All children deserve a “great education” (“A mission to give every child a great education”, Daily Telegraph) and few disagree with raising standards.
However, a reality check is needed. Michael Gove likes to portray himself as the great reformer, a messianic visionary “opposed by vested interests”, or as he or his spokespeople have previously described anybody who questions his own particular views, “the enemy”, “trots”, “the blob”, the “bad”, “powerful lobby”, the “misguided”…
This dismissive and divisive, ‘them and us’ rhetoric does not recognise that this is not, or should not be, a ‘right or wrong’, ‘with me or against me’ politicised situation. The personal vision of a journalist-turned-politician must take on board the knowledge and experience of teachers, academics and other experts in education, the early years, child psychology and child development if we are to raise standards and opportunities for all our children.
Teachers in the UK, and I’m sure the same is true of colleagues in Spain and Portugal, do not, on the whole, insist that “things must stay the same”, but the Education Secretary and his colleagues must engage with them and their representatives and listen to their genuine concerns about the implementation of his reforms and their impact on education.
In previous articles and speeches, Mr Gove has acknowledged the generally high standards of teaching and teachers but here he implies that only the newly recruited are “the brightest and best” while moving away from a qualified profession in academies and free schools that have proved to have very mixed results.
After four years of little meaningful engagement with the education/teacher unions, and even less regard to sound evidence provided by the profession through a plethora of consultations, the Secretary of State earlier this year committed to a programme of talks with the unions on policy implementation. These talks have identified some common ground, especially in relation to unnecessary bureaucracy.
Mr Gove and colleagues – we share the same goal of “a great education”. Differences of opinion in how we achieve it do not mean we are your “enemy”. My own union does not take industrial action, while others do, but we all care passionately about both our members and those they educate. Listen to us. Work with us. Talk to us.
Now that you have experienced the benefits of positive engagement with the profession’s unions, work with us to develop policy, not just implement it.
Do let us know your thoughts…
Department for Education, London