Michael Gove claims that private schools' domination of positions of power is "morally indefensible" - so why is he doing so little to encourage social cohesion?

Allan Beavis's picture
The Guardian today reports that in a speech at Brighton College, which has just been named “Independent School of the Year”, Michael Gove declared that the dominance of public schoolboys in the upper echelons of politics, business, the arts and sport was “morally indefensible”.

At first glance, his speech seemed to suggest that Gove had seen the error of his and his party’s ways and that Cameron had entrusted him to step out of the inner circle into the limelight to apologise for policies which have widened social divisions, increased child poverty, dragged us into a double dip recession, driven unemployment figures to sky high levels and forced through educational policies which clearly favour the already advantaged.

But no. All Gove did was to use the occasion to give yet another insubstantial and unconvincing extended sound bite about how his schools policies were going to
make sure that all children would reach their potential, no matter how disadvantaged their background. Implausibly claiming to believe in “social justice”, he states that “this stratification and segregation are morally indefensible."

Actually, what is morally indefensible is his party’s savaging and abandonment of the poor in this country, upon whom they have inflicted welfare cuts and the withdrawal of many vital public services and tax benefits at a time when his public school educated multi-millionaire Chancellor and Prime Minister have stubbornly pushed ahead with an austerity budget, with zero growth, which has tipped even more people into unemployment and poverty. The austerity budget has not affected the wealthy – in fact, they are the ones enjoying tax relief in Cameron’s “Big Society” in which the richest are most certainly “not in it together” with the rest of us.

If he truly believed in social justice, Gove might look at the state of the large numbers of dilapidated schools up and down the country in urgent and desperate need of renovation and maintenance, many in areas of deprivation where the children go from one unhealthy environment to another. But no – he chooses to let these schools rot, instead incentivizing schools with large cash payments to cut themselves adrift from local authorities to face an uncertain future as Academies.

Instead of spreading the depleted capital budget on saving schools from rack and ruin, he will end up giving hundreds of millions of pounds to a small number of so-called Free Schools educating a tiny minority of children, a sizeable number of which are fee paying schools “downgrading” or taking advantage of the way Gove has redefined what a state school is. How lucky for those struggling to pay the fees to have their children stay on at what has now become, literally, a free school. Quite how the local poor get into these ex-private schools remains a mystery and, in any case, survey after analysis shows that free schools are not serving the most disadvantaged.

Gove might like to put his social conscience where his mouth his and start with closing down private schools and, in one remove, dismantling the educational and social barriers that have inhibited social mobility for decades. But he won’t do this because the very foundations of the Tory party – built for, paid by and to sustain the pillars of wealth, privilege and hierarchy - would crumble.

His speech wasn’t really about private schools’ contribution to maintaining an unjust society. I suspect that what he is doing is pointing a vaguely unflattering light on private schools so that, when we realise more and more of them are sponsoring (or interfering with) Academies and Free Schools we should doff our caps and feel grateful that our betters have condescended to sort out the “mess” that is our “broken” state school system.

Morally indefensible also is Gove’s unpleasant and barely concealed attack on those he would no doubt dismiss as “Trots” –such as the entire editorship of the Guardian, the BBC, left-wing commentators such as George Monbiot, Seamus Milne and Laurie Penney, all of whom have been a constant and painful thorn in the side of Gove and the shared ideology of his cabinet and party cronies. Yes, they were privately educated (as are some in the Labour party, which he gleefully and foot-shootingly points out) but, admirably, they also want to challenge the system and the status quo of inherited privilege.

The whiff of hypocrisy doesn’t pervade these writers or anyone else born to greater privilege who campaigns for greater social equality. The hypocrisy is Gove’s, for shedding crocodile tears for the poor and helpless that his own party is casually and coldly pushing over into social oblivion. Get ready for the Tory condemnation of the young who will riot in years to come, the explosion of a lost generation of both educated and uneducated people who may never work. They will blame bad schools, bad parents, bad gangs but it will be their policies which separate master from servant, rich from poor that will force the excluded from society onto burning streets, so they can grab a little of what has been denied them and been handed over willingly to the included.

Instead of a speech which fetishises public school boys (where are the privately educated girls? Don’t they count in Gove’s social landscape, or are they as insignificant as Nadine Dorries’ contributions in the House?), Gove might like to present some concrete evidence or even argument that his policies have some chance of increasing attainment and social mobility in this country when his high stakes, test driven, discipline-heavy, punitive measures have failed elsewhere.

He would do well to justify his support of social justice when he has given the green light for grammar schools to open up “satellite” schools in areas like Kent so that a few more people can exercise their democratic “choice” by disposing some of their income on preparing their children from age 5 on how to navigate their way round an 11+ paper, thereby negating the chances of a child from a family whose priority is to just put bread and tap water on the table.

Instead of focusing on an already “posh” sport – cricket – in a futile attempt to evidence that sport is similarly dominated by private schoolboys, Gove might like to ponder, then articulate the truth, that footballers don’t tend to bray “Yah” when they score a goal. Instead of pretending the arts and culture is brimming over with Chris Martins, he should educate himself and learn that the music industry is, in fact, populated by artists whose parents didn’t pay for their schooling – Adele, Jessie J, Professor Green. The arts has always been historically much more radical and inclusive – talent and originality count there for a lot more than whether you were born with the burden of a silver spoon in your mouth. Or silverplated, in Gove’s case.

