Mr Gove’s Brilliant Idea!

Mr Gove Brilliant Idea

Mr Gove didn’t like teachers.

Mr Gove had never liked teachers, not since he had been a child himself. His teachers hadn’t liked him. His teachers had always thought they knew more than him. But they hadn’t.

Of course they hadn’t. No-one knew more than Mr Gove. No-one understood things like Mr Gove. Certainly not the teachers.

That was one of the reasons Mr Gove had been so happy when Mr Cameron made him Secretary of State for Education – though of course Mr Gove would have been a far better Prime Minister than Mr Cameron. Because as Secretary of State for Education, Mr Gove could tell the teachers what to do. That would be wonderful, thought Mr Gove.

Mr Gove Close up

And it was wonderful. Mr Gove enjoyed telling the teachers what to do.

But it wasn’t quite as wonderful as Mr Gove had hoped. The teachers still wouldn’t always obey him, even though he was Secretary of State for Education. They still argued. They got ‘experts’ to support them – and to argue with Mr Gove’s plans.

That wasn’t good. In fact, it was very bad. The teachers were very bad. It was then, however, that Mr Gove had his Brilliant Idea.

Mr Gove Brilliant Idea crop 1

And it was a Brilliant Idea.

A really Brilliant Idea.

Why, thought Mr Gove, why do our schools have to be run by teachers? Teachers are stupid. Teachers don’t listen to me. Teachers don’t know anything. Teachers have spent too much time listening to namby-pamby academics and so-called ‘experts’, and being trained by people who don’t understand the glorious vision I have.

I know lots of clever people, thought Mr Gove. Not as clever as me, of course, but that can hardly be expected. Much cleverer than teachers. Much less namby-pamby. Much less trendy.

Why don’t I get those people to run our schools?

Mr Gove Super Close up

So Mr Gove sent out a proclamation. Anyone who wanted to could come and ask him and then set up a school. Their own school, with their own rules.

Some of those who asked were teachers themselves, but that couldn’t really be helped. Some, though, were the kinds of people Mr Gove really wanted.

First came Mr Toad, Mr Gove’s old friend. Mr Gove wondered for a moment why Mr Toad wanted to set up a school – Mr Gove knew that Mr Toad didn’t like children very much. Mr Toad didn’t even like spending much time with his own children. ‘Pish,’ said Mr Toad, ‘what does it matter whether you like children?’ Mr Gove nodded wisely.

Next came Mr Faith. Mr Gove liked Faith. Hadn’t Mr Gove had his own, specially inscribed Bibles given to every school? Mr Gove did like Mr Faith’s ideas, because Mr Faith didn’t seem to like teachers any more than Mr Gove did. ‘Who needs training,’ Mr Faith told Mr Gove. ‘Our Faith will make our school the best ever.’ Mr Gove nodded wisely.

Then came Little Miss Thinktank. Little Miss Thinktank was very young and had never been a teacher – which was of course a Good Thing – and she thought the right way. And she had some very clever ideas from America. Mr Gove liked America.

Mr Gove Super Close up 2

All was well for a while. All the preparations for the schools went well. Mr Gove had given them much more freedom than other schools, and plenty of money, so the preparations should have gone well.

So what if some of Mr Gove’s new schools didn’t have very many children. As one of Mr Gove’s teaching idols, Miss Trunchbull, once said, a school would be a much better place with no children at all.

But then things started to go wrong.

First, Little Miss Thinktank  ran away, leaving her school and its children to fend for themselves. It turned out that running a school wasn’t as easy as Little Miss Thinktank had believed. All those clever ideas from America weren’t enough. Never mind, thought Mr Gove.

Then, people started to notice things were going wrong in Mr Faith’s school. In fact, they went very wrong. Mr Faith, some said, treated boys much better than girls. And didn’t train his staff properly. And didn’t check who his staff really were.

It turned out that ‘faith’ wasn’t enough. People started saying once more that schools needed teachers. Properly trained teachers. Teachers that understood education. Teachers. Real teachers.

Even Little Mr Clegg started saying so, and Little Mr Clegg very rarely dared say anything brave.

But was Mr Gove upset? Not at all. Because he still had Mr Toad. So all was still well with the world.

Mr Gove Brilliant Idea

For the original Mr Gove, see here

For Mr Gove goes to War!, see here

For Mr Quiet, see here

Art by @KaiserofCrisps & @paulbernalUK, words by @paulbernalUK

132 thoughts on “Mr Gove’s Brilliant Idea!

      1. Is it? You patently either don’t work in education or have been teaching for a year or two…

    1. Oh I recognise what it is.

      Utterly misleading. And I suspect I have taught more students than all the other respondents on this blog put together.

      1. Just because you assume to have “taught more students than all the other respondents on this blog put together” doesn’t mean your opinion is more valid, or valuable than anyone else’s.

        1984 was a satire. Did you teach it as one? Or as gospel like every other institution?

  1. I’m not sure what’s more worrying, the overwhelming lack of maturity or the rudimentary grasp on written English.

    But with this level of creativity spearheading our children’s education I’m sure things will work out….

      1. Strangely, if you have a crack at poor old Michael online it very often is Mrs Gove who comes back at you, albeit she trades under her maiden name to do so.

    1. Just to point out, your second paragraph is incorrectly punctuated.
      But, with this level of creativity spearheading our children’s education, I’m sure things will work out…..
      Kind regards,
      A stupid teacher.

