Michael Gove vows to fight for education

Michael Gove, The Secretary of State for Education (right) with Mayfield School headteacher David Jeapes'' ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (132949-7055)

Michael Gove, The Secretary of State for Education (right) with Mayfield School headteacher David Jeapes'' ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (132949-7055)

Roxanne Vines

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HE walks into Mayfield School to shouts and cries from protesters angry at the decisions he has made for our children.

Michael Gove is probably considered the most controversial politican around at the moment.

The secretary of state for education was in the city to visit three schools which are all experiencing major changes.

But he was welcomed at Mayfield School by a group of protesters who shouted ‘Who do we hate? Who do we loathe? Academies, free schools and Michael Gove’.

They also called for Mr Gove to leave parliament and held placards which read ‘Gove out’.

Mr Gove ignored the protesters standing outside.

He appeared calm and confident as he gathered with staff from Mayfield and with other local headteachers to discuss the state of education in the city and beyond.

But although Mr Gove freely admitted that it’s been a tough period for teachers recently, he said that everyone is struggling.

‘It’s important for every teacher who went on strike to acknowledge that times are tough for everyone,’ he says.

‘We all know that we have been through three tough years and we’ve asked a lot of teachers during that time.

‘We’ve had a pay freeze and we had to reform their pensions. But at the same time we’ve given teachers a guarantee that the amount of money going into schools is going to stay protected.

‘The teachers I’ve talked to know we are spending more money on the most underprivileged children.

‘They also know that the pension changes still mean that teachers and other public sector workers quite rightly enjoy a better pension than many people in the private sector.

‘I sympathise with the tough times that teachers have faced and I appreciate that they do an incredibly challenging job.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt and Conservative candidate for the Portsmouth South seat Flick Drummond invited him to the city.

Mr Gove visited Arundel Court Primary in Landport, King Richard School in Paulsgrove, and finally Mayfield in North End.

Despite Ofsted inspectors carrying out a blitz inspection of schools within Portsmouth at the start of the year due to poor form, things have gradually started to improve.

Now, the number of children attending good or outstanding schools in the city has shot up dramatically, increasing from 54 per cent to 72 per cent.

Mr Gove says: ‘I know that in the past Portsmouth schools have faced a really challenging time, but we’ve got a new generation of headteachers who really believe in raising standards.

‘I’ve had some really encouraging conversations today and it reflects the fact that in Penny and Flick you have two people absolutely determined to do everything they can in order to improve opportunities for young people in Portsmouth.

‘There has been real progress. A number of things have come together. We’ve seen the growth of academies within Portsmouth.

‘I have been talking to two really inspiring primary school headteachers who want to take that further.

‘These headteachers are determined to ensure that they set more ambitious targets for exam passes.’

Yet Mr Gove, despite acknowledging the fact that there has been huge progress across schools in the city, says there is still work to be done.

He has introduced a number of changes to the education sector.

They include performance related pay, changes to pensions, a big push on free schools and academies, and changes to the national curriculum.

He has also announced that GCSE’s should be exam based, without coursework.

Added to this, he has introduced tests for six-year-olds which many teachers have argued is far too young.

‘We all need to make progress across the country,’ he adds.

‘Some of the changes that have been made are changes that headteachers here have benefited from and have relished.

‘I have been talking to headteachers about the way in which the standards by which teachers are judged have been simplified.

‘There’s more focus on effectiveness in the classroom. It means that children benefit more from a relentless and disciplined approach towards teaching.

‘That’s because we are attracting more and more great people into teaching.

‘The quality of what’s happening in the classroom has risen and the quality of entrance has risen as well.’

Yet Mr Gove is adamant there is still a long way to go.

‘While headteachers here have really improved things, there’s still a long way to go before we can feel that we’re absolutely operating in a way in which we feel that every child has a chance.’

Mr Gove also spoke about plans for Portsmouth’s first free school, called the John Pounds Free School.

It’s a popular topic of conversation at the moment, as deputy prime minister Nick Clegg recently announced that he disagrees with hiring unqualified teachers, and giving the power for schools to use their own curriculum.

‘One of the things that I understand about Portsmouth is that the free school has been incredibly popular with parents and there has been a huge degree of interest in it,’ Mr Gove adds.

‘One of the values that a free school will be able to put into practice is greater flexibility of the curriculum.

‘I think that the sheer weight of academy and free schools heads who say that the flexibility of the curriculum really matters to them I think over time that will ensure that all political leaders and all politicians are inclined to trust headteachers.’

THE headteacher of Mayfield School has said he was honoured to welcome the education secretary in.

Mayfield School has recently announced plans for it to become an ‘all-through’ school, which means it will offer education for children aged from four up to 16.

It means the school will now accept children of primary school age. A new two-form reception year for 60 pupils from September 2014 will grow to a 420-place primary school over a seven-year period.

Mr Gove sat and answered questions from two students at the school.

David Jeapes, said: ‘It’s a great honour.

‘It’s great to have the secretary of state which is the key government minister to come to Mayfield and speak freely with our students answering questions and to be interested in the all-through school we are setting up and the potential for it.

‘It was good for him to give it a thumbs up in terms of the direction of travel. He had heard some good news about Mayfield and the changes that had taken place.

‘He was keen to come in and see the changes to understand more about why we are doing what we are doing.’

And Mr Jeapes says that protesters outside the school had a right to express their opinions.

‘It’s a free society,’ he says.

‘People have a right to demonstrate. It was good natured and peaceful. That’s people’s right.’

The new all-through school aims to offer early access to specialist staff in foreign languages, performing arts and sport, giving pupils a head start.

MP wants to help change education for the better

THE MP for Portsmouth North said it was important to welcome Michael Gove to the city and see the improvements that have been made.

Penny Mordaunt met with him at Mayfield School yesterday afternoon.

She says: ‘I was very keen to bring him here because this is a school that has been through quite radical changes in quite a culturally difficult setting.

‘There have been lots of obstacles for them to get over. It’s really had an effect. The pupils earlier on were talking about how it’s changed behaviour, how the whole through school model has really helped.

‘We haven’t been everywhere, we couldn’t get everywhere but we’ve also tried to bring other teachers and headteachers in to meet with him as well.’

Ms Mordaunt adds that she is welcoming teachers in the city to speak to her about the changes in education.

‘We need to enable people who are doing this kind of job who are here looking after their schools to have much more say in how they can get from A to B,’ she says.

‘We’re not saying you have to do this, what we are saying is it’s for the headteachers to decide how we can start producing the quality that we want for kids in the city.

‘I know that we have been short changing our youngsters for too long and it’s got to change.

‘This is about the children in the city. It’s about getting them the stuff they need. We are getting there but we’ve got a long way to go.’

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