Like so many of his type, he’s best left to pandering to the egos and bolstering interests of people like Rupert Murdoch and the ruling class. He lacks the vision, talent or originality of the great people – private or state educated - who challenge his party’s ideology.
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Paul Reeve's picture
Fri, 11/05/2012 - 08:45

And here's what one head has to say.....


Adrian Elliott's picture
Fri, 11/05/2012 - 13:44

And here’s what one head has to say…..


I loved his comments until I realised half way down he was a Leeds United supporter - still can't have everything.

Paul Reeve's picture
Fri, 11/05/2012 - 16:06

As this is what he believes...

'I believe in free education for all children regardless of background, 'intelligence' or wealth. I saw the damage done to society by selecting (and thus rejecting other) children at age 11. I believe everyone can succeed and be valued wherever they come from. I believe in the concept of a great local school attended by every local child. I believe a school should welcome any child who wants to come and then do its damnedest to keep him/her - whatever the challenges presented to us.'........... I am prepared to overlook that!

andy's picture
Fri, 11/05/2012 - 18:00

Gove's statement and the setting are equally as disingenuous as Wilshire's. Gove says one thing and does another. Wilshire comes out with more aggressive rhetoric but this wrapped in barbed loathesome self-pity of the worst kind. No-one has had stress unless its the same as his and his families circumstances - really! Teaching isn't a stressful profession unless you've had it as bad as he has, my heart bleeds for him. Sir Michael for goodness sake grow up and do the mature thing. Use your personal experiences and deep seated motivation to acknowledge the challenges faced by society - that's parents and children Sir Michael - to address the situation positively and lead through role modelling in a rigorous supportive way. That is to say stop doing the profession down and help lure it to higher attainment and accountablility.

By the way Sir Michael, the 1.5 million youngsters who are unemployed are by no means products of disengaged learners let down by their teachers. They include: (1) well qualified youngsters who cannot get a job because the government has driven us into double dip recession and has slashed and burned its way through 000s of jobs, (2) graduates who can't find work, and lets not forget (3) youngsters whose parents let them down from an early age. If you don't believe me look at the statistics from various sources - not the least being the on-going analysis of people involved in the riots of 2011 and the comments of a "top government advisor" on a BBC news thread today who blamed poor parenting for the inability of 5 yo children to learn.

To use an old saying, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 12/05/2012 - 07:48

'Britain was "squandering our greatest asset, our children" because they were not achieving their potential. The coalition's education reforms were helping a more schools prove "destination need not be destiny", Gove said.'

Pretty much all of what Gove had to say was a statement of the blindingly obvious.

Social cohesion has been ignored for too long:

'New Labour’s political economy centred on attempting to reconcile economic efficiency and social justice. But other social market objectives such as social harmony, stability and democracy barely featured'


In Labour's years in office we should have done more to protect the "squeezed middle". Our neighbourhoods, too, need protection from powerful interests.... New Labour sought a dynamic economy.....we should have done more to build a country on our values of responsibility, fairness and social cohesion.


'From 1999 to 2009, net migration to the United Kingdom added 2 million people to the total population........ increase in the foreign-born population over recent years, from 3.8 million in 1993 to 6.5 million in 2010, amounting to 12 percent of the United Kingdom’s population.....The unauthorized resident population has been estimated at 618,000, or around 10 percent of the foreign-born population. This proportion has been judged higher than those in comparable EU countries such as Germany and France.......

There has been insufficient attention paid to planning for and understanding the changing characteristics and movement of new arrivals.......


Education spending has been high but ineffective. Throwing good money after bad, without reform, would be misguided and, in the current economic climate, unfeasible:

'Despite significant increases in spending on child care and education during the last decade, PISA scores suggest that educational performance remains static......

Given the austere fiscal outlook, improvements have to come from higher efficiency rather than further spending.

Unequal educational outcomes partly reflect a complex, multi–layered and poorly functioning deprivation funding system for primary and secondary schools in England.

The implicit compensation for disadvantaged students that the government provides to local authorities is only partially spent on disadvantaged schools and students. This mismatch partly reflects the complexity of the funding system.

One way to ensure that schools spend deprivation funds on the disadvantaged student is to improve user choice for these students.....

Locally maintained schools should have the same opportunities for hiring staff and negotiating wages as academies and Free Schools.....

Entry of new schools should be encouraged even if it temporarily creates some excess capacity.....

Decisions on opening new schools should rely on the quality of the business plan and should not be left to local authorities but to another appropriate body.'


High levels of taxation reduce revenue, and thus resources available for redistribution:

“Nor should the argument seem strange that taxation may be so high as to defeat its object, and that, given sufficient time to gather the fruits, a reduction of taxation will run a better chance than an increase of balancing the budget.

1933 Essay: The Means to Prosperity, section I: The nature of the problem, p338, The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes, Macmillan Cambridge University Press, 1972

Closing private schools will not benefit the less well off.

State funding would simply be spread over a larger number of schools/pupils

'Independent schools have the freedom that the government is championing via its free schools and academies policies, and they are exercising it with flair and impact: whether it's hosting joint lessons or seconding staff to neighbouring schools; or holding open sports' coaching sessions; or providing work experience for disengaged 14- to 16-year-olds; or running collaborative workshops for everything from creative writing and singing to science experiments.'


The excellence of private education is more than just academic:

'Just 7% of the English population are educated privately, but half the UK's gold medallists at the last Olympics went to independent schools'


Football is a relatively minor sport in private schools, no doubt due to the unflattering image its role models enjoy:

'It seems everybody does it – so that’s all right, then. Come on, Gary. Times may have changed – but on what date were the rules of the game rewritten? When did shirt pulling become legal? When did the rule governing obstruction get deleted from the book?

Football is almost a non-contact sport without having to put up with Swan Lake impressions from £200,000-a-week drama queens.'


The whole country knows what footballers shout when they score:


But the players represent a significant part of the nation's filthy rich:

'David Beckham is the highest ranking active player, with an estimated wealth of £100 million, a figure which dwarves that of all of his contemporaries.

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney has dropped out of the top five wealthiest players, with his estimated worth plummeting from £37 million to £25 million

Overtaking Rooney and completing the top five players are Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United, £34m), Sol Campbell (Newcastle United, £31m) and Ryan Giggs (Manchester United, £27m)'.

However the Football Association's roots lie in private schools:

'From the early 19th Century, matches were first played on the pitches, playgrounds and cloisters of England’s public schools, but Eton’s way of playing would differ to Harrow’s, theirs to Winchester’s, to Charterhouse'


Michael Gove is an energetic and well intentioned education secretary.

'Michael Gove is the unexpected star of the coalition's first 21 months.'


The verdict of the electorate on his education reforms in 2015 should prove interesting.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 12/05/2012 - 23:22

If Michael Gove is the star of the coalition, then it has to be said that the competition is hardly distinguished. Osborne has presided over an economic policy of no growth and dragged us into a double dip recession - two years on, the government can't seriously expect an impoverished electorate to still blame Labour when they've have had enough time to start improving the eceonomy. Theresa May can't get a grip on passport control or deportation; Lansley has been busy privatising the health service to line the pockets of profit making companies; Jeremy Hunt is looking like the kind of toast Murdoch will spit out of his mouth at breakfast; Cameron seems to have nothing better to do than pretend he isn't too posh to eat pasties; Clegg has sold his party's principles down the river in a Faustian pact that threatens to obliterate the Lib Dems.

"Given the austere fiscal outlook, improvements have to come from higher efficiency rather than further spending." Quite right too - so why has Gove been spending on coercing schools into Academization and bunging hundreds of millions at Free School projects when thousands of schools up and down the country are facing severe cuts in unhealthy, crumbling buildings? His incompetence and lack of radical vision is evident in the fact that his school policies are inspired by and modelled on, American charter schools - a vastly expensive and largely inefficient, as well as ineffective programme that has not improved American education across the board. In the 20 years since Charters were introduced, the United States PISA rankings remain pretty much the same somewhere in the middle and nowhere near the top. Given this unremarkable "achievement", it beggars belief that our Secretary of State for Education chooses to gamble precious billions on aping a system that has largely failed. KIPP, NCZ, the "miracles" of New Orleans and New York are not representative of charters, which underperform when compared to regular schools by over 80%.

The last time the Tories were in power, Thatcher here and Reagan in America set in motion the unfettered free market values that have led to the economic and social catastophes that have impacted so catastrophically on this and future generations. They did not have the benefit of hindsight. We do now - and so should Gove - so I suspect that, by 2015, he may well see his legacy thrown onto the Bonfire of the Vanities.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 13/05/2012 - 06:44

There aren't many distinguished politicians around these days, are there?

'Ed Balls has outlined a new economic for policy which includes accepting the Government’s spending plans (and cuts) for the next parliament.

The argument for Labour must therefore centre on where and how we would cut, rather than whether we should at all.........

An acknowledgment that we did not spend every taxpayer’s pound well when we were in Government would be a good start.

This all means that we cannot repackage old thinking and reasoning........

We must be truthful with the public that in choosing Labour it will not be a couple of years of pain followed by years of growth and government spending.

If there was a Labour Government now times would be hard.

If we win the next election they will be hard, but we should (and will) say how we will make life that bit easier for ordinary man and woman.'



'Under her premiership, public spending grew at a healthy average of 1.1 per cent a year..... only in two years did public spending actually fall in real terms: 1985/6 and 1988/9. Even then she planned to freeze spending, not cut. It only fell because of lower than expected social security outlays.'


andy's picture
Sat, 12/05/2012 - 10:40

I can't find the original BBC tag I referred to but here is an article from the Independent:


Fiona Millar's picture
Sat, 12/05/2012 - 13:37

Great post Allan. I don't know any serious academics or charities working in this field who don't believe that the Tories will leave a larger proportion of children living in poverty than they inherited. That is the legacy by which Gove and his mates will be judged by.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 12/05/2012 - 15:38

Well, if they don't, I'm sure any incoming Prime Minister worth his salt will, as usual, simply change the prevailing definition of poverty to suit:

'How we define poverty is critical to political, policy and academic debates about the concept. It is bound up with explanations and has implications for solutions.

Value judgements are involved.

Definition thus has to be understood as a political as well as a social scientific act and as such has often been the source of controversy.

In addition to items connected with basic nutrition, clothing and shelter, well over half of those questioned in the 1999 British Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) Survey and in a follow-up Northern Ireland Study defined as necessities items such as a refrigerator, washing machine and telephone and activities such as celebrations on special occasions, visiting friends or family and a hobby or leisure pastime (Gordon et al., 2000a; Hillyard et al., 2003).

