Posts Tagged ‘Michael Gove’

Letter from Wales: “Wales will cease to exist!”

03/01/2014, 09:00:40 AM

by Julian Ruck

This is the view of one of the Welsh government’s own education adviser’s, Professor David Reynolds, following last month’s PISA report (Programme for International Student Assessment, published by the OECD on 3.12.13). In the past he has also commented that “Wales is in the last chance saloon” and will be “economically dead”, if it doesn’t start taking seriously the abysmal state of education standards in Wales.

The PISA report referred to confirms unequivocally every word I have been saying both here and elsewhere, about the crisis of opportunity that is facing Welsh children in a modern, global world. Wales really is the supreme dunce of dunces in the UK when it comes to the Three R’s, let alone anything remotely resembling academic excellence. One might not agree with Michael Gove and his free for all policies but his comment in respect of Wales and its primitive state of academic learning, “You only have to look across the Severn bridge to see a country going backwards,” undoubtedly has enough decibels to drown out a punk rock band blasting away at Glastonbury!

Every year Welsh education gets worse and what does Carwyn and his Team Druid have to say about this disgraceful state of affairs ? The usual plaintive and nauseating wails of “It’s all everyone else’s fault and give us time!” The only thing our Carwyn ever gets passionate about sources tell me, are the dreams of an infatuated love affair with an obliging rugby ball.

Give them time?!! They’ve had 14 years to put things right and to stop giving Welsh school children a fourth class education.

Complacency! Complacency! Complacency!

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My generation isn’t apathetic. Telling us we are is an insult to democracy

15/11/2013, 10:09:01 AM

by Sam Fowles

We keep getting told that we’re not interested in “politics”, the reality is we’re just doing it better.

Apparently I don’t give a shit. Or at least my generation doesn’t. The story is we hate “politics”. Or, to use the most popular parlance, we’ve “lost faith” in it. We think “all politicians are the same” so we don’t vote.

Our elders are turning to UKIP in droves. Apparently because Nigel Farage will say things that ordinary politicians, hamstrung by their own bland, focus grouped platitudes, simply can’t.

Well yes, he does. It’s called extremism.

My generation’s collective decision to go home and watch The Inbetweeners again rather than vote for UKIP is possibly the strongest argument there is for putting us in charge of the country as soon as possible.

More importantly though, to say we don’t care about politics is just wrong. My generation may just be the most political in history. With Twitter, Facebook and blogs we’re analysing and commenting on the world around us on a far greater scale than our parents.

We have marched in our thousands against the war in Iraq, tuition fees and for fairer alternatives to the coalition’s economic masochism. Student activism and politics is a growing, not a declining phenomenon. No More Page 3, possibly the most important socio-political movement of the decade, is the brainchild of 20-somethings spread through social media and receiving it’s most decisive support through student unions.

Even outside those activities more overtly labelled “political”, my generation are churning out videos, songs, stories, plays, flashmobs and slutwalks which challenge every cultural dictum, from gender norms to post modernist theory.

So why does the prevailing opinion seem to be that we’re apathetic? Perhaps because people keep telling us we are. This is a story that’s being pedaled primarily by print media, TV and, somewhat paradoxically, politicians themselves.

Why do those most obviously involved in politics seem so desperate to convince us “millenials” that they’re irrelevant to us? That we are not interested in listening to them, debating their ideas or voting for them?

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The omnishambles is back

26/10/2013, 03:20:32 PM

by Michael Dugher

Across a wide-ranging front, just a cursory glance through this weekend’s newspapers suggest that so many of the government’s policies look to be in real trouble. The omnishambles is back.  This time it’s coupled with a planned modernisation which is being rolled back at a pace. It has been clear for a long time that Cameron is hopelessly out of touch. But his government looks increasingly like it is out of answers to the big challenges facing Britain.  On so many of the policies which were meant to define David Cameron’s government, the wheels have come off.

Let’s start with education. We already know that there is a crisis of a lack of school places in many parts of the country and that class sizes above 30 are making a big comeback.  But David Cameron’s centrepiece reform was the introduction of free schools, yet in the last two weeks we have had two deeply concerning examples of the danger they pose if increased freedoms are not complemented by checks and balances as Labour proposes.

The Islamic al Medinah free school in Derby was described by a scathing Ofsted report as not being “adequately monitored or supported” and for having inexperienced teachers who had not been provided with proper training.  It was branded “in chaos” and “dysfunctional”, with pupils being segregated and given the same work regardless of ability.  On Friday we had reports that Michael Gove’s department sat for months on a report alleging financial irregularities worth more than £80,000 at flagship Kings Academy in Bradford.

