Fresh from a family skiing holiday in Colorado, our Secretary of State for Education will hopefully, like the rest of us, have new year resolutions on his mind that have nothing to do with work. Better parallel turns? Less red meat and wine? An escape from Notting Hill?
Judging by his topping of a recent Conservative Party members’ poll as the most popular Cabinet minister, and the contrasting views of teachers in a recent poll on morale, his education resolution might just be to ‘stay resolute’. Gove is seen as a success; by party members; by some repetitive columnists who fawn on and feed off half-truths about our education system; and also by those who rightly praise his conviction and passion for the job.
In comparison to others around the cabinet table, Gove has certainly brought the Prime Minister very few problems. However, the Coalition’s education policies have thus far been judged only by a series of inputs – number of new academies, amount of pupil premium funding, number of times teaching union leaders have been irritated. The big rise in primary test scores for 2012, and good set of recent international test results are more legacies of the previous government’s reforms than the results of any new policies.
Like all policies and politicians, public attitudes to Gove have been shaped by premature evaluation. However, three years in and as the Coalition publishes its Mid-Term Review, 2013 should be the year we can finally begin to judge the effectiveness of a radical series of reforms. Never mind school structures, what has all this change meant for young people? Never mind the ebacc, is the achievement gap between our poorest children and the rest closing? Never mind morale, is the quality of teachers and teaching improving? And never mind tuition fees, how will the system work for those underachieving 16 year olds who will now be legally obliged to ‘stay on’ from September?
Rather than make early predictions, or add to the ever-increasing volume of money or time-heavy recommendations that pass through the Department’s in tray, here are eight New Year’s resolutions for Gove, and all who sail in him, that might help him to steer our education system to greater long term successes.
Do some systems thinking.
Slow down on academisation.
Create an accountability system to ensure that every child matters, to every school, and that lower attaining pupils matter even more.
Release and justify your inner control freak.
Show your hand on the future educational role of local authorities.
Double-check your evidence.
Interrogate and treasure our youth services.
Stick around to finish what you’ve started.
My own work-related new year resolution is to blog more often. So, rather than explain these now, I’ll aim to expand on most of them during January.