State schools to equal private sector

The Education Secretary says that state education is improving and he now wants pupils in state schools to benefit from the same standards as those in the private sector.

Michael Gove wants to break down the ‘Berlin Wall’ between state and independent sectors, the Mail reports.

Speaking at the London Academy of Excellence, a new free school in East London, Mr. Gove said that English state education is starting to show a ‘sustained and significant improvement’, with better results, more pupils taking tougher subjects and fewer weak schools. He believes that state schools could become the best in the world by tapping into the expertise of the independent sector.

He wants to push state schools further, so they will become indistinguishable from private schools by:

  • staying open for nine or ten hour days, allowing more time for after-school activities
  • more testing, with pupils sitting the ‘robust’ Common Entrance exam taken by 13 year-olds in private schools
  • secondary school pupils taking the international PISA tests.

“Under the changes we’re making, it’s becoming easier for state schools to match the offer from private schools,” Mr. Gove said. “Instead of reinforcing the Berlin Wall between state and private, as the current Labour leadership appear to want, we should break it down.”

The NUT’s Christine Blower questioned the idea of state pupils taking the Common Entrance exam: “Why would we imagine that that is an appropriate examination? He’s not discussed that with anybody, he’s not discussed it with any of the exam boards, he’s certainly not discussed it with the representatives of teachers,” she said.

Whether you work in the private or independent sector, what do you think of the Education Secretary’s latest suggestion?  Share your views with the Eteach community!

35 thoughts on “State schools to equal private sector

  1. Does that mean Mr Gove is going to increase funding to allow state schools the same small class sizes as private schools? Let’s have a level playing field in order to do this – oh, sorry, ther aren’t so many of those left in the state sector, are there Mr Gove?

  2. Mr Gove consistently shows that he has little if any understanding about primary schools or effective teaching methods. State schools are never going to be the same as private, independent schools because you are not dealing with like for like. The independent schools through their entrance examinations have always ‘creamed off’ the children with the best academic powers, whereas state schools offer an all round education to children of all abilities regardless of background. The other major difference between the two systems is that the independent sector are dealing with average class sizes of under 20, whereas their state counterparts are dealing with class sizes of over 30 and of mixed gender. In short, Mr Gove has shown an arrogant attitude to the genuine hard work and commitment of state schoolteachers towards education. Why does he want to take education back to the 1950’s when schools have progressed so much and why doesn’t he consult with the experts doing the job rather than assuming that he knows best!

  3. I’m not at all surprised he is talking about doing things the private way. I just wish he’d go the whole way and say we can have 15- 18 pupils per class – that would indeed break down the barriers. He does not listen to anyone but those who say the same as himself. It is obvious there is a huge divide between him and most of his department and the head of Ofsted. The maddening thing about him is he is so adept at politics that he is able to get out of any awkward arguments easily by side tracking. As for Christine Blower’s comment – he does not listen to any teachers and it’s beginning to be a waste of time even bothering to try….
    Education in the hands of this man is stoking up a whole heap of trouble for the children that are at the beginning of their education….. even the two year olds!

  4. Gove is fighting an immense battle – chiefly with teachers, who are reluctant to adopt his recommendations because they are unable (themselves) to meet his standards.

    It is no secret that the best teachers (by far) end up in private schools – and because these schools are directly answerable to the parents who are funding them, the standards are very high.

    Having taught in both state schools (3 years) then private schools (6 years) I have seen first-hand the massive divide between the quality of education in the state sector, compared to that in the private sector.

    Fourteen years of a Labour government encouraged mediocrity and ineptitude in teachers, pupils and parents, where the objective was the lowest-common-denominator.

    Sadly, it will take decades to repair this damage. Perhaps fire all the state teachers and bring in people from Asia to do it properly.

  5. What happens to the students who don’t pass the Common Entrance Exam? Will state school reject those students? It would automatically raise standards if we only took brighter students… but what about all the others. Perhaps Mr Gove will find them some menial work somewhere instead of education?

  6. I think Michael Gove is effectively assuming that all children have the same potential as those in private schools. I would tend to agree. However, while ability may not be a barrier to high achievement, aptitude often is. Does he seriously think that bright children brought up in an atmosphere of conflict and insecurity on a gang-ridden council estate, will generally have the same inclination to visualise a rosy future for themselves and to apply themselves assiduously to their studies, as those brought up by economically comfortable parents who have an awareness of the importance of good nutrition and solid family values? And does he think that the teachers of the former group can expect to be able to teach their subject in as focussed and intense way as the teachers of pupils who expect to achieve high academic results?