    1. I can’t believe you said that!
      The Govt. have changed the goalposts almost weekly and, if not, monthly. The amount of paperwork that has to be done is only achievable outside of the classroom in one’s own time. Teachers are forced to “teach to the curriculum” because there is no other alternative, they are told what each lesson must contain, and how it is to be delivered. This is known as a ‘scheme of work’ or ‘Medium term plan’. The use of the specialist knowledge that each teacher possesses, from their degrees and masters etc. is limited, as the curriculum does not allow itself to be broad enough to properly impart the knowledge required.

      Not to mention, a good deal of the time in a lesson is taken up with registration of attendance in class, distribution of homework and the resetting of more, settling poorly behaved pupils, chatters disruptors etc. this turns a 1 hour lesson into a 40 min lesson.

      So, with Mr. Gove’s interfering ways, changing the goalposts, employing trainees for the sake of a budget cut, blah blah …. it is no wonder the education system is going to the dogs. We once had the best education system in the world, in a time when teachers were given the freedom to teach, and the parents to parent. The boundaries were set and everyone knew their job.

      Your 6 word statement, that generalises beyond all comprehension, is both insulting and demeaning. I challenge you to do the job for a week.

      1. If I had children, I wouldn’t want anyone near them who didn’t have a good 2:1. Having taught in HE for decades, I have a good idea of the level of intellectual aptitude required for the various degree classes, and I also know how vanishingly few of my students with good 2: 1s went into teaching, and how many with 2: 2s did.

        A good friend of mine is Chair of Governors of an outstanding school in a “nice” area, and recently advertised for a new Head of English. He was utterly shocked at the educational records even of those they shortlisted.

        Education in this country is excellent for the socially and, where there are Grammar Schools, the intellectually privileged, but has *never* been remotely adequate for the less fortunate. A sine qua non for improvement is to attract more academically able people into teaching – thus performance-related pay, overwhelmingly supported by the public. “Actually-existing” teachers protest that all would be rosy were the profession left to its own devices, but no-one, absolutely no-one whose perception is not skewed by cognitive bias or groupthink partisanship believes this.

        For further reference, you really, really should read Andrew Adonis, Education, Education Education.

      2. Too late.

        The education system went to the dogs under the last government, when grade inflation was rampant at the same time that the UK was plummeting versus other countries in education.

      3. As a Mensa member with a 2:2 I’d invite you to rethink that statement. Plenty of things you have no comprehension of affect a student’s grades. And I’ve met people with 1sts who couldn’t inspire one tenth of the admiration, inspiration and love of their subject of people with 2:2s.good grades do not necessarily equal good teachers.

    2. How dare you? Every teacher has a degree and the vast majority have a postgraduate qualification or a masters on top of that. It is tough to get on to initial teacher training courses. None of us are thick. We do an important, difficult job under increasing stress. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. Perhaps you should be the next Secretary of State for Education as you seem about as well informed as Mr Gove?

      1. The Post Graduate Certificate of Education (primary) that I hold required at least a 2:1 in a relevant subject.

      2. Well, to paraphrase Hobbes, intelligence must be the most bountifully provided thing in the world, since there is absolutely no-one who doesn’t think they have quite enough of it.

        Asking me how I dare is quite fabulously arrogant, and is enough in itself to demonstrate that the self-image of teachers is no sound basis for educational principles.

        Asserting that I have no idea what I’m talking about, in the teeth of clear evidence to the contrary, is mere noise. I have no confidence that someone as lacking in humility and rhetorically inadequate as you have abundantly shown yourself to be is fit to teach to the standard required.

        Incidentally, I have little time for Michael Gove, and even less for Dominic Cummings.

      3. “Every teacher has a degree.” This is not true. There are many teachers in independent schools and free schools, for example, who don’t have a degree. Even in bog-standard comps there are plenty of un(der)qualified teachers, either full-time or on supply. One of the many things I don’t get about Gove is that on the one hand he says that to improve quality, teachers should have at least a 2:1 or an MEd, and on the other hand he’s encouraging schools to employ unqualified teachers. Maybe he has two faces?

    3. Dadge you are correct, I meant those who have achieved Qualified Teacher Status in local authority run schools. Sorry!

      1. I’ve been teaching 4 years and met many teachers and In my experience the more academic you are (won’t use intelligent) the worse you are at teaching because they can not fathom how a students can not understand something that they themselves find so simple.

      1. Oh dear, the classical techniques of satire and parody seems to have passed you by. Perhaps you are also unaware of Michael Gove’s original ‘Mr Men’ remarks?

      1. What kind of a satirist do you imagine I dream of being? I’m an amateur, having a bit of fun… and sometimes striking a chord with some of the people who read me. I don’t claim anything more.

  2. The sad thing is despite being funny,it’s true.He knows nothing about education so is the ideal man for the job.In line with the rest of the Condems he has had a private education , has no experience of the real world that the rest of us work and live in

    1. Actually, he went initially to a state school. He later won a scholarship to a private school. So he has been in both environments. After university, he worked as a journalist, which one could reasonably claim is in the real world.

      But don’t let the facts stand in the way of a good story …

      1. David. Michael Gove is not a teacher. Education needs to be moved from politicians ASAP. State school? Private school? Who cares. He is wrecking my children’s education.

