We’ve been worried about Michael Gove. In a government of pragmatists (in most of the senior positions) he stands out as a zealot. We thought though that he’d be reined in. It looks as if we were wrong. Quoting him from last Monday (5th July):
’The Building Schools for the Future scheme has been responsible for about one third of all this department’s capital spending. But throughout its life it has been characterised by massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy …. dysfunctional.’
It’s bad enough to cancel, but the language has all the hallmarks of Tory right-wing true believers, a partisan bunch with their own agenda and few supporters among teachers.
Gove is overlooking how much people have been engaged with this process, and how it gave schools an opportunity to escape from decaying buildings into decent learning environments. They are now told in effect that it was a worthless process, was misconceived and didn’t deliver. It was as everyone knows seriously flawed: too much money focused on too few schools (rebuilding all schools by 2023 was always a pipedream), too ambitious for each chosen school, too time-consuming, bureaucratic, always overspending and likely to continue to do so.
But it was a programme. And now there’s none.
It needed to be re-thought, reconfigured so the benefits were spread more widely and in the current climate slowed down, but not abandoned. It’s one thing to reduce spending, another to take out spending altogether, to take out hope, and you don’t take out hope where children are concerned.
My hunch is that Gove’s actions are terminal to his hopes are transforming the school system on a wider scale. Who will countenance money spent on gimmicky new schools when existing schools are denied any funding for new build, and forced to exist in structures crumbling around them for at least another ten years?
By actions and language Gove has foolishly engendered so much hostility that the educational world, already inclined not to take him seriously, though fearful of where his ideas might go, will now be very disinclined to pick up on any initiatives where they’ve not already bought into the ideas.
He’s made life very difficult for the Lib Dems as coalition partners, and for his PM too. Cameron has been clever in avoiding some of the hostility he might have expected, taking care not to go out on a limb. By giving Gove his head he’s done himself damage. He needs a radical in the cabinet to keep his right-wing happy, but put simply he’s cut his education minister too much slack and he’ll regret it.
Language and attitude do Gove no credit. We don’t like his language and even fewer of us will want his policies now.