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Cameron’s GCSE history fail as he gets facts on Churchill wrong at spring forum

16/03/2013, 01:05:20 PM

Oh dear. What would Michael Gove say? In David Cameron’s speech today to Conservative spring forum, he reaches back into the annals of history to describe how past Tory leaders have supported aspiration.

The speech has been briefed to the media as being about an “aspiration nation” and given its  to the Tory grassroots, who better to cite than Churchill? The prime minister states,

“Great Conservatives down the generations have put those ladders in place. When Churchill invented the labour exchanges that helped people into work. When Macmillan built new homes. When Thatcher fired up enterprise so people could start their own businesses.”

Except when Winston Churchill legislated to create labour exchanges in 1909, he was of course a Liberal MP and President of the Board of Trade in one of the great progressive governments of the last century.

A government that was opposed tooth and nail by er…the Conservatives. A government whose plans for pensions and social insurance in that year’s budget were repeatedly defeated by the House of Lords prompting a constitutional crisis, at the behest of er…the Conservatives.

On the specific issue of labour exchanges, Tory grandee and MP, F.E.Smith, summed up the views of many of his colleagues in 1909,

“Not only will the establishment of labour exchanges not add to employment, but if they are to serve the only purpose which they can economically serve the necessary consequence of their establishment must be actually to diminish employment.”

David Cameron doesn’t  just get his facts wrong, in his speech he is attempting to re-write history, implying by rhetorical sleight of hand the Tories were in favour of an agenda that they actually viscerally opposed.

Following on from his rebuke by the UK Statistics authority for confusing the terms debt and deficit, and his upbraiding by the Office for Budget Responsibility for his misleading words on the impact of austerity on the deficit, this is just the latest in a series of events where David Cameron has been caught out being economical with the truth.

The teaching of history in schools is an issue particularly close to Michael Gove’s heart. Eighteen months ago he described it’s importance in developing the abilities of GCSE students  saying,

“One of the skills I would like to see students develop is the ability to argue and separate falsities from the truth.”

Perhaps a little chat with the prime minister after the next cabinet would be in order.

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Gove’s narcissistic dogma 1 – Evidence 0

28/01/2013, 08:57:26 AM

by Kevin Brennan

Last week’s announcement by Michael Gove that AS Levels would no longer count towards an A Level grade was a classic example of making policy based on dogma not evidence.

Back in 2010 Michael Gove announced his intention to get rid of AS Levels. They were originally introduced to give students a chance to study a broader range of subjects in year 12 (the old lower 6th). Students could decide to specialise in year 13 by dropping one or two subjects, but still have a good AS qualification to show for it. If they carried on, their AS mark could contribute to the final A Level grade in that subject.

One objection to AS Levels was that because of modular testing students in year 12 faced exams very early on, before having matured sufficiently. This was dealt with by getting rid of such early assessments which also discouraged entering early assessments just to ‘bank’ a mark. This was a reasonable reform to AS.

But Michael Gove was left with a problem that despite his stated intention to scrap AS Levels altogether, it was clear that he had very little support for his plans.

The right thing to do would have been to retain AS Levels as modified, but instead he has chosen to render them largely irrelevant by removing their ability to act as a building block to A-Level.

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Finland offers Labour an education model to challenge Gove’s retreat into the past

20/09/2012, 02:59:38 PM

by Robin Thorpe

Regardless of whether Michael Gove had any influence on the recent GCSE results, education should be a major area of debate between the incumbent government and a Labour party aspiring to reduce inequality. Yet the parliamentary Labour party has been remarkably quiet on this issue and seems content to pick fault only with the way that Gove handled the exams debacle.

What I would like to see the PLP do is challenge the coalition on issues that are of real importance to the full spectrum of stakeholders within our public education system; for example a clear definition of what education is for and transparently defined objectives for any reforms that are undertaken.

Let us first consider the issue of examinations and so-called grade inflation; in 2010 the Cambridge Assessment Group reported that

“we found there were different challenges associated with different types of exam but that these are related to the changing purposes of examinations, not a simplistic matter of ‘too easy’ or ‘too hard’.”

The Cambridge Assessment Report was undertaken by a large group of educators, inspectors and assessors over a period of months and considered, amongst other things, the issue of ‘grade drift’.

The report states that “grade drift probably existed, although so many confounding factors made it difficult to isolate and identify. How this might have come about was extensively discussed.

One cause was the constant change to qualifications. Tim Oates suggested that

if you effect continual or inappropriate and unnecessary change of qualifications, it makes holding standards over time extremely difficult”.

