Gove calls for state schools to be more like private


Michael Gove outlines his aim to break down the "Berlin Wall" between state and private schools

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State schools in England should be more like private schools, says Education Secretary Michael Gove.

In a speech in east London, he said he wanted to break down the "Berlin Wall" between state and independent sectors.

This could see state pupils taking the private school common entrance exam and state schools staying open longer.

Mr Gove has been embroiled in a row over the replacement of the Ofsted chair and has been warned against surrounding himself with "yes men".

The education secretary, speaking at the London Academy of Excellence, said that for decades "the dominant consensus has been that state education in England was barely satisfactory".

Global tests

But now he said the state system was improving, with better results, more pupils taking tougher subjects and fewer weak schools.

Mr Gove said that commentators had associated state schools with "poor discipline, low standards, entrenched illiteracy, widespread innumeracy", but he said that this "pessimistic view is no longer tenable".


What does a good school look like?

Education Secretary Michael Gove recommended the strengths of private schools. Good discipline, high standards, lots of testing and longer days with room for after-school activities.

But what does it look like for parents?

Siobhan Freegard, founder of the Netmums website, sees much discussion of schools.

She says what parents want is a school where "children are recognised as individuals". And that might be easier in the more protective surroundings of a private school.

But she says parents seem unconvinced that the plusher private facilities for sports and arts are likely to appear any time soon in their local state school.

On more testing, parents are supportive, she says, but it needs to be testing with a clear purpose.

The Netmums boss says the most unambiguous reaction was to the idea of longer school days, with a strong negative response from mothers.

They wanted more flexible working so they could get home in time, rather than stretching the day for their children.

Mr Gove said that he wanted to push state schools further so that they would become indistinguishable from private schools.

He said he wanted schools to be able to stay open longer for nine or 10 hour days. This would allow more time for after-school activities or to provide a place for children to do their homework.

Academies, which are now the majority of secondary schools, can already set their own hours.

He called for more testing, including taking the common entrance exam taken by 13 year olds in some private schools.

Mr Gove backed plans for individual secondary schools to be able to take the OECD's international Pisa tests.

"Our heads and teachers can, if they choose, check how well their pupils are performing compared to their peers - not just down the road - but on the other side of the globe, in Shanghai or Singapore," says Mr Gove.

Inspection rows

The "superb leadership" of Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted's chief inspector, was also praised by the education secretary.

Sir Michael last week issued an angry warning, saying that he was "spitting blood" that he was being undermined by briefings which he linked to the Department for Education.

Mr Gove denied claims his team had briefed against the inspectorate, which in turn had been welcomed by Sir Michael who said he would defend his team against "unfair criticism".

A previous Ofsted chief inspector, Sir David Bell, also issued a warning to Mr Gove not "to believe his own hype".

Writing for website The Conversation, Sir David Bell said Mr Gove should not surround himself with "yes men".

Sir David Bell Former Ofsted chief Sir David Bell warned Mr Gove "not to believe his own hype"

It followed a dispute over the replacement of the chair of Ofsted, Baroness Morgan.

Mr Gove said he wanted to "refresh" the leadership of the schools' watchdog and denied his intention to remove the Labour peer was politically motivated.

Speaking on Monday, he said the decision had been entirely his own and that a replacement would be appointed on merit, regardless of political affiliation.

But the row over the change at the top of England's schools watchdog intensified further with the intervention of Sir David, who as well as having served as Ofsted's chief inspector later worked alongside Mr Gove as his most senior civil servant at the Department for Education.

'Cut off'

Sir David warned the education secretary of the risk of becoming isolated by listening only to supporters.

"The day-to-day grind of policy battles, firefighting and political ding-dong can start to cut you off from outside ideas and thinking.

"The row over Ofsted's leadership shows the importance of retaining and being seen to retain independent voices near the top - not simply 'yes men'," said Sir David, who is now the vice chancellor of the University of Reading.

Sir David said Mr Gove should not dismiss all critics of his education policy but should engage with those offering an "intelligent critique".

On Sunday, Mr Gove said he had appointed Baroness Morgan, and despite the fact he felt she had done a "fantastic job" the position needed a "fresh perspective".

Baroness Morgan, who has not had her term in office renewed, told the BBC she was the victim of a "determined effort from Number 10" to appoint more Tories.

Unions criticised

The decision was criticised by the Liberal Democrats and Labour.

The director of the Institute for Government, Peter Riddell, said the decision not to reappoint Baroness Morgan had "raised some eyebrows" but there was nothing new about ministerial involvement.

Another former Ofsted chairwoman, Zenna Atkins, has backed Mr Gove over Baroness Morgan's departure, saying she has "seen nothing that suggest it's a political move".

Sir David also had tough words about teachers' unions, saying their "political naivety has been astonishing".

"Their barrage of industrial action and knee-jerk opposition to any change has allowed the education secretary and his supporters to characterise them as cartoon-like bogeymen," he writes.

Sir David was part of a group of business leaders and academics who published a report last week calling for a more independent, non-political approach to education policy.

Responding to Mr Gove's speech on Monday, Labour's shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, said: "Improving school standards starts with a qualified teacher in every classroom. Until Michael Gove commits to this, he is ruling himself out of any serious debate about how we raise standards in our schools.

