A lesson for Mr Gove

Michael Gove
Michael Gove

A TEACHING union has passed a vote of no confidence in an outspoken minister who recently critcised East Durham schools.

Education Secretary Michael Gove sparked anger earlier this month when he said you could walk into an East Durham school and “smell the sense of defeatism”.

He had also branded local schools as having low expectations and a lack of ambition.

Now it appears his actions have landed the minister in hot water after the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) passed a vote of no confidence in Mr Gove during the union’s annual conference in Liverpool yesterday.

He has failed to improve education or treat teachers, parents or pupils with respect, according to delegates.

Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson, who called for an apology from Mr Gove in the House of Commons, said he hopes the move teaches Gove a lesson.

Mr Wilson, whose constituency includes Wingate, Thornley, Wheatley Hill and Trimdon, said: “I think the lesson in all of this for Mr Gove, especially as far as East Durham is concerned, is his use of language.

“He should be more careful and should not use schools, pupils and teachers as a political football to try and score points against the local authority.”

Easington MP Grahame Morris said: “I am not surprised the Education Secretary seems to have set out to undermine the confidence of pupils and insulted teachers and parents, not just in East Durham but across the country.

“I believe he is seeking to undermine confidence in our state education system in order to justify his expensive ‘free schools programme’ for which there is little public enthusiasm.”

Mr Gove has so far refused to apologise, with the Department of Education instead insisting that his comment was justified, with three of the six East Durham schools rated as requiring improvement, or inadequate.

The union also passed a vote of no confidence in Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, also for an apparent lack of respect and failure to improve education.

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “Michael Gove and Sir Michael Wilshaw are like Blood Brothers, with a pact to suck the life and hope out of our education system and the teachers who work within it.”

She added that teachers feel demoralised and “do not see the reality of Mr Gove and Sir Michael’s criticism and constant denigration in the work that they do”.

The resolution was passed overwhelmingly by members.

It is understood to be the first time that ATL has passed a resolution of no confidence in a Secretary of State.

Mr Gove has stoked teachers’ anger in the past year over his proposed changes to their pay and pensions, as well as major reforms to exams and the curriculum.

Teachers have also expressed concerns about “hugely stressful” Ofsted inspections.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “For too long other countries have been outpacing us. 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 ambition is surely something the ATL should be supporting.”

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