In-out – no change

Published:

We may have a new secretary of state, but Chris Keates says that while the government’s policies remain in place, teachers won’t be fooled.

News of the departure of Michael Gove at the end of the last academic year no doubt raised a smile on the faces of many in the education service and indeed beyond, but unfortunately any pleasure derived from his move is likely to be short-lived.

Despite the claims of some, Mr Gove was not forced out of office. The timing of his removal by the prime minister was a calculated, well-orchestrated, masterclass in PR.

With the General Election only a few months away, reshuffling Mr Gove was a key part of the Tories’ plans to change the mood music in education in the run-up to the election.

Since day one of his appointment, Mr Gove was one of, if not the most, universally unpopular secretaries of state. If the coalition had really cared that he was unpopular and considered “toxic” by the profession, he would have been moved long ago.

As for the claims that his reshuffle was a demotion, no prime minister puts into the Office of the Chief Whip someone in whom they do not have the utmost confidence. Mr Gove is now in one of the most influential positions in government, which is more than sufficient compensation for the “pay cut” that some commentators cited as evidence of his “demotion”.

Unfettered by a ministerial portfolio, having achieved much of what he wanted to do in education and having run out of time to do the rest, he can now help to campaign for a Conservative majority in the election.

Reshuffling Mr Gove took place at exactly the time the Conservatives wanted it to. It is a key part of the planned “charm offensive” in the run-up to the General Election, a naked attempt to take the heat out of the education debate, lull the profession into believing there is a change in direction, and court the teacher vote.

Fortunately, teachers are not so easily fooled. They will neither forgive nor forget the relentless attacks that they have faced for the last four years.

Mr Gove is out, Nicky Morgan is in, but the policies, which have seen teachers’ pensions plundered, their pay cut, their workload increased and their professionalism undermined, continue.

The marketisation of the public education service through academies and free schools rolls on.

Our children and young people still face a narrow curriculum offer, downgraded vocational subjects and cuts to the specialist services on which they and so many schools rely.

The new secretary of state may turn out to be presentationally more palatable, but the impact on the profession, children and young people and schools will be exactly the same. As she said after her appointment: “I will obviously be nice to teachers ... there will certainly be no soft-pedalling on reforms.”

The new secretary of state will need to recognise that there will be no soft-pedalling by the NASUWT and its members in standing up for standards.

Our trade dispute with the secretary of state on pay, pensions, conditions of service, workload and job loss remains unresolved. The change of secretary of state is irrelevant. Teachers need more than fine words and platitudes.

They need a pay structure which recognises and rewards them as highly skilled professionals. They need conditions of service which enable them to focus on teaching and learning. They need an end to the climate of fear which pervades our schools as a result of punitive inspection and command and control management.

In short, they need a change in government policy, not a change of secretary of state.

    


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