In a week of headlines which have focused on the Royal baby and the longest heatwave for nearly 40 years, many would have missed the surprising reports that Education Secretary Michael Gove is planning a summer charm offensive aimed at head teachers. It has been reported that the Education Secretary is planning a whistle stop tour of towns and cities across England to debate policies with groups of head teachers.
This story was a surprise given that earlier in the year Gove was unceremoniously heckled and shouted down by delegates at the National Association of Head Teachers’ Annual Conference. Head teachers also passed a vote of no confidence in the Government’s education policies and Gove was even criticised by the more moderate Association of Teachers and Lecturers. In response, the Education Secretary accused school leaders of failing to come up with “constructive” ideas to boost pupils’ performance. He seemed undeterred by the vote of no confidence and almost saw the criticism as a badge of honour and a sign that his reforms were working.
Despite some bruising encounters the Education Secretary now seems keen to increase dialogue with head teachers and try to win them over to his reforms. Will it work and defuse hostility from the teaching profession for his education reforms? Not likely, but Gove knows that if his school reforms are going to outlast him they need to be driven by teachers, not politicians. That is why in speeches he is so keen to point out examples where teachers have set up free schools or expressed support for the expansion of academies.
Under the Government’s reforms, academies and free schools have wrested control from the old education “establishment” and Gove is banking on the head teachers fighting to hold on to their new powers. If they do, it will be very difficult for a future Government to reverse the changes and the Education Secretary’s schools revolution will be secured for the foreseeable future. But, if they don’t and a future Labour Government hands local authorities new powers over free schools and academies, we could see a reversal of the trend in recent years with Gove’s education reforms dismantled.