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

SQL DBA (2005/2008/2012, projects, storage requirements)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Copywriter - Corporate clients - Wimbledon

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Retail Lecturer / Assessor / Tutor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Tiger skin seized from a smuggler by customs officers in Lhasa, Tibet  

Save the tiger: Poaching facts

Harvey Day
 

Save the tiger: 7 saddening facts about the extinction of Javan tigers

Harvey Day
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried