Gove's educational blob
A full sized version of the picture can be found by clicking on the picture below:
Michael Gove is reputed to have compared the educational establishment to a Blob
that he has to fight against; a monstrous jelly-like monster which has its blobby fingers on every pupil in UK's schools. It's not difficult to guess what the Blob consists of for Gove. He has consistently identified who he sees as his enemies; the unions, lefty teachers, child-centred educational theorists, people who blog for websites like this one!
But it's interesting to take stock of the new "Blob" that Gove himself is forming; to my mind, it's more powerful and far more insidious than the old "Blob". The people in Gove's "Blob" have real money behind them and now are in key positions in government or various other organisations. They have Gove's ear, and it's their agenda that's being implemented on the ground.
I've knocked together a little diagram which illustrates the new "Blob". In no particular order, here are my explanations of the people in the picture:
Michael Wilshaw and Sally Morgan
are key players at Ofsted. For me, the Schools Inspectorate is the voice that schools are most frightened of and listen to the most; rarely a day goes by when I don't hear the words "But what would Ofsted think?". The Schools' Inspectorate are now going to be drafting in regional directors
to identify failing local authorities, and no doubt force schools to become academies. This amounts to a major centralisation of power, something which Simon Jenkins powerfully critiqued
in the Guardian today.
Lucy Heller at ARK
and Lord Harris
of the Harris Academies represent possibly two most powerful academy chains at the moment in terms of political influence, although I could have easily added Bruce Liddington
The Sutton Trust, founded by Sir Peter Lampl,
produces and commissions research into social mobility. Lampl has spoken positively about academic selection and suggested giving more money to private schools to cream off able students from poorer backgrounds might be a good thing
. He calls this "democratising selection" -- whatever that means. Anyway, Gove's policies have meant that academic selection at 11 has greatly increased throughout the country
at the New Schools Network, Sam Freedman
at the DfE, and Liz Sidwell, the Schools Commissione
r, are all part and parcel of the machinery of "Gove's" government, helping to implement his free schools and academies programme. Wolf is moving to New York
to work with Joel Klein
, but will remain connected to the NSN, and possibly her power will increase as she assists Gove with tapping into the "global" free schools programme, of which Klein is a notable "champion".
In terms of the curriculum, Tim Oates of Cambridge Assessment is the undoubted man in power; in a response to an inquiry from Michael Rosen
, Oates wrote "It is a category error to see the National Curriculum as ‘exciting and motivating’" This might explain why the new National Curriculum looks so uninspiring.
The world of the media is increasingly part of the educational landscape with the prolific blogger and free schools founder Toby Young
wielding considerable clout in print and in the media generally. He writes regularly for the Spectator
, which used to be edited by Boris Johnson
, the London Mayor; Gove has close links with the Spectator, which often hosts events that champion his educational policies. Johnson and Gove are both part of the Notting Hill set; Johnson is trying as London Mayor to encourage the setting up of free schools
to attempt to solve the shortage of school places (this small but expensive programme has no chance of doing that!)
Gove also set up Policy Exchange
with other right-wing politicians; this think-tank is very influential in shaping policy, and has argued forcibly for free schools. Sam Freedman used to work for the unit. The rising star there is James O'Shaughnessy
, who also has links with Birmingham University (which has just set up a free school); Shaughnessy is arguing for for-profit schools. If the Tories get a majority next term, Shaughnessy will probably be involved with trying to set up for-profit schools.
In terms of the private sector, headteacher Anthony Seldon has been Gove's biggest champion, making Gove the centre piece of his Festival of Education, which he runs in conjunction with the Sunday Times
. Wellington, Seldon's school, sponsors an academy
, and it appears that Seldon has considerable sway in the upper echelons of power.
Glenys Stacey at Ofqual appears to be very much "on-message" with her criticisms of English teachers who over-inflated GCSE grades
; Ofqual's agenda seems to be very much in tune with Gove's; to end what they pejoratively call "grade inflation", to stop the "race to the bottom". Or to do their best to downgrade the achievements of state school pupils -- if you look at it another way?
Whatever way you look at it, within two years Gove has put in place a new educational establishment which is there to push his agenda first and foremost.