Gove’s attack on public education is purely ideological

There has always been one asset the Conservative party has had over Labour since Margaret Thatcher’s election in 1979, and that is the sheer ruthlessness of their convictions.

James Elliott is a journalist who also writes for the Huffington Post

There has always been one asset the Conservative party has had over Labour since Margaret Thatcher’s election in 1979, and that is the sheer ruthlessness of their convictions.

While political determination is often an offshoot of ugly ideological zeal, it has served the Tories well in achieving their goals when in government.

The increasing evisceration of the British state under David Cameron may be halted in 2015, but should the Tories win another election the most fervent ideologue of them all knows exactly what trick to pull next.

A string of memos and leaks have revealed Michael Gove’s plan to convert all of Britain’s 30,000 state schools into academies, and then to allow ‘sponsors’ to operate them as for-profit commercial enterprises.

Hedge funds and venture capitalists would be able to invest into schools, supposedly to boost their performance. Schools would then compete for pupils, raising the educational standards in Gove’s libertarian panacea.

When you hear Michael Gove eventually come to defend these policies, as they are made public, he will cite Sweden as his model.

However the Institute for Public Policy Research concludes:

“In Sweden, the not-for-profit free schools performed better overall than the for-profit free schools.’ Outside of Sweden, the same IPPR report found, ‘Within many countries, schools that compete more for students tend to have higher performance, but this is often accounted for by the higher socioeconomic status of students in these schools.”

The evidence is against Gove.

Resting our copy of F.A.Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom aside for one moment, assuming we have not already graduated onto Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Michael Gove is living in a fiction. Far from being a free-market utopia of outstanding education, Gove’s plan would see standards fall and ability to pay determining quality of education. It would take Britain another step on the path to being a scarred and divided society.

It does not matter to Gove that his policies are deeply unpopular, with three quarters of those polled believing academies should not make profits. Anyone who doubts the Tories wouldn’t privatise a vital public service in the face of public opposition only needs to be reminded of three words: National Health Service.

What Jeremy Hunt is doing for our health system, Michael Gove will do to schools, but with the caveat that running schools for profit will further entrench people into the class they were born into.

If education becomes something only money can buy, then only money will buy the best, and only the richest will have access to the top-performing schools and universities.

Gove is a product of the Thatcherite revolution. The free-market ideals he opines are a product of neo-liberal think tanks such as the Institute for Economic Affairs, the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Adam Smith Institute, which the excellent site WhoFundsYou? has found to be the least transparent of such operations.

In other words, they do not want to concede they are bankrolled by big business and the City; much like the Conservative party are. Gove himself is a darling of the Tory donors, and receives more in donations than any other Tory cabinet member.

The rise of neo-liberal Toryism has relied on the intellectually shoddy arguments about free-markets that these think-tanks peddle. They and their wealthy backers have succeeded over the years in hollowing-out the Tories to the point where they are now mostly funded by the City.

It should come as no surprise that 21 academies are now under the control of the Harris Foundation, owned by Lord Harris, one of the Tories’ biggest donors, who will no doubt be able to donate more to the party if Gove lets him run the schools for profit.

Such are the results when political philosophy is replaced with electoral philanthropy, and evidence-based policy replaced with free-market ideology.

If Michael Gove wants to position himself as a future party leader, as some are suggesting, it is this sort of dogma that will impress.

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

15 Responses to “Gove’s attack on public education is purely ideological”

  1. OldLb

    At present a school is assessed as under-performing if fewer than 35% of pupils get five GCSEs at grades A* to C, including maths and English


    Very simple. If you can’t all pupils past that pathetically low target, then they have been failed. The state has screwed them.

    80,000 pounds spent on educating them, and you can’t even get them passed that standard.

    So reading your diatribe, there’s the obvious question. Where are your concerns about the kids? They don’t get a look in.

    That shows your priorities, and its not the child’s education, or you would have mentioned them,

  2. Kevin Leonard

    So reading your diatribe, there’s the obvious question. Where are your concerns about the kids? They don’t get a look in.

    That shows your priorities, and its not the child’s education, or you would have mentioned them,

    The above actually answers the question you ask as it has nothing to do with educating the children it is all about empowering the rich with the means to detach themselves from the poor whilst pretending all are equal in society.

