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It should not be a shock that the Education Secretary’s kids go to State schools

Posted on 8 March 2014 | 4:03pm

I am pleased that Michael Gove and his fellow journalist wife Sarah Vine have chosen to send their daughter to a State school.

Less pleasing is the idea generated by the coverage that this is some great act of educational and political courage. It should be exceptional for politicians NOT to use the state sector, rather than the other way round.

State schools have a lot less money than the top private schools to which most of the Cabinet went. But they deliver a better and more rounded education, and so tend to turn out, pound for pound, better and more rounded people.

Most of the complaints about State schools – lazy teachers, outmoded teaching practices, no discipline, no competitive spirit – are created by media and political opponents whose opposition is often based on ignorance, and rooted in an attempt to justify their own choice of the private sector for their own children.

Much of what Gove is doing as the relevant minister is taking schools back to the last century rather than forward to the next one. But at least in choosing a State school for his daughter, he has signalled his understanding that State can be as good as private, and he now has a personal as well as political vested interest in driving up standards.


  • You’re right it should be unremarkable.

    It would have been bravery had he sent her to my old comprehensive though…

  • reaguns

    I went to state school. It happened to be the best state grammar school in my county, and I happened to get the highest marks the school had ever seen doncha know πŸ™‚

    But I recognise, with some notable exceptions, all of these: “lazy teachers, outmoded teaching practices, no discipline, no competitive spirit.”

    Of these, certainly lack of discipline was the main thing. We had a couple of suicides due to bullying, as well as a few people leave because they were ‘different’ in various ways, in terms of religion, race (to a lesser extent), sexuality.

    Doesn’t that pose a pickle for a leftie? Lefties want to instinctively be soft and support criminals and thugs, such as the bullies at my schools, but then they want to support ethnic minorities, gay people etc too so what do you do when those two groups clash?

    If I were the headmaster, I would have seen to it that it was the bullies who leave instead.

    God only knows what it was like at the lesser state schools.

    • Dave Simons

      Your fourth paragraph is a little classic of ‘Daily Mail’-style stereotyping. Or let’s exalt it a bit – what you’d have expected from someone like Kingsley Amis when he was in his cups (which was too often). I haven’t come across any of these ‘lefties’ who instinctively want to support criminals, thugs and bullies – quite the opposite. I have come across people who try to understand what motivates criminals, thugs and bullies in order to deal with them, and that might lead to sympathy, if not the kind of support you hint at.
      I also went to a state grammar school but there were no lazy teachers or particularly outmoded teaching practices – just a lot of discipline and competition. Discipline was necessary – any teacher who was a soft touch was given a bad time by some of the classes. And I am impinged upon at present by children from comprehensives who are out of control, disruptive and cheeky – and don’t they know their rights when you try to control them. But let’s not restrict that problem to certain comprehensives – the Bullingdon Boys were equally out of control when they went on drunken rampages (all damages paid for by daddy).
      I agree with you that we have a hell of a problem – especially with the future looking so bleak for anyone under 25 – but we won’t solve the problem by your kind of stereotyping of ‘lefties’. On the basis of my school experience I don’t want to see the restoration of single sex grammar schools – you might have been luckier in that respect.

      • reaguns

        I won’t get into my usual point by point rebuttal mode because I think we are actually mostly on common ground.

        Only to say that your grammar school may have had discipline and competition, mine had very little discipline, it was the best school in the county, but it was a rough county.

        Actually, I suppose it is fairer to say it was known as the best school in the county – when the best innovation ever came out (league tables) it became evident that it was on the slide.

        There may have been competition but only among those with extraordinary strength of character to aim high academically and ignore peer pressure, or those who were talented enough to get by even in that environment. All would have done better at more disciplined schools, but particularly those at the bottom.

        It was not single sex, and yes part of the problem was boys showing off and competing to be the baddest guy in school to attract the girls but I still do not advocate single sex schools – just mixed schools with more discipline. Perhaps single sex classes for boys who misbehave might be an incentive.

        As for lefties and crime, I think the majority of people in this country are even further left than labour on the economy (ie they want higher taxes on the rich, tougher penalties on bankers etc) and further right than the tories, or even than Ukip on crime.

