Sorry seems to be the hardest word

This afternoon Michael Gove and his Department for Education scaled new heights of arrogance.

“On the substantive points he [the judge] concluded that it was a rational decision and that the authorities involved had no expectation of being allowed to proceed with their projects.”  “The Secretary of State will now look again at his decision with regard to these authorities with an open mind, taking representations from them. “The judge set out, however, that “the final decision on any project still rests with him and…. No one should gain false hope from this decision.” – Department for Education

Such a bullish response considering that Gove had just been firmly put in his place. Today the councils of Waltham Forest, Luton Borough Council, Nottingham City Council, Sandwell, Kent County Council and Newham won their legal challenge on the scrapping of the BSF programme. This ruling opened up questions that need to be answered and answered quickly.

The judge allowed the legal challenge on the account that Mr Gove had failed to consult the councils before cutting the programme. He ruled that the decision was so unfair that it amounted to an abuse of power. Only Michael Gove can see any semblance of justification in his decision from this devastating assessment of his actions.

Three questions now need to be answered following this ruling;

  1. Does this now leave the door open for other councils to challenge the cancellation of their BSF programmes? If so, will we see the government scale back its cuts agenda to allow for additional capital funding to be channelled back into state education?
  2. Does this raise questions about the Free Schools programme and it’s consultation process. A process that should be taking place but is frequently accused of not happening with any degree of transparency?
  3. Does Gove’s response confirm that he is officially the most arrogant MP sitting today?

The first two questions will be answered in due course but the third can be answered now. That answer is firm yes.

There have been question marks about his judgement and his decision making  from day one. Today’s ruling only confirms what we have known for a long time and that is Gove doesn’t care what people think. He has an agenda that is both blinded by arrogance and morally wrong.

Gove now needs to stand up and admit once again that he was wrong. He needs to say sorry for the pain that his unlawful decision has caused to thousands of students and teachers. Not just to today’s victorious councils but to all students and teachers that have been touched by this “abuse of power”.

Back in the Gove

“Are you really saying to young people and employers today that dead languages are more important than business studies, engineering, ICT, music and RE?,”

Andy Burnham asked this question in the Commons on Monday. As a teacher, these are the type of questions that we want answered. This was the response from Michael Gove;

“I am surprised you have the brass neck to stand here and say working-class children shouldn’t study modern foreign languages, shouldn’t study science, shouldn’t study history and shouldn’t study geography”.

Now correct me if I’m wrong but Burnham wasn’t saying that working class children shouldn’t study modern languages, science, history or geography for that matter.

Maybe Gove is confused? Maybe in his world latin or biblical hebrew are modern languages. Languages that are at the cutting edge of business in this modern age? Maybe we missed the Apple launch of the next generation of iPad with dual dictionary capability? The dual dictionary that not only predicts english spellings but also latin? Steve Jobs was heard uttering the words Carpe diem as he showed off his new toy?

Burnham was making a legitimate point about the introduction of the English Baccalaureate. Not once have I heard an opposition MP complain that those aforementioned subjects weren’t important, or shouldn’t be studied by working class children. The complaint is that the process of introducing such a measure as the EBACC was so fudged, that it wasn’t fair to schools or students. Students that are being judged against something they had no control over since they took their options 2 years prior whilst in year 9.

The other complaint now, is that, just with BSF, Gove is once again not listening to people at the coal face. Questions have been raised about the modern importance of subjects such as ICT, business studies, engineering, etc. Those legitimate questions have been cynically manipulated to argue that you can’t have have both sets of subjects. It’s the old Bushism, you’re either with Gove or you’re against him. You either believe that ICT is worthwhile and hebrew isn’t. In which case you some how think that working class children are thick. His axis of evil seems to consist of business studies, ICT, engineering and subjects considered ‘vocational’.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of those subjects and how they are as much academic as they are vocational; or even comment on the fact that having a vocation is somehow now wrong. A child can study any subject that they want to. I know of schools that offer 2 GCSE options in year 9, again in year 10 and once more in year 11. The school timetable can be altered to fit everything in.

My major gripe is once again levelled at Gove. No one is saying that history, geography, science, english, maths, french or german aren’t important. But that’s the argument he seems to want to have. When is he going to answer the question about latin having more importance than ICT? Maybe he can’t? Maybe he should Ask Jeeves, maybe he should search on Wikipedia? Maybe he should seize the day and answer the bloody question?

Gove needs to work on his defero, Burnham is adept at asking the questions that should see Gove put firmly in his locus.

Russell of discontent

Ofsted Inspector: Well Mr Britland, your lesson was outstanding! The learning that took place in your room was inspirational. Your use of technology was mind boggling and I have never seen a department or school run so well.

Mr Britland: Why thank you very much. We work hard here to make this a successful school.

Ofsted Inspector: Whoa hold on there…let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. What university did you go to?

Mr Britland: University of East London. Why?

Ofsted Inspector: I’m afraid that’s not good enough…as a consequence your lesson was inadequate and your school unsuccessful.

The Guardian today reported that while addressing the Independent Academies Association (IAA) conference in central London, Lord Adonis said: “You need a good mix of teachers (in secondary schools) of course, at any successful school, but you cannot be a successful school unless you at least have a certain proportion of your teachers who have themselves come from leading universities”.

Is Lord Adonis, a man whom I used to have respect for, suggesting that this is going to be something else that schools are going to be judged against? Now I will concede that there is value in having teachers that have been educated at leading universities, as long as they are able to engage with the students that they are teaching. However, this is a standard that should be applied to all teachers.

Why are our politicians so obsessed with top universities? A school should be deemed a success on the educational outcomes of its student body, both academic and social. It shouldn’t be deemed a success by exam results alone or by the number of state school students who get accepted at leading universities; Or for that matter, the number of Cambridge graduate teachers it has on its staff. Education should be about learning and nothing else. Not exams, learning.

You can’t always quantify success. Success is not always nuanced.