Commiserations to any of my serving teacher friends who, enjoying their last leisurely start to the day, tuned in to BBC Breakfast TV only to catch our beloved Education Secretary giving another Oscar nomination-worthy portrayal of someone who actually gives a damn about children’s education.
The occasion that dragged him to the studios was today’s trenchant criticism by the Local Government Association of the government’s response to the looming crisis in primary school places. According to Gove, that’s all the fault of the last government, who were apparently warned by Gove when in opposition. That may be true but, if that was the case, why has he wasted billions on his academy project when he should clearly have been focused on this issue? And what of the very obvious disparity between the creation of surplus places in secondary via the ‘free school’ project and this shortfall? Well, predictably, we were treated to the usual nonsense about ‘choice’, ‘parental demand’ and ‘creation of high quality’ places.
At the risk of boring you I’ll repeat the common sense refutations of these. ‘Choice’ in the system is not ‘choice’ for individuals in a specific location and, in any case, what everyone says and knows is that parents don’t want more choice, just to be sure that their local school is a good one. Very few if any ‘free schools’ have been set up because parents clearly wanted them. They’re mostly kites flown by charitable trusts or edubusinesses. As for ‘high quality’, how can anybody know until they’ve been running a couple of years what the quality of these schools is?
As if unconvinced by his own performance on education, Michael attempted a bit of emotion at the end of the interview when answering a question about his much publicised reaction to the Syria vote. Not sure, after all, he’s in the running for an Oscar.