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16 July 2014 by ATL
As the dust settles on the demise of Michael Gove the rush begins to define his legacy. Ever keen to contribute to the conversation, here is my pennyworth...

Michael Gove was a ruthless operator as Secretary of State for education. He had a vision - an autonomous and highly diverse school system, and he realised that if you are going to do change on this scale it has to be done quickly, before anyone notices. Gove pursued his policies with a remarkable determination and drive. An idealogue with excellent media connections, he rivalled David Blunkett in setting the news agenda. This was, however, to be his undoing. It is one thing to attack the education 'blob', it is quite another to displace your leader's Queen's speech with the fallout from a boozy journalistic lunch where your frank and fearless views of the Home Secretary's counter terrorism strategy have been rather too fully shared.

Gove's legacy is most mixed where he most wanted to break the mould - granting freedom and autonomy to schools. Whilst it is undeniable that academy status is now the norm amongst secondary schools, it is also the case that free schools have a much weaker base. Their uncertain beginnings and continuing crises (both financial, educational and situational - too many opened where there is no identified need for pupil places) continues to dog the programme.

However, the truth behind the Govean rhetoric of freedom and autonomy is this: schools are more highly constrained than ever, labouring under the yoke of an Ofsted inspection regime which produces fear and compliance in equal measure. Policy Exchange got it right when they concluded that School Leaders are forced to do what they think Ofsted will understand, rather than what is right for the pupils in their school. Busy work, done not to improve standards of teaching and learning, but to satisfy the requirements of an inspection agency with its own huge quality control problems (school leaders do not know what inspection team will turn up at their door, one that has a clue, or is clueless).

Gove's frenetic pace of change is now beginning to unravel. He was interested in ideas, not their implementation, and did not work hard enough at creating the structures to support his vision of a highly autonomous school system. The Education Funding Agency is unfit for purpose, unable to detect fraud and inappropriate use of public money in free schools and academies. The National College for Teaching and Leadership is, ironically, lacking competent leadership - a shell of its former self and rudderless. The School Direct system of school based teacher training is highly variable in quality and is one factor which is leading to a growing crisis in teacher recruitment, which, happening concurrently with exponentially rising pupil numbers, is a toxic legacy for Gove's successor, Nicky Morgan.

But Gove's biggest legacy, and the real reason for his sacking, is his disastrous relationship with the teaching profession. When he had been in office for about a year I had a meeting with one of Gove's special advisors. I asked him whether it was by accident or design that Michael Gove was becoming one of the most hated Secretary of State for Education. He replied that Michael was seen as one of the brightest stars within the Tory party firmament. As yesterday's events show, that mark of achievement is not enough. There are half a million teachers in England and Wales and, together, they constitute a strong force which influences parents and the public. At the recent Festival of Education at Wellington College, Gove was asked why he hated teachers. No Secretary of State for Education can get out from under that.

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Comments

If Morgan does her job Tristram will have to go!
Having witnessed Tristram Hunt`s early efforts as Labour`s shadow education secretary, it`s probably time for a simple list of do`s and don`ts:

If privately educated, don`t presume to know much about state education, especially if your knowledge is going to be based on government propaganda and the media`s version of everyday life in state schools; neither will be accurate.
When asked about the school destination of your children, don`t obfuscate with answers like "never rule out what takes place"; you will be rightly ridiculed, and the assumption will be that you prefer private education, even though you aspire to take charge of all state schools.
Don`t even think of supporting such a totally inappropriate idea for schools as Performance Related Pay; it will reveal ignorance of how children learn and achieve. For example, is the teacher who taught a sixth form A-level history group, which achieved ten A*s, necessarily the person who inspired their ambition or subject interest, or the teacher who improved their literacy and evaluation skills, or taught evidence analysis, or even the same teacher who taught them for GCSE and enabled the Advanced study to take place?
Don`t add to the burden and stress of teaching, when Ofsted, league tables, examination results, parental pressure and internal inspections make a new system of re-licensing teachers totally unnecessary.
Don`t think that the undoing of the current government`s education legislation will be unwelcome because it will mean yet more change; pick out the most damaging and pledge to repeal them at the earliest possible opportunity.

As Labour spokesperson for education, show your commitment to social mobility by promoting all ideas which will enhance the life chances of all pupils and students, regardless of their gender, race or wealth. Consider re-instating both the EMA to help students from poor backgrounds afford staying on for A-levels, and the modular A-levels with AS exams, coursework, and resit opportunities. Remember your party`s belief in equality of opportunity.
Insist that all state schools only employ qualified teachers, but you need to brush up on the reasons; teaching is not just about the transfer of knowledge, as many who support schools having unqualified experts or experienced people as teachers seem to think. The PGCE programme is excellent for giving would-be teachers insights into the ways children learn, the psychology and sociology of education, as well as classroom experience.
Show support for teachers and their unions as they try to resist cuts in pay, increased pension contributions, and worsening conditions of service, even when they are forced to resort to industrial action. Have regular meetings with the leaders of the teaching unions.
Appearances on media outlets, articles in newspapers and such-like are fine as long as on each occasion you take the opportunity to acknowledge the improvements in state school education that has taken place over the last twenty years, largely because of improved teaching and the hard work of enthusiastic teachers.
Be firm in your support for Ofsted to inspect all free schools and academies, and consider whether it is appropriate, these days, for Ofsted to inspect only half of schools in the private sector. Bear in mind that