When I heard the news on the radio this morning I felt my spirit lighten: after all of the heartbreak he has caused as he dismantled our education system brick by brick, Gove was being removed as education secretary. Finally it appeared that teachers, parents, children and educationalists up and down the country were being listened to: we had roared ‘Gove must go’ until we were hoarse, and now our pleas had been answered.
Of course I am not naive enough to think that placating the victims of Gove’s reforms was Cameron’s motivation. I cannot allow myself to hope that now that he has been replaced the misguided direction of the Tory education policy will change significantly. I’m trying to avoid finding out too much about his successor, Nicky Morgan: I’d rather spend just one day in blissful ignorance. From what has seeped into my twitter feed I gather that her politics are at least as unsavoury as Gove’s, but then given her political allegiance that’s not entirely surprising.
The thing is it was not just his politics that made me so angry whenever Gove opened his mouth to say something about education. In fact the political stance he was taking was generally the least of my worries – after all, there were so many other things to be angry about.
There was the way he completely disregarded the professional opinion of people who had devoted their lives to education, presuming that his own experience of school could over-ride decades of evidence-based research.
Worse, there was his coining of the term ‘the blob’ for those who disagreed with his reforms – the sneering condescension with which he dismissed their concerns about the impact those reforms might have on young people.
There was the exploitation of those young people for photo opportunities to try to disguise the archaic nature of his mission with a vulgar attempt to get down with the kids.
The total failure to acknowledge the impact his race to lead the world might have on the mental health of young people and their teachers – along with his buddy Wilshaw he seemed determined to wear down all of the stakeholders in the education system, deciding that misery was a mark of success.
Another thing that made me furious was the way new policies appeared to have been scribbled on the back of a cigar box after one too many glasses of claret at a dinner party. Dropped on to breakfast tables with the Sunday papers they often bore more than a whiff of the public school education of his peers, and very rarely stood up to tight scrutiny in the cold light of day.
There was also, of course, the way he held up the private sector as the pinnacle of education, blithely ignoring all of the other factors that influenced the success of its alumni to wrongly presume that these fee-paying schools were fundamentally doing everything better than their state-funded equivalents, that within their ivy-clad walls and manicured lawns was the cure for all the maladies of the education system.
At the core of all this was the way Gove completely ignored the truth wherever it got in the way of his vision. He took this to ridiculous lengths – if rumours are to be believed he rewrote syllabi for English and History GCSEs, an absurd arrogance and grossly overstepping his role as education secretary.
There is so much more I could add to this list, but I can feel my blood beginning to boil just remembering all of the injustices served to our nation’s young people by that man. I am however finding great solace in the repetition of the phrase ‘there was’. He is now in the past, at least as far as our education system is concerned, and hopefully schools and teachers and students and everyone with their best interests at heart can begin the slow process of recovery from the damage he has done to their sense of worth.
There is much for Nicky Morgan to consider as she steps into this role, but there is one key thing I would ask of her: to listen. To recognise how much people care, and how much they know. To rebuild the bridges between the policy makers and the professionals, so that together we can work to carve out a better future for our children.