Gove: state schools can “be the best” despite cuts

Hazel Shearing 6 February 2014

On Monday morning, Secretary of Education Michael Gove declared: “I want to see state schools in England be the best in the world.” This is in spite of an article published in The Independent earlier in the day accusing Gove of “scrapping” A-Level courses as a result of the Coalition’s cuts.

In his speech at the London Academy of Excellence, a ‘free school’ in East London, Gove emphasised the importance of subjects like Maths, English and languages. He claimed that under this government, “thousands more pupils – including those from the poorest backgrounds – [are] now studying the core academic subjects that universities and employers value; the subjects will help them get the jobs of the future”.

However, according to research by The Independent, sixth-form colleges “have lost more than £100 million in
funding over the past three years, with the result that courses in core A-level subjects – whose importance Mr Gove has been anxious to champion – are being axed”.

This research published in Monday’s article showed that courses have been cut in 48% of sixth-form colleges and 78% have cut staff, and as a result now have larger classes.

Despite these cuts, Gove continued in his speech on Monday that his ambition is to narrow the gap in standards between state and independent schools. He envisaged a time “when you visit a school in England standards are so high all round that you should not be able to tell whether it’s in the state sector or a fee-paying independent”.

However, many find these claims difficult to square with current education cuts. Imi Buxton, a second-year PPS student, commented that: “This reaffirms the fact that Gove is blindly steering our education system down a very damaging path. Sixth-form colleges are known to be high-performing institutions in the state sector, with one of their key advantages being their ability to offer a broad range of courses.”

On Gove’s desire to narrow the gap in standards between schools, she continued: “No amount of declaring a desire to equalise the disparity in educational opportunities will conceal the fact Gove’s department has … inflicted dramatic cuts on sixth-form colleges … and thereby driving an even greater wedge between the state and private sector.”

Hannah William, a second-year Downing student, offered a more optimistic outlook, pointing out that “austerity has pushed [Gove] into a difficult position where he has to focus on quality rather than quantity. Free schools recruit top heads who
are sparky, high-quality and add value, meaning that perhaps this money being cut isn’t such an important thing.”