Heads blast ‘insulting’ Gove

Michael Gove
Michael Gove
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THE fallout following scathing comments by Education Minister Michael Gove about schools in East Durham countinues as headteachers say claims they lack ambition couldn’t be more wrong.

Education Secretary Michael Gove sparked anger after he said you can walk into an East Durham school and “smell the sense of defeatism”.

Mr Gove said a culture of low expectations still exists in some communities – and specifically named the former mining district of East Durham as one of them during a speech in London earlier this week.

The comments sparked anger from Easington MP Grahame Morris and his Sedgefield counterpart Phil Wilson, while school bosses urged Mr Gove to visit schools and see their aspirations for himself.

Now Toni Spoors, headteacher at Easington Academy, and Paul McKenna, headteacher at St Bede’s Catholic Comprehensive School in Peterlee, have joined the growing list of officials angry at the claims.

Miss Spoors said: “What I find most disappointing about Mr Gove’s comments is their sweeping generalisation, and his apparent willingness to categorise a whole area as lacking in ambition.

“We are told, on a fairly regular basis, the importance of Ofsted inspections. Yet Mr Gove, or his advisors, would appear not to have read these reports, the most recent of which judged this school to be good with outstanding features.

“Last year we had our highest academic results ever with 68 per cent of students achieving 5 A*-C including English and Maths, an improvement of 30 per cent in the past four years. This does not suggest a lack of ambition.

“But the group most insulted by Mr Gove’s comments must be the students themselves, who, I can assure Mr Gove, are bright, ambitious and according to Ofsted are “motivated to work hard and rise to the high expectations of the head teacher and staff, because they have been convinced they will succeed”.

“Mr Gove is welcome to visit this school at any time and judge for himself whether there is a lack of ambition among the students and staff at Easington.”

Paul McKenna, headteacher at St Bede’s Catholic Comprehensive School in Peterlee, said: “I feel very disappointed with Mr Gove’s comments.

“I can assure parents that we, like all schools in East Durham, have very high aspirations for our students which is reflected in the rapid improvements seen during the past five years rising to a high of 95 per cent of students achieving five or more good passes at GCSE.”

Mr Gove, speaking at the Central London launch of a book on school under-achievement, said: “There is a real problem of ambition in certain traditional communities, like East Durham, which needs to change.”

He said parents from working class homes want their children to have the chance to go to university, but took a swipe at Durham County Council which runs eduactions services in the area.

Mr Gove added: “It is the case that there’s no choice, the local council has been one party for many years and when you go into those schools you can smell the sense of defeatism.”

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