Michael Gove has made his intentions clear for the UK’s education system. He envisions an school system where power is handed back to education professionals and where, if they can maintain high academic standards and prove themselves worthy of the responsibility, power will be devolved to head teachers in charge of individual autonomous schools.
According to Anthony Seldon writing in the Telegraph, Gove believes this independence will reignite creativity in education and help to rescue the UK education system so they can once again compete with the best schools in Asia and Scandinavia.
Gove’s vision extends beyond simply having autonomous schools; he wants to see a revamp of the entire system whereby teachers are trained in school rather than by earning abstract diplomas at universities. Leaders should arise from, and be trained at, their schools, and education research is conducted by the schools themselves rather than performed by University departments.
And while teaching unions may be calling for his head, Seldon reports that head teachers appear to be in favor of his plans.
“The best thing this Government could do for education,” one state head told me, “would be to abolish the teaching unions outright. The NUT and NASUWT are the worst.” Another said: “The trade union leaders are 100 years out of date: the world has moved on. We are now professionals and they have to reform or die.”
However, it appears this support must for now be delivered anonymously because many heads are frightened of union reprisals. Seldon was told directly by one head teacher that if the unions decide to target a school, then it’s in a lot of trouble.
Gove has butted heads with union leaders many times in the recent past; he was extremely troubled by their close relationship Labour before 2010 with union leaders given permission to roam freely within the Education Department.
An independent school colleague who does much work with state schools said: “The biggest reason why independent schools are so far ahead is that we have so little to do with unions at national level: their negativity and time-watching has held back the achievement of state school children.”
Gove has a potential solution for the union problem. He plans to make them irrelevant by introducing a professional body for teachers called the Royal College of Teachers which would function much like the Bar Council does for lawyers and the Royal Colleges do for medical professionals.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, is predictably disparaging about such an arrangement, but if the NUT’s answer to negotiation continues to be threatening strikes until it gets what it wants the public may tire of these antics and Gove may get his wish.