They never change: Stalinist Michael Gove and Section 28


8:22 am - December 5th 2011

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contribution by Natacha Kennedy

I take no pleasure in being right here, but I told you so: academies and ‘Free’ schools will soon come under the direct control of Whitehall.

The latest ‘Funding Agreement’ published by the Department for Education sets out conditions for Academies and ‘Free’ schools to receive funding.

Included in those conditions is the rule that they have to teach the “importance of marriage” over all other types of relationship. In effect all these schools are now controlled by Michael Gove.

This comes after the incoming Tory-led government told us that these schools would be controlled by local people, and gave us a lot of talk about local control of public services, as part of the ‘Big Society’. I warned then that the opposite was going to happen.

Now parents of children in these schools will lose control over their child’s school as elected parent governors are replaced by those appointed by the private company or group of religious zealots which controls the school.

But, in a double whammy to local democratic control, the dead hand of Michael Gove now hangs over every ‘Free’ school and academy in the country, as he dictates what can and cannot be taught in those schools.

Local control has been replaced by the Stalinist control of one of the most partial and extremist members of this 1% Cabinet.

The result of this is nothing less than a slimmed-down, dumbed-down, rigid and uninspiring curriculum imposed on our children and a sustained effort on the part of Gove to reintroduce the homophobic Section 28 through the back door.

The Tories, especially Michael Gove, were fond of describing the local control of schools as the “dead hand of local authority control”. This has always been a myth, eagerly propagated by the media.

Local authority schools have always been independently run, with parents having a majority on the governing body. I know I have served as a school governor, an elected one not an appointed one.


Natacha Kennedy tweets from here and blogs here.

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Reader comments


Is this Dave Spart hyperbole really the best analysis LibCon can provide? We await a reasoned critique of Gove’s free school policy.

You can’t really blame him, attempting to make lgbt’s lives shitter has always been a hugely successful distraction tactic for the right in the US, while they pursue economic policies which will begger their support base.

Not to rain on your parade, but the language itself comes from Labour’s 2006 funding template for Academies. All Gove has done is renumber it from Clause 29.

Shocking ignorance of history? Yes. “Reintroducing” Clause 28 by the back door? Absolutely not. It was done in plain sight by his predecessors.

4. Disgruntled Gnome

The guidance for state schools (Labour government 2000) isn’t a whole lot better – it is a horrible piece of facing all ways at once. Basically “Marriage is best but other families, well, they’re OK too, even single parents although we don’t like to talk about them.”

https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DfES-0116-2000%20SRE.pdf Clause 4

Here’s the 2006 document with the clause in it (At number 29): http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/d/dfes_foi_279.pdf

Whilst I agree with some of the thrust of this there are some mistakes. Parents do NOT have a majority control of maintained school Governing Bodies. They usually make up just over a third of the membership.

In convertor academies there is no reason that the previous number of elected parent governors cannot continue and many of these schools have done just that. In fact many don’t have sponsors. All have two elected parent governors at least.

The composition of academy governing bodies has not actually been changed by this Government except for convertors who are actually allowed more flexibility and can keep more or less the same governance structure as they have now.

For sponsored academies and free schools you have more of a point. Chains of academies (which you don’t mention) where control is centralised in an unaccountable trust is even more of an issue. Local Governing Bodies have less control and power is held by the academy trust company that could be hundreds of miles away….

Emma- don’t keep going on about ‘It’s Labour’s fault’ It is very tedious and childish.

8. Chaise Guevara

“But, in a double whammy to local democratic control, the dead hand of Michael Gove now hangs over every ‘Free’ school and academy in the country, as he dictates what can and cannot be taught in those schools. ”

Long-term (i.e. leaving aside the fact that it’s Michael “reality frightens me” Gove), that sounds like a good thing. I’m not sure schools should be able to teach kids whatever rubbish they feel like. Short story: they realised this was a dumb idea and are now quite correctly backpedalling.

“Stalinist”

Sigh. Can everyone just calm down a bit? If you use hyperbole too easily, you’ll have nothing left for when you really need it.

Gove should instead follow Robespierre’s illustrious example by insisting that free schools and academies are fully committed to promoting virtue.

Who can possibly object to that?

Of course, one incidental implication is that the Catholic church may have to be proscribed. But that could be a price worth paying to protect children and young people from systemic abuse.

10. Chaise Guevara

Oh, I just read the Telegraph article. OK, this isn’t a good thing, it’s more of Gove’s attempt to impose his small-minded views on the population at last.

So free schools will not be places of free thought.

