I’m admirer of the work of the Education Secretary Michael Gove. He’s one of the few members of this current Conservative-led Cabinet, who I have any time or respect for. This is because I am someone who experienced an education environment that was profoundly damaged by progressive child-centred educationalists, I’m fully behind Mr Gove’s desire that there be a return to both standards and intellectual vigor in British school education.
For too long children have been fobbed off by the worthless medals of debased exams, and teachers who appear to have an aversion to teaching.
The situation within British education is now so bad that one definition of a bad parent in my opinion would be one that doesn’t constantly scrutinise and challenge how their child is being taught. A child’s education is far too vital to be left to teachers and the British educational system. Gove’s reforms will pay more dividends for British children than all the guff spouted by establishment educationalists from the Plowden Report up until now.
I’ve experienced the British educational system and for me it stank, neither my child nor anybody else’s child should put up with the appalling educational standards that are the norm in too many schools. Learning about Hitler from Mr Men books, in a secondary school? It beggars belief, but this has been the end result of the Plowden education ‘revolution’ that started in 1967.
We should wish for our children something far better than that which we get served up by the Teaching unions, the civil service and the educationalists.
Here is the full Michael Gove speech via the Spectator magazine.
“I find it hard to understand why anyone should wish to defend the state of the education system we inherited.
How can it be right that more than a fifth of children left primary school without having reached a basic level of literacy and numeracy?
We wouldn’t accept a fifth of hospital operations going wrong or a fifth of flights ending badly. So why should we accept a system in which school standards were still too low?
Is it right that two-fifths of students should have left school without a grade C in English and Maths GCSEs? These are the basic minimum level qualifications most employers or universities demand.
But almost 40% of children failed to secure them. And among the poorest children – those eligible for free school meals – a majority left school without these qualifications.
I don’t know anyone in this room – anyone in parliament – anyone leading a school or leading a teachers union who would accept their own child leaving school without this bare minimum. But we accepted this fate for hundreds of thousands of children every year.
Changing that – rescuing the next generation – giving them the foundation they need to succeed – that has been the driving moral purpose of our education reforms. And I challenge anyone to explain to me why that is wrong, indeed why we shouldn’t be more driven and more determined to end this waste of human potential.
And yet people do. People do still say we’re being too demanding and driving too hard.
We have university academics – indeed the chairs of organisations like the National Association for the Teaching of English – saying that we should not introduce 15 and 16 year old children to Charles Dickens because his work will put them off literature for life.
We have historians who will defend teaching World War one to secondary school children through the medium of Blackadder and providers of historical teaching materials who argue GCSE students should learn about Hitler through the medium of Mr Men books.
We have political opponents who argue that expecting 16 year olds to get GCSEs in English, Maths, Science, a language and one of the humanities is creating a barrier to success and setting up children to fail.
Believe me, I know what real barriers to success look like. I spent the first four months of my life in care. Both my parents had to leave school at 15. My sister spent all her school career set apart from other children who were just as bright as her in a school for children with special needs. And I know what setting children up to fail looks like.
It’s sending working class children to school without daring to think they might be intellectually curious and capable of greatness, denying them access to anything stretching or ambitious, setting expectations so low you can never be surprised by someone’s potential, giving children flimsy photocopied worksheets instead of proper rigorous textbooks, feeding them a diet of dumbed-down courses and easy to acquire qualifications, lowering pass marks and inflating grades to give the illusion of progress, shying away from anything which might require grit, application, hard work and perseverance and then sending these poor children into the adult world without the knowledge, skills, character and accomplishments they need, and deserve, to flourish.
That is setting children up to fail. And that is what I will not tolerate.”