Political references removed from Gove Policy Exchange speech. So, what, if anything, was cut?

Janet Downs's picture
[Political references have been removed from this speech]

Note above transcript of speech by Michael Gove to Policy Exchange in June 2014.

So, what political references were these? Had the DfE been rewriting speeches again?

I found the unexpurgated version in the Spectator and nothing much had been removed except some literary subheadings such as “THE HEARTS PREGNANT WITH CELESTIAL FIRE, THE FLOWERS THAT BLUSH UNSEEN” and one reference to the Pupil Premium which Gove described as “an idea I championed before entering politics and which I am delighted to have delivered in Government”.

But what of the speech itself? Gove grabbed the high moral ground, as usual. He wanted pupils to shine. This is something all in education share. But Gove went further – those who oppose him do not want children to succeed.

He praised particular schools - as usual. Burlington Danes was one of his “favourite schools”. Then why he didn’t choose it for his daughter – it’s close to where he lives?

Nottingham Academy and Perry Beeches, he claimed, both “dramatically outperform other schools”. But the former didn’t: 58% reached the benchmark* in 2013 when the national average was 60.6%. Pupils at Perry Beeches did do well – 80% reached the benchmark. But this dropped to 53%, slightly below the national average of 53.6% for GCSEs only, when equivalent exams were removed.

As well as dishing out praise, Gove attacked some local authorities. Nottingham was pilloried because it had set up a challenge board to improve standards after the targeted inspections at the end of 2013. “Five months on…Nottingham schools are still underperforming”.

It’s unclear where Gove got his data from – 2014 exam results aren’t known yet. And isn’t five months rather a short timescale? It’s this unrealistic urgency which makes schools game the system or focus too much on tested subjects (see Peter Clarke’s Trojan Horse recommendations to DfE in faqs above. He joins a growing chorus of people concerned about excessive focus on core subjects.)

Gove neglected to say three of the seven Nottingham secondary schools judged Inadequate during the Ofsted blitz were sponsored academies. A fourth, Hadden Park High School, was in the middle of conversion and inspectors noted the process of becoming an academy had “distracted” governors.

Derby (Labour controlled 2012-present, no overall control 2006-2012) also received a lashing. He cherry-picked a negative comment from Ofsted’s letter to Derby after targeted inspections in January 2013. This gave the impression Derby was failing completely. But Ofsted did not find Derby’s support to be ineffective – unlike Isle of Wight (Tory controlled from 2005 to May 2013) and Norfolk (Tory controlled from 2001-2013) where school improvement was judged to be ineffective in June 2013. Gove missed these two from his list of shamed councils.

So the doctored speech was typical Gove fare – seize the moral high ground, imply your opponents are “enemies of promise” or whatever, set up favoured schools as beacons of excellence and attack certain LAs (especially if they’re Labour controlled). But scratch the data and the stats are dodgy, the quotes cherry-picked.


It’s to be hoped the new Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, is less cavalier with evidence. But even if she isn’t, the damage has been done. Gove’s legacy of misrepresentation in the cause of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) is toxic.

*5 GCSES C or above including Maths and English

**equivalent exams are non-GCSES which were given a GCSE equivalent of, say, four GCSEs.

NOTES: Ofsted letters to Isle of Wight and Norfolk can be downloaded here and here.
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Phil Taylor's picture
Thu, 31/07/2014 - 14:04

Thanks once again Janet. I just wish there were more people pointing out the way in which evidence has been twisted and invented in order to pervert the system.

There is such a mess to be cleared up now and it's not at all clear whether anyone in a position to do this (or who might be in a position to do so after the election) has any interest in doing so..

Georgina Emmanuel's picture
Fri, 01/08/2014 - 15:50

Great piece Janet as was your last one on teacher education v training.
Sorry to ask for rather banal clarification but who did devise the pupil premium? I had always believed it to be the Lib Dems not Mr Gove?

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 01/08/2014 - 16:03

Georgina - according to Channel 4 Fact Check, the pupil premium was a key Lib Dem policy included in the Coalition agreement.

But it was also in the Tory Manifesto 2010 (p53).

