Edfest: Gove

Seventy five minutes late, and looking hot and bothered.

Did he ever expect to be education secretary? No. He never expected to go into politics, but was treated to a call to arms by David Cameron as a journalist critical of the status quo. He is fascinated by how countries make themselves successful and fair, and he thinks it comes down to education.

Why is he so high profile? He says it’s because education touches so many people deeply, both in terms of their own family and their feelings about the purpose of education. It inspires passionate feelings, which attracts controversy.

How does he cope with being unpopular? He always tries to rely on a range of broadly sympathetic people to keep him anchored, who are sufficiently robust to tell him where he has gone wrong, who can be used as sounding boards.

Does he accept that his initial vision, with a narrow focus on literacy and numeracy, was perhaps wrong? He thinks he always believed that the arts, sport etc always had a strong place on the curriculum. His life was apparently transformed when, at 16, he saw Henry V in Stratford on Avon, but his enthusiasm was not communicated when he put in place changes to the accountability system to make it fairer.
In the past we haven’t considered all children capable of all things; he references Dweck’s Growth Mindset here; this is not acceptable. Basics must be grasped firmly at primary school in order to be able to make the most of secondary school. More than 30% of children leave school without a C pass in English and Maths at GCSE (something Gove considers achievable by all “except those with quite a significant learning disability”) and a majority of those are FSM, and this is no good for social mobility.

@HeyMissSmith gets the first question in, wonders if Gove’s unrelenting negativity towards particularly experienced teachers is helpful for children. Gove wonders about evidence (again – like when he questioned the existence of evidence that some teachers don’t like him) and says he’s never said anything negative about teachers. Instead, he has been ambitious for the children. There’s some debate about this and lots of scoffing on Twitter.

He would consider a second term as education secretary, but isn’t interested in being prime minister.

A question from the floor about how he will help other regions of the country make the accelerated progress that London schools have made. He references Teach First starting in London as having made a difference there.

He thinks that we are impoverished when it comes to accurate and detailed research about what has a positive impact in the classroom: we need a rich evidence base, and more randomised control groups.

A question about ring fencing FE budgets. Gove says he would do many thing he could to raise the budget available for schools. Then a questioner stating that, having worked in both sectors, smaller class sizes and more free time to plan and assess are the things that really make the difference, and these things would erode the difference between state and private. Seldon polls the crowd on their opinion of the importance of class size, and I feel able to participate having recently read Gladwell’s explanation of the bell curve of class size impact in David and Goliath (no less than 15 or so). Gove says that there are plenty of super successful state schools and we should look at what they are doing rather than what private schools are doing.

Sending his daughter to a state school? It was right for them. Context again. He’d never criticise anybody for sending their child to their choice of school. Quite glad I am not going to be Miss Gove’s tutor next year, I must say.

During the next answer Gove gives an example of an outstanding primary in London and uses an example of a lesson about Shakespeare to demonstrate its outstanding…ness. Curious negative murmuring from many teachers who clearly do not think his example is, I’m guessing, realistic, or outstanding, or something.

Somebody from an educational company bleating about how they reintroduced Hattie and Dweck to Britain but who fails to actually ask a question. SIT DOWN.

Does he support fining parents for not participating in parents evenings?
He will be discussing the mechanics of this with Wilshaw.

What does he mean by British values?
There’s a 2011 definition of this – rule of law, liberty, tolerance, more that I am too slow to type.

Phonics pass mark being published before the test?
He doesn’t think this is necessary to publish this. I know nothing about this debate but this is wildly unpopular, at least in my section of the audience.

Gove makes the mistake of saying that the best teachers are happy at the demise of NC levels, which inspires a large amount of cat calls and yelling. This is a difference of opinion, in his opinion. This crowd is definitely feistier than last year’s. It’s a slightly uncomfortable end.

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