My first inkling that something was afoot at the Department for Education came with the Sky News report early in the morning that Michael Gove had arrived at Downing Street to meet with the Prime Minister. Was he about to be re-shuffled by David Cameron? It hardly seemed possible. Only last week I was in the audience for the Education Summit 2014 where Gove delivered a characteristically ideological key-note speech. No sense then that his personal mission to transform education would be de-railed by a government re-shuffle. And then the news exploded on Twitter. Gove had gone. The bogey-man of so many teachers and more generally the “blob” was out, finessed into the office of Chief Whip. The Education Secretary was rather like the Monty Python parrot in political terms.
So what does this mean? Gove’s departure is momentous in one sense but actually how much will it change the policies so closely associated with him? The Pandora’s Box opened by Gove is his legacy to this country – autonomy for schools, qualification reform and reform of teacher training. I list these changes rather than offer a value judgement because that goes to the heart of Gove’s reform of education. Were these reforms necessary to ensure this country continued to compete with the rest of the world or did they unleash a decade of instability and uncertainty where young people and teachers are the collateral damage?
History will judge. For now the momentum behind the Goveian Reforms means that government will continue on tram lines. The unknown is how linear the reforms will be without the force of Gove’s personality behind them. So in the hope that the new Secretary of State is open to ideas, I should like to take the liberty of sharing some of mine:
1. Let’s embrace the century we live in and, rather than harking back to a golden age of
education, ensure our young people are educated for their tomorrow;
2. Stop using data designed to assess individual pupils to measure schools;
3. Engage with digital learning to ensure we offer the best possible learning experience;
4. Work with teachers – they are the instruments of change.
The new Secretary of State, Ms Nicky Morgan, already has her work cut out because she holds her cabinet position alongside her role as Minister for Women and Inequalities. I would have thought the Education brief was big enough yet I wish Ms Morgan well. Nothing matters more than the education of our young people. I really do hope that Ms Morgan rises to the challenge of her new demanding role – certainly just holding the fort between now and the General Election will be a betrayal of a generation of young people.
Gove may be gone but the debate about the course of education goes on. It is worth reminding ourselves why education is so important and why Ms Morgan’s new role is so important. Nelson Mandela expressed this so well:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”