Influential Conservative backbench MP Graham Stuart slams pace of Michael Gove’s education reforms


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The Independent Online

A scathing attack of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s school reforms was delivered tonight by the Conservative party’s most influential backbench MP on education.

Graham Stuart, chairman of the Commons select committee, told the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) in Belfast that he though the plan was ill-conceived” and “incoherent”.

Speaking to an assembly of heads of many of the country’s top independent schools, he urged Mr Gove to “stop taking the urgency pills and recognise the need to slow down”.

His rapid agenda for change had led to “incoherence with urgent time lines (for implementation) which can’t be done”. “Stop changing things all the time,” he added.

He was responding to questions on the government’s proposals for a new English Baccalaureate which would be introduced in schools in 2015.

“If there were to be a Labour government, they would probably have to live with that but would they change it later,” he added.

He said that – at the moment – ministers appeared not to be listening to the voice of the professionals and as a result “it doesn’t seem very coherent”.

“If there is clear thinking going on in the department, it has so far escaped the chairman of the education select committee,” he added.

Mr Stuart also accused Mr Gove’s predecessor – Labour’s Ed Balls – for rushing reforms.

He said Labour’s plans for a diploma to run alongside A-levels could have been good if they had been allowed to develop over a 10 year period but Mr Balls refused to listen to professionals’ advice.

“It has ended up with millions of pounds wasted and children left high and dry,” he added.

“Ironically, the most successful exam reform was the introduction of the GCSE which started with (Prime Minister) Jim Callaghan’s speech in the 1970s and was then phased in over a seven-year period.”