        So your average leftie wants a hardline on crime and on bad behaviour at school it just isn’t shown by their representatives.

        • Michele

          ” ……… single sex classes for boys who misbehave …….”

          Ooooh yes what a very good idea, get girls used at the earliest age possible to being objectified, used as rewards or as withdrawal (as in being withdrawn) :-s.

          Kerplunk …… you just get dafter, keep on not trying xxx

          • reaguns

            1. I would suggest sending girls to girls only lessons too, only I am not sure they would consider this a punishment.

            2. Sorry, but was there another reason for having mixed six schools other than the fact that it makes the kids happier, lets them learn how to deal with the other sex etc, a large part of which involves lusting over and objectifying the same, boy or girl?
            Academically single sex schools do better last time I checked?

          • Michele

            Last time I checked it seemed that boys did better at mixed GENDER schools but girls did better at single GENDER ones.
            I went to mixed but it had its compensations πŸ™‚

    • Michele

      Oh gawd, do you really consider yourself a mindreader about what ‘lefties’ think?

      Nobody ever told me it entailed supporting criminals and thugs so I must be a flop (according to what, the mantra of reaguns?).
      Why don’t you tell us (or just me if I’m the only one interested) what the ID is about?
      RL name? Not likely.
      Code for what you want everyone to be equipped with?

      Your showy coda, your ‘shoot ’em all’ pirouetting is meaningless boll**.

      Yes we have to DEAL with thugs, yes we HAVE to support those with the task of controlling them without descending to their methods but where are YOU when the blogs or posts are yaddering on about all that the Police can employ as their methods?

      Where were YOU when crap was being posted a few weeks ago about kettling (aka: containing people for their own safety more than for others’)?

      What do you have to say right now about ‘covert’ enquiries about the Lawrence family 20+ yrs ago (bearing in mind that DL herself had such a lot to say about Stephen’s friend and has subsequently had his book pulped)?

      • reaguns

        I haven’t seen these other discussions (nor this reply). I tend to read Alastair’s blog, if it’s about a topic that interests me, post and then only read replies to my posts these days.

        I think the Stephen Lawrence killers should be shot, and the police who in any way hindered justice and accountability including these smear tactics, should be locked up.

        I think we should be much much much tougher on crime than we currently are.

        Peaceful protestors should enjoy the full protection of the law, rioters on the other hand should feel the full wrath of the law.

        The name is an amalgamation of Reagan, the finest political leader of my lifetime, a very imperfect man who I didn’t always agree with (he was too soft on crime for example) but still better than anyone else.

        And yes indeed “Ray Guns” because our (Nato’s) future prosperity and survival I believe depends on our ability to stay ahead in the technological arms race.

        That’s not a nod towards Reagan’s “Star Wars” or “SDI” programme, which everyone sneered at “the science can not shoot missiles out of the sky, what a buffoon” even though nowadays we have the phalanx/”r2d2″/”dalek” system which shoots down missiles, patriot missiles, lazers that can shoot down missiles, and the ability to strike them as they are taking off.

        • Michele

          I’m replying oop top to avoid the ‘2 words to a line’ risk πŸ™‚

  • KDouglas

    Agree. Of course, Gove shows such contempt for those in the education sector that this move has to be considered surprising – but I guess while he’s in post he has to appear to believe in his own effectiveness in ‘driving up standards’. It’s akin to Gummer feeding his child a hamburger while in charge of agriculture. Wait and see what he does once relieved of office, hopefully soon.

  • Michele

    It’s not quite a bog standard comp though is it?
    The notion of denominational secondary school (ye gods, isn’t denominational primary school enough?) close to a parent’s (or boths’?) workplace/s rather than to home ….. hmmmmm AND she got in to their (or her?) first choice. More hmmmmmmm ……

    Not at all like my own experience (admittedly some years ago and after over a decade of Snatcher and Joseph et al but heck – FOURTEEN visits in attempts to find a comp with decent accommodation never mind no knifings in the recent past :-s …… thank heavens Tony Sewell got installed at one of them some years later under a —— govt).

  • scooke7

    Hope this blog applies to the Member for Hackney North & Stoke Newington i.e. Diane Abbott MP. Or is it only applicable when there is a Tory govt? Usual hypocrisy from Mr. Campbell.

