What I overheard on the Tube tells me Gove is making the right enemies

Do all teachers feel like those ATL members who denounced the Education Secretary this week? Plus, my brushes with Berezovsky

Share

Easter marks Michael Gove’s third conference season as the punchbag for the teaching unions, and this year he’s been treated to two warm-up bouts. First came a letter from 100 academics warning about the prescriptiveness of his national curriculum and complaining that facts and rote learning would deaden pupils’ creativity. He hit back in typically combative style. Then two days ago the supposedly moderate Association of Teachers and Lecturers passed its first-ever vote of no confidence in an Education Secretary.

But do all teachers feel like those who denounced him at the ATL? On the Tube recently, I overheard three women, two still teaching and one early-retired, lamenting the state of schools and the precipitate fall in standards, as they saw it, over the past 10 years. And, no, they didn’t appear to be Tory ladies in town for a spot of lunch. One reflected more in sorrow than anger that she’d always voted Labour, but...

Their greatest fury was reserved for coursework which, they agreed, was routinely corrected by the teacher before it was submitted, a practice that hid great gaps in pupils’ attainment. One, who had marked exams over many years, observed that she now learned more from the scripts about the teacher than the pupils. Some of the work was so standardised, she said, that it might as well have been dictated. You could tell the good teachers, she said, because their pupils’ answers varied. Those pupils who had been poorly taught, she said, gave answers that were not only depressingly uniform but often wrong in the same way. For them, Gove’s shake-up hadn’t come a moment too soon.

Now it might be that my trio were the only three in the country who think this way. Maybe, too, they had bunked off, leaving more dutiful colleagues to inscribe the week’s corrected coursework on their whiteboards. But I think Gove should take some Easter cheer. If he’s making enemies, perhaps they are the right ones, and the pupils and teachers of the future may thank him for his trouble.

My brushes with Berezovsky

I’m as partial to a conspiracy as anyone, but I’m not going to spin any fantasies about the last days of Boris Berezovsky. The oligarch’s lonely end was of a piece with the strange life he lived in Britain; the final scene of his own tragedy. I last saw him at his court case against Roman Abramovich, when two of his fatal flaws were on full display: his hubristic certainty that he would win, and overconfidence in his command of English. I opposed him in debates – he was the anti-Putin attack dog whose passion made up for what his English lacked – and I interviewed him twice.

His Mayfair offices were clinically impersonal, like an Eastern bloc hotel or a private hospital. On the tables were small sculptures that he fingered like toys. Huge black-clad  security people lurked outside and in. No door was opened before the previous one was closed. The first time he was running late and suggested I accompany him to his next appointment. Much walkie-talkie activity accompanied the arrival of his – armoured – car, which halted just long enough for me to be bundled into the back between the bodyguards. We sped off, to my utter horror, turning into one of the Royal parks, on carriage-roads I never knew existed. This high-speed drive was clearly standard practice. And what it told me was that Berezovsky was almost as far above the law in London as he had been in his heyday in wildest Moscow.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Hydraulic Power Pack Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I recruit for contract mechanical design...

SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

SCO Supervisor Electrical

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client based in the Midlands is looki...

Ecommerce Executive

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Ecommerce Executive Working with an...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Careful, Mr Cameron. Don't flirt with us on tax

Chris Blackhurst
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices