‘It is sometimes hard to know whether to take Michael Gove seriously. In a speech in London on Monday, the education secretary said he was aiming to achieve a situation where, if you visit a school in England, "standards are so high all round that you should not be able to tell whether it's in the state sector or a fee-paying independent".
So as parents visited, say, Marlborough College (founded 1843), they would ignore the demand for £27,420 for a year's teaching and nearly another £5,000 for boarding. They would breeze into classrooms and wouldn't notice that, for 870 pupils, Marlborough has more than 150 teachers and assistants, a ratio that, if applied to all England's 8.2 million schoolchildren, would require the teaching workforce to be tripled to roughly 1.3 million. Then they would wander the grounds and somehow fail to clock 11 rugby pitches, eight cricket squares, 14 cricket nets, 12 tennis courts, an eight-lane swimming pool and .22 rifle range, a variety of facilities which, if extended to every state school, would require (according to one calculation) 33m acres, or more than half the English countryside.
Gove is a former journalist and, like many contemporary politicians, aspires to good headlines rather than good policies, using techniques that made him a competent Times columnist for news-starved Monday mornings. You can't beat "I'll make all state schools as good as Marlborough and Eton" or, to take another theme from Monday's speech, "I'll tell teachers how to tame unruly children". But even his natural allies have started to chide him. "Mr Gove must be careful not to mistake gimmicks and gestures for real policy," warned a Mail on Sunday leader. Matthew Parris, former Tory MP and now Times columnist, wrote that he feared his friend Gove was becoming unhinged. Sir David Bell, the judicious and discreet former permanent secretary at the Department for Education, now vice-chancellor of Reading University, advised Gove: "don't believe your own hype".
Peter Wilby Guardian 3rd Feb 14
Yesterday the argument rumbled on when two head-teachers compared notes. A typical state secondary school receives on average just over £4000 per pupil. This compares with a non-boarding fee of nearly £15,000 for an average private school pupil.
As Minister of State for Education, Gove must have known these figures.
Unhinged, dangerous and playing political games appealing to the swivel-eyed tendency. What an example to hard-pressed teachers across the land. As one reported on Radio 4, “Every time Gove starts to speak I begin to cry.”