No surprise with Jack boot Gove running them. Sounds like they will be brownshirt boot camps. Seeing as Gove is so keen on morality I wonder if he will teach the morality of the tabloid press. He could get his mates, the Murdoch crime family to give lectures.

You can teach all you like about mummies and daddies, but by the time they go to secondary school I think you’ll find that it’s not so easy to brainwash children into your desired ideology. Unless we’re talking about really provincial places, the reality of the children’s own circumstances will dictate what is taken form any lessons on this issue.

13. Disgruntled Gnome

Steve – given that the main plank of the attack on “Stalinist” Gove was that he was trying to “reintroduce” the homophobic Section 28, it seems fair comment to point out that he isn’t “reintroducing” anything, merely perpetuating existing phraseology. The clause goes right back to the first academy agreement, Bexley, in December 2001*, so if anyone deserves to be called “Stalinist” it should be “not-up-to-the-job” Estelle Morris – although the clause may well have been drafted during David “family values” Blunkett’s term as Education Secretary.

* http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/d/dfes_foi_119.pdf Clause 26

14. Flowerpower

Why is this even the slightest bit controversial?

It requires schools only to ensure that children learn “the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children.”

Is anyone seriously suggesting that kids should be left in total ignorance of the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and bringing up children?

If so, what reason can you offer why it would be a good idea to teach relationship education, while excluding the nature and benefits of marriage from the syllabus?

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 14 Flowerpower

“Is anyone seriously suggesting that kids should be left in total ignorance of the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and bringing up children?”

I have no issue with kids being taught about marriage. In fact, it seems eminently sensible. What I do take issue is with kids being taught that marriage is the correct or preferable setting for bringing up children and “family life”, whatever that may mean.

The whole point of a state-directed curriculum is to prevent kids having ideologies shoved down their throats at the expense of education. The phrasing of this initiative suggests that it’s actually going to enforce this sort of nonsense.

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 12 damon

There are different levels of this, though. The child may not grow into an adult who constantly drones about the sanctity of marriage in a robotic fashion every time the subject comes up, but they might end up feeling that there’s something wrong with them if they decide to cohabit or end up a single parent.

Anyway, even if the idea fails completely, it’s still a waste of educational time.

17. James Reade

What I find interesting here is that the idea that “free” schools might, on their own, start teaching this kind of stuff isn’t even considered. It could only possibly happen if forced on them from above. What about those schools that voluntarily teach things you don’t like so much? What should happen to them?

18. Chaise Guevara

@ 17 James Reade

“What I find interesting here is that the idea that “free” schools might, on their own, start teaching this kind of stuff isn’t even considered. It could only possibly happen if forced on them from above.”

You made that up. Presumably some free schools would do this sort of thing of their own accord, but Gove’s policy is still relevant unless they ALL would.

“What about those schools that voluntarily teach things you don’t like so much? What should happen to them?”

Do you think schools should be able to teach literally anything they want? The issue here, for me at least, isn’t the specific details of the ideology being forced down people’s throats, it’s that any ideology is to be taught as “fact” in schools.

Two points. First, just to address all this ‘Labour were just as bad’ nonsense:

There is a world of difference between this –

“Sex and Relationship Education Guidance, July 2000

Pupils should be taught about the nature and importance of marriage for family life and bringing up children. But the Government recognises that there are strong and mutually supportive relationships outside marriage. Therefore pupils should learn the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of community and society. Care needs to be taken to ensure that there is no stigmatisation of children based on their home circumstances.”

– and this –

“Free School Model Funding Agreement and Academy Model Funding Agreement, July 2011

The Academy Trust shall have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State on sex and relationship education to ensure that children at the academy are protected from inappropriate teaching materials and they learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children.”

The former requires schools to teach pupils that stable relationships *other than marriage* are ‘key building blocks of community’, and to take care not to stigmatise children of unmarried parents. The latter does not.

Secondly: there’s more than a little tension between the point about local democratic control vs. Whitehall control, and the point about the teaching of marriage. If locally, democratically controlled schools, run by parent governors, were to decide to push Gove’s agenda on marriage (or to take a harder line on homosexual relationships, say), would that be OK? No, it wouldn’t. In fact, the possibility of that sort of thing happening if these matters were to be left wholly to schools (especially faith schools) illustrates the legitimacy of direction from Whitehall.

Hmm. I may have to eat my words; I followed the Telegraph in confusing sex and relationships education guidance with academy/free school funding agreements.

http://www.leftfootforward.org/2011/12/free-schools-academies-tony-blair-michael-gove/

Mea culpa.

@ Chaise

Do you think schools should be able to teach literally anything they want?

