Michael Gove: Academy Opposers Are Obstructive Ideologues

Michael Gove

First Posted: 04/01/12 15:11 Updated: 04/01/12 15:52

Michael Gove has hit out at local authorities opposing his plans to replace 200 primary schools with academies calling them "obstructive ideologues" more concerned with wielding control than the interests of children.

The education secretary singled out Haringey in his speech on Wednesday accusing the council of asking him "not to challenge" the status quo, despite the north London borough having some of the worst performing schools in the country.

"In one of the most disadvantaged parts of our capital city, poor children have been deprived of the skills they need to succeed," he said.

Gove said most local authorities were being "co-operative and constructive" towards the Government plans to make the weakest primary schools into academies but he said some were "more concerned with protecting old ways of working than helping the most disadvantaged children succeed in the future".

Making a speech at an academy in south-east London, he added: "Anyone who cares about social justice must want us to defeat these ideologues and liberate the next generation from a history of failure."

"But for years, hundreds of children have grown up effectively illiterate and innumerate," he said.

"Defenders of the status quo say these schools shouldn't be judged in this way because they have a different approach - they are creative or inclusive.

"But you can't be creative if you can't read properly and speak fluently - you can't be included in the world of work if you aren't numerate."

He added that the same "ideologues" and "enemies of promise" who were "happy with failure" claimed that it was not possible to get the same results in the inner cities as the "leafy suburbs".

"Let's be clear what these people mean. Let's hold their prejudices up to the light," he said.

"What are they saying? 'If you're poor, if you're Turkish, if you're Somali, then we don't expect you to succeed. You will always be second class and it's no surprise your schools are second class'.

"I utterly reject that attitude.

"It's the bigoted backward bankrupt ideology of a left wing establishment that perpetuates division and denies opportunity."

Gove's speech at Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College in south-east London, highlighted a recent study by academics at the London School of Economics, who found the academies programme generated "a significant improvement in pupil performance".

The Government also released its latest figures for academies. There are now 1,529 academies, compared with only 200 when the coalition came to power. Of those, 1,194 have been converted from schools, while 335 have been sponsored.

A total of 45% of all maintained secondary schools are either open or in the pipeline to become academies, he said.

Mr Gove said more than 700 maintained primary schools were either open or in the pipeline to become academies, ranging from small rural to large urban primaries.

He added that in 16 local authorities there were more than 10% of primary schools open or in the pipeline to become academies.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, (ASCL), said the union "strongly" refuted Mr Gove's criticism of those who do not opt for academy status.

"It is not the act of academy conversion which raises standards in schools.

"There are many highly successful schools working with their local authority and partner schools - they are not the 'enemies of promise' but professionals dedicated to improving the lives of young people.

"The keys to school improvement are excellent teaching and leadership and a relentless determination to stamp out failure.

"What really matters are the outcomes their students achieve rather than the type of school they go to."

Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT was even more critical, accusing Gove of putting a "spin" on academy figures.


"The fact is that only just over 1,500 schools out of the country's 23, 000 are academies.

"Questions need to be raised about who exactly is promoting the interests of the other 22,000 schools and the children and young people who attend them."

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Filed by Lucy Sherriff  |