While we have been embarrassed about tuition fees, we have allowed Michael Gove to push through some of the most destructive policies in education. Despite the good work for our youngest children pushed through by Sarah Teather during her tenure in the department of education, he has done massive damage to secondary education and is still at it.
The International Baccalaureate is just one example. Gove said he wanted academies and free schools to give power back to teachers and parents, yet his qualification system includes little choice when it comes to the arts. The lack of art, religious studies and music in the qualification guarantees that schools desperate to score high in the league tables to hang on to their funding will not support these critical subjects.
Far from handing power back, he has centralised it, cutting out local authorities as far as possible and creating such a mishmash of qualifications that even business is kicking up a fuss. Gove’s version of “localism” is patrician at best and dictatorial at worst.
He has now started interfering with the detail of the curriculum so non-white people of historical note are quietly being removed to give more prominence to Winston Churchill and (to the chagrin of the Irish) Oliver Cromwell.
Throw in the threat of grammar schools and he is hurtling us all back to the 19th century. Grammars are not automatically better for children – believe me, I went to one but they are definitely worse for the 11 year olds who fail the Eleven Plus. In communities where people are likely to remain in the area, the school someone went to matters in job interviews. Go to the wrong school and you are blighted. How does that help. The grammar stream where I grew up accounted for under 5% of the children. That means 95% were effectively dumped on the rubbish heap, expected to struggle to raise themselves. How is this 21st century thinking?
The CBI recently complained that the output of our schools was so devoted to passing exams the graduates didn’t know how to function in the working environment. Isn’t it time we really did give powers back to head teachers, teachers and parent governors and started producing well-educated, balanced and intelligent young people to take over from us?