I come to bury Gove, not to praise him

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Accidentally listen to a politician speak on the radio or TV, or read what they’ve said in a newspaper and it won’t be long before you hear one of them play the emotive Social Mobility card. Now All Change Please! is of course all in favour of enabling members of the population to improve their position in life, but our politicians seem to have a rather different and somewhat skewed view of the electorate’s aspirations to all become judges, doctors, lawyers, journalists and, of course, politicians. And All Change Please! suspects that in reality the potential for social mobility is better now than it’s ever been? (Discuss…)

The latest culprit appears to be our esteemed foreign secretary William Hague – AKA The Hood  – talking on the BBC Today programme:

The disturbing thing, I would say, is that in the 30-odd years since I was at a comprehensive school, it probably in those intervening decades will have become a bit harder for somebody from a comprehensive school to become the Foreign Secretary, or whatever position they aspire to.

That reflects on a long period of this country falling too far behind in the world in state education, and thankfully we now have the best Education Secretary in living memory – or longer – who is trying to put that right.’

Read more, if you dare: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2507861/William-Hague-says-harder-comprehensive-pupils-reach-now.html#ixzz2l205V0Mx

To which the ever-dependable Tony Wheeler responded:

It’s not state schools that hamper, it’s independent schools that have indoctrinated parents, pupils and the most powerful into believing that it’s worth breaking young people in order to keep these jobs in the old firm/family.

I am a product of comprehensive education and the most important thing it taught me is that I do not want to be a senior politician or a Whitehall civil servant or a QC, or a senior banker or a hedge fund manager or any of the so called “top” jobs eagerly snapped up by the Eton and Charterhouse Tory boys.  I know enough about what makes me unhappy to know that I would have to significantly break myself to be able to take on any of these roles.

As a teenager I had a big enough ego to believe I could’ve been anything I wanted to be but the idea of spending any time with this bunch of broken people was just stupid. I was having too much fun doing all sorts of exciting stuff and I wanted it to continue as long as possible.

It’s the Oxbridge elite (widely touted in this debate as in charge of all this stuff) who have mucked up the banking system, the health service the BBC, the transport system, power and water services. Their list of abject failures is endless. I think it’s time the proletariat woke up to the uselessness of this axis of evil and told them all to bugger off down the Job Centre…

And of course the reality is that during the 30 years since Hague attended his comprehensive school, standards have risen dramatically – from a time when a minority achieved O levels and the majority obtained second-best CSEs, to today when around half of children getting a grade A to C grades GCSE in at least five subjects. Let’s just hope and pray Hague has a better grasp of Foreign Policy than he does of Education.1S-4065408563_fdebe27a32_b

Meanwhile Hague is not the only member of the gang. Here’s another politician who comes to praise Gove and not to bury him.  Over the weekend the Torygraph published the following article by Boris Johnson:

We should be humbly thanking the super-rich, not bashing them

in which he makes some interesting, if controversial, points, before spoiling it all by writing:

There are kids everywhere who have a natural, if undiscovered, flair for mathematics and the mental arithmetic that business needs. They just don’t have the education to bring out that talent – which is why Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is so right to be conducting his revolution in schools.

Over the past 35 years All Change Please! has encountered many talented children whose artistic abilities have been side-lined in favour of academic subjects, but never one who has been held back from doing mathematics.

The belief persists that simply making mathematics – and other academic subjects – more difficult is in itself going to improve standards. Perhaps therefore we should somehow contrive to simply make parliamentary process more difficult, in order to improve the standards of politicians….?

Image credit (lower): Flickr  Mark Scholl

8 comments on “I come to bury Gove, not to praise him

  1. ah ha, Standards, things aren’t what they used to be….in 1994 my son was given O level exam papers dating from 1974 as preparation for A level French exams by his teacher as he said they were of an equivalent standard……20 year later have Standards risen again? Grades A to C in five subjects? Propective teacher trainees
    seem to have problems in passing their QTS skills prior to entering teacher training… what is a GCSE really worth?

    • I agree that GCSE standards are not as high as O levels were – they couldn’t possibly be for that many to do so well! But I do think the overall quality of education that a typical ‘average’ child receives now is substantially better than it was in the 1970s and 80s.

      I am not familiar enough with the requirements for QTS skills to explain why teacher-trainees have problems passing them, but there is clearly something wrong somewhere. Maybe there is a mis-match of the assessment process with the actual skills required? Or perhaps it’s another example of the belief that if you make something harder, standards will automatically improve?

      • Passing an exam is not the same as demonstrating a long term competency. If there is an demon that a QTS trainee has to face, it’s that their functional assessments are not like their GCSEs, are very time dependent and put an emphasis on a degree of short-term accuracy that remodelled GCSEs from O level don’t demand. How often does the new driver pass their test then crash? Passing Maths competency won’t improve if you make Maths GCSE harder, and then wait at least 6 years before you retest. I don’t think Maths GCSE is like riding a bike, more like remembering an important phonecall the significance of which pales in the intervening years. You remember the script, but how it all joins up is quite another story.

  2. I am still aghast that this picture of Michael Gove as an educational reformer survives and is lauded to the skies. How is it that large numbers of people still believe that this is a period of positive reform rather than an ill conceived and in many ways disastrous series of bungles?

  3. How is it that Michael Gove’s reputation as a visionary educational reformer is still intact in spite of all the hard evidence to the contrary? I await with interest the spin that is sure to come when improvements in education need to be demonstrated before an election. Silly me, the line will be something like, “Our root and branch reforms have yet to take effect.”

  4. What concerns me most is the pressure put upon young people to achieve these wretched A-C passes. I have year 11 pupils dropping by the wayside on a daily basis, not able to cope with the never ending assessments, science Isa tests as well as revision for the looming exams – mocks at Christmas swiftly followed by the real thing in the new year. Some of these kids are being pushed far beyond their comfort zone to get them into a sixth form college where there will be even more pressure to achieve to get to university to get a degree which will encumber them with a massive debt and no life skills as far as the non-existent job market goes. How the stupid Education Secretary keeps failing to understand this is beyond the wit of normal man.

  5. Ok, OK, sometimes Tristram you push just a bit too far. Tony Wheeler’s anecdote is one we can all empathise with; mine pushing back against the secondary boarding school culture that prepared me for work in the colonies or in the parishes. We are now chronically short of both colonies and priests, so that’s not very helpful for those that plan stalanistically for future employment.
    Now as a headteacher with far too much mud on my studs (and probably far too many nails showing too), my judgement is that the current education argument is actually neither villain or canine, but do with being fit for purpose. The politicisation of schools, local authorities, funding and national debate has taken us so far away from what is known works in classrooms. Linking educational outcomes at school to privilege later in life seems to me almost as farcical as matching eating ice creams and premature alzheimers – it’s almost 100% but a nonsense correlation.
    We somehow don’t ask the right questions; why do young adults enter politics in the first place? Probably close to why those in the countryside enter farming – proximity and familiarity. Wheeler’s unwillingness to tie himself to the yoke doomed him as a labourer too – in fact reading his extract, you feel you are counting fruit stones as you move through. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor man, Beggar man Thief”.

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