    • Janet Edwards

      Diane Abbott has never been, or is ever likely to be Education Secretary.

      • Michele

        Nope indeed, imagine the kerfuffle if this bit of tweeted Abbott Lore were to become DofE’s motto …..

        …….4th January 2012: “White people love playing ‘divide and rule’ We should not play their game”……..

        What else is the very twittish tweet doing?

  • Ehtch

    Think wostisname Tory that let his daughter eat a cheap burger in front of telly news during the height of the BSE mad cow disease hysteria. Now think of Gove… If he can send his daughter to private education, he should. She will only turn around to him in so many years and call him a tosser!! Horses for courses. Things can be changed by nudging, not fecking up your own daughter by sending her to swim in a different pond from where all her friends are in. GIVE ME STRENGTH, Gove. You are shameless!

    • Michele

      There’s an alternative to every idea and although on the one hand it could seem wrong that a couple picking up about a quarter of a million p.a. should occupy a very in-demand place at a state school it seems even more ponderable in the case of this particular school.

      Swings and roundabouts eh? At least he’s showing confidence in a system brought in under Labour. I’d have been more impressed if he’d gone for the Mossbourne Academy in Hackney instead of cosseting the girl in the Westminster bubble but then – can’t win – he’d have been grabbing from others in more need ……….

    • Ehtch

      That’s the fella, John Gummer. And good grief, 1990! – was it that far back? Was just after Edwina and her eggs hysteria then, and before fried chicken flu, and way before a tidy horse burger – mmmm, with foot and mouth in between, from the early 2000’s. Wonder what the next hysterical food crisis will be? Heard hints that it will be fish from the far east this year, to keep the media occupied…

      And yes Michele, there are some state schools that can be called “state” schools, in name only, with posh rich parents who meet the criteria, to get their children in easily, just to ease their consciences. Bet that school is never short of pens and paper, and with a well stocked library.

  • reaguns

    Sad at the death of Bob Crow. Yes I am a free market person and he is not, but even for me, whilst I have had some trouble due to strong unions like his, I have had more trouble caused by the plethora of feeble unions that failed to represent me in many workplaces over the years.

    So have to respect Bob Crow for doing his job well, ie fighting for his members interests, and usually winning. RIP Bob.

    • Michele

      He felt the strain more than he would let on ….. silly thing to say but this must be awful for his family.
      He made no concession to cosmetics or appealing to anyone that wanted conformity and towking proper. I think he and KL understood each other, talked the same language o.b.o. of their each interest group, I doubt things will go smoothly for at least the next 3yrs.

      • reaguns

        Yep, no concessions for cosmetics, never being bought off or compromised like the many other patsies in similar positions.

        Just seen a place get shut down after the union leaders, plus MPs, went through the whitewash of a “consultation exercise” which differs from “shutting you down” in that it means “pretending to listen to you first, and then shutting you down anyway”.

        Bob Crow would never have accepted that, he called a spade a spade.

      • Michele

        Tsk, mine should have read ‘must have felt’ etc, didn’t know the bloke. RIP

  • Michele

    Off topic …. apparently there have been deals struck re some NHS PFI deals, has Parliament been given the details and have I missed the news about it – whether it entailed interest rate reductions or extensions of terms?

    What about other PFI situations, school buildings etc?

    Govt should come clean re just how effective it has been vs financiers about investments that were essential during the mid-200-s but based on loans that are now reaping even more profit than planned for their ‘donors’.

    Chilling news yesterday (I feel queazy) that Heidi Alexander was trying to get to the bottom of ….. what surreptitious changes are being made to the laws about NHS Trusts and their sharing debt with other areas?

    • Michele

      Re the chilling news that Heidi Alexander was trying to get to the bottom of last week –

      ie: attempts by Cameron’s govt / Hunt’s dept to close or put / keep on hold some PFI-developed services so that their funding can be diverted to others’ areas even if they are in different PCTs – declared illegal by a judge in the case of the unwilling triumvirate of Lewisham with Greenwich/Orpington…………

      ……. is the recent / current ‘calm’ from DoH be hiding covert plans for changes in that law about each PCT;s autonomy from others?

      Does it need a Civil Servant who’s willing to speak out regardless of the OSA ?