Yes of course. And parents, on viewing the prospectus, should be able to decide whether or not to send their children to them.

The issue here, for me at least, isn’t the specific details of the ideology being forced down people’s throats, it’s that any ideology is to be taught as “fact” in schools.

One man’s fact is another’s ideology- you have been commenting here long enough to know that.

Supposing the inhabitants of a commune, who do not believe in monogamy, were to set up a school. Why should the state be able to insist that they teach their children the benefits of marriage? Why should the state be able to insist on any aspect of the curriculum?

As I said, one man’s fact………

Chaise @ 15:

“What I do take issue is with kids being taught that marriage is the correct or preferable setting for bringing up children”

Well, children whose parents are married tend to do better in life than those whose parents aren’t. Obviously correlation =/= causation, but that would suggest, prima facie, that marriage is indeed the “preferable” setting for child-raising.

23. James Reade

@18: You wrote “Do you think schools should be able to teach literally anything they want? The issue here, for me at least, isn’t the specific details of the ideology being forced down people’s throats, it’s that any ideology is to be taught as “fact” in schools.”

I think that’s the issue isn’t it. The shock horror abhorrency that Gove might force schools to teach something isn’t because you actually want the opposite, is it?

Why shouldn’t schools be allowed to teach anything they want? Parents would vote with their feet, pulling kids out of the dodgy schools, leaving them in the good schools, and if the good schools taught things they thought were dodgy they would counter those bits and leave the rest.

Because the problem is, you’re as bad as Gove as far as I can see – you want to control what’s taught in schools.

@21

“As I said, one man’s fact………”

Postmodern relativism from a tory! As ye sow…

25. Chaise Guevara

@ 21 Pagar

“One man’s fact is another’s ideology- you have been commenting here long enough to know that. ”

Facts and ideology are different, Pagar. “Iraq is in the Middle East” = fact. “We were right/wrong to invade Iraq” = ideology. This distinction doesn’t disappear just because some people lie and say that their ideology is fact or a fact they dislike is just ideology.

26. Chaise Guevara

@ 22 XXX

“Well, children whose parents are married tend to do better in life than those whose parents aren’t. Obviously correlation =/= causation, but that would suggest, prima facie, that marriage is indeed the “preferable” setting for child-raising.”

It’s pretty much useless info without more specific evidence. If you could prove the effect was causative, that would justify teaching kids that marriage was statistically likely to benefit their children. It wouldn’t justify teaching that marriage was “right”.

27. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 James

“I think that’s the issue isn’t it. The shock horror abhorrency that Gove might force schools to teach something isn’t because you actually want the opposite, is it?”

Correct. As I already said, my issue is ideology being forced upon children as fact in schools, not state intervention.

“Why shouldn’t schools be allowed to teach anything they want? Parents would vote with their feet, pulling kids out of the dodgy schools, leaving them in the good schools, and if the good schools taught things they thought were dodgy they would counter those bits and leave the rest.”

There’s a big gaping hole in your logic here: the parents may themselves believe these dodgy teachings. Say that religious group X believe that everyone in religious group Y is subhuman and deserves to die – I don’t want parents in this group to be able to create a school that would teach this ideology as if it were a fact. Also remember that being a parent does not make you an expert on education.

“Because the problem is, you’re as bad as Gove as far as I can see – you want to control what’s taught in schools.”

That’s not a problem for me, as I don’t see anything wrong with the government controlling what’s taught in schools. You seem to be accusing me of hypocrisy on the assumption that I share your belief in a laissez-faire approach to education. I don’t.

XXX @ 22

Well, children whose parents are married tend to do better in life than those whose parents aren’t.

And? What is your point? Does that mean that ‘getting married’ improves the lives of those involved irrespective of other conditions or that people whose lives are improving tend to then choose to get married?

Given that both groups are self selecting, who could you draw significant conclusions? Conclusions significant enough to be put onto a syllabus?

29. Robin Levett

@James #23:

<blockquote.Why shouldn’t schools be allowed to teach anything they want? Parents would vote with their feet, pulling kids out of the dodgy schools, leaving them in the good schools, and if the good schools taught things they thought were dodgy they would counter those bits and leave the rest.

Are you serious? Children aren’t cars that you can send to another dealer if the first one misses a fault. Simply moving a child from one school to another harms both their education and social development. Moving a child round the borough chasing the “best” school is pretty much guaranteed to give that child the worst education. You also assume that perfect information is available to the parent, and that the parent is capable of properly assessing that information.

