Coffee House

Michael Gove: a Labour government would have no choice but to continue my reforms

24 July 2013

6:07 PM

24 July 2013

6:07 PM

Will Michael Gove’s education reforms really have a lasting impact? It’s a question that perturbs his supporters no end, as the Education Secretary is attempting to do a great deal in five years that a Labour government could still unpick. Perhaps the funding for more free schools, a key dividing line, announced in the 2015/16 spending review, will make a difference, but Gove was today pretty optimistic about the chances of Labour embracing, rather than just tolerating, his reforms. In a question-and-answer session, Gove said:

‘I think that it’s certainly the case that there’s a lot of momentum in the department for education at the moment for continued reform. One of the great things about having David Laws as a Liberal Democrat colleague is that he’s as enthusiastic as I am about seeing more academies and free schools established, like me wants to see the prestige of the teaching profession enhanced, including with some of the changes that we’re talking about today. He like me wants to say rather more about how we can improve school leadership even further in the autumn, and he like me wants to reform the funding system so it’s fairer overall. So there will be a lot more coming from us, right up until the election is called.

‘What I think will be the case is that rather than scorched earth, what we will have done is that we will have moved the ground of the education debate to such an extent that the next government I think will accept the basis of what we have done because as the Populus poll reinforces, it’s in line with what the public want… so I’m convinced that the next government will carry that on and I’m even more convinced the next government will carry that on because I am convinced that the next government will be a majority Conservative government, with David Cameron as Prime Minister, and all the polling evidence from Populus and everyone else, given how narrow the Labour lead is, at this stage in the parliament, leads me to believe that David Cameron will have a majority of, er, such health that we will be able to carry on with the things that we need to.’

As with a number of other issues including welfare reform and health, Gove and his Tory colleagues are keen to position themselves as being the party that is on the side of the public – of parents, of ‘hardworking families’, of patients – rather than the producers such as teachers and healthcare staff whose unions don’t want to see reform. His message today is that if Labour wants to be on the side of voters, the only course of action is to embrace Goveism.


P.S. Of course, the Populus polling that Gove was talking about (and which Sebastian reported on this morning) may or may not help the Labour party to make up its mind about performance-related pay. But it certainly hasn’t swayed the leading teaching unions, who Gove had (another) pop at this afternoon. The NASUWT’s Chris Keates said this:

‘It is deeply disappointing that the Secretary of State for Education is once again engaged in criticising and vilifying teachers on the back of a shoddy piece of market research. The Populus opinion pollsters who have given a platform to the Secretary of State have simply failed to grasp the reality of pay and performance management practice in schools. The plain fact is that teachers’ pay is already linked to performance and this has been the case for many years.

‘Strike action by teachers would not be necessary if ministers were willing to engage in genuine dialogue with the NASUWT and NUT on changes being made to teachers’ terms and conditions of service.’

And the NUT’s Christine Blower said:

‘What the poll in fact shows is that those supporting and those not supporting strike action very nearly equals. Parents and the general public are very aware of the pressures that teachers are under and are also very aware that it is only when the profession feels they truly have no alternative to protect teachers and defend education that they will take this course of action.

‘Mr Gove has completely lost the confidence of the profession and it is about time he started listening to the profession for the sake of the education of our children.’

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Show comments
  • Treebrain

    “…rather than the producers such as teachers and healthcare staff whose unions don’t want to see reform.”

    Do not forget the vehement opposition to reform within the NHS from the Royal medical colleges representing doctors and nurses!

    • El_Sid

      That dates back generations – the doctors were incredibly opposed to the creation of the NHS in the first place…

  • DrCoxon

    ‘‘What I think will be the case is that rather than scorched earth, what we will have done is that we will have moved the ground of the education debate to such an extent that the next government I think will accept the basis of what we have done because as the Populus poll reinforces, it’s in line with what the public want…’

    That is a piece of poorly written English. Mr Gove read English at Oxford. I am disappointed that he does not have better control of syntax.

    • Angry Harry

      “That is a piece of poorly written English”

      Gove didn’t write it. He was speaking.

      Or am I mistaken?

      • DrCoxon

        I think that you are right and perhaps I am overly critical.
        It is still a piece of poorly constructed English.

  • David Lindsay

    The media give Michael Gove a free pass because he is a journalist.

    • Fergus Pickering

      What nonsense you talk, Lindsay.

      • David Lindsay

        It’s a fact. He is depicted as a roaring success when he simply isn’t and his Department is a basket case: Laws, Truss, Hancock.

        A number of his activities are beyond satire, such as his several resits at getting rid of resits, and his sending out of copies of the Bible improved with a preface by himself and with a reference to himself on the cover.