While more ‘luxury’ items such as videos and home computers were considered necessities by only a minority, the proportion defining them so had increased since a similar survey in 1990.

Absolute poverty is characterized as ‘severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information’ and is related to ‘access to social services’ as well as income (UN, 1995: para. 19).

It is distinguished from, but is also part of, a much broader notion of ‘overall poverty’ that refers to ‘the total number of people living in poverty in a country’ (Langmore,2000: 36).

The definition of ‘overall poverty’ is, in fact, as much a conceptualization, expressed through a list of manifestations of poverty.

These range from ‘lack of income and productive resources sufficient to ensure sustainable livelihoods’ through ‘increased morbidity and mortality from illness’ to ‘social discrimination and exclusion’ and ‘lack of participation in decision-making and in civil, social and cultural life’ (UN, 1995: para. 19).


Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 12/05/2012 - 22:44

I'm sure that the hundreds of thousands of newly impoverished families and children as result of this government's incompetent and divisive policies will be both fascinated and comforted to read how finely nuanced "poverty" can be. In their experience it will be defined as starving, freezing and homelessness. Not much conceptualization there. And no hope whatsoever of getting into a private school, grammar school or even the stability of a local school because your economic downturn has forced you to move away from what you thought was your local community.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 13/05/2012 - 06:30

Recessions cause a great deal of misery.

No recent UK government has had a monopoly of incompetence and divisiveness:

'Despite significant increases in spending on child care and education during the last decade, PISA scores suggest that educational performance remains static……

Unequal educational outcomes partly reflect a complex, multi–layered and poorly functioning deprivation funding system for primary and secondary schools in England
The implicit compensation for disadvantaged students that the government provides to local authorities is only partially spent on disadvantaged schools and students.

This mismatch partly reflects the complexity of the funding system.'

OECD report referenced above.

'The World Bank’s estimate of the total tax rate for 183 countries ranked the UK 67th. The World Economic Forum says 83 countries have tax systems that create fewer disincentives than Britain’s.'


Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 13/05/2012 - 09:03

Tim – you are correct that the UK does particularly badly with disadvantaged children and OECD cited "poorly functioning deprivation funding" as a cause. OECD publications have suggested several ways in which disadvantaged pupils can be helped – these are highlighted below. The Pupil Premium is a step in the right direction. However, OECD warned that Government policies, while theoretically extending choice (which in any case is not necessarily linked with raised achievement), risks having a negative impact on disadvantaged children.





Tim, your second piece of evidence is an opinion piece two years old recommending the slashing of corporation tax. It's unclear how a reduction in corporation tax would reduce what OECD described as "the complexity of the [education] funding system".

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 13/05/2012 - 10:12

Paradoxically, and unfortunately, reducing the complexity of the current (education) funding system will require extra expenditure, in the short term.

Growth is required to provide that funding.

A reduction in Corporation tax will enhance economic growth.

It really is that simple.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 13/05/2012 - 14:07

I think that in the two years it has been in power, the present government has demonstrated a level of incompetence, as well as arrogance and naked self preservation at the cost of social cohesion that has not been seen in decades. Michael Gove needs to examine the conduct of his cabinet mates and draw up a crib sheet and let us know what he can find in their behaviour he would deem "morally indefensible". His own conduct in the two years he has held his position has been more dubious than is befitting a Secretary of State for Education, but no doubt he will explain himself when the time comes to the Information Comissioner over private emails and to Leveson Inquiry over his cosy chit chats with Murdoch and his lieutenants. Perhaps this outburst over morals is to pre-empt what is waiting to come out, an early plea that he is a scrupulous man, no matter what future investigations may conclude about him. Cameron really can't afford to have more than one Minister taking a bullet for him.

andy's picture
Sun, 13/05/2012 - 14:13

Allan, I agree with your overview. Whether by accident or design or there but for the grace of, Osborne has managed to retain the nations AAA rating which is the only saving grace of his chancellorship.

Efficiency savings and reducing the welfare state bill are sytrategies that most understand and accept but the rampant unthinking slash and burn approach is abhorred by many because it is targeted on the weakest and most vulnerable in society. Nowhere have I seen any evidence of corporate businesses stepping up and paying their fair share (e.g. Vodafone, Debenhams and Amazon UK who legally evade paying the appropriate level of corporation tax on their turnover). I have yet to see the publicly funded MP pensions package reviewed and brought in line with the proposals tabled for all other public sector pensions. I have yet to see MPs have a wage cut or imposed medium term pay freeze. I have yet to see the taxpayer subsidised catering stopped. I have yet to see MPs pay VAT on their drinks.

It is very easy for Gove to strand and attack the indefensible simply as an attention grabbing piece of rhetoric but then absolutely damn all about it. Needless to say the executives of the corporate companies who dodge their full tax liabilities receive significant salaries and, yes, send their children to private school.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 13/05/2012 - 13:52

It isn't as simple as reducing Corporation Tax. Its about an economic policy that manages the deficit whilst at the same time stimulating growth and employment. What Osborne has done for two years is impose an austerity budget which has hit the most vulnerable and offering them and the economy no chance of kick starting. The wealthiest at the other end of the spectrum, of course, are largely untouched by austeritry - Osborne is not increasing their taxation one iota - so they are continuing to send their children to private schools whilst the majority suffer, safe in the knowledge that after school and Oxbridge, their offspring will ease comfortably into the role of dominating in industry, politics, the media and so on the very people who suffered so painfully under the policies of this current government. This is what Gove meant when he said the advantages of a private school education were "morally indefensible". Its nice that Gove acknowledges it but impotent rhetoric solves nothing apart from guarantee him some flag waving headlines. He has the power to actually do something to fast track social mobility, but he won't.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 13/05/2012 - 17:27

'Needless to say the executives of the corporate companies who dodge their full tax liabilities receive significant salaries and, yes, send their children to private school'

If you send the names of the individuals and companies concerned to the relevant authorities, I'm sure they will be dealt with according to the law's full rigour.