    The social divide cannot be eradicated by the school system. It needs a holistic approach across many government departments, united in their appreciation and interpretation of our social decay, to make a difference in educational standards. Teachers cannot and should not be expected to shoulder the burden of the massive shift needed.

  7. Omg im a state school teacher. Thank you Grahame Palmer for offering to sack all state school teachers. I think thats already sort of happening. Our school has had 12 forced redundancues and my workload has trippled. Im looking for a new career. Im a U3 teacher who has been observed and considered to be outstanding in this current criteria. However i do not feel safe in my job or happy with the new policies.
    I move with the teaching proffession which ever way it blows but ive decided this is becoming silly. I am so glad my children have finished their education. Ive told my two children not to have any offspring. I dont think we are thinking of the kids with all of this change. I know parents are livid about his proposed changes.

  8. Lucy you are right, one of the key differences between state and private education is class size. I have taught in both (10 years in private and 11 in state) and I am acutely aware that the quality of feedback you can give when you are looking at 32 essays as compared to 15 is halved, not by lack of desire or poor teaching (As Grahame suggests) but by simple logistics. Equally, the quality of attention within a class has to be diminished.

    Another key factor in why we choose private education is the ‘cleansing effect’ that fee paying enables. Students that do not conform to the exacting standards of private education are not enrolled, either due to academic standard or behaviour. In this way fee paying families can sweep social disadvantage and disaffection under the educational carpet, leaving state schools to pick up the pieces.

    Gove has such blinkered understanding of this, due to his own privilege and narrow perception, that he cannot possibly understand the preposterous nature of his suggestions. The government cannot possibly fund universal private education; there are excellent teachers in state schools but the system is constantly letting them down.

  9. I am afraid the last comment is highly insulting to children who work so hard to achieve good results and to teachers who work so hard in state schools. It is possibly also meant to be a joke.It is highly questionable that the best teachers teach in the private sector, and how do you measure that anyway? The simple fact is, that private schools SELECT pupils, thus they should always get good results. This is not rocket science, when smaller class sizes, and better funded resources are put in to the mix – of which parents pay for. Most teachers when starting out in the state sector do so because they want to make a difference, not just be part of the process of social reproduction.
    Yes, let’s have a longer day, so long as there are well subsidised sporting activities for all state school kids. I have no problem with this. Will this be met with the long holidays that independent schools have? This would show parity.
    Mr Gove will seriously need to put the money where his mouth is for these changes to happen. And let’s stop the totally unproductive teacher and pupil-bashing, which are largely based on ignorance .

  10. Perhaps we will also get the holidays, the small class sizes, the parental support, the freedom and the resources of private schools as well. But somehow I doubt it…

  11. This deeply offensive man is out of touch. I have 35 years experience in Comprehensive schools. I suggest that Private Schools need to raise their standards to meet State schools. Anyone who thinks that people in Private Schools are ‘teachers’ in the same sense are delusional.

    Gove is trying to talk to his Express and Mail readers as ever.

  12. @helen

    You could simply offer to resign – then no need to sack ! :)

    Some years ago, on the e-teach forum – I took to “marking out of ten” the forum posts of teachers. I was appalled by the poor grammar, spelling and punctuation evident in practically every post, from teachers at every level.

    I’d give these posts a mark out of ten, then in true teacher fashion, finish with a comment such as: “Please see me”.

    The forum administrators threw me off the forum for “embarrassing my colleagues”.

    The frightening this is that these sub-standard people are in our schools, teaching our children.

    How sad that it is when one does try to raise standards (as Gove is struggling to do), one is met with vigorous institutionalised opposition.

  13. Oops… falling victim to my own criticism!

    The frightening this is that these sub-standard people are in our schools, teaching our children.

    The frightening THING is that these sub-standard people are in our schools, teaching our children.

  14. I can see you are a assuming that all state teachers are sub-standard. I think that is an extreme comment. Maybe meant to raise the hackles of those of us who still try,with all our meagre resources, to educated every child that comes through our doors. It’s sad that you, along with Mr Gove, pay no attention to the principle cause of the divide, which is, parents who truly take an interest in their children’s education. Another key factor is the very good facilities that are in the private sector often paid for by those same parents through fund raising activities. Give the children a level playing field with the same class sizes and facilities and then the great dividing wall will fall.

  15. Mr Palmer
    Firstly, with reference to your last posting, perhaps you should check its fluidity. And secondly, your view of state education is six years out of date. Can I suggest before you continue to make invalid comments I suggest you revisit a current outstanding state school to ensure that your information is up to date.

  16. I, too, have taught in both sectors and do not recognise “the massive divide between the quality of education in the state sector, compared with that in the private sector” that you mention Grahame Palmer. The noticeable difference is in the aspiration of the children and their families. I agree, Peter Brodie, the government needs to close the social divide and stop blaming state teachers for it.

  17. Teachers in private schools are not even required to be qualified! I would not want my children to be taught in a private school. My children are highly successful learners with worthwhile degrees and careers – all achieved through state education. Who died and put Gove (and Grahame Palmer, King Gove II) in charge! Politicians who know nothing about education should stay away, stop meddling and let the people who really care about education and who are actually doing the job, do just that!
    My youngest is able to take her GCSEs a year early (in a state school!) but because of the meddling by the government and the ever-changing environment in secondary education, she may not be able to. Who is holding our children back?
    Btw, I am a primary teacher and our school is already open for ten hour days; ask the Site Manager!

  18. I have taught in both sectors for over 25 years. I have witnessed a variety of teaching standards of teaching in both sectors. My children have attended an excellent state education school which has provided an environment based on a high quality of learning and teaching. It has a non-selective intake and is supported by the tax payer. It is a state school which all schools, including private schools, should aspire to.

    The one dimensional dogmatism of people like Gove represents a very narrow view of education and unfortunately he has a lot of support from likeminded people in this country (ala G Palmer above) who have no understanding of reality and continue to believe that one size fits all. I find such narrow generalisations intellectually depressing and just wish Gove would stop playing with Government office to push forward his personal political ambitions. Unfortunately I don’t think our flawed party politcal democracy will stop such tinkering!

  19. Interesting. There are good and ‘bad’ teachers in both private and state sectors. To me, a sweeping statement accusing all state teachers of underperforming, is not only highly offensive but shows a complete lack of intelligence. If private schools are so good then perhaps you could explain to me why the three children that have joined my class over the last year are all from the private sector. Reasons they have moved have not been to do with the parent’s financial situation but due to ‘uninspiring teacher’, ‘bullying’ and ‘underachieving’. All three are now progressing and are happy and settled.

  20. If he wants to make state schools like private schools, he needs to make sure that teachers in state schools work under the same conditions as those teaching in private schools! I am intrigued to see how he will manage that!

  21. I believe that teachers should set the standard in accordance with the criterion in which they work and set standards. If Gove wants higher standards through better trained teachers and more competition from global work force markets then that benefits the children. Private schools do set the standard because it is expected that all teachers are highly qualified and appropriately trained to meet the criteria. However, I do think that like most politicians of his era Gove is very narrow in his perspective of education and can only see its future development through market forces, and accommodating the electorate. He should put the tax payers’ money where his mouth is and start supporting state education teachers rather than acting like a lap dog to his party and targeting the electorate through such smug and contemptuous comparisons. I agree with the previous comment that refers to the low economic poor housing estate background of state school students who have limited resources and low drive ratios because our state schools are so deprived of this Governments support. Private schools are very much supported by those who can afford to send their children to these schools. The ever widening gap between these sectors continues.

  22. Telling the truth state systems of education about the world became worse than before, because the TOPs steal much money from this sphere and do it using bureaucratical resources. People be active control TOPs and government!

  23. I question why Grahame Palmer felt the need to leave the state system after only 3 years? Perhaps he couldn’t cope with the discipline issues that many state teachers deal with day in and day out? Am I right in thinking he only lasted 6 years in the private sector or is he still there?

    Teachers certainly do not come into teaching for a cushy number, although based on conversations I have had with people who are working at private schools, they certainly seem to be able to teach rather than spend unnecessary time dealing with disruption and persistent low level poor behaviour.

    High flying state schools – they tend to have high flying, supportive parents backing them. Maybe we should share around all the difficult pupils with high flying state schools and private schools. As this, is probably the only way some of these young people will have a chance to break away from the life that society has bequeathed on them. As teachers, we can not be held accountable for the ills of society. We can only work with what we are given, within constant changing circumstances. There is a fear factor now operating within the state system. There is no time to bed in changes or to test whether they are working. Everything has to happen now. Even children can’t adapt that quickly!

    When Mao introduced communism, many of his own supporters fell foul to the changes. Every year there would be a new iniative.If you failed to adjust you fell foul of the police. For many people that was difficult to take, especially when they considered themselves staunch communists. The point I am making is that teachers need to be supported and given time and training to bring all these changes in, not beaten by a stick and then forced to listen to comments such as Grahame Palmer’s “..sack all state teachers…”.

