Who should be the next SoS for Education?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Speculation has been rife about a September reshuffle.

What are your views?

I tried to work mine out rapidly when the opportunity arose to discuss this on John Redwood's blog last weekend:
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Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 10/08/2012 - 12:16

I think Gove should remain - not because he's competent because he manifestly isn't. If he has to stick around until the next election then some of his misguided policies are likely to have started to unravel - when every school is an academy, for example, then parents will discover that local accountability has gone. When the electorate realise the amount of money that's being spent on academy conversion and free schools while other schools crumble then voters are going to be angry especially as they've been told we're in an era of austerity. When voters realise that the propaganda spilling out of the DfE and from politicians' lips (plumetting down league tables based on dodgy figures, petty nonsense about state school sports, unsubstantiated comments about academies and free schools) is a deliberate attempt to undermine the system that educates 93% of the nation's children, then they will not be happy.

And Gove should be there to take the flack.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 11/08/2012 - 08:33

I understand your logic Janet but I personally can't bear the horrors which are already taking place already let alone the landslide to come.

I would take no pleasure at all in seeing Gove unravel. I take no pleasure in seeing anyone fail. Gove is a consummate politician and should be a whip or a spin doctor or something which he would thrive at.

I just want someone intelligent, experienced and mature in charge so that we can work towards a soft landing.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 11/08/2012 - 09:56

Rebecca - one thing far worse than Gove failing is that his reforms might succeed in which case expect private firms profiting from providing education. When market forces are introduced then equity is a risk.


I presume you mean Gove is a "consummate politician" in the Goebbels sense: "“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." Several examples of this misinformation from Gove's department are on the thread below. We can now add a further one - the resurrection by Tory politicians (including the PM) of the tired myth about anti-competitive state schools. Oh, and there's the lie about Downhills school used to justify his sending in the bully boys to enforce academy conversion.


Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 11/08/2012 - 22:15

If Gove's reforms were going to succeed I wouldn't want him out Janet.

I think possibly your understanding of role the state plays in private sector activity is a little superficial. Private sector interaction with state education needn't have an overall negative impact provided it is properly planned, consulted and regulated. Gove has no idea how to do any of these things. He is, however, a master of managing media spin to convince people with little experience that he does. The problem with that is that people don't like being hoodwinked, and as it all fall apart their attitude towards him will be something to watch.
The bigger the ego and all that....

But if you put someone in who's got the skills of people management Gove lacks they will be able to engage with the people who can effectively rip Gove to shreds. And if you engage with and positively harness the energy of those people they will focus on building the best future they can rather than on tearing apart what is gone.

I see the Gove era in education as being a human thing - a London bubble thing. He believed in himself and unfortunately there was no-one in the system who would or could effectively teach him better. It's profoundly sad and I hope we will all learn from it. Labour are putting a huge effort into building their capacity in education in opposition and that is a positive thing.

I don't see the personality traits which have led Michael Gove into this mess as being fixed or immutable things. Sadly it's often the very toughest times in life create the space in which people learn about the human capacities he does not yet understand and I would wish him the latter but not the former. He also needs to learn how to manage departments and people properly and I would suggest that for that he should try and get himself into a junior role in a department under someone with exceptional skills in those areas. He could also do an MBA and or a masters degree in a specialist area. He could take no role but offer his support to someone very good in government of his choice so that he could learn from them.

He's incredibly lucky to be loaded so he could just choose to walk away form the cabinet for a while and focus on being a good MP, a good dad, getting to know the quieter and wiser of his constituents better, studying and taking opportunities to gain wider life experience. I wish I had some money so that I had these kinds of options.

But I really, really do hope he goes. The effect of the change in the culture of Ofsted is horrific. The rapidity with which we are losing expertise in essential areas is sheer vandalism. But most importantly we need a clear and coherent way forward to cope with both local planning and policy planning so that people can get on and address the urgent issues we face and build a better future for education in England.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 11/08/2012 - 09:40

My post above - I should have used "flak" (as in aircraft fire) rather than "flack" (someone who provides publicity, a press agent). Must have been confused about all the propaganda being churned out by the flacks in the DfE.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 12/08/2012 - 07:18

If Gove were to go, a suitable alternative might be the present Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, John Hayes. Although Mr Hayes and I disagree on many things (eg grammar schools, academy conversion) he is a passionate advocate for that Cinderella subject, careers education and guidance. He's also willing to work with the unions - he was part of a delegation which included unions to a recent education conference in the States - and he's also willing to listen (eg re courses in English as a Second Language) and he recognises the importance of teachers having professional qualifications.

He also supports the Lincolnshire Sausage campaign to allow only sausages made in Lincolnshire to be called Lincolnshire Sausages (Lincolnshire sausages made outside the County are mediocre substitutes - some are even made with imported pork!).


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