    2. Barry Bethall: Michael Gove indeed was not a teacher. I suspect that applies to many previous secretaries of state for Education, just as the Home Office is not typically run by an ex-policeman, the Foreign Office by an ex-diplomat or Defence by an ex-soldier.

      This system does have pros and cons. However many people of all parties have successfully run these departments without have been “trained in the trade”.

      1. Despite trying very hard to sound very clever, your grammar shows errors!
        Barry, you are quite right…..Gove is, indeed, ruining your children’s education. He has no understanding whatsoever of the nature of learning and the importance of a broad and rich primary education. Neither does he care.
        Paul, this is witty and made lots of us laugh! Give us more!

  3. A PGCE means that you don’t have a degree in education. It means you’ve failed at whatever you are qualified in and are now trying to hide in a school.

    I would expect teachers to have a B.Ed first and then be able to demonstrate an interest in whatever specialism they are going to teach.

      1. My point precisely. PG means that you have not studied for a degree in how to be an effective teacher. Your qualification is in something quite different .
        The PGCE supports the old saying – “Those who can’t, teach”

    1. Either route is valid surely? Should lawyers only have law degrees rather than law conversion courses following other undergraduate degrees? I am not hiding in a school. I am passionate about helping future generations achieve their full potential. For what it is worth I am good at what I do and have excellent feedback from parents and children. The job satisfaction I get from seeing children develop into well rounded individuals is immense. Your comment suggests that you may not view teaching as a worthwhile profession if you believe that only people who have failed elsewhere would consider it. A B.Ed is a great way to enter the profession but should not be the only one as it would exclude people who wish to change careers later in life or realise where their talents lie later. That would be a real shame.

    2. What nonsense! The vast majority of teachers that I have worked with over the past 20 years have a genuine passion for their subject which is why they chose to do a degree in their subject before going on to do a PGCE. Rather than failing at whatever they are qualified in they actually get good degrees and then choose to use this expertise along with their passion to try and inspire children to love their subjects too.

    3. So would you say that a degree in English Literature would mean you would be unsuitable as an English teacher? Or a degree in mathematics would mean you’re unsuitable as a Maths teacher? I’m afraid you’re vastly misunderstanding both how universities work and how teaching works.

    4. What an absolutely moronic and ignorant statement to make. I have a 2.1 degree in Economics, a masters degree in Economics, a masters degree in Finance and worked for 6 years in the City as a fund manager. Now I have been teaching maths in secondary for two years and I am studying for my masters in Education. You have just demonstrated that you have no idea whatsoever about teaching. Probably a supporter of Mr Gove.

    5. PGCE? B.Ed? Don’t worry about that. All school trained is what the Government wants. GTP? RTP? No country around the world will touch those yet that is what the Governmet wants from now on. Be afraid…

    6. So you think people should study for 6 years to get two separate degrees before embarking on a career in teaching, with a starting salary c. £20K. That sounds attractive….!

      1. To teach secondary, you need a degree in the subject to learn the content and the PGCE to be able to teach it. That doesn’t mean you failed. It means you successfully passed your main degree and are qualifying in sharing that knowledge or those skills with others. What an absurd way to look at it. “Failed and hiding” is just not true. Where would any of us be if it wasnt for the minimum of 15 teachers that we have had during put lives?!

      2. If you want to earn big money and are considering teaching as a profession, then you are most definitely barking up the wrong tree.

        I have no idea what the starting salary of a teacher is now, but it was just over £20K for a PGCE holder with a first class degree in 1997/8.

    7. Mr Wood, you insult me. I spent 15 years as a research chemist, gaining both a 2.1 and a postgraduate degree in my specialism, instrumental analytical science. I ran a team of 40 in blue skies research and have several drugs that I was involved in the development of currently in use.
      I chose to teach because I find joy in working with young people. Whilst working full time in industry, I also ran a Brownie unit, a Guide pack and supported a Duke of Edinburgh unit. I became a teacher because I wanted to use my degree, background and experience to create the next generation of excited, brilliant scientists.
      I have not failed. I am not hiding. In fact, I am out there, shouting about my brilliant students every single day.
      The fact that I am currently teaching three different courses to three different year groups (note – not different key stages!) because of government changes, daren’t take a day off sick as my kids will get behind, and that I have to put up with stupid, idiotic people who think that insulting teachers will somehow make them better still does not stop me from loving my job, should tell you how important this is to me.
      Now, I am fully aware that the last paragraph had only once sentence in it. That it is therefore not grammatically correct.
      Please don’t insult me or my chosen profession any more. It insults your own children and reduces their confidence in our ability to provide what they need.
      Now, I am going back to browsing Twitter and the internet for even more up to date educational research and ideas to enliven my lessons (outstanding ones, by the way).

    8. Complete ignorance in what PGCE is/means. PG means Post Graduate as in after 1st degree and amazingly you can do a Primary PGCE – real deep down hiding there!!

    9. What rot!
      In reply to your first accusation: I have a 1st in Teaching, Learning and Mentoring. I am now on a PGCE.
      Your second and third accusation has me mystified: I have not failed any qualification. I am not hiding in a school. (Ofsted wouldn’t find me in a cupboard anyway – unless I am teaching f-o-n-i-k-s and there are not enough classrooms to teach all the groups)
      You expect teachers to have an ‘interest’? I have an interest in all sorts of things but am not a specialist in those areas. I will be an expert in teaching children, knowing how children learn and enabling them to become lifelong learners and well adjusted members of society.