    The one thing we are all agreed on is that we are trying to improve the lives of our young people and prepare them for the big wide world. To make it happen, stop brow beating the teachers. When you do this, you give permission for everyone to have ago, whether they understand what is going on. Catch us being good! Listen to us, when we share our knowledge acquired from experience. Recognise we want to improve education – we are not just moaning as we seem to keep hearing. Raising children is a team job, parents, teachers and society with the child in the middle. We are told to listen to the children, so why will no one listen to us?

    Finally – take education out of the political arena – it has no place there. Childrens’ education is not for politics and politians who want to make a mark regardless of the long term consequences. There in lies one of the fundamental issues – what good or harm are we doing?

  24. My comment is actually for Grahame Palmer in response to his remarks about ‘sacking all the state teachers and bringing in people from Asia to do the job properly’ …. As a teacher in an outstanding state school I question just how much he really cares about the children in our schools. I would challenge Grahame to put his money where his mouth is and come out of the private sector to contribute his obviously quality teaching ability to raise the standards in one of our state schools? No? I didn’t think so. Too much of a challenge? It’s all very well and good taking the easy option to teach in a private school dealing with wealthy children from primarily stable backgrounds in classes of 10 – 15 however, he deserted the ship because clearly couldn’t cope with the task that our brilliant teachers face every single day – raising standards and the moral of young people who aren’t so fortunate and whose backgrounds are not as rosy as those from more privileged families in classes of 30 highly mixed ability students. Still when the going gets tough some people take the easy way out……

  25. I would love to know a little more about Grahame Palmer’s background and teaching experience. Beth’s comments above are more eloquent than I could manage. Gove’s intentions would appear to be good at a very shallow level, but from the teachers I encounter on a daily basis the impression is wholly negative. They feel belittled and despised by the man who professes to want improvement, and appear to be leaving secure jobs with no obvious place to go in relatively large numbers.
    Importing teachers from the orient is patently not the answer-the attitude to teachers is, I believe, radically different in many oriental countries and the “prove you’re right, earn my respect and I’ll still treat you like dirt anyway” attitude of many pupils in British schools would prove problematic.
    Anyway Grahame, over to you!

  26. If state schools are to duplicate the practices of private schools, then what sector remains to teach the students who will be excluded from taking exams? In all of the private schools I have taught, whether in England, Ohio, Minnosota, or Ontario, exam scores were exceptionally high because not all students were permitted to sit them. Only those the schools could count on to score well were permitted to sit the exams..

    When we reflect upon the fact that the elite-directed State invented schooling only after the masses began very quickl to read thanks to Joseph Lancaster and Elisabeth Frye, who adapted the Madras monitorial method of Qur’aan reading, writing, and recitation to British students for reading their Bibles in English. Boarding school elites learnt Greek and Latin, not English. English as a subject of school study was invented in India by Indians who desired jobs in the Empire’s bureaucracy. Elites feared the English masses, who were denied the vote, would read the political tracts coming out of America and perhaps in anger go after their heads like the masses did in France. This was a valid fear considering that too many of the masses were made to feel the noose slip around their necks for quite petty crimes, many for stealing food.

    Elite response was the invention of schooling to control the speed at which commoners would learn to read and to control what they would read. Later reformers tried to undo some of this but cultural legacies have a tenacious grip. Separation of school and state is one way forward: .

  27. The only way that state schools are going to compete with private sector schools is to halve class sizes and reduce contact time for the teachers. This would give them the time and energy needed for the extremely demanding job of teaching. In China most teachers only teach 6 lessons a week. 12 if you are a Maths teacher. That’s why the Chinese are so good at Maths, the students spend double the time on Maths as on the other subjects. Chinese teachers would never cope with the work load of a UK teacher. Indeed, many UK teachers can’t which is why they are leaving at the rate of 40% within 5 years.

  28. I have taught in both the state and private sector. I found parents in both that were desperate for their children to do well at school. I found supportive parents in both. I found rude, irritating and pompous parents in both. I found inspirational, hard working teachers in both.
    However, in the private school, it was the school that set the curriculum and made changes that it felt necessary. The changes were not imposed by the state , the curriculum was not imposed by the state and frequent changes to it were not made by fly by night politicians, out for political glory.
    In the private school poorly behaved children were asked to leave and then made to go. Class sizes were 18-20. SEN children were frequently advised that their needs would be better met in the state sector unless their parent could pay extra for individual classroom support. The teachers that I met were trained at British teacher training institutions, just like me.

    The key differences, in my opinion, are class sizes, lack of government interference and the power and opportunity that money brings to aspirations.

    However, I have only taught in four schools, for twenty years so I feel in no place to generalise about every school in the country as my experience is limited. I am also close to leaving the profession as I feel I can not sustain this workload for much longer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>