Gove lifts veil on his big ideas

3rd December 2010 at 00:00
Education Secretary claims white paper is a vision of `society's most valuable asset', but critics say it will `dismantle' state education

In its white paper on education in England, the Westminster Government has unveiled the biggest reform to the education system south of the border for more than a generation.

Changes will affect everything from teacher education to discipline, from school inspections to curriculum and assessment.

In his foreword to the paper, entitled The Importance of Teaching, English Education Secretary Michael Gove said the heart of it was "a vision of the teacher as our society's most valuable asset". But on announcing the paper to the House of Commons, Mr Gove said England was failing to keep pace with the world's best-performing nations.

"The best schools systems recruit the best people to teach, train them intensively in the craft of teaching, continue to develop them throughout their career, groom natural leaders for headship positions and give great heads the chance to make a difference," he said.

To achieve this, the Department for Education in London would establish a "new generation" of teaching schools based on the model of teaching hospitals.

And to ensure teachers remained in the profession, the Education Secretary said he would strengthen powers around behaviour and discipline, which he described as the "greatest barrier" to recruiting and retaining staff.

This echoes the strategy adopted by Jack McConnell when he was Education Minister in Scotland in 2000-01.

Mr Gove has had to backtrack on his pre-election pledge to abolish exclusion appeal panels, opting for reform instead. In a significant shift, schools will also be made responsible for finding and funding alternative provision for any excluded pupil.

The DfE aims to pilot the approach, but plans to give heads more power to exclude pupils. However, schools will still be held to account for the pupils' academic performance, with their subsequent results counting in their original schools' performance tables.

As well as discipline, the white paper spells out plans to raise the floor target for schools, which will be required to have at least 35 per cent of their pupils achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths, rather than 30 per cent.

The target will move for primary schools as well, with Labour's aim of 55 per cent of pupils reaching level 4 in both English and maths being moved up to 60 per cent. It will also include a progress measure so that schools showing they have a higher than average number of pupils making two levels of progress will not be caught in the net.

The DfE said that 1,631 primaries currently fall below both measures, so they can expect intense scrutiny on their performance and the threat of enforced academy status if they fail to make up sufficient ground.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the Government needed to end its "obsession" with floor targets. "Many schools work in very challenging circumstances, in some of the most deprived areas in the country, a factor that needs to be taken into account in evaluating schools' performance," she said.

The paper was greeted with dismay by Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, who described it as the "dismantling of state education".

She added: "His plans risk leaving every school an island divorced from the help and support of their local authorities."

Andy Burnham, Labour's education spokesperson, said he would support plans that build on Labour reforms, but accused his opposite number of looking after the minority of pupils.

"Whereas our reforms focused on raising standards for all children, Michael Gove has a pupil premium with no additional funding," Mr Burnham said.

"He is obsessed with ideological structural changes which will benefit the few, not the many. The Government has a plan for some children, but not for every child."


- increase entry requirements for those entering teaching to 2:2 degree

- introduce teaching schools

- more investment in Teach First, including primary teachers for the first time

- reform exclusion appeal panels, not abolish them

- trial new approach to exclusions, handing responsibility to schools

- review the national curriculum and slim it down

- introduce an English baccalaureate

- reform Ofsted inspections

- establish a new GCSE and primary school exam floor targets

- introduce a national funding formula

- reduce school sixth-form funding to FE college levels

- make more data on schools, such as funding and performance, available to the public

- review key stage 1 and key stage 2 assessments.


Bright students who want to become teachers will be paid to do a degree as part of government plans to recruit high-calibre new entrants to the profession.

Anyone wanting to qualify for the new scholarships would have to sign up to spend a fixed period of time in charge of a classroom after graduation.

They would also have to train or work with children during their university holidays in return for the financial support.

Education Secretary Michael Gove thinks the scheme, similar to recruitment programmes run by the armed forces, would boost the numbers of top graduates going into teaching.

He wants to pay off the student loans of new teachers with degrees in shortage subjects such as maths and physics. There will also be incentives, not yet detailed, for those with "good degrees" who train to become teachers.

The white paper also outlines moves to expand the number of teacher- training schools. Outstanding primary and secondaries will lead a national network and will be responsible for providing training and professional development.

More universities will be encouraged to open training schools and there will be a national scholarship scheme for teachers who want to do further study in their subject or "broaden their experience".

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