Get out of the way, Gove's advice to his detractors. Obviously not a fan of consensus.

Janet Downs's picture
When people tell Education Secretary, Michael Gove, he’s moving too fast he tells them “ever so politely” to get out of the way. That’s what Gove told the audience at a dinner* organised by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a charity founded by US presidential hopeful, Republican Jeb Bush, which aims “To build an American education system that equips every child to achieve his or her God-given potential.”

Leave aside the question about whether a person’s potential is “God-given” (or governed mainly by genes as Dominic Cummings says), what does this tell us about Gove’s belief in consensus and his supposed allegiance to evidence-based policies?

First, consensus.

Gove admires Finland’s educational system which scores consistently highly in PISA tests. But Finland's system was based on years of steady reform aimed at building consensus.

Hong Kong, another PISA high-performer, began its comprehensive education reform in 1999. It continues today. OECD wrote: “The Hong Kong education reform has benefited from a long lead time, well-designed preparations and good management of perceptions.”

In Shanghai, top-performer in the 2009 PISA tests, OECD discovered that “a consistent continuous movement creates and reinforces the legitimacy of educational development”. OECD cited China’s “blueprint for education” started in 2010 for implementation in 2020 which involved “thousands of professionals and experts” and received “2.1 million submissions from all walks of life”.

Compare these examples with Gove’s speeding juggernaut which aims to crush anyone who contradicts him.

Second, evidence-based policies.

Rather than basing policies on evidence, Gove relies on misinformation:

1 He used the flawed 2000 UK PISA results despite being warned they should not be used for comparison (see comment by UK Statistics Watchdog here).

2 He dug up dodgy surveys to show English teenagers are ignorant about history (see here).

3 He overstates performance by academies (debunked here).

4 He hypes up the performance of free schools (discussed here).

5 He says he’s visited schools which don’t exist (see here).

6 He allows his staff to rewrite speeches after they’ve been delivered (see update here).

7 He says academies have considerable freedom when non-academies can do most things academies can do (see here).

8 He says local authorities “control” schools but they haven’t done so for years (see here).

9 He says pupils in other countries work longer hours in school when they don’t (see here and here).

And yesterday Lord Baker accused Gove of basing his policies on Gove’s “own educational experience”. Even a Conservative ex-schools minister says Gove isn’t relying on objective evidence but is enthused by subjective prejudice.

*see short video here

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