[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