I look forward to seeing what proportion of these contemptible, tax evading, criminals are generous enough to provide a private education for their children.

'Its about an economic policy that manages the deficit whilst at the same time stimulating growth and employment.'

Of course and indeed easy to say.

Less easy, though, to implement with an uncompetitive tax regime, grotesque levels of public spending, a massive structural deficit and our most important overseas marketplace in the grip of a serious economic recession.

Two years is a short space of time to address problems of that magnitude.

Our much envied democratic system will give the electorate a chance to make a fair assessment in due course.

andy's picture
Sun, 13/05/2012 - 18:19

Tim, with respect you should not confuse legal tax avoidance and illegal tax 'evasion'. The classic profile is that the big corporations operate in the host country but have their Head Office and Corporate Finance operation registered in a tax haven (e.g. the Cayman Islands). In this way they legally minimise the tax liability in the host country. It is a well known strategy that the previous government and now this one singularly fail to close. The latest example is Amazon UK - not the name - whose UK operational Head Office is registered overseas (Switzerland comes to mind). They also claim to be a service based UK provider and ship all their wares from outside the strict UK territories (e.g. Channel Islands etc) and in this way do not accrue corporation tax on their UK generated sales revenue. No politician is willing to close the loop holes. But this government did implement retrospective changes to social security benefits such as employment and support allowance and housing benefits. This government is willing to employ approx 2000 extra HMRC personnel to chase those people employing au pairs whom they pay cash in hand, and to chase down people not properly declaring their second homes and rental from them when not in use by the owner. Doesn't that seem odd to you, it does to me. I recall last year - though can't remember the source to cite it, but it may have been at least one of the major papers, that the lost tax revenue from the major corporations was estimated at some £15-20 billion per annum.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 13/05/2012 - 19:12

The beggars!

Maybe we should consider measures to restore the UK to our position in 1996, when the UK’s corporation tax rate was joint fifth lowest in the OECD, so that these corporations no longer need to take such measures?

andy's picture
Sun, 13/05/2012 - 20:07

Oh, yes, the beggars! Just as your response to the reality of the situation beggars belief. Even if corporation tax was reduced by 10% these companies would still be ripping this country off by £13-18 billion. Fact is that neither Labour nor the Coalition has the gumption or political backbone to remedy the situation of massive tax loopholes but they do have the brass neck to rip off their own citizens through levels of austerity that aren't necessary.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 13/05/2012 - 21:37

Keep your hair on, old boy!

Have you written to your M.P. ?

Here's some other top tips for you to include in your letter:

The Government can improve its financial and business management to:

Save up to £8.5 billion per annum by bringing public sector fraud prevention and detection rates in line with the private sector;

Save up to £10.2 billion per year by improving cash management in Government. This includes reducing levels of aged and written off debt and improving working capital management to repairs its balance sheet;

Reform areas of spending under pressure from demographic change, such as welfare and health, and examine further asset sales, including infrastructure, to reduce the UK’s net liabilities and achieve budget surpluses in the next Parliament;

Target a public sector productivity growth rate of at least 0.3 per cent this year by improving flexibility and accelerating reform of the workforce and capital spending. Government must press ahead with reducing the public sector headcount and transferring workers to mutuals, but ensure this is sustainable with improvements to skills and capability;

Increase the proportion of locally-raised council spending year on year and improve financial management skills at the local level to support the move of service delivery to the local level.

andy's picture
Sun, 13/05/2012 - 21:56

:) So between closing the legal loopholes and the measures you identify the government could easily reverse its public image and go a long way to placating the 99%.

PS Yes, I've written to my MP and to both Cameron and Osborne

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 14/05/2012 - 09:34

Tim - so many statistics! Sorry to be a bore but could you provide links to the evidence. And could you explain how exactly "productivity" is measured in the public sector - the number of bed pans emptied per hour, perhaps, or how many fires are extinguished (and how quickly), or the number of children who don't arrive at school hungry?

You said above that a reduction in Corporation Tax would stimulate growth and remarked it "really is that simple". Anyone who thinks the answer is that simple hasn't grasped the complexity of the situation.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 14/05/2012 - 10:11

But Janet, it more or less is that simple.

If you tax smoking, you discourage it.

If you tax leaded petrol, you discourage it.

If you tax enterprise...................... (join the dots).

But all this is rather o/t. The problem with this thread (and Fiona's too) is the false assumption that Gove thought private schools were morally indefensible.

Wrong. The independent schools do an excellent job - particularly for the less well-off kids that attend them on bursaries. No barriers to social mobility there.

It's the failure of the state sector that's morally indefensible.