Chaise @ 26:

“It’s pretty much useless info without more specific evidence. If you could prove the effect was causative, that would justify teaching kids that marriage was statistically likely to benefit their children. It wouldn’t justify teaching that marriage was “right”.”

Assuming for argument’s sake that the effect is causative in the direction of marriage –> better-off children, surely it *is* right to try and ensure that as many children as possible are brought up in married households, as this will ensure that they get the best possible start in life?

31. Chaise Guevara

@ XXX

That’s one option (another is to address whatever’s holding down kids in other households). That’s STILL not the same as teaching children The Rights And Wrongs of Marriage.

In any case, this seems extremely unlikely. Marriage is ultimately a piece of paper with a few legal rights and responsibilities; it’s not clear to me how it could lead to better parenting on a notable scale.

Interesting comments beyond the usual “Labour was just as bad/worse/etc” stuff.

@Colin. Plenty of reasoned critiques of “free” schools out there. This one is a critque of one aspect of those and academies as well. This is neither intended to be what you suggest it should be. A daft criticism, if I have ever heard one.

@James Hargrave The point isn’t just about Section 28, the fact is that the Tories promised local control of public services and “free” schools to be controlled by local people. In fact control the first free schools break down in the following way;

• Religious 9

• “charitable” trust in chains with academies 3

• Ex private school 3

• Private company 2

• Unclear 3

• Community 3

• Teacher 1

In other words, the overwhelming majority are run by largely unelected groups, yet the rhetoric the government and the media has been pushing has suggested they are all started and run by local parents’ groups.

I was an elected school governor for many years and there were always more parent representatives at every meeting than everyone else, and when representatives of both tiers of local government were included(only a couple of representatives); who would generally be sensitive to the concerns of local parents, as well as the teacher governors, there could be said to be genuine local control of the school. A local primary school near where I live has, however recently become an academy against the wishes of the majority of parents, who have been denied a voice entirely. Conversion to an academy at least used to be dependent on a proper ballot, now governors only need to “consult”.

The problem is that, whilst there might be a small number of academies and “free” schools that may have some vestige of local accountability, most will not, although those that do will inevitably be held up, dishonestly, as prime examples by a complicit media.

XXX @ 30

Assuming for argument’s sake that the effect is causative in the direction of marriage –> better-off children,

Yes, but who gets to assume that? Has Gove got the empirical evidence for that? Or is he just the idea in his head, because that is what he wants the answer to be?

You could just as easily say that if we buy every unemployed youth in the Country a Bentley, they will become fantastic footballers, based on the fact that great football players have great cars.

@22

Well, children whose parents are married tend to do better in life than those whose parents aren’t. Obviously correlation =/= causation, but that would suggest, prima facie, that marriage is indeed the “preferable” setting for child-raising.

Studies have shown that the worst household you can raise a child in, after drug dens and abusive households, is families where the mother and father have fallen out of love but have stuck together “for the sake of their kids”. Better off being single, was the major conclusion, less treading on eggshells that way and less of the creating of a spiteful and poisonous atmosphere. Obviously this counts for both married and unmarried couples, but not, crucially, for loving & committed couples. Now loving couples are much more likely to get married where possible (other studies have shown that [loving & committed] Gay and Lesbian pairings raise kids just as well as straight pairings, with the Lesbian couples actually outperforming the straight couples on average too, presumably Gay marriage would resolve any differences of argument there anyway since they’d then be “a married couple”), so one would expect Married couples to perform better statistically at child rearing. However this should not mean that one should reach the conclusion that Marriage = Best child rearing environment, because it is to miss the wood for the trees and miss out a lot of pertinent data.

35. James Reade

@28 and 29:

“As I already said, my issue is ideology being forced upon children as fact in schools, not state intervention.”

Ideology is always imposed on children as fact, and always will be. Our politicians spout ideology as fact all the time, blurring the distinction between (bad) theory and fact. If you’re concerned about this, then you really haven’t got a hope.

“There’s a big gaping hole in your logic here: the parents may themselves believe these dodgy teachings. Say that religious group X believe that everyone in religious group Y is subhuman and deserves to die – I don’t want parents in this group to be able to create a school that would teach this ideology as if it were a fact. Also remember that being a parent does not make you an expert on education.”

Tell me, how many kids of Christian/Catholic families and schools rebell and reject? Answer, quite a lot. Kids do have brains of their own, and are able to tell ridiculous things when they see/hear them. You’re being pretty patronising to the kids, and making vast assumptions about me – I’m not a parent.

“That’s not a problem for me, as I don’t see anything wrong with the government controlling what’s taught in schools. You seem to be accusing me of hypocrisy on the assumption that I share your belief in a laissez-faire approach to education. I don’t.”

