Editorial - In 2011, it might be handy if Mr Gove could apply a little pressure to the brake pedal

24th December 2010 at 00:00

At this time of year, journalists of all hues (including ones that work on this title) are prone to suggest that the previous 12 months have been "extraordinary" - full of life-changing events, momentous incidents and never-to-be-forgotten crises. In reality - and this observation may come back and bite me on the proverbial - much of this can be put down to hyperbole. All years have moments that are memorable, all can be remembered for something or other, but few are defining.

It is with some confidence, however, that I write that for education, schools and teachers 2010 has been one of those for which the exciteable claims can be largely justified. If you need reminding, a cursory glance at our review of the year ought to be enough to refresh the memory (pages 10-11). It has been constant revolution, no less.

Take the last few days, for example. Most years, the corresponding week would see civil servants lolling back from their desks, taking long lunches to finish their Christmas shopping, and heads and teachers looking forward with joy in their hearts to the end of the hell that is the never-ending autumn term. But not this week. This one featured the newly squeezed schools budget, the latest details on the pupil premium, a U-turn on school sports partnerships and redundancy letters for several hundred lollipop ladies (page 3).

When it comes to schools, the Coalition has barely stopped to take breath since the election. The academies programme expansion has been forced through with almost religious zeal by the Tories. The Lib Dems have pushed the pupil premium with the same fervour. The long-awaited primary curriculum review has been torn up with a view to starting again. The death of Building Schools for the Future. The introduction of the English Bac. The overhaul of league tables and qualifications. Oh, and the budget cuts. To name but a few.

Much has been written about ministerial motivation for this radical agenda. It is received wisdom that even before entering office the Conservatives were determined not to follow in the footsteps of the 1997 Labour landslide administration that is perceived, rightly or wrongly, to have missed a golden opportunity for reform by being under-ambitious in its first term. Hence Michael Gove launching himself into Government with a to-do list that would give most mandarins an aneurism.

It is perhaps not the week to start opining on the philosophical rights and wrongs of these reforms (it's Christmas Day tomorrow, for heaven's sake), but new year might be the time to call for a little pressure on the brake pedal. Determination and zeal can be creative and energising - but only if given the right focus. Perhaps with a little less haste, Mr Gove might be going into his "winterval" break without the addition of the school sports U-turn to his political record.

Merry Christmas.

Gerard Kelly is away.

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