Monday, 21 July 2014

Out with the old, in with the new

The media has been full of David Cameron’s government re-shuffle.

I cannot be other than pleased that the badgers have got their revenge. Cameron decided to cull Owen Paterson as Environment Secretary. Clearly the badgers moved the goalposts a bit further than he expected!

I don’t think I can remember an Environment minister from any previous government who was as ideologically blinkered as Paterson. After all, it wasn't just his determination to push ahead with the hugely expensive and technically incompetent badger-cull in the face of all the independent scientific advice. He was also the minister who refused any briefings on climate change issues from the government’s own chief scientific officer.

However, more media attention has been given to Michael Gove who was relieved of command of schools – the job he had always wanted – and demoted to the prefects’ study, otherwise known as the Whips’ Office.

Mr Gove’s ideological supporters have been outspoken on his behalf, suggesting he was the Minister who had had the greatest impact, short- and long-term, in delivering the Conservative agenda. Of course, they totally ignore the fact that Gove secured and presided over a dangerous lack of local oversight in our school system; it’s what the investigations into the Trojan Horse allegations in some Birmingham schools described as ‘benign neglect’ from the Department for Education, with the local council having been stripped of powers to investigate and intervene. Gove also introduced and allowed unqualified teachers into the classroom on a permanent basis.

But the most serious criticism must be that, at a time when some areas are desperate for school places, and some children are having to travel many miles to get a school place, Michael Gove chose to give priority to establishing new Free Schools in areas with a surplus of places. That is unforgiveable.

He wasn’t sacked because he had fallen out with teachers. He was sacked because he was out of touch with the vast majority of parents and school governors about what needed to be done to secure continuous improvement in education.

We can only hope that Paterson and Gove’s successors have learned some lessons.