Michael Gove, Education Secretary for the UK, has been in the news so much recently I’m starting to wonder if he’s deliberately trying to make himself look bad to take his share of the publics’ dislike and move it away from Iain Duncan Smith after a grandmother killed herself and blamed the bedroom tax for the severity of her depression, and from David Cameron for, well, anything and everything. He is the PM, after all.
At the start of the week he face backlash from two sides. First, from the grammar school history teacher, Russel Tarr. The previous week, Gove criticised Mr Tarr for having his 14/15 year old students create Mr Men style books showing Hitler’s rise to power for a target audience or 10/11 year olds. While Gove thought he was making light of Germany’s dark history, Tarr countered that he missed the entire point, pointing out that he wasn’t teaching the Third Reich through Mr Men books, but Hitler’s rise, which was less about killing jews and taking over Europe and more about making speeches etc. It was also revealed that some of the statistics used by the Department of Education to back up Gove’s claims of teenage ignorance were commissioned by UKTV Gold and Premier Inn, well known bastions of statistical and factual analysis.
Speaking of teenage ignorance, a letter written to Mr Gove by 11 year old (fine pre-teen) Rebecca Lee from Bristol was printed in the Mirror. It pointed out several mistakes it SATs questions that she had to take, and was actually written better than most letters ‘ve seen written by adults.
Perhaps the most damning story of the week was the vote of no confidence passed by the National Association of Head Teachers, along with the frosty reaction to his appearance at a recent NAHT conference. Grilled on the frequent change of policy and on Ofsted, as well as his policies in general, Gove appeared ‘visibly ruffled’ by stories like a school governor (a volunteer, by the way) cracking and crying under the pressure of her school having to deal with both SATs and Ofsted in one week.
Mr Gove claims that he wants the UK to rise its educational standards. How he’s going to do that by demonising the teaching profession and ignoring the pleas of head teachers who have to put his policies into effect remains to be seen. Unfortunately, like so many of his colleagues, he seems resolute to keep the course he’s set regardless of the criticism, the numerous holes in his arguments, and the growing possibility that it’s the wrong course.
What an example to set to our children.