Michael Gove is “a train-track thinker, with a lack of imagination,” says the leading children’s author Sally Gardner, speaking at the Telegraph Bath Festival of Children’s Literature.
During a discussion at the festival, she said that Gove’s policies are out of touch and ineffectual in inspiring a new generation of children to read.
This came in the week after 200 children’s writers and academics, including the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, wrote a letter expressing their dismay at Gove’s regime of tests and targets inherited from the last government, which they say are damaging children.
Gardner said that Gove’s narrow, train-track attitudes were stifling children’s creativity. She added that this reflected the enduring culture of the education department more generally.
“I think we educate to the wrong strengths in the orchestra,” she said. “Our education system is not broad enough. It’s not imaginative enough.”
She noted that it was an indictment of the system that so many dyslexic children fell between the cracks, many ending up in prison, or, she joked, like her, at art school.
Gardner, who is herself severely dyslexic, has campaigned for greater understanding of the condition. Her novel Maggot Moon, which won the Carnegie medal earlier this year, featured a dyslexic hero living in a dystopian world. It offered a vision of how dyslexia doesn’t need to be seen as a negative force, but can be powerful and even liberating.
At the same event, the children’s writer and artistic director of the festival, David Almond, said Gove should stop issuing directives from Whitehall and spend more time in schools up and down the country. I would love to see this happen actually. In fact why don’t you come down to the secondary school that I mentor in at 3pm and I’ll tell you what I think Mr Gove. I would love to see what you can come up with now you lost your advisor.