So it appears both Lib Dems and Tories proposed the Pupil Premium and I could understand it if Clegg was a little annoyed if Gove was trying to take all the credit.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 01/08/2014 - 20:07

It was me! You can find the proposal on p31 of this paper.


agov's picture
Sat, 02/08/2014 - 06:56

Doesn't p31 propose funding based on average CAT scores?

Pupil Premium is based on "eligibility for free school meals as the main measure of deprivation" and involves a load of extra work to 'prove' that the bright idea 'works' -



We hold headteachers and school governing bodies accountable for the impact of pupil premium funding in the following ways:
•performance tables, which show the performance of disadvantaged pupils compared with their peers
•requiring schools to publish details online each year of how they are using the pupil premium and the impact it is having on pupil achievement
•the Ofsted inspection framework, where inspectors focus on the attainment of pupil groups, and in particular those who attract the pupil premium

Online reporting

The level of detail you include in the information you put online is for each school to decide, but you must include the following:
•your pupil premium allocation for the current academic year
•details of how you intend to spend your allocation
•details of how you spent your previous academic year’s allocation
•how it made a difference to the attainment of disadvantaged pupils

The funding is allocated for each financial year, but the information you publish online should refer to the academic year, as this is how parents and the general public understand the school year.

As allocations will not be known for the latter part of the academic year (April to July), you should report on the funding up to the end of the financial year and update it when you have all the figures.

Good examples of how you might present your information can be found on the websites of Pakeman Primary School , The Heath School and Belmont School .


Ofsted revised their inspection framework in September 2013. As a result, school inspections report on the attainment and progress of disadvantaged pupils who attract the pupil premium.

Pupil premium reviews

Ofsted will recommend that a school carries out a pupil premium review where they:
•rate the school as ‘requires improvement’ overall and in leadership and management
•have serious concerns around the attainment of pupils that attract the pupil premium

Where Ofsted recommends that you carry out a pupil premium review, you will be expected to work with a system leader with expertise in closing attainment gaps, to improve ahead of re-inspection.

You can also independently commission a pupil premium review or get support from a system leader as part of your own school improvement.

Sure you wouldn't prefer the LibDems to take this one?

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sat, 02/08/2014 - 08:45

Agov - Yes you are right. To be truly effective it should be based on CAT scores, but this is a start in the right direction. To base it on FSM assumes that the link between relative poverty (FSM) and low school attainment is a causal one. It isn't. The causal link is between low cognitive ability and school attainment. The illusion that causes so much confusion and bad education policy is that between relative poverty and low CAT scores. This is an example of a powerful common sense fallacy in education. See




(Janet - please allow these two links ASAP)

I have consistently made these arguments.

Mine is an optimistic position. If you accept that cognitive ability is plastic and can be raised through the right kind of teaching (and possibly depressed by the wrong sort that results from the perverse incentives and pressures of marketisation) then the corresponding incentives on schools result in a virtuous circle.

However the pupil premium, based on FSM or CAT scores, still provides an incentive for schools to recruit balanced intakes. That is what I argue on p31 of my paper.

All the stuff you quote about attainment gaps is mistaken mainstream DfE and Ofsted guff. When CATs scores are controlled for, there is no significant attainment gap. (ie pupils of the same cognitive ability perform similarly regardless of parental affluence - the converse is not the case).

There is no attainment gap at Mossbourne Academy, nor need there be at any good comprehensive school with a CATs score driven banded admissions system. The marketised, Academised education system incentivises bad teaching and the degradation of comprehensive curriculum and abandonment of 'slow learning' produced by developmental teaching methods (Piaget, Vygotsky et al).

So let's support the pupil premium and discard the 'common sense' fallacies that disguise its true potential and which produce all the 'noise' you quote.

I am now going on holiday to an Internet-free location, so should there be any further interest in this argument I will not be able to contribute until I return in a week's time.

Georgina Emmanuel's picture
Sat, 02/08/2014 - 10:54

Thanks Janet for the clarification and thanks Roger for posting a fascinating paper. I wonder how much of all this dedicated research by LSN gets read or forwarded to Tristan Hunt?

One of the biggest travesties since the push for ever greater numbers of academies on the grounds that they are helping 'disadvantaged' children improve their grades, is the use of 'the looser' admissions system to secure the admissions of children with the kind of academic profiles some schools are seeking. This is not to suggest that all schools are doing this but we know that the system makes it possible.

