‘It’s a pity that a party that once led on education reform is now clambering on a bandwagon.’ Michael Gove bit back at Labour MPs calling for a remark of the GCSE English paper this afternoon when he answered questions on his department’s work.
The Education Secretary was at pains to point out that he, like his predecessor Ed Balls, did not want to ‘second guess’ the actions of the exams regulator Ofqual. He added that Labour seemed to be suggesting ‘having ministers marking papers’, which would undermine the reason Ofqual was set up.
He also used the session to confirm to Parliament that the coalition (and he placed a particular emphasis on the word ‘coalition’) would shortly announce its plans for reform of GCSEs. He pointed out that the problem with the English GCSE exams was symptomatic of a wider problem with the exams. And he contrasted his reforms with Labour’s record in office.
What was awkward for the Secretary of State was that while he was vigorously resisting calls from Labour MP Emma Reynolds and colleagues to hold a remark of the papers, he was confronted by Stephen Twigg, who quoted a number of articles from Gove’s time in opposition, in which he had argued that the buck should stop with ministers. In one piece in the Guardian, Gove wrote:
‘If ministers want schools to be accountable through Sats, ministers must be held accountable when the regime fails.’
But Gove knows that where he might have previously been ambiguous, Labour has been downright contradictory. So he sought to keep the debate firmly on his terms by referring repeatedly to the opposition’s confusion over key policy areas such as academies and free schools. He knows that Twigg leans in a different direction from his party leadership on this matter: making his opposite number squirm on the frontbench is one way of making a row dry up.Tags: Education, Michael Gove, UK politics