Tim Bidie's picture
Mon, 14/05/2012 - 13:42

Janet - You are never a bore! Stop that whole self hating thing! ONS occasionally measures productivity in the Public Sector. Just when you thought it was you alone with your bedpan, up pops the bean counter!

Evidence (more punishment!) here:


I believe that I said cuts in Corporation Tax 'will enhance' growth. Probably, to be pedantic, I should have said 'Most sensible economists agree that reductions in corporation tax are, on balance, a great deal more likely than not to enhance growth over the longer term' but I knew you would get the gist anyway, because that's the kind of girl you are!

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 14/05/2012 - 18:03

There is no false assumption in this or Fiona Millar's posts - it is patently clear that Gove says the impact of private schools is bad for social cohesion because of "stratification and segregation" . This is what he finds morally indefensible. What my post challenges is his and his party's own morally indefensible conduct. On the one hand we have the Secretary for Education rousing the troops in a top private school, lamenting about his belief in social justice; on the other we have him and his cabinet ministers driving up unemployment, cutting tax benefits to the poor, amputating the lifeline of public services, introducing a two-tier system of state education, dragging the country into a double dip recession whilst rewarding and further enriching bankers, the wealthy and media barons. This is gross hypocrisy, yet this government still does not understand that the electorate has cottoned on to their little schemes and are mighty fed up with it, which is why both Lib Dems and Conservatives were trounced in the local elections.

Private schools may well do an excellent job for the financially advantaged who attend them, but they educate a tiny minority of children. It is risible that you make the feeble attempt to argue that private school help less well off kids on bursaries. Would you care to share what percentage this actually is? Is ir around 0.002%? A little more? 2%? 5% even? Whatever the figure is, it is negligible. In other words bursaries for poor kids make zero impact on social mobility.

What is coming from the government and its supporters on a range of issues from education to the economy, from collusion with News International to the NHS is a barely disguised desperation at how quickly and how damagingly their term in office is unravelling. It's all about damage limitation and you really are not helping one bit!

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 14/05/2012 - 15:57

Tim - thanks for the info re ONS. I found the details re education and ONS link sproductivity in education with inputs, outputs and results in GCSEs and standard tests

Being a non-statistician, my eyes start to swivel when I read about "capital services", "goods" and so on in relation to education. However, the stats raise the question of whether something that can't be measured objectively is equally valuable (or even more valuable) than the things that can only be measured. Education is more than getting pupils to pass tests (this would be an interesting thread in its own right).

"Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted." (attributed to Einstein).


The ONS background notes explain how to interpret the data - and, no, I don't understand the methodology.


Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 14/05/2012 - 16:45

Tim - you link above to a report co-authored by Reform and Deloitte. Reform is committed to “liberalising the public sector, breaking monopoly and extending choice” and is in favour of bringing private sector involvement into education. Reform was also a co-author of the Schools Network report on academies discussed here:


The Telegraph reported in February 2012 that Deloitte was under investigation over Rover. The firm profited from the financial crisis and the Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) will began deliberations in December 2011 as to whether it should investigate Deloitte who was the former auditor of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).




Tim Bidie's picture
Mon, 14/05/2012 - 16:58

Yes, the collapse of the Rover Car company was not the last Labour Government's finest hour:

'more than 6,000 MG Rover employees who lost their jobs when the firm collapsed into administration in April 2005 with debts greater than £1bn.

This was a pathetic end for the last British-owned volume car manufacturer.

I am told that what is striking about the report is that there is no serious attempt to place Rover's demise into the context of the woes of the wider industry.

And some may be surprised that a report - which took more than four years to produce and has cost £16m of taxpayers money - contains no serious criticism of government, even though what was then called the Department of Trade and Industry, and is now called the Business Department, was intimately involved in attempts to save MG Rover.

In particular, the circumstances have always been murky surrounding a decision by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation of China not to pursue a rescue takeover of MG Rover in the spring of 2005. At the time, SAIC was insisting that the British government provide a temporary £100m loan to MG Rover to guarantee its solvency.


Emma Bishton's picture
Mon, 14/05/2012 - 20:23

Going back a bit in this post, I think it will be interesting to see what kind of cohesion there is in due course between those private schools who are sponsoring academies (or free schools), and the academies they are linked to.

The Seckford Foundation, for example, is seeking to establish four 11-16 free schools in rural Suffolk. It has no choice but to provide information on salary scales etc for those staff it seeks to employ in the free schools, should they open. But it has just refused to provide any information about the salary scales used in its independent school, Woodbridge School - and such information is not on adverts for teaching staff at Woodbridge School either. Their response was:

"The Seckford Foundation will not disclose any information concerning its employment terms and conditions of its employees nor any scales we may use. For future reference I ought to make it clear that the Foundation will not respond to freedom of information requests of any type as we are not bound by the legislation."

So, given that the head of Woodbridge School is reputed to be on £210K per year, yet the salary for the principal-designate for its four free schools (each will also have a head) was advertised as nearer £90K, one can only assume that similar differentials exist elsewhere in the staffing structure - and without transparency, there is nothing to refute this. Paying teachers more is of course a good thing. But paying more in one school than another seems to me a strange position for the Foundation to put themselves in as an employer. Whilst social cohesion in general is clearly not their aim, it seems strange that they pursue a practice that is not likely to promote cohesion even within their own schools.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 09:36


You may bandy about terms like 'transparency' all you like, but the fact remains that you have no more right to know the salary of the head of Woodbridge School than News International has the right to know the contents of your voicemail.

