Gove’s discipline plan fails to excite

There are few things more appealing to the right of the Tory Party than a bit of good old-fashioned discipline. Nothing whets the appetite like a bit of comprehensive school chaos, children running riot and feckless public servants losing control.

Into this fertile territory, steps Michael Gove – not quite whip in hand, but keen and stiff-backed – with his ‘new guidance‘ for tackling naughtiness in schools.

And what a hotch-potch it is. It’s more a series of random, disparate and occasionally dotty ideas – or a repetition of powers that already exist – than anything that could accurately be described as a ‘plan’.

So here we have, to much fanfare, the announcement that teachers can use reasonable force in the classroom. Splendid stuff, except this power exists already – nothing new. Same with powers to exclude pupils who make malicious allegations – nothing new.

Then there is the slightly bizarre proposal that, in cases of malicious allegation, the ‘default position’ is that the teacher has behaved reasonably ‘unless a complainant can show that a teacher has behaved unreasonably’. Read that a couple of times. Is that not a statement of the blindingly obvious – a re-iteration of ‘innocent until proven guilty’? Good to know – thanks Michael – but it’s very hard to see, beyond the headline, what concrete difference this makes to the school day.

Where the guidance is worthy of a press release, the ideas seem designed for the Daily Mail rather than for the classroom. How often, for example, will a power to prosecute children who make malicious allegations be applied? Never, would be my guess. Such a proposal fits the bill for a Secretary of State that wants to talk tough, but is destined to achieve next to nothing in the real world.

On exclusions, Gove is broadly incoherent – citing the number of kicked-out kids as evidence that schools are out of control, yet also urging Heads to take action (which suggests more exclusions, not less). Added to this morass is a new proposal to make schools accountable for the educational outcome of excluded pupils. How a Head should navigate all that is anyone’s guess.

The reality is that the new guidance is a muddled and modest affair, unremarkable and uninspiring. And it’s all stick and no carrot, but my guess is the spin machine at Education HQ will be quite pleased with this – what amounts to nothing more than a bureaucratic tidying up of fairly dry guidance has provided fodder for much talking tough. On closer inspection it seems this was all cooked up for the Telegraph, not for teachers.

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2 Comments

Filed under Conservatives, Michael Gove, Politics - general, Schools

2 responses to “Gove’s discipline plan fails to excite

  1. I think you pretty much nailed this one in terms of commenting on the Gove policy and its essential lack of coherence. Gove appears at best a tinkerer around the edges, unable to grasp the big picture of how to improve education, but all too quick to seize on a few random policies which will create some good soundbites for the press. And of course the power to prosecute children who make pernicious allegations is a nonsense. This is all about an artificial moral panic cooked up so Gove can portray himself as a hardliner, and very little to do with giving teachers and school management the real tools to improve discipline in schools. Great posting.

  2. Stevie D

    An excellent analysis of the latest spin and spit to come from Gove. Why bother coming up with actual policies when you take existing laws, slap some Daily Mail type language around them and pretend you’re doing something new? The reactionaries who you’re appealling to certainly won’t realise what you’re doing, and nor will they notice the inconsistencies and internal contradictions.

    Still, it could be worse. At least he hasn’t actually done anything here, which is a big improvement on what usually happens when he does enact new policies…

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