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. 


User Comments

Steve Heal - 26 Jun 2011

Deep rumblings

"Mr Gove" (alias a senior teacher) replies:

Lacking attention to detail? Moi? How can you say this when I have been so thorough in doing my expenses claims?

Consider this:

Thanks to my innovations teachers will no longer be retiring with dignity at 65. There is no compulsory retirement age at all. Instead, decrepit sirs will be paid for increasing amounts of sick-leave until capability procedures finally remove them in shame.
Other benefits include:
• Teenagers will be taught rugby by men on zimmer frames and four-year-olds by teachers who can’t bend down to them because they are waiting for their knee replacement.
• Brilliantly, the teachers’ wages bill will rise as the average age of the profession increases.
• Meanwhile all the newly trained teachers will remain unemployed. Having paid to train them, we will now pay them benefits to not teach. Unfortunately this means they will not be paying national insurance contributions. Er…

I’m wasted on education – surely I should be chancellor?


Dr.Peter Asquith-Cowen - 27 Jun 2011

Dear Mike,
Some time ago writing for the local paper,I forecast that sooner or later there would be a "Kulturkampf" with this wretched, ideologically-right-wing Government,I have been proved correct. Not only are they a set of pariahs telling us to 'tighten our belts' whilst spending billions involving us in foreign war. Nick Clegg, Cameron's "Poodle" cost the taxpayer £91,000,000 for his failed AV stunt, which back-fired disasterously on him. Now, Michael Gove has the temerity to insult the teachers by telling them they are a 'prestigious professional body'in other countries. Why doesn't he pay them a wage commensurate with their so-called 'prestige,' instead of threatening their future income prospects by attempting to truncate their pensions? He is a walking disaster! He speaks like a numbskull, and behaves like a lunatic. Whoever gave him the portfolio for Education should be shot at dawn! He couldn't organise a piss up in a barn. Now is the time for the students to 'rise up' in concert with their teachers and the university teachers along with Unison. United we stand, divided we fall. This Government is hell-bent on a conflict with the unions. They want to send this country back to the 1930's. The sooner Gove & Willets and the rest of this rotten bunch and the lying, double-crossing back-peddling Lib/Dems are 'kicked' out of power the better. Thank God here in Kingston-upon-Hull Cllr Minns and his Lib/Dem cronies were hurtled ignominiously from power this May and Labour re-elected. When will stupid people learn, the Tory Party is only for the rich, pampered and privileged. Working-class people voting Tory belie their own ignorance in politics. I hope Unison, the teachers et al bring this country to its knees the way they got rid of Ted Heath. The Tory Party should carry a health warning. It is as obvious as the nose on your face, that they want to priviatise everything they can get their grubby little hands on. My father did not fight for five years in the last war, to bring this disingenuous shoddy lot to power. I recommend a revolution and the guillotine. I hate the b*****s with all the fury, venom and hatred that can be felt in a human-being. They think they are superior to the rest of us. They are not, and gove is a damned ignoramus. His tactless words will cause the teachers to become even angrier. The time for negotiations is well passed. "Actions speak louder than words". However all the aggrieved need to act,literally in Unison, to bring down this Government and restore a degree of sanity to the way in which are ruled. I was once a schoolmaster myself (NASUWT)separate strike action brings no rewards, only a concerted, unified action will force terms on this Government. I hope they cause maximum mayhem and damage.

Best wishes,

Dennis O'Sullivan - 27 Jun 2011

Mr Gove

1950s private school education , 1980s politics with a dad's army intelligence: you haven't got a clue, Govey,

Rebecca Hanson - 28 Jun 2011

Join in the discussions about Michael Gove

Discussion forums are an interesting recent innovation which may help to shape what happens next both to Micheal Gove and in education after him.

There is some high quality discussion going on in the UK Education group on Linked In, for those who are prepared to put their names to their comments.

Even the TES forum, with all its anonymity, trolls, socks and generally abusive behaviour seems to be reading in a more authentic way than usual due to the existence of a common enemy:

I'm keeping vigil on various political blogs and trying to bring some reality to the clearly organised defamation of teachers.

What else is going on?

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