I am not “happy with failure”, Mr Gove

Janet Downs's picture

Mr Gove hasn’t made the speech* yet, but it’s being heavily promoted. He’s expected to say that opponents of his academy conversion programme are “enemies of promise” who are “happy with failure”. Some local authorities (LAs) are co-operating with him, he will say, but others are not. The latter are described as “ideologues” who are really saying (according to Mr Gove) that “If you're poor, if you're Turkish, if you're Somali, then we don't expect you to succeed. You will always be second class and it's no surprise your schools are second class.”

Mr Gove’s logic has failed him. It does not follow that those who disagree with his policies believe that minority children will not succeed. It does not follow that those who oppose Mr Gove’s academy programme are complacent. And it does not follow that those who argue against his ideas are “enemies of promise” whatever that high-sounding waffle means.

Mr Gove is expected to highlight the London School of Economics (LSE) report which found the academies programme generated "a significant improvement in pupil performance". But what he is not expected to say is that the LSE only looked at a small number of academies which were set up by Labour from under-performing schools. Neither is he expected to point out that the LSE found that the intake of these schools improved after they converted. And I do not expect he will mention that the LSE said more time was needed to assess fully the “academy effect”.

Will Mr Gove mention warnings from the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that while his policies are likely to increase user choice they also need careful monitoring if they are not to increase further the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children? Will he tell his listeners that international evidence about the link between user choice and educational achievement is mixed? Will he inform them that the OECD is concerned that the English obsession with raw exam grades risks grade inflation, teaching-to-the-test, “gaming” and the neglect of important non-cognitive skills?  Somehow I think not.

This site is full of well-argued rebuttals of Mr Gove’s viewpoint. These show that it is Mr Gove who is the ideologue not his opponents.

*The speech transcript is here.  The above was written before the transcript was available.  It confirms what Michael Gove was 'expected' to say.


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Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 07/01/2012 - 11:41

Leonard - it wasn't meant to be a "cheap shot". And I agree with you about the undesirability of politicians using schools in the way that Mr Gove did. The school was a backdrop and the pupils were little more than extras. No doubt they were choreographed to clap at the end.

It doesn't follow that because the pupils were not inspired by Mr Gove's rhetoric that pupils should never hear words that do not iimmediately inspire. There are times for inspiration; and there are times for hard graft. However, in this case Mr Gove was making a speech and the pupils were the audience. It behoves any speechmaker to address the audience. But Mr Gove wasn't - he was speaking to the media and those he regards as his "opponents". He was actually treating his audience with disprespect, as mere bodies brought in to fill out a hall.

Janet Lallysmith's picture
Sat, 07/01/2012 - 14:14

I agree. Leonard, no-one has said that national policy is irrelevant to children. The point is that Gove wasn't actually addressing the human beings in front of him for the reasons that Janet points out. This disrespect - and misrepresentation of his opponents - is abhorrent.

Alejandra's picture
Sun, 03/06/2012 - 23:23

1 minor point and 2 big ones I'd like to make on this thought-provoking post:1 (minor). 'Big Society' hasn't freed us from bzruwozds, it's just one big catch-all buzzword: like all bzruwozds it doesn't give you anything new, it just dresses up old ideas in a different way (in this case 'The Third Sector').2. (major). I think it's far too early to characterise people as 'moaners' or 'optimists'. I might say those you call 'moaners' are actually realists and those you call 'optimists' are just people clutching at straws ('let's say we like the Big Society idea, because there's no funding coming from anywhere else'). Only time will tell which of us is right. My suspicion is that as soon as it becomes apparent that there's far less money for Third Sector organisations to create the Big Society/Small State than there was from the Big State/Small Society, those 'optimists' will be moaning as much as anyone else.3. (major) You state we need to cut spending, a line we hear over and over again from all the major political parties. We need to examine both the premise this statement is based on (that the UK economy will collapse if we don't) and whether the solution proposed (cuts) is the only one available. I don't think either of those are proven, but "if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 08/01/2012 - 21:56

Can you clarify what claims you are making about Gove's speech because we seem to have moved from 'lacking inspiration' to 'lacking relevency' to 'not addressing the audience'.

Leonard James's picture
Sat, 07/01/2012 - 09:49

Of course it was a cheap shot, doesn't mean we all have to behave the same way though. Interesting that you think national policy is irrelevent to children though, the idea that children should only be exposed to that which is immediately relevent to them is as abhorrent to me as the idea that children should only be exposed to things which inspire them.


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