By Gove he’s gone!

Education, Exams, Politics

Michael Gove got stuck in a toilet. Yes, you heard me right. Cue maniacal laughter from teachers all over the country who can’t quite believe their luck.  This incident capped what must have been a satisfying week for the majority of the teaching population. I think it’s safe to say that Mr Gove is not a very popular man.

As Gove leaves his position as Secretary of State for Education (accompanied, as I imagine, by sinister Darth Vader style music and a gleefully waving Nick Clegg), now seems a good time to reflect on his time in office.

As an A level student, I haven’t been subjected to many of the coalition government’s changes to the exam system as most of them are only now starting to take effect. I was one of the last years to take the ‘easier’ exams with more class based ‘controlled assessments’.  I sat those exams – easy is not the word I would use.

I have however, experienced a few reforms, such as the axing of the opportunity to take AS and A2 exams in January.   I appreciate that this is intended to make the exams harder, but Mr Gove, or more likely the minions he sends out to deal with this sort of thing, have not thought this policy through very well.

It now seems that all the arts and humanities subjects are examined together, as are maths and the sciences. This is all very well until you put it into practice and people like me end up taking 70% of their exams (all essay based) in one week. I could really have done with that January sitting. Just saying.

I’m not saying that Michael Gove is all bad (I didn’t say he was all good either mind you). Amongst some of his deeply unpopular proposals, there are elements of genuinely good ideas. A good example is the reform of the English GCSE. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly disagreed with most of Gove’s opinions on this subject. But, he did want to encourage children to start reading more pre-1900 literature.

While it could be reasonably argued that a move like this would be more suited to A level students, there is a real point to be made here. In both my English Literature GCSE and A level, I haven’t studied any author other than Shakespeare who is pre-Victorian. However, when (hopefully) I study English at university, I will be expected to have a working understanding of texts dating at least from the middle ages. There is definitely a knowledge gap here; I’ll at least give Mr Gove that.

Despite this, I feel Gove has been extremely misguided when it comes to English. As a graduate of the subject himself, I would expect him to show a love for a wide range of literature. But no. Many American authors are now ‘discouraged’ on the most popular exam boards, apparently down in part to Gove’s personal dislike of the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’.

Having studied ‘Of Mice and Men’ at GCSE, I can see why it is such a popular text. Its short length makes it easily accessible to the majority of students, but it also has layers of symbolism and multiple themes which make it hugely interesting to analyse. What Steinbeck ever did to Michael Gove is a mystery.

On a more positive note, after it disappeared from the reformed English syllabus, Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ shot up to number nine on Amazon’s bestseller list. Suck on that Govey.

Ignoring (temporarily) some of Gove’s more…questionable policies, I think it’s pretty clear what his biggest problem was. I know a lot of teachers, both through family and my sixth form, and none of them has ever had a good word to say about him. In fact, one of my teachers hates him with such a passion that I briefly considered buying her a Gove shaped piñata as an end of year present.

Something about the man just drove people crazy, and whole articles have been written on exactly what exactly it is about him that caused this. When it came down to it, he was just a man doing his job. However, it seems to me that teachers specifically hate HOW he did it.

Most teachers saw Gove as a man who not only had no firsthand experience of teaching, but who refused to listen to people that did. Of course, being constantly in denial about just how disliked he was didn’t help much. All I can say for sure is that Gove alienated the majority of teachers, and therefore also the students that they are teaching. Not the smartest move for an Education Secretary.

So what next? Until last week, I have to admit, I had never heard of Nicky Morgan. She is a largely unknown figure who has a pretty tricky job ahead of her in attempting to win back the teaching population of Britain. Although portrayed in some parts of the media as a superman-esque figure here to rescue teachers from The Monstrous Gove ( I picture him as some sort of reptilian villain wearing glasses), I have my reservations.

Nicky Morgan desperately needs to provide some sort of stability within the examination system and give children a break from the relentless reforms that have been taking place over the last few years. Whether the urge to make immediate changes will prove too much is yet to be seen.

For many teachers and students (including myself) the attitude at the moment seems to be one of relief mixed with a sort of smug triumph. The conclusion for now seems to be: ‘Anyone is better than Gove’.



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