Michael Gove has had a personality transplant. Where is the clever, eloquent guy with the sideburns who used to appear with Germain Greer and co on Newsnight Review? Suddenly, he’s been transfomed into an old school Tory. You could almost smell the mothballs during the shadow education secretary’s speech to conference.. ‘Young people today…discipline..school uniforms…tests…discipline…more tests…three Rs…that’s it.” Come back Gradgrind all is forgiven.
Exams need to get tougher. No more politically correct nonsense in the curriculum. Citizen Gove will insist that all schools teach a “proper narrative of British history” and not this relativist nonsense about other cultures. There will be a new network of technical schools in urban areas to teach vocational subjects – yes, a return to the secondary modern!
He even came up with a “Troops to Teachers” programme that would fast track members of the military into the classroom so that young people can be taught, well, more discipline. It sounded a bit like something out of Monty Python. “Alright you horrible litttle men. Let’s be having you. By the right. Amo, Amas, Amat…Jenkins! fifty pressups on the floor now!”
Terminator Gove is going to close all the failing schools in England and Wales (fortunately none of this nonsense will apply in Scotland) within a hundred days and replace the head teachers with, well, who know about discipline. Perhaps soldiers demobbed from Afghanistan will be sent on a search and destroy mission to the inner city comprehensives. They will root out trendy Taliban teachers and install peace-keeping forces until new governors can be found from the local community.
Tories have a point about failing schools, there is no doubt about that. They even have a point about discipline being essential for a creative teaching environment. You can’t possibly learn anything in a class which is noisy, fractious, rude and obstructive. Young people from poor backgrounds are being left in sink schools. But most of what is being proposed, in terms of replacing the leadership of failing schools, is either already under way or has already been tried by Labour in England. The multiplicity of opted out schools, basic skills programmes, testing for reading ability etc.. Labour has had a core curriculum and tried to concentrate on reading, writing and arithmetic.
The Tories really want to get schools to opt out of local authority control and become effectively self-financing autonomous units like in some schools in Sweden. Maybe they should try it. But what Michael Gove was talking about was a return to Whacko teaching, lines of desks and rote learning. It really won’t do. He knows a lot better than that.