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Coffee House

Gove versus the ‘enemies of promise’

4 January 2012

11:20 AM

4 January 2012

11:20 AM

Michael Gove has never been timid in confronting the education bureaucracy, but his
attack on them today is particularly — and noteworthily — unforgiving. Referring to those truculent local authorities that are blocking his schools reforms, he will say in a speech that
starts in about ten minutes:

‘The same ideologues who are happy with failure — the enemies of promise — also say you can’t get the same results in the inner cities as the leafy suburbs, so it’s wrong to
stigmatise these schools.

Let’s be clear what these people mean. Let’s hold their prejudices up to the light.

What are they saying? “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.”

I utterly reject that attitude.’

It comes on the back of an article in yesterday’s Times (£) by the former director of policy in No.10, James
O’Shaughnessy, which upbraided an ‘educational establishment’ that ‘always finds ways to frustrate and oppose’. O’Shaughnessy is now setting up a ‘new
social business that aims to operate schools and to provide educational services based on a blend of traditional values and positive psychology’ — so the reformers are clearly in the
mood to smash through the roadblocks.

But what’s, perhaps, more telling is that Gove’s words today are attached to an announcement that the government plans to press ahead with converting 200 of the worst-performing primary schools
into academies. And his speech is being delivered in an academy that took over a failing primary school and dramatically improved it. This, I imagine, is part of a very concerted effort by Gove to
provide better schools for younger pupils, which are currently in great shortage thanks to our
country’s baby boom.

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