Ok, great – you are happy with the government deciding what is taught. What happens when you stop agreeing with what the government wants teaching? What if what it teaches goes against your core beliefs (assuming you have some)?

You see, the government has to stipulate what is taught on a heck of a lot of sensitive issues, and the stance it takes will end up infuriating/intimidating/marginalising/criminalising some groups or others, and will reflect the strongest lobby groups around at the time.

Actually, @29 makes the much better point, which is that the market for education is very different to normal markets – perfect information does not exist, and it is possible that a bad choice (by parents) can affect a child for the rest of their lives – we all know the negative impact of a bad teacher.

The question though is what to do about that possibility of a bad teacher. Currently, it’s essentially impossible to sack bad teachers because of this “dead hand” (I hate to quote a Tory). If free schools have the liberty to hire and fire dependent on performance of teachers, then that may lead to there being less bad teachers around to afflict the performance of kids in their futures. But I’m straying a bit here. What were we talking about again?

In the past Gove and Cameron have expressed an opinion on matters that one would have thought could be left to the school, such as literacy methods, the contents of the history curriculum, what people in the schools should wear and how the furniture should be arranged in the classroom. That they should be pushing this re-heated section 28 should come as no surprise. ‘Freedom’ in this context just means exchanging local authority control for that of the central government. This has been Conservative policy for as long as most of us can remember.

@14: “Is anyone seriously suggesting that kids should be left in total ignorance of the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and bringing up children?”

It wasn’t in the curriculum of the school I attended in the 1950s but then we didn’t have any classes which focused on current social issues and RE was mainly about the Bible until some of us managed to divert it to comparative religion to broaden our education.

Mind you, the narrative in the Old Testament about King Solomon and his hundreds of wives and concubines was most inspiring for adolescent boys although I’m unclear whether Gove wants that model of matrimony to be included.

If lessons on social issues are not to lose credibility among the smart sets in schools – who are apt to look up issues on the internet – it will need to be disclosed that half of all marriages in Britain end in divorce and half of all babies are born to unmarried couples.

Those social facts will tend to add seasoning to lessons on the importance of matrimony, as will the daily doses of celebrity news in the tabloid press. By comparison, monogamy will tend to look very tedious.. I can’t really believe that Gove has thought through this addition to the curriculum.

Btw whatever became of Gove’s earlier proposals for including a specific list of topics about Britain’s history in the curriculum of schools? For curious reasons, that list included the early but not the later industrial revolution and there was no mention of the Opium Wars as the result of which Britain acquired the crown colony of Hong Kong.

38. Chaise Guevara

@ James Reade

“Ideology is always imposed on children as fact, and always will be. Our politicians spout ideology as fact all the time, blurring the distinction between (bad) theory and fact. If you’re concerned about this, then you really haven’t got a hope.”

Everyone dies, it’s unavoidable. So if you object to murder just because it means taking someone’s life, you haven’t got a hope…

This is the perfection fallacy. Essentially you’re saying that because the problem can’t be fixed, we shouldn’t do anything to alleviate it. One of the reasons I’m against schools teaching ideological or religious views as fact is that the kids will already have that stuff pushed on them at home (and before you say anything, no, I wouldn’t look to prevent that from happening).

“Tell me, how many kids of Christian/Catholic families and schools rebell and reject? Answer, quite a lot.”

And yet you’re far more likely to be religious if your parents are religious (atheists don’t raise many Catholics), and very unlikely to end up worshipping a different god to your parents (Hindus don’t raise many Muslims). So it doesn’t seem that kids ignore their upbringing and calmly reassess their beliefs from first principles.

“Kids do have brains of their own, and are able to tell ridiculous things when they see/hear them. You’re being pretty patronising to the kids, and making vast assumptions about me – I’m not a parent.”

We’re talking about all kids here, not just the top quotient. And you know as well as I do that many people, adults and kids, believe ridiculous, illogical and demonstrably untrue things. People let their lives be ruled by avoidable factual errors. What you’re doing is acting as if children are incredibly smart across the board, so you can accuse me of being patronising.

Also, I never assumed nor said you were a parent, though I can see where I gave that impression. The “you” in that sentence was generic, you can rephrase it as “being a parent does not make one an expert on education” if you prefer. I therefore also wasn’t trying to smack you down, personally, for not being an expert (I’m not either).

“Ok, great – you are happy with the government deciding what is taught. What happens when you stop agreeing with what the government wants teaching? What if what it teaches goes against your core beliefs (assuming you have some)?”

