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

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Islamic State: ‘The world cares nothing’ for Syrian city under Isis siege

Patrick cockburn
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week