        But he cannot be criticised, because, being not only a hack but a Murdoch hack, he is a doubly made man.

        • Colonel Mustard

          You’re just jealous because you’d rather like to be on Newsnight Review pontificating and waving your hands about too.

          • David Lindsay

            I’d only ever be on it once, but it would be one of YouTube’s greatest hits of all time.

  • Colonel Mustard

    The main good thing about Gove is how much he gets up lefty noses.

    • Noa

      He’s their bogy man.

      • telemachus associates

        That my dear Noa is because he is dangerous
        Not a politically dangerous object of electoral fear
        But dangerous because he is damaging our children
        He is demotivating those very dedicated professionals we charge with moulding our young minds and lives
        Contrast his approach with fellow Coffee Houser Stephen Twigg who understands the need for reform and the promotion of excellence but understands that the way to do it is to motivate and reward those involved in executing the policies

        • fantasy_island

          Desperate times teletubby, if Wallace is paying you the night shift rate.

        • Noa


        • telemackus

          Gove is deliberately stealing Steven Twiggies policies and must be stopped before he irreparably improves the education of our children.

          • P_S_W

            In which case you must support what Gove is doing, I would guess…

  • Mike Smithson

    It sounds as though Gove is conceding the next general election already.

    It might be an accurate view of his party’s prospects but is it wise

    • Portendorfer

      Gove is just a little more intelligent than the rest of the Cabinet.
      He understands Farage the joker in the political pack.
      He sees that the only consequence of the Eurosceptic view of the populace is to invest in a vote whose only consequence will be to deliver otherwise winnable Tory seats to Miliband.
      Gove wishes to ensure that they do not destroy his educational legacy.
      Meanwhile his ultimate gameplan is to ditch Cameron after the defeat and sweep in.
      Then he will work a strategy to return in 2020 to Downing Street partly using his educational triumph as evidence of competence.

  • HookesLaw

    I hope labour could indeed undo the reforms because if they cannot then it is one less reason to vote against them.

    • dalai guevara


  • Angry Harry

    Knowing a lot of teachers, one thing would help enormously – stopping primary school children from having to do creative writing. The boys, in particular, loathe it. And it really does put them off “education”.

    Writing essays about things that the children have just learned about is fine (ish) but not “creative” writing; e.g. “Write a story about …”

    Furthermore, creative writing is not required for most people in life. Writing about things that they know about is very different, and such writing is often required in life.

    Creative writing, should certainly not be required until the children reach 13 or 14.

    • HookesLaw

      Oh I don’t know Messers Lindsay and Telemachus make a good living out of creative writing – as do a few others to be honest.

      • Angry Harry

        Only a fraction of a percent of people make a living from creative writing.

        The time would be better spent doing other things; e.g. computing.

        Besides which, trying to teach creative writing to, say, 10 year olds, is a bit like trying to teach percentages to 6 year olds.

        Creative writing should be taught later.

        • Angry Harry

          Indeed, even if 50,000 men make their living in the UK from creative writing (something that I doubt) this is still just one-fifth of a percent of the population of men in the UK.

        • Fergus Pickering

          Computing to infants. How soul destroying. You sound like someone who has forgotten your won childhood and has never met a child. Gradgrind in fact.

      • Andy

        Yes but that is what is known as ‘Pulp Fiction’. It would be a great help if either of them could actually write. Windbag Lindsay most certainly can’t.

    • Angry Harry

      Writing creative “stories” is considered by most boys to be a waste of time.

      And for most boys it is, indeed, a waste of time, because they will never need to write stories in later life, and few of them will ever, as adults, write stories.

      Do most people write “stories”, or need to write stories?


      Most people will need to write about things that they know about, not about things that they are imagining.

      For young boys in particular, there is a world of difference between the two.

      Step 1. Teach children to write well about things that they already know about in order to teach them how to communicate their knowledge to others through writing.

      Step 2. Bring their (creative) imagination into the picture later on.

      • itdoesntaddup

        It depends what you ask them to write about. Try getting them to write a pirate story, or an action adventure, rather than describing a walk through the bluebell woods, and you may get a more positive response.

        • Angry Harry

          Yes. It does depend on what you ask them to write about. But I can assure you that most boys even hate writing about pirates and what have you.

          Something seems to happen to boys at around 8.5 years – not sure what. But their negativity towards writing stories just seems to increase dramatically around this time.

          Most boys would rather do three pages of maths problems than write stories. Perhaps it’s because boys tend to think convergently rather than divergently.

          But, to repeat myself, what is the point of writing stories when, as adults, the vast majority of them will never need or want to write stories?

          And why make boys do something that puts them off education?

          Is there any evidence to suggest that forcing boys to write stories is of benefit to them? None that I am aware of.

          • Angry Harry

            Let me put it this way.

            I have a chore for you.

            For the next 60 minutes, you have to write an ‘essay’ for me.


            1. you write a story for me about pirates

            2. or you write an essay giving me your opinion on the Snowden affair

            3. or you write an essay about why you find a computer to be useful

            IMHO, most boys would much, much prefer to tackle items 2. and 3. above.

            Which one would you choose to do?

            • Colonel Mustard

              Not very inspiring. I hope to God you are not a teacher but if you are it explains quite a lot.

              • Noa

                Like other public sector workers teachers are required to work within stiflling educational authority standards, guidelines and closely monitored to ideologically set targets.
                As with teacher training curriculae these are designed to minimise whatever initiative, creativity and enthusiasm remains

            • Fergus Pickering

              I’m a pirate man. Who the fuck is Snowden? And the essay you suggest about computers is so mind-bendingly boring I’d fall asleep before I churned out the first sentence. Get a boy tp write a story about a serial killer. That ought to do it. That’s what they read about or what we used to red about.

          • Colonel Mustard

            “Something seems to happen to boys at around 8.5 years – not sure what.”

            Their emerging masculinity is stifled by the preponderance of risk averse females running everything. They are held in a state of being in primary school and either wind up like Cameron who thinks that is the normal state for an adult man or seek their male role models in gangs and crime.

            Like the turtle eggs some of them somehow make it through and many of them are in Afghanistan.

          • Fergus Pickering

            You really do have a bee in your bonnet. Most boys this, most boys that.

        • P_S_W

          That’s as maybe but not much good for the morale when your English teacher dismisses your effort as “very Boys Own” as happened to me in the 80’s, although I was writing against a brief I interpreted in a certain way rather being directed to write about something specific.

      • Fergus Pickering

        God, you ARE Gradgrind. But I don’t suppose you have ever heard of him.

    • Austin Barry

      “…creative writing is not required for most people in life….”

      What utter nonsense. Look at any cv. Creative writing lives, but it is just poorly written: the illiteracy giving lie to the presentation of unqualified academic success.

      So more creative writing, please, not less.

      • Angry Harry

        Firstly, I never talk nonsense.

        Secondly, writing a CV is not “Creative Writing”.

        • Austin Barry

          Sure it is, pal.

          Most CVs contain hyperbole, inaccuracy, invention and sociopathic egomania.

          “I never talk (sic) nonsense” is typical of creative writing.

          • Angry Harry

            “Most CVs contain hyperbole, inaccuracy, invention and sociopathic egomania.”

            A bit irrelevant when it comes to 10 year olds and what is expected of them by teachers.

            Or are you implying that this is what we should teach our ten year olds to do? – lie, invent, and engage in “sociopathic egomania”.

            Nah. Not a good idea.

            • Noa

              “Or are you implying that this is what we should teach our ten year olds
              to do? – lie, invent, and engage in “sociopathic egomania”.

              Surely every child now wants to be a Big Brother ‘sleb’ or a Premier League footballer?
              I admit though, that the particular skills you identify are most suited to a long and successful Parliamentary career.

              • Angry Harry

                “I admit though, that the particular skills you identify are most suited to a long and successful Parliamentary career.”

                You mean that politicians are good at being “creative”?



                But I actually trust Michael Gove. There’s much about him that, to me, suggests integrity.

                • Noa

                  Trust? That’s a strong word to use for about politician.

            • Austin Barry

              All of those things are part of creative writing.

              What do you want our schools to turn out, dullards planning on producing technical manuals and EU Directives?

              • Angry Harry

                Creative Writing – as far as schooling is concerned – is, basically, to do with writing stories. And boys do not like doing this type of work, particularly when young.

                As such, given that are many other things worth doing at primary school, why not leave the Creative Writing until later?

            • Fergus Pickering

              Lie, invent? Abso-bloody-lutely. I don’t understand your last two words. Too long. Too boring.

    • Fergus Pickering

      I think you are wrong. And since whenhas education, particularly primary education, been about fitting the poor child for a career as a wage slave? Perhaps it is being badly taught by teachers without imagination or proper commitment. I think children should learn little stories by heart and repeat them in class and then produce stories of their own with similar patterns. Not my idea but one I heard brilliantly explained.

    • fantasy_island

      This really is a poor attitude.

      Creative writing helps young boys to begin to communicate the experiences and aspirations that they have, a valuable and life long skill. I remember this fondly from my own school days.

      To claim that this is only required for aspiring novelists is risible.