      I think a bit of reflective practice is needed Martin. (You may need to look that up).

    10. How foolish and naïve a thought! I run a department of 27 teachers all of whom, including myself, have a PGCE qualification because we have a degree in a specialist subject and professional working experience in our selected field. None of my team, nor I, failed in our professions, but chose to teach alongside working in as practioners in our fields. Students would not get taught by industry standard experts if this was not the case. You clearly have never taught in your life if you think a school is a place to hide! It is far more demanding a career than industry having worked in both and despite still being on less pay now, for more how hours, like many of my colleagues, we do this day in day out, because we know we make a difference to those we teach. So in your high and mighty attitude of “those who can do, those who can’t teach,” let me remind you, those who teach, inspire, encourage, build and develop people through every hurdle they face so they can feel they’ve achieved something, no matter how small. We make big differences everyday to a lot of people under constant scrutiny and criticism from people who have no concept of what we do. You may have gone to school, from your poor attitude that is unclear, but that does not mean you understand what it means to be a teacher, any more than going to restaurant mean you know what it means to be a chef.

    11. Don’t be so idiotic! I have a PGCE because I decided to study my passion as a subject, and as I grew more mature through my degree I realised I had the skills and confidence to help share this knowledge. I have both a PGCE and a 2:2 and have taught for 12 years. I have been observed by Ofsted 4 times and judged as outstanding every time having done little differently to my every day practice. I am not hiding in a school, nor have I failed at my original subject. People evolve as they grow through their own education. Changing the course of your life requires flexibility and hard work, two of the many skills demonstrated each and every hour by good teachers!

    12. Mr Wood seems unaware that many teacher training institutions only offer a PGCE course these days; fewer offer a B.Ed and over the last few years, gaining a degree followed by a PGCE has been the only way for people to become teachers. It is unfair to brand those in possession of a degree and a PGCE as failures trying to hide in a school when this is their only route into teaching. I have a B.Ed but know a great many outstanding teachers with degrees and PGCEs.

    13. Wow this is an amazingly sweeping statement. So the fact that I did a degree in a subject I was passionate about and then decided to do a post graduate in education to pass on my knowledge and enthusiasm and then pursue a masters in education means that I have failed?!
      Perhaps you would care to tell that to the students that I have inspired to go on to study musical instruments, they certainly would not have done before, that I am a failure.

  4. Do you need a degree to teach? What level of subject understanding do you need to teach to, let’s say KS3? Or is it more important to have empathy and common sense and work with children? I’ve met a lot of very intelligent teachers in my career of over 40 years who had neither and were therefor very poor teachers who didn’t enjoy children or their jobs.

    1. What about raising sights, expanding intellectual horizons, exciting curiosity? What about sparking people into taking A-Levels, teaching said A-Levels, preparing kids for university? Of course you need “people skills,” but it’s not babysitting! Especially not these days: no more can it be a matter of minding teenagers until they’re ready to walk down the road and into the factories or shipyards – they need to be, as far as possible, ready to find a place in a knowledge economy…

      1. There are many possible routes – and many different ways that people can demonstrate their skills, their knowledge, their expertise. People also change directions in their career – I’m a law lecturer, but my first degree was in mathematics. We need flexibility – which means a variety of different pathways, all of which test the quality and suitability of teachers.

  5. Reblogged this on Gogwit's Blog and commented:
    More from paulbernalUK on the life and times of Mr Gove… put down ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ stick the diaries of Thatcher, Alan Clarke, Edwina Currie, Crossman, Crossland, Bevin, Bevan, Benn, Healey, Hattersley, Boothroyd, George Thomas and Uncle Tom Cobleigh back on the shelf. Place ‘Mein Kampf’ (Mein Kampf?) back in the outhouse.
    Read this instead!

  6. Ah.

    One cannot help but notice that (a) UK pupils are scoring poorly versus other nations in key skills and (b) many teachers are resisting change aimed at improving standards. There can only be one winner here, and it won’t be the NUTters.

    1. (a) Statistics can be skewed – and were in the most recent ‘news’ about how UK pupils scored. (b) The change you mention has not been proven to improve standards. NUT and NASUWT represent 90% of teachers, and we hope that the ‘winners’ will ultimately be the children we teach.

      1. Exactly so! The current losers – particularly at the Free Schools referred to above – are the children. These are real children – and they’re being damaged by being experimented on for ideological reasons.

      2. Mary: (a) I’d be genuinely interested to have proof of your claim that statistics were skewed. (b) Nothing along these lines can be proved until tried. The overwhelming majority of doctors opposed the NHS just after WW2 using similar reasoning. But going along as we are is not acceptable because, as Paul Bernal notes below (above?) these are real children who are being ill-served by the current system that leaves so many functionally illiterate and innumerate and discourages so many of the really able from seeking high attainment (e.g. at Oxbridge).

        NUT and NASUWT exist because teachers find it virtually impossible to avoid joining a union.

    2. One of the many problems with that particular analysis is that, as the subject matter of this blog subtly hints (!) though the changes put forward may be ‘aimed’ at improving standards, the result of them would be to lower standards fairly dramatically. Change may well be needed – I would say that change IS needed – but these changes are almost diametrically opposite to the kinds of changes that are needed.

      1. Fair enough.

        What changes would you propose to address the issues? And what evidence do you have that “these changes are almost diametrically opposite to the kinds of changes that are needed”? Having spoken to a number of parents with children at free schools my (admittedly unscientific) poll indicates that the overall result is extremely positive for the children involved.

