Michael Gove doesn't have a clue about Suffolk or its schools

Michael Gove visited Suffolk yesterday for a photo opportunity in Ipswich and used the opportunity to lecture Suffolk residents about their schools. Apparently not only aren't our schools good enough but our entire communities have ambitions that are "too low". Thanks for that Mr Gove.

Suffolk residents need not fear though as salvation is coming in the shape of his education policies. Free schools, academy status and somewhat bizarrely performance related pay for teachers is going to get us back on straight and narrow. All of this is to be supported by Ofsted who apparently now are now longer just  inspectors but a friendly bunch who give schools tips and advice on how to improve.

And fears articulated by local people that free schools opened in areas of surplus schools places will cause existing schools to struggle are rubbish. Gove told the EADT:
“I don’t think that the financially viability of any existing school is threatened if it’s a good school. If it can command the confidence of parents and secure the commitment of students to come there, then it needn’t have anything to fear.

“If people are voting with their feet and not going to that school then the question needs to be asked, how effectively is it being led? How good is the teaching there? Parents won’t wilfully take their children out of a good school and put them in a poor school.”
Clearly we don't know what we're talking about here in Suffolk and really need people from London to come and tell us the right way to do things.

Strange then what an absolute disaster these policies have been on the ground in Suffolk. Allow me to give a few examples of how well Gove's London based education policies have worked out in Suffolk:
  • Three free schools have opened in areas of significant and increasing surplus secondary school places and remain far from full capacity. The DfE's own impact assessments accepted that the opening of these schools would threaten both the viability and range of opportunities existing local schools could offer
  • Gove's decision to give Academy status to County Upper and two Middle Schools in Bury St Edmunds are making attempts to re-organise schools in the town extremely difficult and divisive.
  • Small village schools that make up the majority of Suffolk schools by number are being starved of funds and are fearful for their futures due to Government imposed funding formula changes
  • IES Breckland a flagship free school run by a profit making Swedish company has had very significant problems losing a third of its teaching staff in less than a term including its Principal and the Heads of both Maths and English.
Gove made great play of the importance of recruiting high quality head teachers but his own policies are making this next to impossible in rural Suffolk primary schools. As for "performance related pay" what on earth are we going to use to pay this even if this is really a desirable outcome?

Like many people Gove simply doesn't understand Suffolk. He fails to take account of what to us are key issues such as declining numbers of children in rural areas and the lack of any transport infrastructure other than roads. I also think he mistakes a difference in aspiration for a lack of aspiration.

I don't disagree that some Suffolk schools are in need of improvement but trying to turn Suffolk into North London isn't the solution.

Although Mr Gove appears to think we're all stupid country folk who don't know what we're doing the last laugh was on him. Interviewed on BBC Radio Suffolk Gove was completely floored by a caller who asked him what qualified him to be Secretary of State for Education as he had no experience of teaching. Eventually he responded that he was elected! 

I don't think its Suffolk people that are stupid and don't know what they are doing!
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