Gove's invitation to parents infuriates teachers
26 Jun 2011
The Schools Secretary, Michael Gove, has succeeded in throwing petrol on the flames of the teachers' industrial dispute, which is planned for next week over changes to their pensions.
Mr Gove told BBC Television that he would like parents to go into schools to help out on the planned strike day on Thursday. Pressed by interviewer Andrew Marr, Mr Gove said: 'parents could help, certainly'.
His comments have infuriated teachers who have pointed out that there are issues of child protection (will the parents need to have Criminal Records Bureau checks, as teachers and other adults working in schools are required to have?) and insurance cover. They also regard his suggestion as undermining their professionalism.
The incident has echoes of the storm caused by one of his Tory predecessors, John Patten, who once called for a 'Mum's Army' of volunteers to help in schools.
It also comes after a number of other embarrassments for Mr Gove, not least the problems he ran into over the scrapping of the Building Schools for the Future programme and School-Sports Partnerships.
Nor do his comments on parents covering for teachers sit well with his White Paper last year which suggested the professional standards of teaching were the most important factor in raising standards.
Mr Gove could now find himself joining his Cabinet colleague, the Universities Minister, David Willetts, who is facing votes of 'no confidence' from university academics.
Gove: teachers professionalism 'taken back a bit'
Mr Gove told the Andrew Marr Show that in other countries 'teaching is a high prestige profession'. But now, he said, 'I worry that being involved in this sort of militancy means the respect that teachers should be held in is taken back a bit'.
He added that while he had 'sympathy for teachers' on the pensions issue, there were 'proper negotiations' to join in and this action was therefore 'premature'.
His comments have triggered a huge outflow of angry comments on the social network, Twitter, under the tag '#GoveMustGo'. Teachers have accused him of being a 'hypocrite' as he had been involved in strike action when he was a journalist. They are also reviving his problems over Parliamentary expenses, which he had appeared to have lived down.
Presumably Mr Gove is hoping that his comments will play well with his own backbenchers and with parents -- but it is the teachers that he needs to deliver his education reforms in the long term.
Deeper rumblings about Gove
This is the very public side of a deep rumbling that has been going on around the style and performance of Mr Gove for some time now. Senior civil servants are beginning to voice their frustrations with Mr Gove and his team, saying privately that he is out of touch, a poor listener, and lacks attention to detail on policy.
Teachers leaders have also said privately that - while they find Mr Gove personally charming and very polite - they fear he has a 'back to the future' vision for schools which is based on nostalgia for his own school days rather than on evidence-based research.
Mr Gove will not want to repeat the fate of John Patten - another young, highly articulate and ambitious Conservative Education Secretary - who quickly alienated the teaching profession and then left his role precipitately.