Watching the news of the cabinet reshuffle tick across the BBC website this morning felt a bit like a slightly more middle class version of watching the contestants go into the Big Brother house. Each newbie was duly inspected in a cursory fashion on theyworkforyou.com and possible future impact considered….and then the Gove news broke and that was it, really. It was very exciting to make it up to the staffroom at break time and find there were people who hadn’t already had the news. I felt like Santa.
There was a bit of the usual snidery on Twitter about how he wasn’t that bad and it won’t make any difference and teaching didn’t suddenly get easier overnight, and so on, but I don’t really agree with much of that. I didn’t agree when people said he has never said anything negative about teachers, either; saying lots of positive things about individual teachers in various speeches does not make up for that dire piece in the Daily Mail (of all papers), in my book, especially when the vast majority of those individual teachers have moved out of the profession to work for some sort of right-wind organisation or come from some other context that is completely alien to my own. I haven’t seen anything to prove that he values teachers en masse.
I agree that it might not make much difference to policy. Change is hard for everyone, let alone for a profession that stakes its professional reputation on being right, but now we’re on that road I can’t see there being a straight turn back.
However, I do think it will have an impact, and that impact will be on our relationships within the profession. I feel quite strongly that he has been very divisive among teachers, in a way that no Ed Sec has been during my time as a teacher; I’ve started to wonder if it’s a deliberate divide-and-conquer he’s been running or just a happy accident. He has caused us to pull in different directions over the past couple of years, in the same way that a class with a very critical teacher will become more critical of each other, and we are the poorer for it. The best joke I read about the change is that he’s left a note, a la the departing Labour government in 2010, except that his said, “Good luck – there is no morale.” That rings quite true.
So I am quite pleased he’s gone, though I feel a bit sorry for him, that the news is reporting it as a step down in spite of Downing St saying it’s not. Also it must be frustrating to not be allowed to see it all through, like a headteacher removed from a school placed in Special Measures before his/her new ideas can really take root and flourish. But, I must remember the email conversation I had with Radio 4’s PM program earlier this year, when they got the wrong end of the stick and thought I was so disgusted with Gove I wanted to leave teaching. “I love my job and I’m not going to leave,” I replied, “because I’m pretty sure I can outlast him.”
And this, too, has passed. It’s moments like this that make me grateful I always keep prosecco in the fridge.