It’s not been a good week to be a left -of-centre Remain voter. We’ve had to endure a devastating referendum result followed by several aftershocks. First David Cameron resigned, which I would have felt a whole lot more positive about had the opposition not chosen this week to self-destruct.
The pound plummeted, racially motivated attacks rose and, to top it all off, Nigel Farage’s smug, gloating face was everywhere. However, for me, the most terrifying outcome of this referendum is still to come – the prospect of Michael Gove becoming our next Prime Minister.
In July 2014 teachers around the country celebrated at the news that Gove had lost his job as Education Secretary. It was a tactical move by Cameron to side line one of the most toxic members of the party in the run up to the General Election. We knew he’d be back on the front bench sooner or later; what we didn’t imagine was that in just two years he could be handed the keys to Downing Street.
To me, he’ll always be the man who destroyed the education system; he has failed a generation of children and if he had any sort of conscience he’d step down from this contest to avoid doing further damage to the country.
We know from his Brexit campaigning that Gove does not value the opinions of “experts” and this was also true in 2010 when, against all better advice, he pushed through his radical, ideological changes to the curriculum, examinations and the school system.
He introduced Free Schools – state funded schools which are exempt from teaching the National Curriculum and run by parents, religious leaders, business managers… anyone but teachers. The message was clear: teachers can’t be trusted.
He’s a traditionalist and an ideologue and his reforms seemed to be a desperate attempt to try and recreate his own education. So it was out with the Year Six Calculator Paper – because really who needs to know how to use a calculator in the 21st century? In with specific formal written methods that Gove himself approved. It wasn’t about teaching children to add and take away it was about teaching them to add and take away the way Michael Gove learnt to.
All schools were sent a copy of the King James Bible with a special foreword from the Education Secretary himself. Ours is keeping my office door open as I write. A school where 86 per cent of the children have English as a second or third language and 82 per cent of children are Muslim has surprisingly little use for a King James Bible.
But that wasn’t the point. Along with the Bible came: Latin lessons, chanting poetry, British values and children having to identify the past progressive tense before they could identify the UK on a world map. It was out with GCSE drama, dance lessons and To Kill A Mockingbird (because there are no lessons to be learnt from that novel).
After just six years in teaching I am walking away from the profession altogether and I’m not alone. 50,000 teachers left in 2015 and a recent survey found that nearly 50 per cent of teachers are considering leaving in the next five years. This is not a legacy Michael Gove should be proud of.
As Education Secretary he showed himself to be out of touch, incompetent and completely unwilling to listen to anyone – particularly those pesky “experts”. We all have reason to worry if he becomes Prime Minister.
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