It was quite strange yesterday that Michael Gove’s allies were quite so happy to concede ahead of his first proper scrap with Tristram Hunt that it was going to be a tough fight. They’d never given Stephen Twigg quite so much credit, although the complications of the Al-Madinah free school row and Nick Clegg’s wibbling and wobbling over qualified teachers have made life a little more difficult for team Gove.
But the strategy was partly to add to the expectations on the new Shadow Education Secretary, and then to bring them crashing down when he actually appeared. This was of course rather high-risk given Hunt is a pretty impressive performer, but a rather bruising interview with Jeremy Paxman last night which spinners are now trying to describe as a ‘car-crash’ encounter was pretty helpful for the ‘crashing disappointment’ narrative. Crash or not, Paxman did highlight the inconsistencies in Hunt’s policy on teaching qualifications, and Hunt did not defend the policy at all well. This allows the Tories to argue is that even with an open goal following the Al-Madinah row, Hunt wasn’t able to score.
So just to rub a little salt in the wound, Matt Hancock has now written to Hunt to ask if he’ll answer the questions he failed to address last night. The minister writes:
‘Thousands of viewers will have seen your inability to answer a direct question on Newsnight last night. That followed your failure to answer any of the direct questions put to you by parliamentary colleagues during the debate on teacher qualifications yesterday.
‘This failure may be embarrassing for you. But politicians’ egos matter far less than children’s futures. And your repeated failure to be clear on policy questions is of direct concern to the hundreds of thousands of children benefitting from Government reforms which have generated ore outstanding teaching.’
This is highly complimentary to schoolchildren, suggesting that rather than being directly concerned with whether they’ve made it into the football team, who in their class isn’t speaking to who, or whether they’ve remembered their biology textbook, they are in fact worried about the Opposition’s stance on qualified teachers. That’s quite a compliment to Hunt, too. But it makes the point that this isn’t about political games but the quality of education. Hancock then asks a series of questions which you can read at the bottom of this post.
But what the clashes of the last two days have told us is that the Tories are sufficiently confident of Michael Gove’s superiority to Tristram Hunt that they are prepared to let the Shadow Education Secretary walk into situations where he could feasibly outperform him. But because they’ve had to change their strategy from the rather dismissive one they employed for Stephen Twigg, clearly Hunt does represent some kind of threat. And this letter from Hancock shows that it is a threat team Gove is keen to weaken as soon as possible.
Tags: Education reform, Labour, Michael Gove, Tristram Hunt, UK politics
You have said every teacher in a state school must have QTS or ‘be working towards’ QTS. Would you sack outstanding teachers who refused? Yes or No?
Former private schools such as Liverpool College and King’s Tynemouth are now state schools open to all. Private schools are allowed to have teachers who do not possess QTS. Many are outstanding. If they decline to acquire QTS should they now be sacked because their schools are open to poor children? Yes or No?
If other private schools decide to become free schools – open to all – would they have to sack outstanding teachers without QTS? Yes or No?
What does ‘working towards getting QTS’ mean? Could a teacher claim to be ‘working towards’ it for more than a year? Yes or No? Three years? Yes or No? Five years? Yes or No? Ten Years? Yes or No? All their working life? Yes or No?
Your plans would mean forcing academies and free schools to give up an existing freedom to hire the best possible teachers for their children. Your policy would require the revocation of funding agreements which are legal contracts and would risk judicial review. Are you committed to unilaterally re-writing these legal contracts? Yes or No?
Have you taken legal advice on the risks and costs of judicial review? Yes or No?
Would you enact primary legislation to give central government the power to re-write funding agreements and take academy freedoms away, in the process overturning the central pillar of Tony Blair’s academies programme? Yes or No?
You told the Mail on Sunday, ‘we are not going to go back to the old days of the local authority running all the schools’. Will you pledge not to extend any powers to local authorities to interfere in academies and free schools? Yes or No?
Subsequently you said ‘there has to be proper local oversight of all schools’. Does this mean you plan another route to erode the freedoms of academies and free schools? Yes or No?
Andrew Adonis has said new schools should be opened where there isn’t sufficient ‘good quality’ provision. Do you agree with Andrew? Yes or No?
Labour’s official policy is – currently – only to open new schools where there is a shortage of places, even if existing schools are poor. Will you change this policy? Yes or No?
You have said you will keep ‘good’ free schools open, but your deputy has said Labour would close free schools in buildings which he deemed ‘unsuitable’. Will you commit to keeping existing free schools open? Yes or No?