End of Term Report: Go Now Michael Gove, Make Haste, But Quietly Please
I have been struggling with what seems to me to be a mightily appropriate metaphor but it is one so brutal it may offend; unless one sees it as a metaphor of course.
“And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand over your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead.”
I use Dylan’s angriest song, "Masters of War," to show my anger at the destruction of state education.
The news that Gove has been sacked as Education Secretary rushed joyfully around our schools. He had done his job, smashing a state education system that he despised and his fellow privately educated ministers ignored. He’s off now to be Chief Whip, flattering Cameron and telling fibs about Theresa May whose job he coveted. His wife, the barely readable Sarah Vine, hides his underwear (The Times 04-05-11) so there’s a more useful way he can while away the empty hours - searching for his knockers. He owes Murdoch money but he may join The Daily Mail, editing the newspaper that should not speak its name, cobbled for people that share his fantasies and challenged lifeform.
So end of term, how did it go Michael?
You introduced many new exams, the most dangerous at age 16 and 18 where you return us to speedwriting memory tests which will mess up children’s opportunities, and the silliest at age 5 when teachers interview tots for 30 minutes – a sort of viva, I guess. The private schools threw out your new exams and carried on with iGCSEs. Now that many of us have copied, “from the very best the independent sector has to offer,” (Gove in My Academy Spring 2014) you are finding all sorts of ways to stop us as they are not fit qualifications. Goodness knows what will happen to all those Eton boys whose qualifications are rubbished at university and job interviews when up against comprehensive graduates.
You rewrote the History Curriculum. Your own view of history is unique, biased and unsound. We do not understand history by starting at Year zero at age 5 and progressing chronologically through Ethelreds and Caesars, great men of each century, until we reach the benign misunderstood First World War generals at age 16. To you history is unconnected great British men and there are no themes and certainly no lessons to be learned studying the development of state education.
State schools have no money because you cut us to pay for your toys. With increased costs, government capital funding diverted to your toy schools and 6th form funding slashed by at least 20% in the last 3 years you have sent us all to the brink of financial disaster. A 6th Form college has just replaced lecturers with unqualified facilitators. The Education Funding Agency has now decided that a 6th Former doing 3 A Levels is part time and therefore lower funded. Call it theft and be done.
Teachers have been insulted and their unions ridiculed. You raised the retirement age, gave us new pay policies, pay structures, performance management and a 1% pay rise for the next 4 years, if we can meet your exam only targets.
Your childhood must have been miserable for you to believe our children should learn by rote. Drama, Art and Music are relegated to “prep.” You seek control of our schools directly from your untutored office. You have been the most interferingly unlistening, unadvised political ideologue in the history of state education. You may rewrite history, but we will remember you.
You spent £2 million insulting teachers by prattling on about what skills the 200,000 redundant ex-military men could bring to our classrooms. You managed 42 and the DfE added injury, “Entry requirements were deliberately high to ensure top-quality recruits…(they will need) GCSEs at Grade C in English and Maths.” Nothing more?
And just this month there is the idea that retired people could fill the gaps in our staffing. Perhaps a sacked politician could teach a lesson a week of KS3 Maths. Continuity means nothing to you.
“You that never have done anything but build to destroy
You play with my world like it was your little toy”
You sent the anti terrorist squad to investigate possible political interference by muslims in Birmingham and then your mate at Ofsted, announced no notice Ofsted inspections. First visiting, surprise, surprise a 95% African Caribbean school in North London. You’re anti European Community anti some religious groups running schools and very pro some others – Christian and Jewish religions – running theirs. You put down multi-cultural society and integrated communities and lecture us on British Values. Values like fair play, equal opportunity, honesty and integrity?
It’s only school dinners, nutrition v obesity, but you dropped school meals standards for academies in 2010, and after lunch with the Leon restaurants sent them, pals of Cameron from schooldays to investigate in 2012. Now you attack school meals standards in 2014. Opportunity knocked, Michael?
You rob our students of their earned exam success and your mate, Glenys Stacey, last seen howling at a departing, mocking audience of school leaders, “I am independent of Gove, honest; we never meet, believe me…” Michael says he doesn’t want kids studying great American literature at GCSE and it immediately disappears from the syllabus. Great independent minds thinking alike?
Gove and Stacey reckon there’s too much preparation of students (state school only, not those doing “prep” of course) She wants teachers to tell her, anonymously when we engage in bad practice: teaching to the syllabus, counselling, coaching, study skills, mnemonics, mind maps and mock exams. Some schools warm up the kids before an exam, give them a banana and a bottle of water and then have professional invigilators in air conditioned well lit halls. Halls with clocks. For exams to be fair, “ungamed,” state school students take exams in the dark, wearing blindfolds and mittens. They should not be told what the exam is about or how long it is.
You brutally condemned people who disagree with you, “Yada, Yada!” you chanted on Question time, “bad academics” you called the professors who told you to stop meddling. And the rest of us,? Seems we are, inelegantly, “The Blob.” Your special advisers tweeted @toryeducation against all counter Gove views. You denied knowledge of them and then obeyed orders to tone them down. Oops! You refused freedom of Information requests for your files on spurious grounds and were ordered to comply. Lying, Cheating and Dissembling is not very British, Mr Gove.
