Gove speech an ‘insult to teachers’

Written by: HTU | Published:

Headteachers and education unions have attacked Michael Gove after he said the opponents of academies are “happy with failure".

Headteachers and education unions have attacked Michael Gove after he said the opponents of academies are “happy with failure".

In a speech last week (Wednesday, January 4), the education secretary said that those who oppose the academy movement were the “enemies of promise" and urged more schools to convert.

Mr Gove said some local authorities and schools are preventing some students from achieving their potential by not embracing academy status.

However, his strong words sparked a backlash from education unions, which said they were an insult to the teaching profession and that academy status was not the only solution in driving up standards.

During his speech, which was delivered during a visit to Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College in south London, Mr Gove criticised unions and ministers who oppose the academy movement.

He said that although some local authorities are constructive, others were obstructive and more concerned with protecting the “old ways of working" instead of helping the most disadvantaged children succeed.

He continued: “The same ideologues who are happy with failure – the enemies of promise – also say you can't get the same results in the inner cities as the leafy suburbs so it's wrong to stigmatise these schools.

“Let's be clear what these people mean. Let's hold their prejudices up to the light. What are they saying?

“If you're poor, if you're Turkish, if you're Somali, then we don't expect you to succeed. You will always be second class and it's no surprise your schools are second class. I utterly reject that attitude.

“It's the bigoted backward bankrupt ideology of a left wing establishment that perpetuates division and denies opportunity. And it's an ideology that's been proven wrong time and time again."

In his speech Mr Gove reiterated plans to force the “worst" 200 primary schools to become academies.

The education secretary's rhetoric angered the unions. Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, labelled his comments an “insult to all the hard-working and dedicated teachers, school leaders support staff and governors in our schools".

She said: “The forced academy programme is about bullying schools into academy status against the wishes of school communities and their local authorities who are best placed to judge what support any particular school may need, not an external sponsor with an eye to the future profits to be made out of the government's programme of privatising England's schools.

“It has nothing to do with school improvement but is part of an ideologically driven agenda to dismantle our current system of local accountability for education."

There are currently 1,529 academies open in England – 1,194 of those have converted since the coalition government brought in new laws allowing good or outstanding schools to become academies. One in seven students in state primary schools now attend an academy school.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said: “Large numbers of maintained schools achieve outstanding results, and rapid improvement, and some academies don't. It is about ambition not structure.

“We recognise that if a school has been under performing for many years, it needs something dramatic to shake things up and conversion to academy can certainly be one solution.

“It is not the only solution, however, and other strategies work too. Local authorities are sometimes rightfully suggesting alternative approaches or pointing out where the raw data doesn't tell the whole story; for example, where a school has already broken the cycle and is on the brink of change, or a new leadership team has just been put into place. They are right to do so."

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