After a rocky start, Michael Gove’s reforms are delivering spectacular results and transforming a culture of defeatism

For all its apparent successes, Mr Gove’s revolution has not come without a cost

Share

Michael Gove has no shortage of very vocal opponents. He may be renowned in Westminster as “the politest man in politics”, but the Education Secretary’s sweeping reforms of England’s school system have prompted charges of arrogance, of bullying and of waging war with the teaching profession (to name but three).

The latest league tables, published yesterday, vindicate his strategy, if not his style. Not only has the number of secondary schools failing to meet the Government’s GCSE target dropped by approaching a third over the past year (with the result that six out of 10 pupils are now achieving five A* to C grades including maths and English). No less importantly, the number of students achieving the English Baccalaureate has shot up. In 2012, only 16 per cent managed A* to Cs in the core subjects of English, maths, one language, two sciences and either history or geography; in 2013, nearly 23 per cent did.

Full marks, Mr Gove. After he took up the education brief in 2010, his central claim was that a culture of low expectations – among teachers, pupils and parents – was dragging down attainment. His answer was a reform programme touching everything from Ofsted inspections to governance structures, from teachers’ pay to the national curriculum. Evidence of improving results would be a boon for any education secretary. But the fact that grades are better even as more children are taking supposedly difficult subjects is of particular value for one who staked his career on the premise that lack of ambition, not lack of aptitude, was holding many back.

For all its apparent successes, Mr Gove’s revolution has not come without a cost. Yesterday’s gracious response – describing the improvements as “a credit to the professionalism and hard work of teachers” – may be a nod in the right direction. But it will take more than a few warm words to repair relations between Government and teachers that have been strained to breaking point.

While much may be put down to the unavoidable friction between reformer and soon-to-be-reformed, the combination of a wage freeze, new pension arrangements and the introduction of performance-related pay is a lot to take all at once. Meanwhile, the Education Secretary’s sometimes slapdash approach to the details of his reforms has also added to the contretemps that have so soured the mood.

This is no call for capitulation. For too long, the teaching profession has allowed mediocrity, if not actual incompetence, to flourish unchecked. But the fact remains that the upbeat, enterprising, get-up-and-go educational culture that Mr Gove rightly wants for our schools will be difficult to institute if morale among teachers remains so low.

It is not only relations with teachers that need attention. So too does vocational education. There has been progress. Only this week, the Government announced plans for another 11 secondary-level institutions focused on technical, non-academic qualifications. But the new total of 96 is still some way off the national availability that must be the goal.

Mr Gove has won the central argument in British education. But in the long battle to overcome defeatism in our schools, this is merely the end of the beginning.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Data Entry Administrator

£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

£36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

£29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: NHS data-sharing is good for patients

Independent Voices
 

Daily catch-up: the old Palace of Westminster; Batman vs Superman; and more Greenery

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee