Lord Baker attacks Michael Gove’s flagship policies

Ex-education secretary Kenneth Baker has claimed that the government’s education policies are a result of Mr. Gove’s own schooldays. He also thinks that that David Cameron isn’t interested in education!

Kenneth Baker was education secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s and is now a leading proponent of education initiatives for 14 to 19 year-olds. Speaking in the week that Mr. Gove’s free school programme caused a rift at the heart of the coalition, he claimed that his policies could fail children who don’t possess his natural advantages, the Independent reports.

Lord Baker said: “Michael Gove is a very dominant education secretary whose policies are entirely derived from his own educational experiences. Michael Gove had a tough upbringing and he believes if he did it, anybody in the country could do what he did: whether they’re orphans, whether they’re poor, whether they’re impoverished, they can all rise to the top. That is not actually true, and that is dominating the attitude of a key minister in government.”

Lord Baker did not reserve his criticism for the education secretary, saying that David Cameron “was not that interested in education, frankly”. His opinion of prime ministers’ views on education was that “they’re not worth listening to, quite frankly”, because: “They invariably extrapolate from their own experience, which is totally irrelevant.”

The NUT’s Christine Blower said that Lord Baker’s comments were “yet another nail in the coffin” for Mr. Gove’s “personal vision for education” and that: “It really is time we returned to evidence-based education policies.”

The DfE declined to comment on Lord Baker’s remarks.

Do you agree with Lord Baker’s comments about Michael Gove, and his claim that prime ministers’ views on education aren’t worth listening to? Share your thoughts with us!

31 thoughts on “Lord Baker attacks Michael Gove’s flagship policies

  1. Both BAker and Gove are wrong! Each forget about the purpose of learning-to discover! Competition for learning increases bullying-rivalry! education is something we all share on our journey to death. In one sense it matters not how much one knows but what is the overwhelming is a need to learn at our own pace… For many in education this sticks in the throats of who is shouting the loudest! They must be ALL like us! Be true to yourself but don’t dare to be different. The teacher’s role is to facilitate this difference and NOT punish despite it! As we know and surely must have learned by now…school is part of the journey-only part of it!

  2. I totally agree with Lord Baker’s remarks. It has been very clear for some time that the education secretary bases all his education policies on his own experience – you only have to look at the ‘new’ curriculum to see evidence of his school days! It might seem funny the way he goes on but I think he is dangerous as the head of the Education Service. Let’s look at the actual evidence from around the World. Force feeding facts is a waste of time. Let’s teach the skills that children actually need to get on in the real world.

  3. Well we all know that education policy is dreadful and is not being designed in the interests of most kids and families.

    We’re all annoyed, disillusioned, demotivated and disappointed but all we can do is moan isn’t it?

    Doesn’t achieve much and not relly worth bothering with.

    I’ve certainly given up on it.

  4. One thing about Gove is sure: he is a man with unresolved issues, and would not be out of place at Dotheboys Hall, or, if you prefer, as some kind of assistant in Mr Gradgrind’s classroom. The irony is that Dickens was pointing out the dreadful nature of education for most children in the mid-nineteenth century, whereas Gove seems to regard Dickens’ works as blueprints for his own education policy!

  5. I agree with Lord Baker. I think that it is time that the politicians realise that they are elected to support the country and its citizens in harnessing expert advice and knowledge not to further their own careers and dictate to experts what they should do! They should get the best people in place to do the job and oversee their progress, questioning when necessary (ie banking system). Lord Baker has some good ideas about education and his technical colleges are for some young people what they need in order to progress, keep motivated and develop skills that our society needs. He is working with the universities and industry too!

  6. Agreed! If only Mr Gove would stop meddling and allow teachers to get on with their real work, then education might have some chance of improving the abilities of the young generation. As it is, young people must feel as if every week some new edict comes down from on high, and that is horribly unsettling, with totally negative effects on their achievement.

  7. I think it would be more constructive if critics of Michael Gove said what they liked and disliked about his education policies, which we can assume are endorsed by Mr Cameron. For example, on the positive side, getting rid of coursework stops teachers and parents cheating, by writing and rewriting the students’ work. At a teachers’ workshop, before I retired, I learnt from a number of colleagues how to bend the rules on controlled assessment, although some claimed to ignore them entirely. In general, the speed of the changes seems to fast for my tastes and, in detail, the failure to update our sex education teaching in line with best practice from Europe, where teenage pregnancies are so much lower, seems a missed opportunity. The biggest problem of all is that education is a political football; I would abolish the post of secretary of state for education, which encourages every new postholder to come in and make his or her name by changing the status quo.

  8. Children need to be taught the basic ‘3 rs’ before leaving Primary school, and to be enabled to have developed a love of learning of those and other subjects. I find it really sad that some children and their parents think that we are only teaching to achieve a good rating by Ofsted and a high place in the league tables. Over the last twenty years, I have seen good teachers crushed mentally and physically by constant criticism and new initiatives. Give us a break and let teaching and learning be enjoyable again!

  9. It seems to me that ‘change’ is how education has worked since at least I started teaching in 2002. I call it ‘moving the goal posts’ and it is unsettling for teachers – especially newly qualified teachers, as I was in 2002. That then reaches the students in some way. And yes, when the curriculum is constantly changing it does affect students, although I expect most of them have little planning skills in reality and don’t look to year 9, 10 and 11 when they enter at year 7. It mainly affects the teachers therefore in my opinion. Teachers who have perfected their skills in delivering the curriculum and who then have to redirect their thinking, this takes it toll. I taught ICT which was compulsory in 2002 and which now isn’t. It has developed for obvious reasons. New areas are being expanded such as computing and although this was part of KS3 in 2002 it wasnt such a large part. As a teacher who may want to move from one school to another it is really important what syllabus I have taught as in ICT, especially perhaps, the skills are transferable but it means starting again with teaching some aspects of the subject. Its all political in my opinion and based on who is running the department and their developed interests in the subject. Very strange. A solution, I don’t have, but I would like to see more across the board syllabus taught to give consistency for learners and teachers. Anything that will help alleviate the pressures of marking and setting work as well as behaviour management is bound to improve performance. As for Gove, well he gets some good photos in the Guarding doesn’t he?

  10. Mr Gove is absolutely right about education. Baker is so far out of touch, it’s embarrassing. The UK has one of the lowest rates of literacy and numeracy in the developed world – largely because the majority of teachers now in the “profession” are badly educated, incompetent buffoons who are passing on their ineptitude to the next generation.

    Gove is right to get a firm grip on the problem – I fear he has a well-nigh impossible task, however, because of institutionalised resistance from teachers, who – knowing their own levels of incapability – don’t want to be shown up in a proper education system.

    You almost want to fire the whole lot of them (school teachers) and import more capable ones from abroad.

  11. To G Palmer – I am one of those inept, badly educated, needs to be sacked, institutionalised teachers. However, I would like to give you the facts as they stand. My education was obviously delivered to me by other equally inept teachers, hence why I am so inept. Perhaps they were, in their turn taught by inept teachers. We could go on with that one. Perhaps the only really educated people were the Greeks – bring on Socrates. My education was decided as now by our political task masters, who make changes to their policies, in the same way they change their underwear, in many cases based on their personal taste, experience and what’s in vogue, rather than based on sound educational evidence. Do I know my incapabilities. Yes! But that’s because in order to progress, move forward, adapt, change and evolve, we need to know our weaknesses in order to identify what training we need and then receive that training to then be able to change. In fact that is how life is, a constant changing cycle. That said, that doesn’t make Gove right. Education does need to be constantly improving to meet the needs of our society and the world our young people will inhabit, but it needs to be based on stable, evidenced based criteria that doesn’t change every 5 years. It is this constant political game with education that has effected education. However, no one blames the politicians for getting it wrong, only the teacher,who is following the directives given. On another note, I resent being called a Marxist. For my sins, I voted Conservative. Most teachers are not militant, unyielding people. We actually care about the children we teach. Its not a job you can do a 9 to 5 stint, go home and put your feet up. We recognise that these young people are our future and its important we get it right even when we are played as political pawns and made scape goats. Please fire all of us, however, who then will be willing to step in and do the job. Perhaps people like your self who obviously was more fortunate than many like me to have a good education. There was nothing privileged about my education, state secondary, bog standard college etc etc etc. I chose to come into the profession having trained as a designer, believing I had something to offer. Twenty years on, 3 national curriculums later, we still don’t seem to have got it right. Hmmmm I wonder why?
    If you want to see education improve – take it out of politics, place people in charge of it who are recognised educationalists who’s sole motive is education not winning the next general election, fund it properly, fairness for all and stop moving the goal posts. Children need consistency, honesty, firmness, clear aims, discipline and a feeling they are valued for themselves not just another pawn in the game played by adults who should no better.

  12. I assume from your comments that
    1. You are a Tory
    2. You left school at 14,16 or 18 and may only have returned as a parent?
    3. You are unaware that teaching is a “graduate entry profession” and has been fo many many years.
    4. Have no experience what so ever of working with teachers from abroad.
    5. Do not realise that today’s pupils need skills to prepare them for careers in their adult life which may not even exist today.
    6. “Raising standards” can never overcome the fact that their are some hard working, well balanced and talented human beings for whom an “acceptable” level of numeracy and literacy will forever be an un achievable aspirational target.

    I will stop here as I doubt you have the intellectual capacity to take on board anything other that current Tory policy and practice , have a wonderful day

  13. Dear Mr/Mrs Palmer,

    “absolute right”

    … I’ve heard that before, remember Stalin and Adolf? Gove is in favour of classical education, why don’t you improve your own classical humanistic education first:

    Errare humanum est, sed in errare perseverare diabolicum.

    The “majority” of teachers are “incompetent buffoons”. Well, another hint that you seem to cherish insult as a method to resolve your problem with a profession you dislike. Something you might want to teach our children, learn how to bully their way to the top?

    I assume that you do not want to import teachers from most other highly developed countries, because they also represent the “institutionalised resistance” … just wondering where your teachers will come from and what English language skills they will have. I am looking forward to reading Shakespeare in Klingon?

    Finally, I love the “proper education system” remark; why don’t you enlighten the ignorant readers what this might look like …

  14. Creative thinking is surely the most valuable gift we can impart to our students – Google and the internet in general can be used for facts. It is the interpretation of facts which is my definition of intelligence/knowledge – not the actual method of how to collate them. Practical learning supported by theory, good practice/support and allowing students to “fail ” – not succeed first time round – to then allow learning by understanding mistakes made to then be aided by the guidance of industry-savvy tutors. No problem at all with the emphasis on literacy and numeracy – surely these are the backbone of everyone’s life? This is my definition of “education”.

  15. I don’t mind criticism if it’s constructive and based on knowledge; however, the view that we should all be ‘fired’ and ‘replaced’ just illustrates the damage done to the reputation of very committed and hard working teachers, who are scapegoats for all manner of issues that really are the result of societal change and not just education.
    If we look at the wider view, children’s pre-school experience is very different to even 10 or 15 years ago. Much of the important early years development is left to nurseries and other child care providers; this alone has had an impact on the skills and social confidence of children entering full time education at 5. E.g Early language & numeracy development is now often left to schools and this means that the starting points for many children are lower than in the past, so is it surprising that progress is often slower for these?
    Buffoons, we are not! Neither are we resistant or incapable; however, allow us to get on with the job of educating and not fighting ridicule and ignorance, and we will give every ounce of our passion to educate and improve the life chances of our young people.
    What is needed is an honest review on the aids and barriers to learning for all children and then we can plan forward – that is ‘we’ , not just Mr Gove.

  16. I guess ‘each decade’ has had it’s issues with trying to establish an effective solution to educate the masses but since my children have gone through the system I have seen a ‘faff’ of changes implemented and, yes, some teachers, who I would gladly pluck from their classrooms and deposit them somewhere that more suited their talents, have been unable to make a positive impact to nurture the children’s intellect or well being.
    What I’d like to see happen is that the ‘little people’ are given more time to soak up information and be given the exposure to a thorough focus on appropriate social behaviour when plunged into the ‘school world’ at the tender age of 4. A child so young can be ready for all sorts of useful, interesting and wonderful information but when they are placed in a system where they barely have time to ‘fart’ (pardon the expression but I heard this during an adult education course use to express a lack of time) before they have to move onto the next stage of a learning process. They don’t have time to take in and digest, only time to be exposed to a piece of the ‘learning puzzle’ that would fit together better if given the time to grasp the ‘learning’ pieces.
    There will always be those who ‘soak up’ quicker, retain and use more effectively than their peers but they can be continually fed with ‘extras’ while the majority manage at a different pace. From my experience,I feel the little 5/6 year old mites are subjected to such a fast pace of learning that they seem to be like a ‘page covered with a load of information that is isolated in its understanding’ rather than being a ‘page that indicates a firm understanding of exploration and experience allowing them to link the information well’. They ‘need’ time if we continue to introduce them to the level of learning required from the set guidelines, or hang back with the curriculum; a method employed in other countries. Let’s see less cut backs and more support to the teaching profession as ultimately they have a vast impact on our young people and we want it to be the best it can be rather than winging it.
    And if ever teacher assistants are to be no more then there will need to be ‘another procedure’ put in place for managing the minkie who likes to turn upside down on their chair, as you duck when the one takes to throwing the chair at you, as the one who gets up from their chair and leaves the room, while the one who stands on their chair to have their ‘moment of fame’ among their peers, before the one who barricades themselves behind…. ok, I’m making them up now but you get my drift; and not to mention the other physical and mental scares they can inflict on members of staff. Unless there is ‘wider and more effective intervention’ to support and resolve issues in society then I believe removing their assistants will put the poor teacher under further stress.
    A good teacher can thrive if supported. Unsupported and they will be worn down – it’s bad enough as it is. As they move to secondary education, crowd control is common. Time is wasted. Learning goes on hold. Nerves fray. I admire a good teacher who cares and goes the extra mile. I am amazed if that good teacher is able to ‘really thrive’ and make that ‘positive difference’ to their students. All credit to both. They have an extremely tough job.

  17. Well mr Palmer – talk a lot down the pub do you.

    “the majority of teachers now in the “profession” are badly educated, incompetent buffoons ”

    Where do people get off on such drivel as yourself! May I ask what ‘profession’ you work in.

    If people like you think Gove is right , then it just goes to show what kind of people support him.

    You sir, have no brain worthy of an opinion,

  18. G Palmer
    Foreign teachers do not want to come and teach here…. Trust me I work with plenty of foreign teachers and they are shocked at 1) the amount of classes they are expected to teach 2) the number of different age groups they are expected to teach 3) the hours they are expected to be in school 4) the way that when the pupils do no work and fail, the teachers get blamed 5) poor behaviour and parents that condone it 6) the way that the government interferes with schools … Shall I go on?

  19. It’s a shame that G Palmer highlights his ignorance about the education system. True, there are SOME badly-educated and incompetent practitioners, in the same way that we seem to have a fair few in the current government! As someone who holds both a 2:1 BA Honours in French and a Master of Business Administration with Distinction from Warwick Business School, I resent his or her ill-informed comments. I have worked both in the private and the public sectors, and can therefore state with the benefit of actual experience that the pressures in teaching outstrip those I was subjected to when I was an FMCG marketer. It’s the end of half-term and I’ve spent the past week trying to catch up on all the chores it’s impossible to do during termtime – dental checks, house cleaning, filing, sorting, seeing friends, as well as trying to sort out what I’m going to do next week once I get back, marking, creating resources etc. Perhaps if we weren’t all continually being subjected to change at the whim of ministers who invariably haven’t the faintest idea what the job entails, blamed for all the evils of society, and worked to within an inch of our lives, we might actually have the energy and the motivation to be able to do a better job! Consider also, that the deregulation of the media and the general slide in standards in society have meant that respect for others and indeed, for the rules of grammar, has diminished considerably, rendering the task of educating our young progressively harder. Gove’s reforms are meant for a bygone era, when Facebook, Twitter, “celebs” and Big Brother didn’t loom large in the consciousness of the young – if he’s going to turn back the clock and bring back the society of my youth, then fine, crack on!

  20. Gove is an idiot, ruining education. You cannot keep telling teachers they are crap…which he does….demanding more and more, with constant changes, whilst taking more and more money away from him! There is no incentive and teachers are leaving. Good teachers, just totally wrecked by this fool who hasnt got a clue what its like in the classroom. Baker annoyed teachers by stealing 5 days holiday. They are all hopeless. Back off and let teachers teach without the blasted non~stop form filling rubbish. Its so obvious.

  21. G Palmer, do you work in education? I’m just making sure you’re writing from an informed POV. I’m also amused at your sweeping generalisations. They’d have taught you not to do that at school.

  22. G Palmer I hope you are trying to be deliberately obnoxious, either that or troll. I fully expect to see your name on another forum complaining about foreigners coming over here to take our jobs.
    I am also assuming you do not have any direct contact with education. Until the invention of Gove’s pet policies of free school and academies all teachers had to be qualified, at the least be in a GTP post. Those from abroad had to “upgrade” their qualifications to match up with those trained in the UK.
    I am all for change if it is well thought out, advice sought from those in the know and listened to and appropriate amounts of time provided for training so the pupils do not suffer. Unfortunately the changes being brought in at the moment do not have any of these reasonable requests.
    At the end of the day the children are being treated as guinea pigs, the unwitting experiment subjects of an ill-informed, megalomaniac with ideas well above his station.

  23. So totally agree with Lord Baker. I have been teaching since 1970 and seen many changes – some good and some bad but Mr Gove has not consulted teachers over any of his new ‘ideas’ and the only people to suffer ill be the children. Does he have any idea what a real school day is like? Thank goodness I will not be voting for the conservatives in the next election — I hads uch high hopes!!!!

  24. I also assume that Palmer is simply having a ‘laugh’ – if not then perhaps an emergency visit to the surgery for a repeat prescription!

    Education like all the public sector services has ben used by successive governments to secure votes and all have failed to improve or enhance any service. On the contrary year after year all of the public sector has been weakened by inept meddling ……

    This government will go down in history as the most incompetent to date with Cameron as the most alienated from reality PM of all time. He has no control of his key ministers – Hunt is creating havoc in the NHS, Gove is destroying education and IDS is growing the underclass of poverty ridden unemployable people whilst Osbourne panders to the rich and greed driven minority.

    Wilshaw is the Tory thug put in charge of a quango that has failed at every possible level …..I guess the knighthood and fat cat salary help him forget what education is about and make it easy for him to sleep at night.

    Don’t blame the teachers blame those promoted to management posts with no qualification to do the job. Look at failing schools and see inept and pathetic senior leadership teams who are more interested in their big incomes than the key point of the institutions existence – the students. Take ‘K’ College in Kent as a prime example of poor management feathering their personal nests whilst being totally unaware of the devastation they were causing to the largest post 16 provider in the county. They refuse to say how much the outgoing principle received as a ‘golden goodbye’ ………. not only bankers it seems are rewarded for failure.