  • Michele

    To a narrow one somewhere from reaguns :

    Ah, so your ID is fanship? A bit like wearing a Harry Styles t-shirt? Sweet πŸ™‚

    I don’t swallow the line about ‘hindered justice’ ….. especially when coupled with your generic ‘the’.

    The two killers so far convicted were proved to be what they are by specks of blood 1/15th of the minimum size that was needed for positive IDing at the time/s of earlier trial/s.
    Improved DNA science and better magnification qualities of microscopes were what eventually found blood spot/s so tiny and so embedded in fibres that were now possible to be proved had landed while wet, not been contamination by flakes from dried stains falling during storage eg: various people’s samples touching each other.

    THAT is why two of the killers could finally be convicted – but could not be proved guilty at earlier trials.

    It does not matter in the slightest what vile people they were and how much anyone wanted them to be hung/drawn/quartered, withOUT evidence of sufficient quantity it would have taken a fit-up for them to be convicted earlier and I for one would see no virtue in that had it happened – 2 wrongs etc – no matter how convinced I was of my feelings about them and their vile prejudice.

    We got past the double jeopardy let-off via changes in the laws about re-trials but just HOW did these new science and technology methods even come to be useable in this case?
    Surely the accused would have asked for their clothes back after those earlier Not Guilty verdicts?

    Simple, THEY DID, but Police refused to give the clothing back.
    The thugs were entitled to them and did bother to request them (despite the still-extant double jeopardy rule) but the Police would not release them.
    Weird eh? Doesn’t quite fit in with the words ‘hindered justice’ does it?

    Stephen’s murder is not the only one that has had failed trials (nor the only one that will eventually have more successful re-trials and nor the only one with varied …. need a deep breath? ….. or even a shared race combination!).

    I’ve also not swallowed the line you seem to have about smear tactics (as in from whom? where did they start?).
    It’s not edifying to know.

    Plenty of rumours were around from Day 1 about Stephen’s friend’s family (as they had been beforehand).
    Their friendship had never been approved of by SL’s family (not deemed as aspirational), unfortunately that had not engendered empathy.
    You might be able to find a secondhand copy of his book, not likely to be a new one or even a library copy (recalled for destruction without consideration for his need of purging).

    There’s such a lot of inaccuracy and shorthand used in media so-called ‘reports’.
    The Mirror recently published: ‘But last week it was revealed that as the Macpherson probe got underway, an undercover Met cop was spying on the Lawrence family.’
    Eh? AS?
    Nope, the two events were not contemporary, there was not an ‘as’ situation at all, the two incidents were 16yrs apart ……. and ‘spying’?
    Is it not the Police’s job to think the unthinkable?
    Surely it’s more their job than it is that of hacks whose only target is sales ……
    So much of this PC obsequiousness is so cynical ……

    Mrs Lawrence must surely know how the recent convictions were achieved so WTH is meant by this, uttered just a few weeks ago:
    “There had to be something.
    And what I couldn’t understand was why Stephen, why his murder, was so difficult to solve.
    What was behind it all? And then when you hear about the relationship between the police and David Norris’s father, then you begin to understand some of that.”

    If she is not willing to organise the order of things for herself re her future speeches she should be made to.
    Re: ‘What was behind it all?’.
    Get objective – lack, at the time and for more than a decade of useable science.

    I must sound heard hearted.
    I’m not, having a late-teenage son in sarf London that won’t agree to (or doesn’t have the offer of) being picked up by parents means risk. Moreso, even, than it does of girls

    • Michele

      ……….. durrr……. 16yrs should read 6 ……

      kind of hints that a revision could be needed as IF there was racism it was irrelevant to lack of visible findable evidence.

  • Michele

    Yet more interviews today and incomplete stats about finance.
    WTH point is there in boasting about average income vs average tax rates if not bothering to mention or own up to inflation / wage stagnation – especially of the years-old minimum (also mustn’t forget 0hrs ‘contracts’ which really are a kind of being owned – if I’m right to presume they have clauses about exclusivity).
    I know it can all get to sound like algebra (eeeeeek πŸ™ school horrors, must have a lie down) but ratios to cost of living is THE stat for Govts to defend or at least own up to.