When environment secretary Michael Gove was secretary of state for education, he presented himself as an iconoclast taking on the ‘Blob’, his collective term for anyone who disagreed with him. Now it appears he's reinvented himself as saviour of the planet.
One of Gove's many actions as education secretary was to tighten up rules about parents taking children out of school for any reason that was not ‘exceptional’. The Department for Education (DfE) has since pushed the line that ‘every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chance.’
He also advocated tough steps against teachers working to rule by writing to heads saying they could dock teachers’ pay. This, he said, was ‘robust action’ against ‘irresponsible unions’ who were damaging pupils’ education.
It would be expected, then, that Gove would send a message to the hundreds of children leaving school to protest about climate change that there were better ways to fight rising global temperatures than missing lessons.
But he didn’t. Instead, he appeared in a Conservative Environment Network video saying ‘collective action’ of the kind they were championing (ie striking) was to be applauded.
But collective action wasn't commendable when teachers worked to rule. Gove said it was irresponsible.
And the man who slated parents for removing their children during term time now says missing lessons on Fridays is heroic.
To a background of tinkling music, several Tory MPs joined Gove in encouraging young people to write to them, engage with them and contact their MPs. ‘Together,’ they said, ‘we can beat climate change’.
More like a party-political broadcast than a meaningful attempt to tackle the issue. Sound bites rather than serious commentary.