I get out and vote. But do bear in mind that I’m essentially saying that NO ideology should be taught in schools, not that only my ideology should be. For example, I’m an atheist, but I wouldn’t want schools teaching kids that there are no gods. Nor would I want children study A Beginner’s Guide To Why You Shouldn’t Vote Tory. And so on.

Of course, my desire not to see ideology taught in schools is in itself an ideological position… but then so is everyone’s in this debate (and any other that isn’t about simple factual disagreement).

“You see, the government has to stipulate what is taught on a heck of a lot of sensitive issues, and the stance it takes will end up infuriating/intimidating/marginalising/criminalising some groups or others, and will reflect the strongest lobby groups around at the time.”

Well, that’s gonna happen regardless. You could say it won’t happen IF the government doesn’t intervene in schools, and I could say it won’t happen IF schools are ideologically neutral.. but both those “ifs” are reliant on the government agreeing with us.

The difference is that, in my version, if it actually happened, kids would go to school to learn real things, not to be indoctrinated.

“The question though is what to do about that possibility of a bad teacher. Currently, it’s essentially impossible to sack bad teachers because of this “dead hand” (I hate to quote a Tory). If free schools have the liberty to hire and fire dependent on performance of teachers, then that may lead to there being less bad teachers around to afflict the performance of kids in their futures.”

True, assuming teachers are actually hired and fired based on competence. But you don’t need free schools for this, you just need harsher requirements on teachers. Where teachers are failing due to their own fault, I’ll back your call to make it easier to sack them.

39. Chaise Guevara

@ 37 Bob B

“If lessons on social issues are not to lose credibility among the smart sets in schools – who are apt to look up issues on the internet – it will need to be disclosed that half of all marriages in Britain end in divorce and half of all babies are born to unmarried couples.”

Yeah, but it won’t. This won’t be some careful assessment of the facts, it’ll be a load of POV claptrap about how married people are awesome, possibly backed by some carefully harvested and pruned statistics. This is the man who thinks History ought to be a revisionist syllabus designed to make Britain look as wonderful as possible.

Chaise

I agree with your assessment of Gove and his proposals for adding to the school curriculum.

Even when teens don’t search the internet to learn about current social trends, they can hardly avoid news about celebrities, especially news about footballers and movie stars, which will promote a pretty downbeat view of marriage and partnerships.

If schools then come in with sanitised presentations of the importance of matrimony, many school kids are bound to notice the gap with reality and start to question the credibility of the messages being disseminated. I’m unconvinced that the results of that process on a large scale will be socially beneficial.

We might reflect of why 390,000 returns to the 2001 Population Census responded to the question about the religion of the respondent with the entry: Jedi.

But I’m bound to admit that I’ve long regarded Gove as a silly twit.

41. So Much For Subtlety

39. Chaise Guevara

Yeah, but it won’t. This won’t be some careful assessment of the facts, it’ll be a load of POV claptrap about how married people are awesome, possibly backed by some carefully harvested and pruned statistics. This is the man who thinks History ought to be a revisionist syllabus designed to make Britain look as wonderful as possible.

Any careful assessment of the facts would show how awesome married people are. By any measure, unmarried people perform worse most of the time compared to married people.

Any objective look at history would also show Britain was pretty wonderful.

So it looks like Gove is on to a good thing.

42. tigerdarwin

@ 3 Not to rain on your parade, but the language itself comes from Labour’s 2006 funding template for Academies

Hardly surpring since Blair was very conservative educationally

Gove is extremely right wing as well as being nasty and pompous.

School education ( as opposed to college) has always been about more than acheivement. It is also about social control

Since Gove is a lover of Pinochet and Franco he is in his element and is in consequence extremely dangerous.

43. Chaise Guevara

@ 41 SMFS

“Any careful assessment of the facts would show how awesome married people are. By any measure, unmarried people perform worse most of the time compared to married people. ”

Any objective look at history would also show Britain was pretty wonderful.

So it looks like Gove is on to a good thing.”

Really? If Britain is so wonderful, why does he have to resort to skewed presentation to demonstrate that? Likewise, if marriage is so great, why does he want to teach the “importance” of marriage instead of just the facts surrounding marriage?

If I say group X is a majority, and the facts show that 55% of people are in group X, does that mean I ought to go around saying 95% of people are group X – after all, they ARE the majority, so pretending they’re even more of a majority must mean I’m on to a good thing!

Facts don’t actually need to be backed up with propaganda. That’s what makes them facts.

44. Chaise Guevara

@ 40 Bob B

“If schools then come in with sanitised presentations of the importance of matrimony, many school kids are bound to notice the gap with reality and start to question the credibility of the messages being disseminated. I’m unconvinced that the results of that process on a large scale will be socially beneficial.”

