Gove ally @odysseanproject savages No 10 on schools

The Times is reporting that Michael Gove’s closest ally has accused a “bumbling” David Cameron of holding back the education secretary’s radical school reforms…

Dominic Cummings said that the prime minister’s failure to give greater support showed that he lacked “the slightest sense of purpose” about what he wanted to achieve in government…

In his interview, Mr Cummings echoed Tony Blair’s regret about the pace of Labour’s school reforms by saying that the coalition’s changes had not been “faster, further, better”. He blamed chiefly a “dysfunctional” department, but said that it was held back by Mr Cameron’s lack of support or sense of purpose…

“To get anything done you have to have priorities and there are no priorities. Everyone is discouraged from telling the truth to important people. There’s no grip, no focus. I thought it was a shame.” Mr Cameron has not made things worse, he said, “it’s just that we could have gone faster, further, better”.

Mr Cummings said that GCSEs should have been abolished altogether, with national tests at 16 in English and maths set by a single awarding body. This would have made schools focus on the quality of A-level teaching and whether their students went on to good universities or jobs.

These comments will alarm the education world as others in Mr Gove’s inner circle share the view that GCSEs should be scrapped. The education secretary said last weekend that “further reform of GCSEs in the next parliamentary term may be necessary”.

Mr Gove had proposed replacing the exams with a similar set of qualifications at 16 but with one exam board for each. He was forced by Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg to back down.

Mr Cummings regards the episode as among Mr Gove’s greatest errors. Millions of pounds are now being spent by exam boards to develop new content for GCSEs and a more rigorous approach to exam questions.

Universal free school meals for infants, announced by Mr Clegg at his party conference last year, was the biggest “gimmick”, but there were many others, Mr Cummings said.

He said that officials in the Department for Education initially tried to undermine Mr Gove but that those remaining had switched allegiance and worked with him to block interventions from No 10 and the Lib Dems. “They now work with him to screw other people in Whitehall. So if [Nick] Clegg comes along with another mad idea, our officials work with Michael to scupper it,” he said.

Nonetheless, he said that his former ministry should be scaled back from 5,000 civil servants in the department and its agencies to as few as 500 people, with expanded political direction. Only two senior permanent officials would be needed for “policy advice and institutional memory”. He added: “Fundamentally what you’ve got to do is destroy the concept of the permanent civil service.”…

More at: Gove ally savages No 10 on schools (subscription required)

You can read the full interview at: ‘Cameron bumbles from one shambles to another with no sense of purpose’ (subscription required)

Your thoughts on these comments from @odysseanproject on the workings of the Government, the DfE and, in particular, the idea that Michael Gove’s biggest mistake was not insisting on single exam boards for GCSE-level exams (especially in maths and English)? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Policy.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove odysseanproject I shudder to think what would have happened had Gove and his pals had been given a free hand…

  2. Janet2

    @andylutwyche SchoolsImprove odysseanproject The Times article and the leader in the same edition are an attempt to position Gove as a potential rival to Cameron.

    But I don’t want to imagine the fingers of Gove (with consigliere Cummings) hovering over the nuclear button.

  3. VictoriaJaquiss

    SchoolsImprove Actually I do enjoy this spat between cronies; likely to damage them, definitely embarrass. Now “That’s Entertainment”.

  4. inspirechild

    SchoolsImprove odysseanproject Is there a gambling ‘sweep’ going on in the cabinet about who is going to be ‘pushed’ first?

  5. odysseanproject

    inspirechild If u think my i/view is about leadership you’re crazeee. Have u read what i’ve said about MG as leader?! I.e NO WAY JOSE

  6. waterside09

    SchoolsImprove Dominic Cummings “Everyone is discouraged from telling the truth to important people” or any people! Does anyone know truth?

  7. jackiepepper9

    waterside09 SchoolsImprove Dom busy assuming his view on what’s needed in education is ‘truth’. Tells you everything you need to know.

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