An open letter to Michael Gove.

There is so much that you have announced and published in the last few months that has left the profession spinning (pun intended) with what the education philosophy of this Government is.  Having had the time to digest I would like to offer the following as a response

1.  Grammar schools are not the answer to social mobility, comprehensives are.  The free school meal indicator shows that Grammar schools do not help students from poorer background transcend their upbringing.  As the Sutton Trust recently reported:

The relationship between degree performance, prior attainment and the type of school attended suggests that on average students from comprehensive schools are likely to achieve higher degree classifications than students with similar attainment from grammar and independent schools.


Simply put, if the middle classes are desperate for a selective education then they should pay for it through the extensive independent sector.  I know of at least one Grammar school Headteacher who complains of the well drilled, tutored middle class students who are filling up his lower ability sets.  Unable to keep up with their peers and with a curriculum unsuited to their needs they gradually lose touch and ‘drag down’ the result of the school.  If the system worked there would be more students from disadvantages backgrounds taking those places, based on a system of selection that couldn’t be tutored for, sadly those don’t exist.

2.  PISA report will probably show again that selective systems do not improve the educational outcomes for students.  Lessons from PISA 2006 –

  • On raw figures, private schools outperformed state schools. However, once socio-economic factors were taken into account, state schools on average had an advantage of 12 score points over private schools.
  • Students in schools with greater autonomy do not on average get better results
  • Countries with selection or streaming tend to have far greater differences between school performances
  • The countries which come highest in the PISA international comparison are those which enable all students to succeed, as opposed to those more focused on the more academic. Finland, which has topped all three PISA studies, embodies this with neither selection, streaming or setting.

3.  Want to improve education then – free pre-school education up to 7, free school meals for all, smaller class sizes (which means more teachers and more school building), one standardised assessment from one provided by public sector, not private companies, personalised curriculum that recognises that one size does not fit all.

4. Retrospective league tables for English Bac, will only help grammar schools look better, undo all the good work done in the inner-cities and could be racist at its core when you consider the languages left out of Gove’s definition of ‘MFL’.  For starters, Biblical Hebrew and not classic Arabic?  No community languages?  Why is English Literature not counted, but additional maths is?

5.  Re-specify those vocational courses are only worth one GCSE, unless double award, thus rewarding schools that have added breadth and depth to their offer.  Constantly arguing that vocational courses are a way for Schools to ‘cheat the league tables’ demeans their worth for students who learn in a different way.  Want to know how ‘successful’ a school is look at the progression of its students.

6.  How can you give more control back to schools, while you become more prescriptive in all of these areas. We have been given powers by you in the white paper that we already have.  Power to search, restrain etc.

7. You want us to make more exclusion for disruptive pupils, but will also make us responsible for their educational outcomes.  This is what personalised curricula and pathways have done, reduces our exclusion by making the curriculum more relevant.  But you have now taken both of these options away, as they are expensive and don’t count in the league tables.  You have stated that Schools will determine what targets to set for themselves, choose what forms of external support they want and determine how to evaluate themselves.  As long as we have a narrow curriculum based on a view of what grammar schools do well.

8.  The decisions to cut SSP proves that you choose ideology over intellect, the full argument is put better here than I could write. & here  But, we in the profession can tell you that collaboration improves performance of all schools.

With thanks to!/SchoolDuggery


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