Education & Family

Gove's policies 'shamefully neglecting' pupils

Writing at a desk
Image caption Mary Bousted called for a 'much better secretary of state'

Education Secretary Michael Gove has been accused by a teachers' union leader of damaging children's schooling in England with "wrong-headed" reforms.

Mary Bousted, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said in a speech that "we all deserve a much better secretary of state".

She accused him of rushing through changes which "neglected" pupils.

The Department for Education said the accusations "could not be further from the truth".

In her speech to the ATL's annual conference in Liverpool on Monday, Ms Bousted said it was her duty to "castigate the man who is undermining everything we stand for".

She said Mr Gove's "constant meddling, changes and U-turns" were "making life impossible for today's youngsters".

Teacher morale

"In 2013, every aspect of the curriculum you teach, the qualifications you prepare children to take, are under attack and review," Ms Bousted will tell ATL members.

"Michael Gove should take heed. When the changes come so thick and fast, without time for consultation or even consideration; when the changes are so wrong-headed, so damaging to children's education, then the morale of the profession plummets."

She highlighted the education secretary's U-turn over changes to the exams taken by pupils at the age 16.

In February, Mr Gove told the Commons he had abandoned plans to scrap GCSEs in "key" subjects in England with English Baccalaureate Certificates, saying the plans had been "a bridge too far".

"I wonder if your repentance is genuine or, as I suspect, if your apology, cloaked in remorse that you had been too ambitious, is yet another demonstration of your evident belief that you, and only you, have ambitions for pupils and schools," Ms Bousted will say.

She said the revised national curriculum for primary and secondary schools in England, unveiled by the government in February, "looks forward to a rosy past, packed full of facts".

"All pupils need access to a broad and balanced curriculum. It is plainly wrong to call certain subjects 'facilitating' whilst, implicitly, denigrating others."

Forced academies

Ms Bousted accused the government of forcing schools to become academies against their wishes, "paving the way for the wholesale transfer of our schools to the private sector if the Conservatives are in office after the next election".

"The government rushed to legislate to allow schools to choose to become academies," she said.

"But where is the democracy in forcing it on parents and the local community when the policy has never been approved by Parliament?

"This is the behaviour of an elective dictatorship."

Ms Bousted also used her speech to criticise Mr Gove's advisers, saying he had given them a "free reign" on Twitter to "insult and demean serious, thoughtful and knowledgeable critics" of his policies.

Driving up standards

But a spokesman for the Department for Education dismissed the accusations, saying they "couldn't be further from the truth".

"For too long standards in our schools have been declining," he said.

"We need to make sure we have an education system that is robust and rigorous, with exams and qualifications that match the world's best. This is surely something the ATL should be applauding.

"Mary Bousted claims that the academies programme has no democratic backing - this is nonsense.

"It was passed by Parliament and has been hugely popular, with more than a third of all secondary schools choosing to convert to enjoy the freedoms and autonomy it brings.

"We are improving underperforming schools by matching them with sponsors who are turning them around in their hundreds.

"We are driving up standards by introducing a world class curriculum and we are overhauling our qualifications system to keep pace with the demands of universities and employers."

Schools Minister David Laws is due to address the ATL conference on Monday afternoon.

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