Chalk Talk: Headteachers give Michael Gove something to think about


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The Independent Online

Education Secretary Michael Gove showed a touch of humility when he addressed the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders at the weekend.

He had, as apparently is his wont, been listening to the Today programme's Thought for the Day as he prepared to address teachers.

Instead of the usual worthy references to the Bible or the Koran, he found that Saturday's musings were based on the words of Brian Lightman, general secretary of the ASCL. Giving Mr Lightman's words the status of Holy Writ, said Mr Gove, had brought to mind the film Life of Brian. By comparison, he said: "I'm not the Messiah – I'm just a very naughty boy."

I wonder how many headteachers agreed with him or – given the state of demoralisation revealed in a poll of its members by ASCL – with his comment that we should "always look on the bright side of life".

Headteachers are known for using fairly robust language to get their messages across. However, they were outdone at the conference by John Bangs, former assistant general secretary at the National Union of Teachers, now a visiting Professor at London University's Institute of Education.

Referring to assessment in schools, he meant to say the Government had "cranked up" assessment in schools but it unfortunately came out as "crapped up". On reflection, though, he felt the latter might have been more accurate.

Meanwhile, at last a sign from the Commons select committee on education that the Government might be moving towards slackening off the pace of initiatives on school reforms. Quoting from Lord Palmerston when he was Prime Minister, Schools Minister Nick Gibb told MPs: "Change? Change? Aren't things bad enough already?"

Hopes were shattered at the weekend, though, when his master, Mr Gove, told the ASCL conference: "Lest anyone think we should slacken the pace of reform, let me reassure them – we have to accelerate."