On top of that, it might well make them suspicious of school as a source of reliable information. This could be good in the long-term, but the risk is that it’ll make academically capable kids drop out of school earlier because “it’s all lies anyway”.

Every time David Cameron comes across as sane and sensible (albeit in a callous kind of way), I remind myself that he gave Gove the keys to the schoolbus.

Free schools were always a bad idea, with no real innovation behind them.

Just having them free of LEA control is no solution at all. Just rightwing dogma.

More rightwing failure about to hit society.

@41 How exactly does being married make people perform better? The obvious answer is that it doesn’t, however people who gel well together, who love one another and are committed to one another are very likely to get married, and then go on to perform well. (with notable exceptions where divorce comes in handy)
Pushing marriage at school on the basis that it’s the best thing since sliced bread, is putting the cart before the horse, quite frankly.

What you are all missing is the fact that Gove isn’t suddenly imposing this obligation – the obligation is already there for all maintained schools…. Gove is just ensuring that it still applies to Academies & Free Schools, who are otherwise exempt from the national curriculum etc.

48. Chaise Guevara

@ 47

What do you mean by “maintained schools”? I never got lectures on marriage at my state schools (that said, I think they ignored the religious requirements as well).

@ Chaise: “What do you mean by ‘maintained schools’? I never got lectures on marriage at my state schools (that said, I think they ignored the religious requirements as well).

“Maintained schools” is official jargon for the schools funded by the government or local government – which can include those “faith schools” which don’t charge school fees. Schools such as Eton College, Fettes College (alumni include Blair), Leicester Grammar School (alumni include Alastair Cambell), Nottingham High School (Ed Balls is an alumnus), Oundle, Westminster and Winchester are all “non-maintained” schools.

Note that some (usually selective) grammar schools are “non-maintained” while others (like those within walking distance of where I sit) are “maintained”. By reports, Bradford Grammar School is in the process of changing its status from “non-maintained” to “maintained”.

By reports, more than a few “maintained” schools do not conform with the statutory requirement to hold a daily act of worship and weekly RE classes may cover all sorts of subjects, some with ethical or social dimensions or comparative religions to address the interests of ethnically diverse classes.

50. Leon Wolfson

@8 – The proper way to do this is the national curriculum, which has proper input from educators, rather than just from politicians. The concept that top-down political control is best…

51. Flowerpower

Chaise & Bob B

What do you mean by “maintained schools”?

Maintained schools are those funded via the LEA – including community schools, voluntary aided schools (faith schools), voluntary controlled schools etc. but NOT academies (free schools become academies on the day they open).

Maintained schools are subject to the NC and other guidance. Academies have many fewer restrictions/compulsory subjects (PSHE etc) and do not have to follow the NC, but can have some requirements built-in to their funding agreements.

52. Chaise Guevara

@ 51

OK. What’s the specific rule about teaching kids about marriage? Like I say, this didn’t happen at my schools, so either the rule is fairly recent, or my schools ignored it.

53. Chaise Guevara

@ 49 Bob B

“By reports, more than a few “maintained” schools do not conform with the statutory requirement to hold a daily act of worship and weekly RE classes may cover all sorts of subjects, some with ethical or social dimensions or comparative religions to address the interests of ethnically diverse classes.”

I can confirm that first-hand. My primary school had Christian songs in assembly but no prayer, and no talks about God either (except on the occasions when the embarassing evangalist teacher got her way).

My seconday had no worship at all, and RE was essentially a humanities subject with some entry-level moral and philosophical debate. We did have one RE teacher who announed at the start of the term that we wouldn’t be covering Islam like we were meant to because “we hadn’t learned enough about Christianity yet”. She wasn’t invited to return the next year.

I’m guessing that these rules aren’t enforced, at least until some religious parent kicks up a fuss.

By Table 3.3 on page 29 in chapter 3 of Social Trends 40 for 2010, out of 9,691 thousand pupils at UK schools in 2008/9, 621 thousand were attending at “non-maintained” schools – which is less than 7 pc..

It used to be a straight forward matter to post links to the ONS wesbite to access official publications such as this but not any longer. Try googling on: Social Trends 40

Good luck. I’ve a copy on my HD from times before the ONS website was redeveloped. Old links return the error message: Not found.

55. Chaise Guevara

@ 50 Leon

Yes, agreed.

56. Flowerpower

@ 52 Chaise

OK. What’s the specific rule about teaching kids about marriage? Like I say, this didn’t happen at my schools, so either the rule is fairly recent, or my schools ignored it.

