Michael Gove’s policies are “entirely derived from his own educational experience” and wrongly assume that all children from poor backgrounds can “rise to the top”, according to former Conservative education secretary Lord Baker.
In outspoken comments, Lord Baker, who served as education secretary under Margaret Thatcher, also said that prime minister David Cameron was “not really all that interested in education” and that the views of all prime ministers on education were “irrelevant”.
“Michael Gove is a very dominant education secretary whose policies are entirely derived from his own educational experience,” Lord Baker said. “Michael Gove had a tough upbringing and he believes if he did it, anybody in the country could do what he did: whether they’re orphans, whether they’re poor, whether they’re impoverished, they can all rise to the top. Well that is not actually true, and that is dominating the attitude of a key minister in government.”
His comments, reported by Civil Service World, came in response to a lecture at the Cass Business School in London earlier this week.
In recent years, Lord Baker has spearheaded the opening of university technical colleges, which combine academic and vocational studies for 14 to 19 year-olds. “David Cameron, I like his views on education because he agrees with me, and he supports the technical school movement that I’ve launched in the last four or five years, but he is not really all that interested in education, frankly,” Lord Baker added on Tuesday.
“My experience of prime ministers and their views on education is that they’re not worth listening to, quite frankly,” he said. “They invariably extrapolate from their own experience, which is totally irrelevant.”
“Whether they’ve been to a state school or a public school, university or not, their views are totally out of date, in my experience,” he added.
Lady Thatcher had not talked about her own time as education secretary with him as “she was rather ashamed of it, because she signed the death of more grammar schools than any other secretary of state since the war,” Lord Baker said. “She was inveigled by her civil servants to support that, and regretted it immensely and wanted to try and reinvent the model.”
On appointing him education secretary, Lady Thatcher told Lord Baker to “please go away and work out some ideas, and come and see me in two months’ time,” he said.
“That was the brief I had from Margaret Thatcher. I had my own ideas, I put a few to her then, like schools in local authorities, more technical education. She said: ‘I like all that, work it all up, work it up’. She didn’t have an agenda for education, but she wanted something done because industry was complaining about the state of education in the country,” he said.
At last someone has finally come out and said exactly what I’ve been saying as soon as Gove came into power. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has noticed this …