‘We cannot let Michael Gove’s sterling work be wasted. The former Education Secretary was passionate in his desire to improve schools,’ wrote Sir Anthony Seldon in the Evening Standard after Gove lost his position as education secretary.
Sir Anthony’s love-fest with Michael Gove didn’t end with this endorsement. There were others. Gove was ‘winning the hearts of state heads’, he wrote in 2013; ‘Michael Gove could go down as the greatest Education Secretary in 100 years if he placed education, not instruction, back into the heart of schools and universities,’ he said earlier in Gove’s reign.
But Gove didn’t put education first – he reduced it to that which can be measured. Anything else was ‘play’.
Sir Anthony, speaking at the official launch of the 2018 PISA results, seems to have realised this. He made an ’impassioned’ plea of ‘soft skills’, the type of skills that are so loathed by schools minister Nick Gibb.
Education ministers across the world were ‘fundamentally stupid’, Sir Anthony told the audience. ‘The point I’m going to make here is that the entire education system needs to be stood on its head,’ he said. He did a headstand to emphasise his point.
Sir Anthony made a plea for more experimentation in schools and more creativity.
‘We are undertaking a vast experiment with our young people.’
‘In Britain, a third of our teachers leave after five years, beaten down by the dullness and the anonymity of the system.’
But he didn’t say that when supporting Michael Gove, the architect of England’s dysfunctional education: too many tests; too much political interference and too much pillorying of teachers.
Now Sir Anthony sees what a mess England’s education system is in - brought about by his former hero Michael Gove.