The fact that you find it all odd that the head of a private, fee-charging, profit-making school school might earn more than the head of a school paid for by the taxpayer speaks volumes.

As does your frankly bizarre conflation of equality and cohesion. There are plenty of organizations where people are not equally rewarded but where cohesion is high. The Army springs to mind.

Arsinh's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 16:45

Just a correction on your 'profit-making school' line.


The reason why Seckford are opening all these Free Schools is to provide a new income stream for their business.

Tim Bidie's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 12:06

'We live in a profoundly unequal society.

More than almost any developed nation ours is a country in which your parentage dictates your progress.

Those who are born poor are more likely to stay poor and those who inherit privilege are more likely to pass on privilege in England than in any comparable county.

For those of us who believe in social justice this stratification and segregation are morally indefensible.'


The success of private schools in this country is a symptom, not a cause, of two things:

A state system deemed inadequate by at least 30% of parents nationwide

Britain's continued, albeit uneven, prosperity.

It can be argued that certain systems and levels of remuneration are far too generous, particularly within parts of the financial sector and association football.

However, even if the whole private educational sector was closed down, massive inequality would still remain in the state educational sector as a result of property prices in certain postcodes all over the country.

The idea that you improve the lot of the entire nation by closing down some of its most successful schools, that make no claim on the state, is, frankly, perverse.

Much more likely, as the Education Secretary goes on to remark, that improvement will come through emulating success rather than destroying it:

'If we want more children to enjoy these advantages and opportunities, we have to look at what characterises these successful schools.

And the most important lessons will not come as a surprise to you here - the schools which close the attainment gap.....do what Brighton College does.'

Ultimately, if your goal is the destruction of private education, nothing (since we live in a democracy and there are no votes in higher taxes) will achieve that more quickly than a brilliant, thriving state sector.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 12:45

If Gove wanted to emulate success, then why he is importing a failed system from America and Sweden? He would do better emulating Finland, where there are no private schools, no segregation, no selection, just realy autonomy, committed and well paid teachers who are not battered by the government. But then Finland had the will and commitment to establish a more just and equal society by taking steps in to the 1980s to eradicate poverty and ensure a more equal distribution of wealth.

Of all parties in the UK, it is the Tory's recent records that show under its administration, the income gap grows wider, poverty increases and the wealthy get wealthier and the poor get poorer.

Gove and his cronies make politically convenient speeches about social justice to appease an electorate increasingly disillusioned with their divisive policies but they lack the will to promote a more equal society because that goes totally against the grain of what the Conservatives are about, which is maintaining class divisions, social hierarchy and drawing a very firm line between master and servant. Private schools are a very potent symbol of social segregation right from the start and are thus central to what keeps the Conservative ideology ticking. This is what makes Gove’s speech in Brighton College so hypocritical and cynical. And if he were really so committed to social justice and, he would do something about removing the influence of private schools which he himself says are a negative impact on social mobility. He won’t do it because he and his party are solely concerned with protecting privilege and unfettered free markets at the cost of impoverishing further the most needy and vulnerable.

Around the world, schools which close the achievement gap are to be found in nations with no selection or segregation so private schools like Brighton College cannot claim to be a good or a viable model. What is certain is that state schools need much more resources if they are raise attainment. If only all state schools had the playing fields, small classroom sizes, well paid teachers, gyms, music rooms, instruments, books, study rooms, labs that Eton or Brighton has. Until they do - and the Tories have slashed spending on education – private schools will always get better results. Gove talks about his “radical reforms”. There is nothing radical about them – they are deeply conservative. If he wants to be true radical and shows that he is as committed to social justice as he would like us to believe, he would remove barriers to social mobility from primary school onwards, from within private school and state schools.

This isn't really about a democratic system which offers private schools as a lifestyle choice. It is about Gove and his cabinet cronies pretending to have a great social conscience but, despite having the power to prove it, implement policies which widen the equality gap.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 13:16

Tim - you say that the state system is deemed inadequate by at least 30% of parents nationwide. However, you don't provide evidence for this figure. It's not good enough to spout stats without saying where they came from.

The Poverty Site, using data (updated April 2011) from the Home Office Citizenship Survey found that 10% of people in the most deprived fifth of small areas said they were very or fairly dissatisfied with schools. This compared with about 6% in other areas. Both figures are a long way short of your "at least 30%". However, if you have a link to a reliable source of data please provide it.


Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 13:29

"If Gove wanted to emulate success, then why he is importing a failed system from America and Sweden?"

It think it's because there were quite a few people in organisations called 'think tanks' who had no relevant experience who thought it might be a good idea who met a group of anarchic libertarians in the Tory party (see for example 'The Plan' by Douglas Carswell and Daniel Hannan)... and suddenly a bubble of confidence in policies which had no foundation in coherent logic or exemplified reality (and were in fact warned against by both parties) was created.

The barrier to this dangerous bubble expanding further was all the consultative and representative bodies in education. But Michael Gove knew that they were all stupid and ignorant and he must be right because they were the people who had failed to make every poorly funded, overcrowded and under-resourced state school in a challenging area produce the results which Mossbourne academy generates with its amazing buildings, selectively ambitious intake, incredible levels of staffing and resource and it's ability to poach the best teachers and students from all the other schools. So Michael Gove got rid of or systematically ignored us all leaving the way clear for the incredibly rapid expansion of this ludicrously ignorant bubble.

