“Education chief fights back in battle with Michael Gove over schools”
– Guardian headline
Hmmm. Can this really be true? Or could the Guardian be stirring a pot of half-truths? The paper goes on to say:
The education secretary, Nicky Morgan, has rejected Michael Gove’s portrayal of the education establishment as a leftwing “blob”, as a fierce battle rages with her predecessor over who now controls the country’s schools policy.
During Gove’s time as education secretary, the term “blob” was widely used as shorthand by him and his supporters for an obstructive teaching establishment that was resistant to reform. Asked about the term, Morgan says it was unhelpful and created a false impression of ministers’ real attitude to teachers.
One senior Tory at the heart of policymaking said: “Nicky is having a very difficult time of it,” and that Gove “can’t let go”, fearing that Morgan will harm his legacy as a bold and radical reformer.
- A fierce battle taking place? Is Gove really attacking and harrassing Morgan?
- “Over who now controls the country’s schools policy”? Does Gove really imagine he still has the final say in Parliament on education matters? Did Cameron give him some sort of assurance that he would still have a major input or even a veto over Morgan’s initiatives – in order to shift the toxic one into the whips’ office and safely behind the scenes?
- What or who is this “obstructive teaching establishment”? Could that be thousands of hardworking experienced professionals who care enough about education to actually dare to oppose the whims and fancies of hardline ideological politicians with personal agendas and ambitions?
- Was it “reform” that “the Blob” was opposed to – or a determination on the part of Gove to create as many academies as he could in as short a time period as possible – forcing schools up and down the country to move out of local democratic control and into the grasp of academy “chains” – a perfect word for a process that has led to more and more schools losing the right to determine their own policies and educational philosophies. (Whilst his carefully chosen “free schools” can seemingly do whatever they want – once they’ve been given the nod and the money to start up – according to criteria that we may never know about, in spite of repeated public information requests.)
Surely Gove can calm down and relax a little as far as “his legacy as a bold and radical reformer” is concerned? Surely we’ll never forget his boldness and his radical determination to force education into the same mould that made him into the fine upstanding specimen of humanity he no doubt believes he is?
Elsewhere in this article there are other noteworthy paragraphs. Having said that “she fully supports the expansion of academies and the introduction of free schools driven through by Gove” it goes on to say:
Morgan insists she wants to take an entirely different approach and to be remembered for engaging positively with teachers rather than doing battle with them.
“I would like the teachers to say she listened and parents to say she was on our side in getting the best education for our children.” She adds: “My task is about listening to what teachers are saying, and saying to them, ‘What can we do? Take some burdens away, give you more freedoms?’”
Last month – in a move derided by some on the right of the Tory party – Morgan launched a consultation with teachers called Workload Challenge to find out where they think improvements could be made, and how they can spend more time teaching and less time on bureaucracy.
Spelling out her personal priorities, Morgan says she wants to focus on “character education”. “What I mean is a focus on things like the additional character skills we all need to get on in life – resilience, grit, self-esteem, self-confidence.”
Clearly Michael Gove had more than his fair share of “character education”, according to this definition. Maybe with a little more PSHE & SMSC input he’d have developed some additional qualities such as respect, humility, empathy and spiritual intelligence.
We’ll have a lot more to say about this part of Morgan’s agenda in future posts, but in the meantime we’ll close with some words from Tristram Hunt MP:
Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said people would see through her attempts to distance herself from Gove. “On every one of Michael Gove’s damaging reforms, she has continued to push his divisive and damaging agenda. She is continuity Gove. No change on substance. More unqualified teachers in the classroom. A teacher recruitment crisis. And an expansion of the damaging free schools programme,” he said.