Gove misinformation exposed again

Fiona Millar's picture
Excellent, and very detailed piece here by Warwick Mansell . It systematically and  rigorously takes apart many of Michael Gove's claims about the English school system. One to keep and refer back to every time you hear claims about England falling behind in international comparisons, schools making inequality worse and the government de-centralising and increasing autonomy for heads and teachers.
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Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 19/02/2011 - 17:15

Warwick Mansell's analysis is a clinical dissection of Mr Gove's rhetoric in the Education Bill debate. I particularly liked the advice given in the comment section to doctoral students: if you're going to use evidence to back up your arguments, then you should not ignore evidence to the contrary. Mr Gove, take note.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sat, 19/02/2011 - 17:29

Warwick's piece is excellent and I agree with most of it. The only point I would take issue with is the QDCA stuff in it. My school is still dealing with the new National Curriculum of 2007 written by QDCA, which is quite frankly farcical: very bureaucratic and burdensome. The assessments for English are mind-boggling in their complexity. There may be some virtue in just saying what writers/facts should be covered and leaving all the rest to teachers. That might be less restricting than what's in place at the moment. It would be simpler. I think, by and large, teachers have got better despite QDCA, not because of it. I am kind of with Gove on this one -- and I'm generally very critical of his policies! I am against the narrowness of Gove's preferred curriculum, but I do think the 2007 NC wasn't effective.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 20/02/2011 - 15:47

I left teaching before the 2007 National Curriculum was implemented. From Francis's description it appears yet another over-prescriptive imposition on teachers. Unfortunately, this has been going on for years, with initiative piled on initiative. Each change in the National Curriculum is followed by a change in exam syllabi, changes in assessment, changes in marking schemes and changes in targets.

I think the UK should follow the lead of Finland and Alberta: a mandated CORE curriculum with teachers free to decide how to deliver it. This core curriculum should be followed by ALL schools: public and private.

Urban Head's picture
Sun, 20/02/2011 - 18:39

A good article by WM which will not be picked up by the broadsheets. A shame really as its a real window into the utter chaos at the Dept. As Gove frequently tells people 'I'm a journalist, I have had no experience in running anything'. The YPLA gives out money as it is ordered to by the Minister and his Special Advisers, nobody actually knows what the new key basics indicator will be for the present Y11 and any interest group can, it seems, open a school anywhere. The amazing thing is that the PM has yet to realise what is going on.

Fiona Millar's picture
Sun, 20/02/2011 - 20:38

Michael Gove has all the trademarks of a journalist rather than a politician ( and I speak as someone who spent 15 years on a national daily paper). He is basically a commentator, not an administrator, he has a clear idea of the story he wants and isn't much interested in the detail. The great thing about being a journalist on a daily paper is that can you move swiftly on, leaving yesterday's news behind you. Unfortunately in politics, your decisions have a horrible habit of creeping back to haunt you.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sun, 20/02/2011 - 21:37

Fiona's, Urban Head's and Janet's comments really all chimed with me a great deal. Yes, Janet, we do need a slimmed-down, sensible curriculum which isn't Gradgrindish but isn't the skills-based mess at the moment. Janet, you'd really laugh to see the way to assess reading and writing in English at the moment. Mind you, I have absolutely no confidence that Gove will be any better for the reasons that Fiona and Urban Head highlight. I've heard it's chaos too, with a great deluge of work flooding the whole department, most of whom are actually quite sensible, clever people but forced over the cliff by the current clowns in office. The biggest centralisation in education we've ever seen is going on at a time when staff numbers have been greatly cut and when we've never had a less experienced ministerial team. As Blair said in The Journey, much of government is about billion-pound project management, and yet most politicians have never even run a department in a school, let alone this!

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 21/02/2011 - 13:51

And while Mr Gove grabs more state control for his department, Mr Cameron is busy telling us how he would like less centralism

To justify his proposals, he repeats the mantra of UK schools falling behind our competitors, which we all know are based on distorted statistics and the brushing aside of positive results (TIMSS 2007). He also cites poor cancer survival rates, disputed in the British Medical Journal . It seems that citing evidence correctly isn't one of the Government's strong points.

In his zeal to promote localism he made a slip. He said, “In this new world of decentralised, open public services it will be up to government to show why a public service cannot be delivered at a lower level than it is currently.” I’m sure he didn’t mean to suggest that “lower level” equals “a lower level of service”. Unfortunately for Mr Cameron, we have previous examples of Government relaxation of the reins to show the results:

1Opening up the school meals service resulted in our children being fed Turkey Twizzlers.
2Outsourcing hospital cleaning meant dirty wards.
3Privatisation of electricity and gas means we are now at the mercy of the power companies (see Times Feb 12, "Energy Minister is a Cowardy Custard”)

No private company will invest money where there is no profit, so who will deliver those public services which are unlikely to give a return? I think Mr Cameron should tell us.

Janet, I don't think it can ever be as simple as 'state good - private bad' (or even the other way round).

You need to look at sectors on a case by case basis. I take it you are not posting from Norhern Ireland where the lack of investment by the state run water company meant thousands without water this past winter.

For privatisation to be successful it depends on the strength of regulation to enforce public benefit and standards, and then you have to decide whether the costs of that regulation are outweighed by the benefits of market discipline. I imagine in some cases they will be and in other cases they won't.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 21/02/2011 - 16:38

In his proposals to decentralise everything and allow private companies to bid for public work, Mr Cameron is not doing what you suggest - looking at sectors on a case-by-case basis. He is assuming that state = bad, and uses dubious data and sweeping generalisations to back up his argument.

I agree that what happened in Northern Ireland with the state-run water company - but isn't there a devolved government there. If it is inefficient, then I would expect the Northern Ireland voters to hold them to account.

You have actually raised an interesting point which I hadn't thought of. Does Mr Cameron's decentralisation programme cover the whole of the UK or only England? Could the devolved Governments go against him if he's trying to impose it throughout the whole nation?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 21/02/2011 - 16:44

Sorry, pressed submit before checking. The sentence re Northern Ireland should have read "I agree with Charlie Ben-Nathan that what happened in Northern Ireland with the state-run water company was disgraceful". And there should have been a question mark at the end of the sentence.

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