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First sport, now books, what has Gove got against learning for the many not the few?

Posted on 23 December 2010 | 4:12pm

Campaigners for sport and common sense secured something of a victory in forcing something of a U-turn when Schools Secretary Michael Gove foolishly took the axe to the excellent School Sports Partnerhips brought in by the last excellent government.

Now Gove has got his axe out again and come out with another foolish move, namely the scrapping of the government grant to the excellent (I am feeling in excellent mode today) Bookstart charity which delivers a pack of books to children just after birth, just before starting school, and again before starting secondary school.

The scheme costs the government £13m, which sounds a lot if you are talking about a footballer’s annual salary, but in a department like Mr Gove’s is roughly akin to what you will find down the side of the cushions on the sofas.

Yet such is their antipathy to the idea of the State pretty much doing anything that when George Osborne asked for Gove for cuts, he could not resist either sport or books. And, to remind you, he is in charge of education.

There was a theory developed over school sport that Gove never much liked it himself, which is why he just does not get it. Fair to say he does not exactly exude athleticism. But I wonder if his own experience is not also behind this latest move. Mr Gove reads a lot. His children read a lot. I know that because I have met them – at a book festival. Now for a child to traipse round Cheltenham Festival they have to be interested in books, and fair play to them, and to their parents.

But surely Mr Gove knows that not all households are as bookish as his, not all children have the same access to books as his do, and not all parents are as seized of the importance of books as he is. So why, for the sake of £13m, is he scrapping one of those schemes that does a lot of good and very little harm that I can detect?

Throw in their approach to tuition fees, so-called free schools, and the scrapping of EMAs, and you do wonder whether they are not determined to build an education system for the few and not the many, and that they  will actually be raher proud of it when they do. All very odd. As for where the Lib Dems have been on this one, those great fighters for progressive causes, fighting from within, yes, you might well ask.

Anyway the campaign is under way and if you want to know more about The Bookstart charity go to http://www.bookstart.org.uk/about-us The campaign twitter account seems to have taken off too at twitter.com/savebookstart. Good luck to all who get involved.

  • Sarah Dodds

    I have a real life funny, but very tragic, teaching moment to explain why the Bookstart scheme works.
    The scene : School Book Fair in a very challenging school on a very deprived estate.
    Child “Mum, can we go and get a book?”
    Mum “What do you want a f ****** book for? You already have one at home.”

    Case for keeping government Bookstart grant proven.

  • Quinney

    Alastair, you can’t have all those working class oiks becoming educated, they might want to form a political party or perish the thought, a government.
    No keep the universities for those who it was meant for, the upper classes, don’t have the plebs reading and let them get their news from Uncle Rupert via his papers and FoxNews UK.
    ps Have a lovely Tory Dickensian Christmas (you know, workhouses, child chimney sweeps, want, squalor, ignorance……)

  • Dave Simons

    The Coalition keep going on about how their policies will help ‘the poor’ or ‘the disadvantaged’. This is one of the foundation stones of the Coalition mantra, as is ‘the mountain of debt left by Labour’. In practice, as the Bookstart episode confirms, we have an old-fashioned Tory government, aided and abetted by LibDems, and we have the same old nasty party policies. Removal of the Bookstart £13 million reminds me of Margaret Thatcher and the school milk episode in the early 1970s – basically the Tories have always hated the Welfare State. But then millionaires like Gove, and people like Thatcher married to millionaires, don’t need it, and they haven’t the imagination or sympathy to consider that others in society might need it. It’s good to see people like Philip Pullman and Andrew Motion lambasting Gove’s mean-spirited proposal – you wish the man would get out more!

  • Olli Issakainen

    Where do the Tories get these silly ideas from?
    The Archbishop of Canterbury said that wealthy should pay their fair share for economic downturn.
    The rich gained most during the boom years. Even in 2010 the collective wealth of the richest 1,000 people in the UK rose to £335.5bn. In 1997 the figure was at £98.99bn.
    If the most prosperous 1,000 were to give 25% of their wealth, it would contribute £84bn. There would be no need for cuts. And best of all, this contribution would not have any effect on the quality of life of the rich!
    Politics is about choices. You can choose between taking books out of hands of poor children or taking money from the rich.
    I know how I would choose.

  • Richard

    After 12 yeaqrs of New Labour things are so much better than they were, surely.

  • Dave Simons

    As a public sector employee I was under constant threat of redundancy for the last ten years or so of the last Conservative Government, right up to 1997. At no time during Labour’s thirteen years of office was I under threat of redundancy. Now, with a Tory-led Coaition in office, I am under threat of redundancy again. These are hard facts Richard, and my story can be multiplied round the UK population. So the answer to your cynical one-liner is – damned well YES!

  • Quinney

    The primary school where my children went received two extensions, a computer suite, whiteboards, broadband access, a new gas boiler, playground resurfaced, new fences all round,extended car park, classroom assistants and class sizes under thirty. Labour also tripled the actual money spent per pupil.

  • Julie

    Hands up those who think we should start referring to Govey as Mr Gradgrind. “Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever e of any service to them.” ‘Hard Times’, Chapter 1. Sound familiar?

  • Richard

    And today we read that because of the monumental increase in exam grade awards under New Labour’s “Everyone gets a cigar policy”, Universities are introducing entrance exams to select students! That way they can be far more selective than they could be via “honest” exam grades.
    Geddit?

  • Quinney

    The usual mantra of dumbing down exams again. Nothing to do with the kids actually working hard to achieve their results?