Do you remember when that Parliamentary Select Committee mocked you for saying that all schools have got to be above average. Liz Truss ordering us to do better than the Shanghai selective schools. Schools which do not admit the sizeable local servant class. Around 95% of the Chinese school system is years behind us with an early leaving age, massive truancy and illiteracy all conveniently discounted from the results published by the OECD as PISA.”
You deliberately misled about international exam tables and you were mugged in every country you visited. When they took you to their model schools you slathered and salivated and told us to better them. When you visit English schools they send the bad boys on a trip to “a long way away” (Secret Teacher, The Guardian 20-06-14) and you must think we paint walls freshly every day. A week ago, your staff wrote your congratulatory speech on a visit to my friend’s school four hours before you arrived.
Enough of your past; here’s your legacy
Four University Technology Colleges, triple funded, have been inspected by Ofsted. One is Outstanding (well done you) two have orders to improve (that’s a 3 they got) and the 4th achieved a mighty 4 (Special Measures.) 1 out of 4 is embarrassingly awful.
The Bedford Free School head, Mark Lehain you paraded at conference, strutted your stuff to blue rinse applause, NUT are on strike today, he gloated, so we have sent recruiting leaflets to families telling them we don’t strike. Clap, clap, clap. Ofsted came; they got a 3 and he bleated that it was too soon to be judged.
When Gove visited a UTC last week he had to talk about the failure to open the Fulham Free School. A very cross headteacher, Alun Ebenezer, felt let down. I swear he did say, “This is an outstanding school.” It hasn’t even opened.
Lord Toby Young, darling of the Free School, founder of the West London Free School cannot keep a headteacher; I guess we aren’t necessary, but three heads in two years? And when,Toby, will you need the publicly funded 2nd building?
Academy chains are so admired by Gove as they are in perfect position to introduce the Tory dream grammar schools. 14 such chains, yes 14, managing over 170 schools have been barred from taking on more schools because of concerns over, “education standards and financial mismanagement.” (Daily Telegraph 19-03-14). The 34 strong E-ACT chain has been ordered to relinquish control of 10 schools following Ofsted inspections found serious weaknesses in the quality of education. Kids being failed, Michael.
Grace Academy, which runs three schools in the Midlands and was set up by the Tory donor Lord Edmiston, has paid more than £1m to companies owned by the governors and their families. Lots of shocking figures in this article including one family member earning, “£367,732 from Grace Academy over the last six years for consultancy work.” (The Guardian 12=01-14)
The TKAT chain boasted to the parliamentary select committee, they had dispensed with,“within weeks of conversion, 26 out of our 40 headteachers and many other senior staff.” ((BEN 29-01-14)
The Prospects Academy chain was forced to close (BBC News 20-05-14) after 2 of its 6 schools were deemed inadequate. More public money squandered on another ill-thought-out gamble with children’s education.
Tory Party darling, Katharine Birbasingh (Gove calls her “often”) had had many jobs in her 10 year teaching career when she wowed conference with disturbingly disloyal pictures of her failed students. Lost her job for that but has been given her own free school in Wembley. Joy of joy, to see the very attractive and happy children’s faces on the school’s website. Oh dear, they have no school, no site and no students. Stop using photos of kids Burba and stick to writing your who to shag, “Singleholic” nonsense.
Finally, almost, and briefly you will appreciate, Free School funding – a.k.a. diverting money to open free schools. “Free schools budget trebled to £1.5 billion” (BBC 11-12-13).The average cost per free school is £6.6 million – twice what the DfE claims, according to the National Audit Office (NAO December 2013) The NAO says there have been problems, “financial mismanagement claims at 3 open free schools… More than a quarter of all spending on school buildings – £241 million has been on free schools in areas with no need for extra places” the NAO claims. The Public Accounts Committee claimed, “one in four desks at free schools were empty.(POA December 2013. In May 2014 Gove raided the education budget for another £400 million to shore up his free school lunacy.
But are they any good? “The percentage of free schools given Ofsted’s lowest, ‘inadequate’ rating is now nearly twice as high as the rest of the state sector.” (Observer 14-05-14) and this means that 11% of kids in frees schools are badly taught. Children are being failed.
By Tuesday of last week I had read 470 students’ reports of ambition nurtured by their teachers. I spoke with 200 parents and awarded 650 prizes on Wednesday. On Thursday I welcomed 166 nervous children for their first day at secondary school and that evening I was moved by Facebook praise, smiling children, relieved parents and our tireless, uncomplaining staff at the end of another 12 hour day. The following day we welcomed 1058 children aged 4 – 11 to our school, Beverley cooked with 245 of them in one go! Bag packing at Tescos for our Air Ambulance charity; a carwash in the rain for Peacechild International and sponsorship of many walkers to treat Children’s Cancer raised £1600.This is our community and we are proud of it. That evening we danced, sang, wigged out as 40 or so acts at our rock concert filled the halls. Our Art Exhibition wowed hundreds. This is what we do, and another 16 hour day ended as parents and staff mopped the floor.
You can never and most certainly will never be part of this, Michael. You wont ever see it and your imagination, stuck in yourself and your dreamless machinations, will never, ever enjoy what we do.
If unbridled optimism is all we've got, if spirit is all we have to oppose the devil then I’ll settle for that.
I want to do this forever.
You can't stop me .