Yet despite this report Gove has proceeded to attempt to further modify examinations without first forming a cohesive plan of what and how is to be reformed. One of the first acts of Gove as secretary of state was to cancel the issue of the new (skills-based) national curriculum that was written under the previous government. He then also removed the modular element of GCSEs; a decision that may have been made for good reason but it goes counter to the findings regarding grade drift.  Gove’s most recent proposed change is of course the E-Bacc; a sure-fire way of ceasing grade drift – change the qualification.

The review of the national curriculum now being undertaken is to be welcomed, although I fear I won’t agree with the results. The signs are that a renewed emphasis is to be placed on examinations instead of coursework and that these examinations are to be harder. In Finland, the top-performing European nation in the PISA results, the emphasis on testing has been much reduced; no external testing takes place and schools are free to set their own syllabus from a very simple national core curriculum.

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The night Michael Gove nearly joined the Labour party

21/06/2012, 06:44:41 PM

As Michael Gove reads the headlines tonight he can bask in the glow of a day’s work well done. He ingratiated himself with the Daily Mail with a proper Tory exclusive, serenaded his party’s frothing right-wing and sent the Lib Dems into apoplexies of public rage.

All with a policy that neither he nor anyone in government seriously thinks is going to become law. An entirely confected debate with no other purpose than to help define Michael Gove as the true blue, king over the water.

Which it has.

But it was not always this way. Word reaches Uncut of a very different Gove.

It was October 1997, Conservative conference. The mood was one of shell-shocked despondency. The howling wind and rain of Blackpool matched the demeanour of many of those going through the motions in the Winter Gardens that year.

But for some, things weren’t quite so glum.

Michael Gove for one. He was there, working for the Times, gambolling from reception to bar to reception, fizzing with enthusiasm.

He had seen the light. The light had a name. And that name was Tony.

Gove was full of the joys of the previous week’s Labour conference and the sainted leader of New Labour. He luxuriated in the company of Labour lobbyists who had worked for the party in the recent campaign, quizzing them on their campaign methods and the political faith of their master.

In one exchange at a reception, Gove laid bare his personal theological struggle.

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From “Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher” to “Michael Gove, toilet snatcher”

28/02/2012, 07:00:05 AM

by Amanda Ramsay

First the Tories gave us “Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher”, now a new generation of school children are to become victims of “Michael Gove, toilet snatcher”.

Children’s charity Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence (ERIC) is fighting government plans to axe the requirement for a minimum of one toilet for every 20 pupils with their “Bog Standard” campaign. Cutting standards of sanitation and hygiene for children is part of the department for education’s contribution to the government’s “red tape challenge”. The consultation period on scrapping provisions in the School Premises Regulations (1999) closed in January and the changes will become law in spring.

While Michael Gove has targeted children in his Thatcherite crusade to remove statutory safeguards, teachers’ toilet facilities will remain protected under Workplace Regulations from 1992 which are the responsibility of the department for business, innovation and skills.

School toilets have a big impact on health and well-being. But many schools are failing their pupils with poorly maintained, dirty and smelly facilities.  Research carried out by ERIC and online campaigners Netmums has found a quarter of pupils in England’s schools avoid using toilets because they are so dirty.

The consequences for children of not being able to go to the toilet are severe with issues of soiling and bullying making school life a misery for many. Lobbying parliament on Tuesday, ERIC will target government ministers, MPs and Peers with a petition from angry parents demanding action.

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Michael Gove, Nelson Mandela and the King James bible

05/12/2011, 08:23:09 AM

by Stephanie Peacock

It is often said that the only way a politician can leave a legacy is to name a building after himself. I say “him” because, other than a hundred Conservative clubs in the provincial towns of England, I cannot think of a building that carries the name of a former female politician. There is the Centre Pompidou in France, The Reagan National airport. You can’t walk through a Labour borough in London without finding at least one tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Michael Gove, though, got an ‘A’ for originality last week. Michael has created a whole new genre of political legacy. Without any sense of irony, Mr Gove has personalised his very own version of the bible. For ever more, the Michael Gove King James bible will be a sought after piece of ebay memorabilia.

Of course it was Mrs Thatcher who once said that “No-one would remember the good samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well”.  Of all of Mrs Thatcher’s biblical quotes, this is the one that most showed her to be out of touch. The Michael Gove King James bible may be the education secretary’s good samaritan moment: an act of political messaging that spectacularly misses the mark.

Pupils and parents will see this for what it: a misguided and expensive piece Govian spin. According to reports, the gesture could cost the taxpayer £375,000. At a time when dinner ladies are striking over their pension increases this is an appalling piece of mixed messaging. There are a lot of dinner ladies you could make happy with £375,000.