    Gove has embarked on a privatisation programme which can only enhance the political and social divides within our society the rich shall inherit the best of teachers bought out in the annual transfer window whilst those in the lower divisions shall be cast aside into the minimum wage pool or failing that the new style poorhouse workfare apprenticeship scheme for the homeless.

  3. Lady Luck

    Pre-1997: 45% children GCSE A*- C. 2010: 76%.
    Worst performing Scandinavian education sysyem: private-equity funded system of Sweden. Mr. Gove’s favourite education system: Sweden
    Govt. minister who makes his friends and backers of the Tory party into lords so they can influence govt. education policy and benefit directly from privatising state system, whilst also donating even more to said party: M.Gove
    Political party that reduced spending on education1979-1997 resulting in statistic above: M.Gove’s party
    Minister known for shoddy sourcing of ‘factual’ information, including constant references to Far Eastern school systems where the only children who get ahead are the ones who can afford private tuition: M.Gove
    Govt. who have decimated Sure Start provision: M.Gove’s.
    Minister who has overseen removal of ‘ringfencing’ of Special Needs Funding: M.Gove
    Number of teachers made redundant since 2010: 10,000, Sec. of State M.Gove
    Number of extra school places needed within next five years: 250,000+
    Sec.of State who believes that children don’t need to be taught be a qualified teacher: M. Gove (but presumably not his own)
    End of EMA? : Yup, Gove again.
    Dramatic increase in child poverty, 600,000 by 2015, which will have an effect on educational attainment, thanks to: M.Gove’s party
    Belief that markets and risk can be good for education of children when all studies show that the opposite is true: M. Gove
    10,000 school places recently lost in which country when private equity firm pulled out of education system because it wasn’t ‘profitable’ enough?: Sweden, favourite education system of M. Gove
    Internationally best performing education system, with state-funded comprehensive model and much lower rates of child poverty and longest trained teachers in Europe: (Not Sweden) Finland
    Sec. of State who employs advisors to launch anonymous and vicious Twitter attacks on anyone with temerity to question The Master? : M. Gove
    Sec. of State with more powers than any Sec. of Sate EVER (3,000 – forty years ago it was about 5!): M. Gove
    Biggest centraliser of control of state system EVER (which was designed to be run locally, for local children and communities), suggesting Stalinist tendencies despite calling opponents Trotskeyists?: M. Gove
    What are M. Gove’s “priorities” I wonder?

  4. OldLb

    No, the article is all about teachers and the unions.

    I’ll reiterate. How can you spend 80K educating a child and not getting them past the 5 GCSE hurdle? [Bar the odd exception]

    Unless kids are educated beyond this level then pretty much all of them will be poor.

    Gove does realise that, and its his aim to stop it. I’ll give him credit for that.

    Now, what about his approach, and why are you so anti it. Let me suggest the obvious.

    1. Gove can get more spending by cutting out LA from the loop. If schools don’t have money creamed off by LA’s its a better deal.

    2. With independent schools, you can’t impose your ideology.

    3. It weakens the power of unions, who protect the bad teachers are the expense of the kids.

    With 80K being spent per child, why should anyone tolerate the failures of the educational establishment?

    On the min wage issue, the biggest problem apart from the education problem is unfettered migration. Do you need the economics 101 lesson on supply and demand and the impact on prices?

    1. 5 GCSEs need to be raised to 3 passes at A-Level.
    2. NI needs to go into a fund in your name – results in the poor having assets.
    3. Low skilled migration needs to be stopped.
    4. Teachers who fail need to be removed before they can damage any more kid’s chances.
    5. If you take your kids out of the state system, you should get half the cost as a voucher. The other half gets used for the education of those remaining. End result, more money for those remaining. If you are right, and its all about money in equals results out, then results will get better.

  5. OldLb

    24% have been failed. Now there are good schools, but that means there are truly appalling schools that bring the average down to 76%. Dire beyond belief.

    What I think we can draw from the vitriol is that Gove is certainly going after the vested interests.

    On the number of extra places? Ah yes, migration yet again. If you pull in 5 million migrants then you are going to need extra spaces. Or you help the poor and curtail low skilled migrants.

Comments are closed.