"Whether on discipline, delivering extra-curricular activities or on improving learning outcomes: it all hinges on the quality of the teacher in the classroom. Raising the quality of teaching - that is where the focus needs to be and that is what Labour is concerned with. The Tories have lost sight of this and are undermining school standards as a result."

Christine Blower, leader of the National Union of Teachers, challenged the idea of state schools using the common entrance exam.

"Why would we imagine that that is an appropriate examination? He's not discussed that with anybody, he's not discussed it with any of the exam boards, he's certainly not discussed it with the representatives of teachers," said Ms Blower.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    They just love selling property that doesn't belong to them don't they.

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    The politictian on the left have no legitimacy on this.

    They had 13 years to build a legacy, but left us tubling down world tables and a mass of university graduates scrambling for cleaning jobs.

    All the while they send their own children to the private schools they supposedly hate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    Somehow I can't see this being implemented. Where will the money come from to implement the change?

    Politicians talk a good game. But they all live in a bubble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    Gove's stupidity knows no bounds. How on earth can state schools hold entrance exams? What does this idiot think is going to happen to the 13 year-olds that fail the exam?
    He really is a witless, chinless clot. He seems never to open his mouth without saying something completely moronic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    I remember a prospective MP saying the same thing in 1987. We get lots of talk but don't really see huge differences. The difference with private schools is you have parents paying and encouraging their kids.
    At state schools some (I'd hope most but sadly not all) parents are supportive. But children with non supportive parents can be disruptive as the importance of education isn't shown at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    Teachers in state schools have to work with all sorts of talents, abilities and disabilities. Are they to be called left-wing because they are concerned to help all their pupils?

    Is Michael Gove interested in all the pupils?

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    One would have thought that if it was possible for state schools to be "like private schools", that they already would be. The only things stopping them are government meddling and bureaucracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    Really, is it too much to ask for to have a Secretary of State for Education who knows something about education?

  • rate this

    Comment number 976.

    876. Tiger
    ...stuffed full of non-aspirational, regressive, left-wingers. Just look at the teacher training colleges.'

    You clearly have extensive knowledge of this. Maybe you could point us to your sources?

    946. John

    ' .... our schools are terrible and consistently out-performed by "poorer" nations.'

    Nonsense. Ever looked at the TIMMS / PIRLS international data, which Gove never mentions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    It wont happen. Stay focused on the real issues.

    Theory lesson for politicians;-
    Keep talking, change the subject, keep the listeners on their toes. Confuse and create chaos and no one will remember what was said only that Gove said something and remained in the public view. Buy me!

    He obviously learned something from advertising/PR while he worked his way up the Tory party in journalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    272. morgancardiff
    I'd invite those that criticise Gove to move to Wales. We have the worst education results and economic output of any part of the UK. That's what 15 years of Labour rule gives you.

    I Agree!

    Welsh medium schools get extra funding …….. Gwynedd Council policy is for Welsh speaker employment policy - i.e. no welsh skills -no job

  • rate this

    Comment number 973.

    Deliberately making our schools into a competition as to who is clever and who is not, is deeply damaging to community peace and cohesion, setting parent against parent, Making some people out to be different?

    Perhaps this is right wing politics getting into our schools. Mr Gove, an obvious ex public school boy is quite used to this friction & violence, assuming it is normal, but it is not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 972.

    There is a vast difference between day independent day schools and public schools and it is not just the cost of sending your children to them. Day schools still have large classes whilst public schooled don't, day pupils have many friends from different walks of life, public school pupils are stuck in boarding so they have few if any local friends. P.S.make helpful contacts, day pupils don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 971.

    State schools should be revered and boasting the sense of pride and esteem that public schools hold. The only way to knock down this so-called 'Berlin Wall' is to do away with private education and promote a truly egalitarian system in this country.

    We should look to Scandinavia for inspiration - there's a reason these countries are amongst the happiest on Earth!

  • rate this

    Comment number 970.

    Milton @91: So, to apply your logic, you were either privately educated or were a badly-behaved underachiever.

    One wonders which.

    Interestingly, there is research suggesting that public school children do less well at university than those educated in state schools:

  • rate this

    Comment number 969.

    It's because of the Labour Movement that we have State Schools in the first place instead of Workhouses.But I never expected you to know that.
    Please spare us the feigned "Can't we all get along" sacntimony I can smell it from here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 968.

    I love that the Editors' Picks in no way reflect the majority of posts on here. The BBC certainly can't be accused of left-wing bias on this one. @91 Milton - great idea. Only 20% of kids would go to school, it's 1850 again and Gove's got his way :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 967.

    931 Tiger

    If the working day (8 am to 6pm) is to be filled with teaching time someone else will have to do the preparation, marking, progress assesment, individual learning objectives etc, all the activities that you don't know about. It'll take extra resources.

  • rate this

    Comment number 966.

    If state schools are so great why did Blair go to Fettes and send his kids to private schools?
    Then there's Shirley Williams, presided over dismantling grammar schools then moved catchments so her daughter could go to the Latymer School. All under PM Wilson (educated at a grammar).
    Could go on!
    Left wing lunatic fringe indeed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 965.

    Does this mean that Mr Gove is going to provide the same amount per pupil as Private Schools receive.

    I don't think the tax payer will allow this, do you.

    Otherwise I am all in favour of smaller classes and better facilities and more preparation time for teachers.

    I may have to find a bit more tax, but my grandchildren should benefit.


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