We still, this Wednesday morning, don’t know the name of the new education secretary, or even if he (and it will probably be a he) will be a Conservative or Lib Dem. I have heard both David Laws and Michael Gove speaking about their vision for education – I should not say which one I prefer, so suffice it to say that both are clearly absolutely on top of their briefs, and have a close understanding of the issues. Michael Gove, the Tory candidate, is probably more ideologically motivated, and Laws is probably more ‘commonsensical’ in his approach.
So what do I want the new government to do in education? Let me try and list my top five priorities for the new secretary of state:
Yesterday was the end of the New Labour era. I clearly remember Friday 2nd May 1997 when I came into school on the first day of that administration. To many of us it seemed like a new dawn after nearly two decades of rule by what to many in the younger generation (which I belonged to then!) seemed like the interminable rule of dull middle aged men in grey suits. New Labour looked fresh and youthful.
My top five priorities above show where I think they have gone wrong in education. But they have done some really good things too, including finally getting fair pay for teachers and investing seriously in state schools, both in terms of resources and buildings. They have earnestly tried to tackle some of the entrenched division and under-privilege educationally in our society, and there has been at least some success in many areas. However, I do feel personally betrayed that they did not tackle the iniquity of selection in areas such as Kent in the 11+ – in some ways, I feel more reassured by Michael Gove’s public commitment to inclusive secondary schooling. I hope time does not make that optimism look naive.
There is still much to do in education, and what we have now is far from perfect, although it has moved on very considerably from the position 13 years ago. We who work in schools know how important the job we do is – yes, for the future of the country, but also for the benefit of each young person and their and our communities. In his leaving speech last night Mr Brown thought he had the best job in the world in terms of ‘potential for good’ – we who lead and work in schools think we run a close second! Good wishes to the new government and in particular the new education ministers.