Is there any data out there, or any research in process that is looking at the numbers of SEN and EAL students who have failed to get into academies or free schools of their choice?

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 03/08/2014 - 08:45

Georgina - I don't know if data is kept on the type of child denied their first (or subsequent preference). LAs allocate pupils according to their own (LA maintained schools) or the criteria set by schools which are their own admission authority (eg academies, free schools, foundation and VA schools). By law, schools are supposed to admit any child with a Statement which names the school - these children are supposed to be admitted before any other child. But academies can appeal - eg Mossbourne tried to deny a place for an SEN child on such grounds as they already had more than their fair share of SEN pupils (not true) and that accepting another would tip them over into inefficiency (hardly likely, since it's supposed to be outstanding). Further details here.

But discrimination against SEN (or other "challenging" pupils) can start before parents apply. The Children's Commission found evidence that a small minority of academies were putting up barriers including, in one case telling a parent "It might be best if you looked elsewhere". I wrote about it here.

The Academies Commission (2013) expressed concern that there could be a population of "hard to place" children because LAs can't direct academies to take children (see faq above re Academies Commission).

Georgina Emmanuel's picture
Sun, 03/08/2014 - 09:09

Thanks so much Janet.
I wonder about English Additional Language pupils? I note that since the huge cutting of EAL departments and LA consultants/specialists this phrase seems to have more-or-less disappeared from the political lexicon? Yet the numbers of these children in our schools have now exceeded I million.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 03/08/2014 - 10:18

Georgina - again I don't know any evidence which suggests EAL pupils are being dissuaded from entering schools. EAL doesn't, of course, mean pupils can't speak English fluently - they could be bilingual. Bilingualism is supposed to bring advantages.

agov's picture
Mon, 04/08/2014 - 08:50

"There is no attainment gap at Mossbourne Academy, nor need there be at any good comprehensive school with a CATs score driven banded admissions system."

That may be so but their PP report (- once their rubbish website allows it to be obtained) makes clear that they have to go to a lot of trouble explaining how the PP is used effectively. - I'll leave it to you to judge whether their PP initiatives constitute 'slow learning'.

As admission is by CAT score (and taking for granted that it is valid as an indicator of potential) would it be impossible for Mossbourne to select FSM students who also happen to have high CAT scores, and perhaps a previous record of underachievement, thereby giving the school an advantage in pupil outcomes at the expense of relatively disadvantaging other schools?

The problem with PP is that it is about the 'noise'.

Hope you enjoy the holiday.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 10/08/2014 - 09:53

agov - Thanks for your good wishes. Had a week of beautiful weather on the stunning Dorset coast near Swanage - no TV and no Internet!

Mossbourne does indeed take its 'fair' share of less able pupils in the sense that its Band 4 CATs distribution accurately reflects the cognitive abilities at age 10 of the national distribution below the 26th percentile. I have the figures for the CATs scores of all the 2011 intake pupils (without names). They include many pupils with scores below 70 (two SDs below the mean), who are likely to have Statements.

A local Hackney educationalist, whose judgement I trust and who has seen SEN teaching at Mossbourne, tells me that it is of the highest quality.

While I agree with Janet that pupils with statements should be able to gain entry to the school of their choice, and a few more getting into Mossbourne would be unlikely to damage their reputation, the same might not be the case for an unbanded intake school in the same area - the historical Hackney Downs School (HDS), for example.

The PP would certainly have helped HDS but not enough to save it unless it was allowed to spend some of it on providing a high quality academic curriculum for its minority of able pupils.

This is why there should be no 'strings' attached to the PP. Different schools with different intakes in the present system may need to spend the money differently. It could be argued that many SEN children benefit greatly from being taught in mixed ability classes for some of the curriculum time. For this to work effectively costs money for smaller group sizes and resources. Schools should be allowed to spend their PP money in this way or any other way for which sound educational arguments can be made. No 'rules' however complex can cover all the good ways of using PP resources. In an ideal system the LEA would step in in the case of indefensible mis-spending.

In the present system the main value of the PP is in incentivising schools to recruit a more diverse intake that includes low CATs score pupils (many of whom will be likely to come from poor neighbourhoods). The incentive arises from the large 'cheque' made out to the school pinned to the uniform of each such pupil.

It is a good thing. Cleggers got something right.

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.