Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Why Michael Gove is preferable to David Blunkett or Estelle Morris

A few days ago Michael Gove announced that he is to scrap the regulations for school homework that David Blunkett introduced in 1998. I happen to have in front of me a Liberal Democrat News piece that I wrote that year. It was published on 16 October 1998.

This was a time when New Labour claimed to speak for the whole nation and accused anyone who disagreed with him of "cynicsm" - as though you could not have not have an honourable motive for disagreeing them.

So David Blunkett had recently talked about a "miserable bunch of sneering cynics" who opposed his policies. And Chris Whitehead, then the Chief Inspector of Schools, had added:
"I hope by the time we reach the millennium we shall have beaten the cynics and sneerers who rightly anger and depress David Blunkett."
And the Guardian report of Woodhead's speech began:
Chris Woodhead last night pledged to rid the teaching profession of the 'sneering cynics' criticised by the Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett.
In my article I went on:
An irrational hatred of anyone who voices ideas which differ from government policy can be found throughout the new establishment. 
The other week a couple of educational psychologists published some research from Australia and New Zealand which cast doubt on the usefulness of giving children in primary schools. 
They also turned up a Board of Education report from 1937 which recommended a reduction in homework and none at all for children under 12. 
Did this new research lead to an informed debate? Just read the press cuttings. 
The Education Minister Estelle Morris said: "I totally disagree; there hasn't been a piece of research that I so fundamentally disagree with. I'm very disappointed with the conclusion of this report." 
Nick Seaton, from something called the Campaign for Real Education, said: "This will appeal to teachers who don't want to do any work." 
But the prize for the most considered response must to to Tino Perri from the education union NAS/UWT. He said, of Dr Richard Cowan, the prime author of the research: "He doesn't know what he is talking about, he's talking though a hole in his head."
Now, says the BBC reporting Gove's decision:
Head teachers in England are to be given greater discretion over how much homework their pupils are set. 
Education Secretary Michael Gove has scrapped the guidelines for home study introduced by Labour in 1998. 
It follows parents' complaints that too much homework is limiting family time and opportunities for play and sport. 
Education officials said head teachers should be able to make decisions free from "unnecessary bureaucratic guidance".
Gove has certainly made the right decision. And this little history lesson shows why I think he is a better education secretary than David Blunkett or Estelle Morris.


gawain said...

Quite so. And the usual pattern of that Government - and one which many members of our party are liable to default to - was to find some piece of 'research' that found that a 'progressive' country (usually Sweden) did X. So we had to do it too - or even exceed X.

You still see this all the time with the limper, NGO-controlled, Ministers. Andrew Lansley and his plain packaging of tobacco is just one glaring example right now.

tommy5d said...

Whilst I agree with Gove's policy on this I'm not sure how he's better than Blunkett?

Blunkett denounced those who didn't agree with his policy as "cynics" whereas Gove denounces them as "trots".

Neither of them have shown any willingness to listen to other people's points of view.