kicked around like the political football it is…


  4. After just a year trying to fight the DfE, I am deeply disillusioned. It appears that someone as inept and damaging as Gove can operate with almost complete impunity – there are no meaningfully effective mechanisms, it seems, to bring him, or his Academy brokers (read henchmen) to task. No training or qualifications to even be a teaching assistant, he offers chronically misguided judgements across the nation and is happy to act like a playground bully taunting the very people he should be supporting. This is a fundamentally undemocratic, destructive era for the DfE. You only have to look at the passionate, caring tone of the article above to see the type of people he is brutalising. Enough is enough.


    • 3D Eye says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. You’re absolutely right. These are indeed undemocratic times. I suppose the important thing is to keep a passion and belief in the face of considerable adversity. This really isn’t something that we feel we can ignore or back away from. The struggle continues. CB


  5. Couldn’t agree more with the sentiments expressed here. Gove doesn’t appear to have any other counter argument than to dismiss those who hold an alternative view as “enemies of promise”. Despite having called on teaching to be evidence based he is totally dismissive of any evidence that counters his own opinion. Those who he dismisses so casually include academics with international reputations. Similarly, academics elsewhere in the world use evidence based research to justify a layer start to school. Surely they can’t all be advancing powerful vested interests. Gove and his collaborator Truss are the true enemies of learning and will visit untold damage on young children if they are not stopped.


    • 3D Eye says:

      We agree with everything you say. How sad that we have a Secretary of State who’s an “enemy of learning” as you so rightly say. Thank you for taking the time to comment.


  6. Amazingly well put. I can reassure you that you have total support from parents like myself. Keep up the brilliant work that you do.


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