      2. Some Free Schools are great, of course! Indeed, some aspects of the way that Free Schools work I would roll out to all schools – I’d have a far less prescriptive National Curriculum for example (or perhaps none at all). Less testing. Etc… learn from the example of Finland rather than the US…

        …but this is a huge subject, and this is not really the right format or forum to debate it.

      3. Fair enough then. This forum may not be the best place.

        But unless NUT and the other unions come up with a coherent and believable plan for improving education standards, they will lose the argument. Just throwing insults at the government, while fun, won’t achieve anything.

      4. Can’t and won’t argue with that – they and other critics of the government have to offer alternatives. They do , actually (and so do I) but it’s a struggle to be heard! Parody, however, seems to get an audience….

    3. Hmmm – that old shibboleth. Gove is a past master at the selective use of statistics to support whatever notion pops into his head when he wakes up. The problem with PISA is that it lumps together nations with areas like Massachusetts and Singapore, so you’re hardly comparing like with like. TIMSS and PIRLS tell a different story altogether, so it makes it very difficult to extrapolate meaningful conclusions either way – you can’t say definitively that UK pupils are scoring poorly versus other nations as a blanket statement. Even the latest OECD report has nunaces that the average Daliy Mail reader will miss because they don;t get beyond the typical spluttering-with-rage headline. It depends which study you read, what’s being measured. how it’s being measured, how those measurements are interpreted and who is interpreting them. .It’s certainly true that Finland does very well on most measures, so if we want to emulate Finland we should:
      1. delay the start of formal education until the age of 7
      2. abolish independent schools
      3. abolish OFSTED
      4. recruit only the highest qualified people into the profession
      5. invest heavily in the continuous professional development of teachers

      Don’t hold your breath.

      BTW get a life, Dave! Gove is such an obvious target for lampooning. Bring back Spitting Image, I say. I could also wax lyrical about threats to pay and conditions, the real can of worms that is TUPE when a school “converts” and the role of the unions in standing up for their members’ interests, but I suspect you’d just say “Yada, yada….”

      1. Excellent contribution. I agree with a lot of this and am sympathetic to all of it, esp. 4 – though I’d add that competition for HE places plays a considerable role in overall Finnish performance.

      2. Not Daily Mail … BBC.

        Regarding Finland
        1. Not sure I agree … perhaps
        2. Abolish the part of the education that produces the best results in UK? Not likely. (Yes, I know there are other reasons for independent schools doing well),
        3. OFSTED. No. But reform it possibly.
        4. I agree that recruiting higher qualified people is likely to be a good step
        5. Agree

        Spitting image might be a good idea too

    4. The comments on here – well most of them – and the original sarcastic, no – sorry satiric, article show an amazing amout of left wing bias and pure spite. The suggestion that a piece of paper is proof of the owners’ ability to teach is ridiculous. Teachers are born and no amount of letters after one’s name will make a teacher. nAnd btw to blame Mr. Gove for the unrest in the profession is a nonsense, the last lot were no better.

      1. The difference between satire and sarcasm is often just semantic – and indeed highly subjective. I use sarcasm in my satire…

        ….but if you imagine what I’m talking about is ‘a piece of paper’ then I fear you’ve paid little attention either to what is going on or to the comments. Becoming a trained teacher is much more about process than paper, and about learning and understanding than about passing some kind of exams. Teachers may well be ‘born’, but that ‘birth’ needs testing and confirming before they are let loose on our children. You can view the ‘training’ process as a confirmation that the person is a ‘born’ teacher if you like….

    5. The best thing about these dinosaurs in the NUT is they believe that 80% of a 47% turnout of members is overwhelming majority backing for their prehistoric ideals. I hope they aren’t maths or science teachers.

    6. One cannot help but notice there are no UK education scores simply because there is no UK education system.

      Oh, you missed that part in your education where it was explained to you that England and UK are NOT one and the same thing, did you? Do try to pay attention, Dave.

  7. Some people on here are blaming the last administration for the ills in education. May I suggest that they look further back. The real problems that Mr Gove claims to be solving are a consequence of the Education Reform Act of 1988… Local management of schools was a disaster, and his current policies are effectively the same thing with different rhetoric!

    1. I would like to add my perspective here – I am a primary teacher with a BA + QTS in primary education, for which I got a 2:1 classification. (And first class for both modules that were actual teaching). I have been teaching for 8 years and am now head of English in my school. I am by no means “hiding because I failed at my proper degree”. In fact, I decided teaching was for me when I was 7 years old (having been inspired by my year 2 teacher) and worked relentlessly towards that goal until I qualified at 21. I love my job and I love my children but the time in class is definitely the easiest and most rewarding aspect of the role. The hours of marking / paperwork / planning and the added jibes about 9-3 and school holidays do not make for an enjoyable experience, but seeing my class working, talking, learning. That’s what I love. Performance related pay will not make me a better teacher. My motivation is intrinsic from the joy in seeing those amazing young people succeed. Actually, for the hours and the stress, the money is fairly poor. Good teachers teach because we can’t do anything else. Not because we tried and failed but because we can’t help but love the success of others and the joy of helping someone succeed. Mr Gove and others before him seem compelled to make that as hard for us as possible. I think that’s just sad.

