Rose NOT Gove
April 8, 2010
“They’re all the same” is the laziest possible response to the forthcoming election. And that I hear it from teachers and parents has me in despair. Education is probably the single biggest arena of policy difference. Michael Gove’s vision for education under a Conservative administration represents a seismic shift away from the approach that has been taken since 1997. Many will welcome this, I expect. Teachers will feel that they have been loaded with centrally directed paperwork, dictating not only what should be taught, but how. Gove’s rhetoric promises to free teachers from political interference and allow them to use their professional judgement to improve education in their schools.
But behind this “trust the teacher” veneer is a political agenda. Gove wants a return to a “traditional” classroom. Not merely in the sense that children should sit in rows and listen to the teacher, but he also wants to return to single subject teaching in primary schools. This is a complete reversal of all that primary schools have been doing in recent years. More cross curricular working, topics, group work, creative approaches like Mantle of the Expert – this has been the emphasis in primary teaching. As progress on standards stalled, there was an acceptance that the early Labour initiatives such as the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies were too prescriptive and children and teachers needed a more flexible and creative approach. The Rose Review, published less than a year ago, promised a new curriculum that built on this approach. It was based on a very detailed understanding of how children learn. It was subject to extensive consultation and was widely welcomed by teachers across the primary sector.
But Gove hated it. He dismissed it from the outset and promised that if a Conservative government were elected, it would not be implemented. As it turns out, he didn’t even wait until then. Yesterday, with Parliament struggling to get through its business before prorogation, Gove refused to allow crucial parts of the Childrens, Schools and Families Bill to pass – including the provision for the new primary curriculum. Instead, Gove promises that he will undertake his own review of the curriculum. He has talked in the past of a return to single subject teaching, to learning by rote, “proper” history based on English kings and queens, algebra and mental arithmetic. Now, none of this sounds like freeing schools from political interference, does it? This isn’t just dictating what should be taught but how it should be taught too – precisely the criticism levelled at Labour.
The Rose Review was an exciting development; the documents are already in schools and planning is underway to implement the curriculum by September 2011. Many teachers are aghast that it has been summarily dumped. Ed Balls has promised to reinstate it if Labour is re-elected. So, there is a choice.
And rejecting the Rose Review is just one part of Gove’s agenda. Don’t get me started on Free Schools…