Alistair Campbell claimed on The Daily Politics on Wednesday night that the Education Committee Report on GCSEs and EBACCs represented the moment at which Michael Gove had been ‘found out’. The Committee warned Gove that he risks destabilising the entire school exam system by rushing through his plans to replace the core subject GCSEs with his Ebacc Certificates. Almost every justification offered by Gove was challenged by the cross-party committee. The Committee is chaired by a fellow Conservative MP, Graham Stuart, who said, “We call on the Government to balance the pace of reform with the need to get it right.” Serious concerns were expressed back in December by exam watchdog, OFQUAL (see my post 16 December). Criticism has also come from not just teachers’ organisations but those representing the arts and creative subjects which it seems are downgraded in Gove’s reforms. This follows close on the heels of a storm of criticism following the announcement of his plans for A Levels where no-one seems to have a good word. So is Campbell right, is this the point at which the tide is turned back against Gove?
Before we start putting out the bunting, let’s remember the nature of the person. He is a so-called ‘conviction politician’: he KNOWS he is right. He doesn’t rely on research or a wide-ranging consultation process before launching an idea. He also seems, like Blair, to be, not just impervious to criticism but to relish it. Criticism seems to spur him on, to confirm him in his belief in his own rectitude. It comes, in his mind, from ‘vested interests’, ‘ideologues’, proof that he is on the right lines, not reasons to turn back. Cameron — with plenty else to worry him on numerous fronts — is content to let Gove get on with it, especially since Gove seems to be a success story, especially with elements on the right of the party. And where is the opposition coming from? Not the Opposition, that’s for sure: Labour spokesman Stephen Twigg has been very timid in his criticism of any of Gove’s proposals; and not from the Unions who are struggling to convince their members to support even ‘work-to-rule’ action, let alone strikes.
So, keep the champagne on ice for a bit!