The behaviour of Education Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove would be hilariously funny in its sheer crassness, as would his blatant playing to the gallery of all those former colleagues of his that still scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet, were it not for one thing: he is systematically screwing around with the education of a whole generation of young people just to gain political advantage.
Who, me? Yes, Minister, you
This becomes all too clear from not only the copy generated in supportive media outlets today, but also his own meaningless speech given yesterday before a conference arranged by head teachers of independent schools. This was littered with accusations of union “Trotskyism”, which denied good teachers “freedom”. It could have been written by a staffer at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).
Allied to the Gove speech, in a move which is not a coincidence, is the news that eleven year-olds are to be given a new kind of test, effective, well, more or less immediately. This will contain hard questions. They will cover spelling, punctuation and grammar. Pupils will have to identify verbs, adverbs, nouns, adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions, and of course subordinate clauses.
These hard questions will of course be harder than rotten old Labour questions. They will not be dumbed down. There will be no grade inflation. All pupils will automatically be subjected to a more rigorous teaching regime. Standards will not only rise, but will be seen to rise. The great Gove will rise inexorably to the office of Prime Minister. Resistance Is Useless.
And then the readers woke up and realised this was just another crock of crap. For starters, both the Mail and Maily Telegraph complain about “confusing” targets, then endorse a last minute change to testing which will do just that. The sample questions both papers have published can be easily passed by any pupil who has been appropriately prepared for them, and will not by themselves raise literacy standards.
Moreover, the kind of test shown replaces one that required pupils to “compose extended passages”, which would demonstrate an all round ability to use the English language. And the confusion is being perpetuated: “Ministers will decide whether to include handwriting in both tests later in the year”. Great. So in the brave new Govian world, the syllabus is to be made up on the fly. God save us.
But let’s allow the great man (for it is he) to demonstrate his unerring ability to open mouth and insert foot with a kind of style that many would rather he went and honed somewhere a long way away: “If we settle for a system where forty per cent fail, then we will all fall behind”. Yes, Minister, and what you are proposing is a return to a system that failed between 75 and 80 per cent of pupils.
Citizens, I give you Michael Gove, a true colossus among blithering idiots.