Michael Gove, the most important and successful Aberdonian politician since, well, since I don’t know actually, is also that rarest of things: a grown-up cabinet minister. He knows the importance of praise. Consider this passage – highlighted by John Rentoul – from a speech he gave on Child Protection this morning:
Just as the Labour Government early in its life felt that teachers needed to be told how to operate – down to the tiniest detail of what should happen in every literacy or numeracy hour – so the Labour Government towards the end of its life felt it had to produce thousands of pages of central Government prescription on social work practice. Both sets of interventions reflected a lack of trust in the frontline.
But the Labour Government – to its credit – recognised that while central prescription of what professionals do every day could, in certain circumstances, lift performance from weak to adequate it very rarely elevated it beyond that. So it gradually shifted its attention to helping teachers improve their practice – by setting up the National College for School Leadership, encouraging teachers in poorer schools to learn from their peers in stronger schools through initiatives such as the London Challenge and the Academy Programme and supporting professional development organisations like the Prince’s Teaching Institute. And – crucially – the last Government helped change perceptions of the profession – and enhance its prestige and self-confidence – by backing charities like Teach First which persuaded the best graduates from the best universities to enter the classroom.
Oddly, as Mr Rentoul reports, these remarks were omitted from the text of the speech published on the Department of Education’s website. Apparently this part of Gove’s speech was deemed “political content”.
Be that as it may the substance of Gove’s remarks is correct.