    And all the while teachers jump through the hoops whilst being blamed daily for the shortcomings of schools and colleges …. TEACHERS ARE THE HEROIC DONKEYS OF A SYSTEM BLIGHTED BY POLITICAL STUPIDITY

  25. I agree with Mr Baker about Mr Goves Educational Policies. Unfortunately, just like many of the Politicians in Westminster, he does not live in the real World, he lives in his Ivory Tower and safety Bubble. Policies should only be drawn up by Politicians who come from working class backgrounds, not by Aristocrats from Eton, Oxperd or Cambridge!! Who really do not have a clue about what makes the average person tick over, from an Educational, circumstantial, emotional, social class, and life perspective. Mr Gove has had every possible, Arsitocratic and Educational advantage in life, he has not had a difficult life, thats nonsense!!! Most of the Children who come from poor backgrounds or who have disabillities could not possibly be satisfactorily and fairly addressed by deploying the Mr Gove stategies and style of Educational policies.
    These Children will fail miserably under Mr Goves system, sadly. Mr Gove has done one good thing though, I think. He has encouraged and funded more Subject based Enhancement Courses for Teaching Professionals, in a bid to boost Science Teaching and learning within Schools and Colleges. Science is always important and these kind of initiatives are always welcome of course. However, I still do not think that he has gone far enough in promoting Science Teaching Education, sadly. He could for instance fund Masters Degrees (M.Sc / MA) for Teaching Professionals who want to teach Science. I think that we have been treated very cruelly in this Country (especially in England) in respect of Maters Degrees and Ph.D study Programmes. What on Earth is wrong with being funded so that we as individuals can make the most of ourselves at the Post Graduate level, thereby boosting our Academic and Professional profile, tallents? I ask you? This Government is always moaning about the quality of Teachers, is it not!!!! Yet it cannot see fit to fund them so that they can excel!!!
    Ok, listen! This Country spends £1 Billion Pounds a day on Foreign Aid (without our permission), but cannot see fit to look after the Educational needs of its indiginous Citizens!
    I think that this is a complete disgrace quite frankly!!! One cannot even obtain a Government loan under this aweful Mr Cameron administration in order to further ones Academic Career to Maters Level and beyond. It is quite obvious to any fool, that if a person aquires better Educational attainments, then this will make them more skilled and competitive in an increasingly competitive Country, and World as a whole. No wonder all these foreigners are taking all our jobs, this darn Government (under Cameron) is doing all it can to ruin the lives of the average Indiginous British person (especially the England!). If we cannot excel due to these cruel restaints, then it is axiomatic is it not?,that a more well trained foreign person will be able to supplant us within the Work place of Education and also within Industry and the Public / Private Sector? Mr Cameron has proven that he is not interested in peoples Education, he is interested merely in his money and his own Political profile and Career prospects. He is an Eton boy (through and through), spoilt by his rich Daddy!!! When has he ever been ill or unemployed? When has he ever had to suffer financial lack? What does he know about the averages Citizens feeling, aspirations and needs? How can he relate to the average person in Society, when in fact he has never grown up in a working class background? Such is the folly of the golden tongued Etonian Westminster and Whitehall, old boys network, of which Caneron and Gove are a part, in addition to Mr Boris Johnson and his phoney Personality Gimmicks. Not one of them including Clegg, Cameron Duncan Smith, Gove, Haigh, Osborn, give a tinkers custard for poor deprived people within Gt Britain. They only care about landed Gentry and how much money they can screw out of the proletariate, which is the electorate!!!

    Simon

  26. Michael Gove is pursuing a business agenda. See Michael Rosen’s letter in the Guardian (04.11)that draws attention to the unholy alliance of Rupert Murdoch, Jeb Bush, Joel Klein etc. They can pretty much get away with it because teachers do not protest vigorously enough. The situation is outrageous; teachers need to stand up to the marketisation of education. A test-driven state-system of mass-schooling has enough flaws in it already without selling it off to the private sector. http://jennycollinsteacher.wordpress.com/

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