Do you think this sums it up Allan? Anyone else?

Tim Bidie's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 18:25

I have responded with references but the response has disappeared.

I refer you to my posts on 'what do parents really think of our schools'.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 16/05/2012 - 08:12

Tim - your posts on "What do parents really think of our schools" refer to number of children educated privately (7%), number of children receiving home tuition, school catchment areas and property prices, and grade inflation. The posts contained no data on satisfaction with state schools. You asserted that that "at least 30% of parents" think the state system is inadequate. Home Office figures dispute this. However, if you have references to reliable data which deals with satisfaction levels (and not something unconnected) then please provide it.


Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 12:31

"so why is he doing so little to encourage social cohesion?"

I think that many of our politicians, including Michael Gove, have little practical experience of what social cohesion is, of how communities are built, nurtured and empowered and of why it matters that the forces of social cohesion and community exist and are valued.

Tim Bidie's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 18:31

OK. So, for example, in a socially cohesive nation like, say, Finland, which came first, social cohesion or excellence in education?

An honest question.

I have no idea what the answer is.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 19:39

Finland eradicated poverty and social inequality first, so that deprivation was never going to be a problem at school age for the population. What the present UK government are doing is increasing poverty and widening inequality, so lddeprivation now becomes an even more problem to be tackled in schools. This is the crux of the matter - Gove bleats about social injustice but he and his Tory chums do nothing about it.

Tim Bidie's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 19:58

Evidence please!

eJD8owE1's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 22:25

"Finland has eradicated poverty". Or not.

For example, see http://www.sosiaalipoliittinenyhdistys.fi/Ritakallio.pdf

• Huge increase in income differentials
• Extent of poverty 1990-2010 has rather decreased than increased

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 20:06

The evidence, Tim, is in the public domain, easily accessible and universally acknowleged. You might like to google Pasi Sahlberg and find the evidence via his work and research.

Tim Bidie's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 20:25

Splendid response!

Is that the same Sahlberg I quoted an hour or so ago but the comment was pulled!

'an even more problem to be tackled'

I get it! You are Pasi Sahlberg!

Tim Bidie's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 22:34

To quote the estimable Janet:

'Tim – ........Sorry to be a bore but could you provide links to the evidence. And could you explain how exactly “productivity” is measured in the public sector – the number of bed pans emptied per hour, perhaps, or how many fires are extinguished (and how quickly), or the number of children who don’t arrive at school hungry?

Tim – you say that the state system is deemed inadequate by at least 30% of parents nationwide. However, you don’t provide evidence for this figure. It’s not good enough to spout stats without saying where they came from.'

Aussie rules! No worries.

It seems Finland has profited from the import of ideas from the educational systems of the U.S. and Sweden.

Herewith some of the Sahlberg quotes I used earlier:

'First, part of Finland’s success has stemmed from studying other education systems. Since the birth of public education in the 1860s educational ideas and models from Germany and Sweden shaped Finnish education system and policies.'

Education ideas from the United States have played an especially significant role since the 1980s. In fact, I am one of the domestic messengers who imported great American educational innovation, including cooperative learning, to Finland.

The Finnish model works well with highly qualified, highly paid teachers.

However the Finnish matriculation is closely matched to PISA assessment criteria:

'This skeptical group argues that chosen measurement methodologies in current international tests favor Finland because they match better with the culture of teaching in Finland. These include both Finnish and foreign scientists and experts. Recently, Harvard professor Howard Gardner told his audience in Finland that it is wise to treat these student assessment studies with caution.'

Finland is a homogeneous society with extremely low levels of immigration.

Finnish society is also firmly based around the nuclear family with a strong education in the home ethic.

Britain however has moved towards the Engels conjecture of the family after 'the impending overthrow of capitalist production':

'When these people are in the world, they will care precious little what anybody today thinks they ought to do; they will make their own practice and their corresponding public opinion about the practice of each individual – and that will be the end of it.'

I wish you all good fortune in conjuring 'social cohesion' out of that.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 22:42

Would you have been happier if I had said virtually eradicated poverty? Your tendency to pose as the forensic bore reminds me of Tokyo Nambu.

Tim Bidie's picture
Wed, 16/05/2012 - 06:38

Tetchiness is generally a sign of being on the wrong side of the argument.

'Pasi Sahlberg goes out of his way to emphasize that his book Finnish Lessons is not meant as a how-to guide for fixing the education systems of other countries. All countries are different, and as many Americans point out, Finland is a small nation with a much more homogeneous population than the United States.'

'As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. "There's no word for accountability in Finnish," he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. "Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."

'For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what's called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school'

The Finnish National Matriculation Exam bears an uncanny resemblance to PISA assessment parameters.

'According to President Tarja Halonen, longer breadlines were evidence of poverty.'

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 15/05/2012 - 20:55

Comments here are not pulled unless they are libellous to such extent that nothing can be redacted.

No I am not Pasi Sahlberg but if you quoted him, then I am surprised you have absorbed so little about his work and the Finnish culture of equality that you feel it necessary to plead for evidence. The Finnish model is the polar opposite of the Gove-ian one in practically all respects. If the Tories were truly committed to social justice, they would have modelled state education and policies of social cohesion on the Finnish example. Gove's bleating at Brighton College is hypocrisy of the highest order.


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