Dear Mr Gove...


In his final entry of the year, our headteacher diarist sheds his cloak of anonymity and pens an open letter to education minister Michael Gove with a clear warning about the educational despair that many school leaders and teachers are feeling.

Dear Mr Gove...

As I near the end of a year of headteacher thoughts, I write this open letter to you with educational despair prominent in my in-tray of issues to deal with. Please, Mr Gove, do not dismiss this as more “stressed” socialist “yada yada” or retreat to the politicians’ trusty soundbite of wanting to raise standards. We all want to progress and to improve all our students’ lives. However, these are the real problems your policies have caused. To raise standards, may I suggest that you:

  • Stop tinkering with the English GCSE. For the second year the assessment criteria has changed mid-course. The speaking and listening component is an essential life-skill and needs to be part of the exam, not an afterthought or an add on! 

  • Stop ignoring the value of vocational courses. If done well they provide skills for the future and an invaluable contrast to the academic pathway. Young apprenticeships that are planned are the way forward.

  • Stop the cuts to secondary school sport or you will have an Olympic legacy of lethargy and obesity. The aim to have sports coaches linked to schools is doomed to failure. Look at any under-13 football manager (testosterone-filled fist-pumping, an embarrassing, poor man’s Sir Alex), and perhaps you will realise this is not such a good idea. There is a good reason why teachers are trained over a lengthy period and the quick fix that you so often seek is not necessarily the right one. To have physical educators and not cheaper sports coaches is the way forward.

  • Stop using Ofsted as your blunt instrument to force through reform. I have been in a room of 100 inspectors who have regularly given four different judgements to an observed lesson. This inconsistency is unfair and in my recent inspection I had six inspectors, none with any secondary experience, none of whom had worked in a school in the last decade and none who had ever led an educational institution. The system is creaking, yet the ramifications of a poor judgement can last over a decade and stigmatise good staff and good schools. Inspections are necessary but should be developmental and planned, not a volatile ad hoc experience that leaves school leaders tired and dispirited.

  • Stop the inequality of funding that continues to blight schools such as mine in Worcestershire, one of the poorest funded counties. For 20 years we have received a million pounds a year less than a similar school in Birmingham. Our decrepit mobile classroom do you and previous governments no credit and this needs addressing. Building Schools for the Future was that coherent, now defunct plan.

  • Above all, stop the belittling of a noble profession. You are not going to improve standards and get progress by your continual bewildering attacks on a teaching profession that continues to safeguard so many young people. Look at your colleague, Boris, whose buffoonery is forgiven due to his affable charm. Now think how many changes Boris could have made as education secretary! Your zealous approach has won you the accolade of the Daily Mail and that should be the biggest warning of all.

Please come and visit my school – three invites have so far been turned down – and consider being really brave and trusting us. The headteachers I know would not let you down! I shed the year-long cloak of anonymity and come out as a “bog standard” headteacher running my remarkable school.

Yours sincerely, Neil S Morris (headteacher)

  • Diary of a headteacher is written in rotation by three practising heads from schools across the country.


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