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

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites



This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1284.

    AmershamMan: Sounds like you're happy for a 10p raise in your tax to pay for it? There's a reason that private providers can do more.. If you can do what they do for the money a state school receives per pupil than YOU should be Sec of State!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1283.

    Teachers work before and after the children aren't there. You'd need extra resources to oversee the children.
    Mr Gove's academies can set their own holiday dates, so as long as your children's school all select the same date for their holidays...
    I'm not disagreeing with your desires, just pointing out potential problems

  • Comment number 1282.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1281.

    I appreciate your sensible discussion RYGnotB: one of the few here. You don't get enough words on HYS to debate sensibly. This results in a lot of nonsense from contributors like FRED which has to be countered in kind.

    He did say (without quantifying) that funding would be provided.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1280.

    When my kids were young I expected them to have 8 hours educ'n per day; ie 1 hour each of language and communication, maths and logic, science inc practical, something arty - doing + appreciating others, something physical - not necessarily competitive, practical like cooking or fixing bike, "near" - here now us and "far" - there then them. All 3 are now successful well-adjusted adults.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1279.

    Pupils have different levels of ability.
    There are a minority who have an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
    Some pupils have physical, social and mental problems.

    State schools are not suficiently resourced either cadre or financially and without stronger support the system will not improve.

    What will the establishment do with these young people who are totally unable to conform?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1278.

    @1232 SeeDubya 'most people in this country don't have the choice of "sacrificing" £11k a year for a child's education. They need it to put a roof over said child's head and food in its mouth....

    Strangely enough so do we...what a narrow minded 'green monstered' view, you know nothing about our financial situation, we are far from rich. We do however CARE about our children's education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1277.

    There has to be a much higher standard of education achieved, though there is also a need to look more into the main reasons for failure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1276.

    One reason private schools appear to do so well ,he will find is that pupils who they think will not make the grade are either asked to leave or not allowed to sit the exams.Where does he suggest these pupils in the state system will go to?
    Suggesting longer days and non-curriculum activities, in the private sector funded by parent fees, does he intend to pick up the bill for these activities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1275.

    when is gove's job going to be refreshed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1274.

    If politicians were forced to send their children to the average-performing state school, and were forced to be treated at middling standard NHS hospitals for everything, I think we would see some changes happen quickly. The best one would be for them all to STOP MEDDLING!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1273.

    I'm right behind him. The standard of schooling in this country is diabolical. It scares the life out of me when I go to pick my 7 year old up that this is his lot unless I fork out a lot of money for a decent opportunity. All of this namby pamby cuddling schooling will do nothing but develop a nation of well rounded clones. Not the leaders and individuals needed to restore this failing country

  • rate this

    Comment number 1272.

    1155. David

    'Those that can do, those that can't teach.'

    Why did you not finish off the quote which is

    Those that can do, those that can't teach. And those that can neither do or teach become consultants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1271.

    Out of touch or what? :-/

  • rate this

    Comment number 1270.

    Michael Gove: An unintentional lesson that private education doesn't work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1269.

    For once I am in agreement with Mr Gove's wishes,

    He said yesterday -

    The people holding senior positions should, be refreshed every 3 years or so.

    How long has Michael Gove been in post?


  • rate this

    Comment number 1268.

    So Mr Gove is going to look after all those Children in Comprehensive Schools usually with about 2000 pupils & give them shiney new uniforms. His caring humbles me almost as compassionate as his idol The milk snatcher! Whilst he's at it he could put a uniform on his sidekick Laws 1 with arrows on it! I hope Nick Clegg doesn't get wind of this, remember his election pledge to Students? TORY BUNKUM

  • rate this

    Comment number 1267.

    1259 David

    And those that 'do the job' just absorbed their abilities and potential from the air?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1266.

    They should reopen the borstals!!!

    I went there and they never did me no harm. Infact it did me quite well and set me up for life. I'm now in a situation where i don't have to worry about fuel or food bills, and i have no mortgage!!!!

    I do so like it here at wormwood scrubs....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1265.

    I see that Michael Gove went to a private school.

    So parents, do you want your children to turn out like him ?



Page 42 of 106


More Education & Family stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.