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Monday News Review

29/08/2011, 06:59:45 AM

Ed’s new strategy

Labour is plotting a strategy to portray David Cameron as an old-style traditional Tory – despite warnings it will leave the party at odds with the public on crime, immigration and welfare. A leaked copy of a report ordered by Ed Miliband says Labour should launch a campaign to brand the Prime Minister as being ‘recognisably right-wing’. It accuses the Conservatives of taking ‘major strides back to their ideological roots’ since the election and points to the ‘increasingly shrill language the Tories are using as they vacate the centre ground’. In an analysis that will dismay senior Blairites in the party, the report suggests the Conservatives are too right-wing on crime, immigration and welfare – all areas where polling suggests the public would like to see even tougher policies. – Daily Mail

Labour is developing a new strategy to paint David Cameron as an old-style, traditional Tory, according to confidential documents obtained by the Observer, as the parties prepare to do battle during the coming conference season. The opposition believes the prime minister has abandoned the centre ground in recent months to adopt a more orthodox conservative stance on issues such as law and order, immigration and welfare. They are now set to launch a concerted campaign to brand Cameron as a “recognisably rightwing” leader in a move that will inevitably inflame political debate. The creation of the strategy follows reports last month that Cameron had polled negatively for the first time, with more people saying that the prime minister was doing a bad job than those backing him. The two-and-half-page paper written by the MP Shaun Woodward, a former Tory frontbencher and now head of Labour’s anti-Tory attack unit, and circulated among senior Labour officials, lays bare the areas where the opposition now believes Cameron is vulnerable. – the Guardian

David Cameron is to be depicted as an old-fashioned Tory in a new advertising campaign that is currently being developed by the Labour party, according to documents obtained by the Guardian. The campaign is being prepared into the crucial conference season, and the left are beginning to believe that Cameron has left the safe middle ground on issues such as law and order. Recent polls show that the approval rates of the incumbent Prime Minister in the Coalition government have plummeted. More people now disapprove of Cameron in the role than those who continue to support his leadership. There are also criticisms in a two-and-a-half-page document by anti-Tory campaigners that Cameron has abandoned the ‘compassionate conservatism’ stance that secured his party votes in May 2010. Leading policies, such as environmental affairs and preserving the National Health Service, have been ‘sidelined’ in favour of more traditional Conservative priorities. – Tucone.com

Free schools steam ahead

Twenty-four “free schools” are to open next month, the government has announced. The schools – state-funded and set up by teachers, charities, education experts and parents – are spread throughout the country but mainly concentrated in deprived areas with poor records of academic achievement. They have the same legal status as academies and do not have to follow the national curriculum, giving them more freedom than local authority schools. The Department for Education has confirmed that funding for all 24 schools has been signed and agreed. Under the coalition’s plans, the schools will also be able to prioritise the most disadvantaged children in their school admissions arrangements. – the Guardian

Some of the ‘free schools’ are existing schools that are taking up ‘free’ status. These include the Maharishi School, in Lancashire, which stresses the importance of yoga. A particularly vocal enthusiast of the ‘free school’ system is the journalist, Toby Young, who will be setting up his own school in West London. Young’s will have an academically rigorous curriculum, with an emphasis on Latin. Five different faith groups will be getting the chance to run their own state-financed schools. These include the first state-financed Sikh school, two Jewish primary schools, a Hindu school, a Hare Krishna School, and a Church of England school. The capital cost of setting up the 24 schools will range from £110m to £130m. They are a flagship policy from Conservative education policy. However, so far, only 32 of the 323 applications have been approved. – Huffington Post

You didn’t need an enquiry to tell you that

He went from hero to villain as the “Cleggmania” which swept Britain before last year’s election gave way to protests against his role in the Coalition Government. And now the Liberal Democrats have owned up to an uncomfortable truth: that targeted attacks on their leader, Nick Clegg, by political opponents are damaging the party’s electoral fortunes. An official internal inquiry into why the Lib Dems did so badly in this year’s local elections has pointed the finger at advertising campaigns such as one which portrayed the politician as “Cleggzilla”, trampling over public services. The Cleggzilla posters were funded by trade unions opposed to the Coalition’s cuts. Whilst some might argue that it is the job of political campaigners to criticise their opponents, the Lib Dems have cried foul, branding the attacks as “personal and vicious”. The complaint, in a report which will be presented to delegates at the Lib Dem conference in Birmingham next month, risks reopening a public debate into Mr Clegg’s state of mind. Since he became Deputy Prime Minister last year he has brushed aside suggestions that he is “fragile” and suffering from stress. – the Telegraph

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