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Tuesday 26 March 2013

Gove Polecats In Meltdown

[Updates, two so far, at end of post]

These are trying times for Education Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove and his retinue of polecats, the latter masquerading as Special Advisors (SpAds), following yet more adverse comment and publicity. This in turn comes in the wake of Gove’s paranoid weekend rant, where he talked of “Enemies of Promise” and called his opponents “Marxists” who were part of “The Blob”.

The reaction was immediate: yesterday Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) denounced “Oiky” for hisshameful neglect” of pupils, and “undermining and harming our pupils’ education”, before going on to talk of “the dirty tricks of Gove's gang of arm-twisters who are travelling the country using threats and blandishments to get primary schools to convert”.

Convert to academies, that is. And she was no kinder when it came to the raft of changes coming out of Gove’s department, calling changes to GCSE and “A” level exams “botched” and warning “The lack of due process and proper regard for evidence is now undermining and harming our pupils' education”. In case “Oiky” and his pals didn’t get that one, she spelled it out.

When the changes come so thick and fast, without time for consultation or even consideration, when the changes are so wrong-headed, so damaging to children's education, then the morale of the profession plummets”. As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point. And the confrontational Gove “us and them” attitude did not impress Jonn Elledge at the Staggers, either.

Elledge concludes that Gove’s articleis hysterical and combative and assumes that anyone who doesn't agree with him is a subversive element that needs to be utterly crushed. In the Gove-ite view of the universe, you're either with him or against him. It's the sort of education policy document one might get from Pope Urban II”. Then when Suzanne Moore also criticised Gove, something snapped.

Ms Moore commented “Michael Gove’s education policy is the real enemy of promise” and suggested that new kinds of jobs “will need a mixture of good science teaching and critical thinking – knowing what Churchill stood for will be only part of that”. Nothing too controversial there. But when she talked of “a core curriculum that does not bother with coding”, all hell broke loose.

The @toryeducation Twitter feed, long believed to be under the control of Gove SpAds Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete, screamed “You’ve committed Hack F***up 101 and asserted that coding was indeed now part of the curriculum. Actually, though, that change “Is in [the] public domain and is being consulted on” (so says, er, @toryeducation). So Ms Moore is not the one fouling things up.

Those polecats need to go and have a good long rest. Hopefully a permanent one.

[UPDATE1 1650 hours: the @toryeducation Twitter feed has now turned its fire on former children's minister Tim Loughton, who in return has suggested that he is about to shed rather more light on who is operating the account.
Following this exchange, @toryeducation cited an article in the Spectator last January, which gave every indication of resulting from an Education Department leak.

That might not be a very good move by @toryeducation - Gove polecat Dominic Cummings is married to Mary Wakefield, who just happens to be ... deputy editor of the Spectator.

Oh what a giveaway!]

[UPDATE2 27 March 1355 hours: the Independent has helpfully clarified Tim Loughton's assertion that "there were only 5 people in [the] room privy to me being blocked from publicising SCR [Serious Case Review]".

The five were two Education department officials, Gove, Loughton himself, and Dominic Cummings. Given the speed with which the rebuttal came to Loughton's first Tweet yesterday, it is clear that Cummings is not only directing @toryeducation, he is also apparently doing the typing.

Loughton does, though, talk of "both of you", so who is the other culprit? Were I a betting man, my money would be on Henry de Zoete being the name in the frame. But for Cummings, it's gone beyond guesswork, and if Gove had an ounce of principle he would sack him.

But he hasn't, and so we'll have to wait. For now]

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