We are told that Michael Gove’s reforms to education are a real success story.
In spite of lacking a formal mandate from the electorate, Gove has launched headlong into massive funding of ‘free schools’ and attempting to turn all schools into academies, outside council control. Many recognise this to be preparing for the next step of profit-making and privatisation of education.
However, this ‘success’ can hardly be said to be reflected in the polls. According to a Guardian/ICM poll last April, there is strong public opposition to major planks of Michael Gove’s education reforms. For example, 68% of Labour supporters, 58% of Lib Dems and 58% of Ukip supporters voted for councils retaining their responsibilities towards schools. Overall, a majority of 57% agreed that councils should have an important role in over-seeing education.
Furthermore, in 2012:
‘Gove gave all academies the right to hire teachers who had not undergone formal training, arguing that this mimicked the freedom enjoyed by private schools to bring linguists, engineers and other specialists into the classroom, and there is evidence that the new free schools have made especially extensive use of this facility.’
This policy was even less popular. 63% of voters said that “teaching is a profession which requires dedicated training”.
The last few days (doubtless in response to the strike) there have been a spate of articles/quotes from Michael Gove referring to the ‘vested interests’ of ‘the Blob’ – by which he means the teachers, academic experts and the teaching unions. However, YouGov found in February 2014 that:
When it comes to educational reforms, Britons tend to give the benefit of the doubt to ‘the Blob’: by 46%-19%, people hold the view that teaching unions and the educational establishment are “right in most of their concerns about education policy and school reforms” rather than believing these groups pose “an obstacle to necessary reforms”.
When it comes to teachers themselves, over 92% oppose Gove’s reforms (the wonder is not the overwhelming opposition, but that there are 8% of teachers to support them).
But in addition to the reforms in the classroom, schools, the total lack of consultation and the centralised control from Whitehall – not to mention the scandals (financial and organisational) – teachers have also had their pay and pensions cut drastically. Not only are they suffering from a pay freeze less than inflation but they are also having to find increased pension contributions, and are expected to work to 68y.
Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“The Government is still failing to make progress on our trade dispute over teachers’ pay, pensions and workload. The talks are still only about the implementation of Government policies, not about the fundamental issues we believe to be detrimental to education and the profession.
“For teachers, performance related pay, working until 68 for a full pension and heavy workload for 60 hours a week, is unsustainable.
“This action is the responsibility of a Government and Education Secretary who are refusing point blank to accept the damage their reforms are doing to the teaching profession. The consequences of turning teaching into a totally unattractive career choice will most certainly lead to teacher shortages.
“Strike action is a last resort for teachers and we deeply regret the disruption it causes parents and pupils. This date has been chosen to cause minimum disruption to examinations.
“Teaching is one of the best jobs in the world but is being made one of the worst under Michael Gove and the Coalition. It is time they listened. Michael Gove can still avoid the strike by engaging in serious negotiations on substantive issues.”
Finally, in solidarity (and by popular demand) to cheer striking teachers on their way … What does OFSTED stand for…