  8. The problems with Education will not be solved until politics is taken out of the equation. Each and every government has changed and meddled, so leave Education in the hands of a non-politic party/group, give the changes a chance to show there effects, or we face the possibility of more kids being lost and confused, not to mention teachers!

    1. I agree entirely. Let education policy and action be controlled by teachers and give us a chance to prove that we can do our jobs. I for one am more than willing to be held accountable if I am allowed to do it myself and it not work. Having taught 3 year groups over 8 years I have a fair idea of what works and what doesn’t, and I’m more than happy to try new strategies if I can see the logic. I don’t know everything (who does?!) but I do know that I work hard for the good of my children and the school. At the end of the day, they are the important ones!

  9. Err, its all well and good saying you can only teach with a degree. How about the parents who have done the job from birth until 4? Some of us home educate with no teaching degree, and the children still can pass exams, often earlier than their peers ins school. AS long as someone has the right attitude and access to resources everyone can teach. If working in a school however, you do need to be a qualified teacher to follow and understand the national curriculum and fit in all that is meant to be fitted in the time allowed. But pleaee, don’t think everyone who didn’t go to univeristy is thick, we just chose to the jobs that don’t need a degree.

    1. Here Here After WW2 teachers were so short on the ground that many went into teaching without degrees after being demobbed, and did an excellent job. a relative of mine was one such. He did get a degree later and studied while teaching. Some of the people on here are a bit precious.

  10. To the complete idiot who said teachers should have at least a 2:1 degree – what utter rubbish!

    Never once in my teaching career have I mentioned or used all the quotes that I was forced to memorise to achieve a certain academic level.

    I left university with a 2:2 degree yet I am an ofsted outstanding teacher. Explain that one!

    Yes you have to have a certain degree of knowledge and ability but the most important thing to be a good teacher is the want to teach, the love of teaching. It isn’t just a job, it is your life. I’m not complaining because I am lucky to be doing the job I have dreamt of doing for as long as I can remember.

    Everyone has their opinion of the education system and the main reasons for this is all the changes to it over the many decades. I don’t fail my job off a child leaves school with a below average grade, as long as they are decent human beings.

    There are many people who have made their millions without an education. There are many people who have achieved their dreams despite being wrote off by schools.

    Yes education is important but so is being a decent human being who knows compassion, courage, equality and morals.

  11. A degree does not make a good teacher. This is an inalienable fact. All a degree says is that you went to university and managed to learn enough to pass a course.

    Teaching is not limited to passing on facts, teaching is, or should be, about inspiring and getting pupils to take an interest in a subject. It is not about copying from textbooks (as so many teachers do) it is about engaging pupils,
    Education is about recognising each pupil is different, has different skills, bringing out those skills and giving pupils some chance to use those skills in the adult world

    The obsession over degrees is what has brought this education system to it’s knees, “give everyone a degree and they will all be middle class” has misfired badly. A degree now has all the status of a used loo roll and is good only for taking yet more courses.

    Meanwhile pupils with good practical skills are thrown on the scrapheap as they have no degree. Engineering, building, mechanics, carpentry skills have all been beaten out of our children as ” dirty, manual, working class” occupations. Thousands of potential good skilled people are sitting idle due to political meddling in the education system

  12. I was enjoying that until I got to the part where you used an example of a faith schools sexist education policies but were too afraid to mention it as Islamic, yet freely chose to tarnish the Bible.. Cowardice and typical double standards.

    1. I think the issue here is Goves ideological autism and his arrogance and belief that he is right. Gut reaction blitzkrieg like reform without consultation makes for bad policy. Teacher workload and morale are huge issues and ever increasing concerns. Destroying teaching is not the way forward. Read the nut document on the way forward fir education to see another vision.

    2. Actually I was trying to make a bigger point – perhaps you followed the recent example of a Jewish school which altered exam papers to edit out mentions of evolution.

  13. It is an excellent piece of satire Paul, witty and incisive. I am a high school maths teacher with 25 years experience. Like Gemma and Crafty I enjoy going into work every day, I love teaching and I love and respect the wonderful colleagues and students that I am privileged to work with. We really shouldn’t worry about cynics like Dave and Matt who betray their prejudice and ignorance with every comment they post. Matt favours performance related pay. Is he even aware that rigorous peer reviewed research in the US confirms that PRP makes absolutely no difference whatsoever to student outcomes – something that is blindingly obvious to those of us that teach. Dave, when confronted with the evidence from the world’s highest performing jurisdiction Finland is ‘not sure’, putting his prejudice above hard evidence every time.

    However, given the dystopia we are being driven into by Gove (ably supported by such ignoramuses as Dave and Matt, and in also sadly on most issues by Tristram Hunt) we teachers should be much louder in proclaiming our own vision for the future of education. I would tentatively suggest that it might include such elements as:q
    Education for human development rather than to sift and grade young people at the behest of employers.
    Assessment solely as a means of guiding future learning instead of high stakes summative testing.
    Play based learning throughout the early years.
    Supportive and developmental sharing of good practice amongst fellow teachers to replace the punitive OFSTED.
    Collaborative and cooperative approaches to learning instead of excessive competitiveness.
    Valuing equality and ecological awareness instead of destructive consumerism.
    All schools should be well funded, publicly owned and democratically controlled by local communities, with resources directed towards those areas with the highest need.

    1. ROY FOR EDUCATION SECRETARY!!! What wonderful policy you would have. Practical, achievable, common sense and (what we should all want) for the good of the children!! Well said!

      1. This is pathetic, vapid shit. I decline fully to explain why for two broad reasons. One, I have spent decades profitably discussing things with the brightest and most informed people in the world, in my field: you are vertiginously beneath my sights. You haven’t read the study to which you refer, nor several others that appear at first blush to support your case; and you have as good as, or worse than, no idea what “Peer Review.” means. Anyway, the point you make has no bearing on what the Government (of any stripe) has in store for you. I leave you to discover for yourself what that is. Many teachers, due to a combination of being a bit thick, while reading the odd book and spending half their lives in rooms in which they are the only adult, deludedly think they are experts on what they purport to do. However (and this is the second reason I can’t be arsed fully engaging with your detritus), everyone who has any – any – prospect of gaining authority over what goes on in schools is much cleverer and better informed than you, has next to no interest in what you think you think; and will, entirely rightly, ride roughshod over you. All the surveys show that a very large majority of parents will cheer them on.


      2. Mr Jordan, I do believe that, by swearing, you have completely nullified your argument. Your language makes you appear rather ‘thick’ , just like us stoopid teachers!

      3. Yes. When you start insulting people it really doesn’t make your point effectively. Each to their own opinion. However if your comment about thinking as the only adult the teacher is therefore expert was aimed in my direction, I would like to add that actually no. I don’t know everything. I spend my days teaching children that not knowing is ok and that learning is about asking questions to find out. Making mistakes is good, and acknowledging them is better. You sir, miss the point that so many people with such a broad range of educational experience (just a straw poll from this forum includes primary and secondary with a range of degrees and routes to teaching) and yet Mr Gove’s policy is still widely disliked. Just a thought.

  14. Oh dear. I have a BEd and qualified with a first despite many personal issues, involving my children, during my degree. I agree that Gove does not need to be an expert in education to be the education secretary but maybe, he should employ a variety of experts rather than one who suits his needs?
    As for the Asian nations and their results….do we want a culture where 8 year olds are I anti depressants because they are so stressed? And do we all want to put our children into after school maths and English clubs until 9 at night, to ensure success (as they do in some of these “successful” countries?)

    1. I completely agree that we wouldn’t want to emulate some of the high-pressure practices in some Asian countries Lin. That is why we should look more closely at the example of Finland, which achieves excellent outcomes by valuing and respecting both children and teachers.

  15. I teach in a pupil referral unit….it is my sixth PRU in my sixth authority and I have also spent many years in mainstream schools. The common factor between all the PRUs has been having fellow teachers who I can have a laugh with…we still get angry together and there are many, many aspects of PRU life to be angry about BUT without the laughter the job would be unbearable. I like political humour ..I liked the story it made me smile……there are many aspects of the current education system to be angry about but most people are missing the most worrying one. Many teachers and pupils are teaching and being taught in buildings that are killing them! Ask your headteachers about asbestos in your school…the three major teaching unions met with Gordon Brown PM (!) about this issue. Is in your or your child’s classroom?!

  16. The erosion of CPD opportunities, punitive approaches to teacher appraisal and the constant drive to make teachers comply to narrowly focused curricula stifles creativity, strait-jackets innovation and the burden on teachers well-being is high. The greatest shame is that these experts are mostly too divorced from the classroom and the staff room and are greatly unaware of the real effects that the impositions from above have on teachers’ ability to carry out their job (teaching!), on their well – being and stress levels.
    Data drives teaching and if the results don’t rise, however they are ‘negotiated’, a further narrowing of the curriculum, calls to extend the school day and the loss of the creative, intuitive teachers. A well qualified teacher is vital in the classroom but focus on impositions from above is turning us away from the children in the classroom. A narrow focus and anxiety to ‘get results’ does not help to develop the whole child. Are we trying to fit them to the curriculum and training them to get results or are we trying to develop them to also be well equipped to deal with the present, find self-worth (not measured by data) and be capable of making their own future?

  17. I’m not sure what’s more entertaining, Paul’s funny little story or the aftermath! I’m not a teacher, but a writer, having run creative businesses. Through my own experiences as a pupil and having three children educated in both the private and state systems (due to family logistics) I can only add this. In my own education there were excellent teachers who inspired their pupils (my French ‘O’ Level teacher being one – a charming middle-aged lady who inspired me to actually think in French) and there were others who failed to engage with their classes for whatever reason (eg. my ‘O’ Level Biology teacher – an extremely clever but dull academic who failed to control his classes). I don’t know whether they had good degrees or not, I expect they did, but I sailed through French and flunked Biology. As a parent, it was clear that whichever school my three children attended, their success also depended on their respect and enjoyment of individual teachers and I maintain that this has always and will always be the case. As an employer running customer-led businesses, I was always deeply frustrated by job applicants whose spelling and grammar was appalling and it appeared to have got worse over the past twenty years. It is no coincidence that successful businesses are those that communicate effectively with their staff and customers and I believe it is the same in any organisation, including schools. I don’t like or respect Gove as a person, but I do believe he wants to get it right and he shouldn’t be lampooned for that. Is it a coincidence that his communication and leadership skills are zero? I don’t think so. Equally there are teachers and Union leaders who fall into the same category. As long as we have political bias and bigotry, the publicly funded NHS and Education systems will continue to be messed with and used as political pawns. But whatever political system we have there will always be good and bad doctors, nurses and teachers, just as in business there will always be good and bad managers and employees. It’s life and boils down to leadership and communication from the political hierarchy to individual schools and hospitals. So while this debate is healthy, life is what it is. Learning the basics is important, but the argument will rage forever until our schools start to turn out children that can communicate effectively. That is unlikely to happen in my lifetime, especially with the polarised views demonstrated above. So nothing can be gained by slagging off Paul’s humour or each other. Everyone has a difference of opinion based on their own life experiences. I’m not saying we shouldn’t change and want to improve, but under the current push-me-pull-you system of politics, change for the better is highly unlikely and has been for as long as I can remember.

