Sunday, January 26, 2014

Does Anyone in Education Like Gove?

The Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, is in full-on attack mode today.  And surprisingly, given his history, his targets are not teachers, or "middle-class grammar schools".  His target is the man thought to be one of his closest allies, Education Secretary Michael Gove.  In a further twist to the Gove dilemma, his shadow Tristram Hunt reckons that one of his own ministers - Liz Truss - is opposed to his distinctly one-sided approach to the teaching of World War One.  Which begs the question of just who in the world of education really does like the Education Secretary?

Ofsted first.  Whatever he says today, Michael Wilshaw is certainly an ideological ally of Mr. Gove's when it comes to reforming (or "attacking", depending on your view) teaching in the classroom.  It speaks volumes about Gove's political management that he has managed to alienate the Ofsted chief, who was said to be "spitting blood" (OK, we get it, he's angry) about what he sees as attempts to undermine his organisation.  We've been here before in Goveland.  What Sir Michael is concerned about is the sniping against Ofsted from political allies of Mr. Gove.  It wasn't that long ago that Gove's special advisers were accused of running a twitter account set up for the purpose of attacking critics of their boss's vision of a brave old educational world, so there is certainly form from an Education Secretary who enjoys nothing more than mixing it up with educationalists and getting political hatchet men to do some of the dirty work for him.  In fact, there are serious questions to be raised about the way in which Ofsted goes about its business, and that becomes even more important when you have a chief as combative as Sir Michael.  There has been, for some time, a belief that the political message which Sir Michael, up to now, has been keen to endorse has not always been supported by his inspectors on the ground, leading to clear confusion in schools as to what, exactly, is expected of them.  A conservative view of the Ofsted problem was made by the pseudonymous practising teacher Stephen Edwards on the Conservative Home site earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Gove's ludicrous caricature about the teaching of World War 1 history may also have engendered the frustration of one of his departmental colleagues, Elisabeth Truss.  Tristram Hunt is making hay with this one, as reported by the Observer today, but we have - once again - been here before.  When Gove originally attacked poor teaching methods he mis-used an example lesson from a practioner's website popular with teachers, and larded his attack with ill-researched generalisations.

For an intelligent man, Michael Gove clearly struggles with the detail of his brief, something which was apparent from the very start of his tenure.  Perhaps it's not that surprising after all that even people closely allied with him, and working alongside, tend to get frustrated.

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