    1. We’ve just been having a brief discussion of when there had last been a ‘good’ education minister – and by that, I think we meant one who actually put education top of the agenda rather than treating education as something of a political football or an ideological experiment.

      Like you (if I read you correctly) I actually believe that Gove probably does want to do good things – raise standards etc – but I think he’s going very much the wrong way about it, and alienating and depressing teachers on the way. Reform should be done in such a way as to bring the teachers along with it, to work with them rather than against him – well, that’s my view anyway. As for the humour, personally I think we should try to get humour out of everything…. and as those who remember the origins of the whole ‘Mr Men’ story, he did rather bring it on himself!

      1. Agreed.

        As a writer, I can only apologise for my lack of paragraphs above, but I was worried, quite mistakenly, that if I pressed the return key my unfinished reply would be irretrievably published.

  18. Isn’t this whole debacle sad. I’m a parent who is also a teacher. First and foremost I am genuinely worried about my own children’s education and the political point-scoring play-thing it has become. I feel my children are being tossed around by politicians and unions in a bitter and pointless war to gain the upper hand. And then I have to look at my ‘big children’, those I teach everyday who are trying so very hard to meet standards that are changing for them constantly. Change is good, but it sits much better with everyone if it’s a genuine conversation, support, listening, working together. I do not understand why my children, both biological and non, should be caught in the middle. It is no good for them. I’ve only been doing the job for 13 years, but I’ve never had so many come to me with anxiety and stress issues. School should be a delight, a place of achievement, congratulations, not drudgery, sadness and despair.

    Could we not all try to have this conversation amicably and productively? For the children, not for ourselves and the points we want to make. I’m so desperately sad that this is what it’s become.

    1. Dear Anon, I understand your frustration but there is no equivalence between ‘politicians and unions’ in this ‘bitter war’. The government (or more accurately, the establishment as a whole) has the power and is ruthlessly wielding it to inflict changes on state education that will literally ruin your future career and impoverish the educational experience of your children, all in the direct and indirect interest of corporate profit. The unions are (or should be) merely trying to defend you and your children from those attacks. This is not a battle in which we, as teachers and parents, can afford to sit on the fence while bemoaning the ‘pointless war’.

  19. Hi Paul, we used your Mr Gove for our placards at the Southampton NUT rally. My 7 year old son carried it and made the local paper. Hopefully you can see the pic from is link

  20. This is funny, and does feel like it has more than a thread of truth about it.

    I’m a layman in this company and suspect that Mr Gove is the worst of the bunch. But I’m not a teacher, and teachers cry “wolf” every time anything changes whether it is a good idea or not. Can anyone name an education secretary of whom the teachers generally approved? Can ALL education secretaries have been that bad?

    No, of course not.

    So how do I get a reasoned opinion about the education secretary and his policies, if not from a teacher?

  21. People don’t tend to say much that’s good about politicians in general, I think – it’s not just we teachers and education secretaries! Agree we probably tend to scream about change – that’s largely because changes are made so frequently that there’s inadequate time to assess the impact of the previous ones, although of course there’s a tendency to be nervous about change anyway. The fact that the powers that be seem to think that if you could only put in place the right change you would solve everything tends to make me a bit nervous too!

    But anyway – education secretaries. I think they may best be judged in retrospect once we can see the impact of the changes they make. For example, at the time, I was no fan of Ken Baker, but introducing the National Curriculum, even if it wasn’t perfect, was a good thing in my opinion. I do feel that Gove is by far the worst I’ve encountered, and I didn’t say that about all the others!

  22. A worthwhile debate. I agree that the whole aftermath was as entertaining as the initial stimulus! It can’t be denied however that the education system is being used as a political battleground to score votes. Teachers, nobody, should ever reach a consensus though that there has been a good educational secretary because there are diametrically opposed views and theories to teaching and learning. This is a debate that SHOULD continue. Our world is changing constantly and we do not know which direction it is going in. How can we keep things the same if everything around it changes? Either adapt, or become extinct. Our debates should reflect this, we should be reflective… And listen to evidence. The problem is most people are so ‘gun ho’ about their opinions that the essence of education is lost… We are all learners. Gove represents the worst aspect of educators in the country, he is not listening… But neither is the NUT.

    I do not care how many errors there are in my rant… I’m smart enough with my 2.1 degree and PGCE and additional masters in education… I do hope that’s good enough for those with the narrow view of what matters in education… But here’s a few questions; why is nothing really mentioned about the contribution of socio-economic status and parental expectations to the attainment of the children in this country? Let’s blame the teachers? Or the polititians? Perhaps we need to think about the attitude we are displaying towards education instead?

    One fact though; the more we expect policies and educators to fail in this country, the more they will. Education is what you make of it, from the individual to the collective. Food for thought.

    Peace and love guys and gals

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