The law was changed in 2000. (Dunno when you left school).

The Learning and Skills Act 2000 requires that:

“young people learn about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and bringing up children.”

and that governing bodies “take account of guidance from Sec State on sex and relationship education.

And that’s it……… so what Gove has done this week is merely ensure that academies & free schools are under the same legal requirement as everyone else. Which is nether Stalinist nor some ideologically loaded move.

Some commenters above have tried to imply some big difference by comparing the wording of the funding agreement with the wording of the guidance. That’s apples and pears. What’s in the funding agreement should simply conform with what’s on the statute book.

Now it does.

If Gove had gone beyond the law, then those who claim this is political interference from Whitehall might have a point. But he hasn’t. He’s just kept it to the wording of the 2000 Act. ….. i.e. done the legally required minimum.

Which is why the OP is a load of tosh.

57. Chaise Guevara

@ 56 Flowpower

“The law was changed in 2000. (Dunno when you left school).”

2001, I think. Which would explain why I don’t remember this.

“And that’s it……… so what Gove has done this week is merely ensure that academies & free schools are under the same legal requirement as everyone else. Which is nether Stalinist nor some ideologically loaded move. ”

I think it’s the latter (it’s obviously not the former).

“Some commenters above have tried to imply some big difference by comparing the wording of the funding agreement with the wording of the guidance. That’s apples and pears. What’s in the funding agreement should simply conform with what’s on the statute book.”

Apples and pears are quite different. As is the difference between teaching the important of marriage, and teaching the importance of marriage and “other stable relationships”, which according to the Telegraph article is the main change here. Basically Gove seems to have removed the bit that also OKs cohabiting couples and civil partnerships.

@ Leon

The proper way to do this is the national curriculum, which has proper input from educators, rather than just from politicians.

The national curriculum is continually interfered with by politicians, helped out by “educators” often with their own political or social agendas.

The safeguard against a “Stalinist” education system is freedom for schools to set their own curricula and and choice for parents in where they send their children. Of course a degree of conformity can be attained by the setting of examinations, but exam boards should, also, not be state controlled.

Government should have no role in promoting the benefits of marriage, or any other social agenda, to children and, as long as you agree their right to set the curriculum, you risk them promoting other things you may like a lot less.

59. Shatterface

It’s pretty much useless info without more specific evidence. If you could prove the effect was causative, that would justify teaching kids that marriage was statistically likely to benefit their children. It wouldn’t justify teaching that marriage was “right”.

You’d have to compare the statistics of children from one parent families to those of children from two parent families where neither parent can stand the sight of each other to have a reasonable comparison.

60. Robin Levett

@Flowerpower #56:

The relevant provision actually reads:

(1A) The Secretary of State must issue guidance designed to secure that when sex education is given to registered pupils at maintained schools—
(a) they learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and the bringing up of children, and
(b) they are protected from teaching and materials which are inappropriate having regard to the age and the religious and cultural background of the pupils concerned.

(1B) In discharging their functions under subsection (1) governing bodies and head teachers must have regard to the Secretary of State’s guidance.

which isn’t quite as you suggested. The requirement is on the SoS to issue guidance in relation to sex ed, and on the heads and governing bodies to have regard to it when teaching sex ed.

The guidance issued under that Act read (in relevant part):

This is the first time that schools have had a national framework to support work in this area. As part of sex and relationship education, pupils should be taught about the nature and importance of marriage for family life and bringing up children. But the Government recognises – as in the Home Office, Ministerial Group on the Family consultation document “Supporting Families”- that there are strong and mutually supportive relationships outside marriage. Therefore pupils should learn the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of community and society. Care needs to be taken to ensure that there is no stigmatisation of children based on their home circumstances.

The model free school funding agreement provides that:

The Academy Trust shall have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State on sex and relationship education to ensure that children at the Academy are protected from inappropriate teaching materials and they learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children.

So the question is the content of “any guidance issued by the Secretary of State”; if this includes the statutory guidance issued under the L&SA, then there is no difference betewen free and maintained schools; if however it doesn’t, and (as appears to be the case) the SoS has issued no guidance specifically for free schools, then free schools are free to teach largely as they wish in this area.

I haven’t been able to find any free-school guidance on the topic.

61. Shatterface

Sorry, I appear to have buggered up you formating. Does this help?

62. Flowerpower

@ 60 Robin Levett

Wrong. You have only partially quoted the MFA.

The wording of c 28 of the model funding agreement is:

28) The Academy Trust shall have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State on sex and relationship education to ensure that children at the Academy are protected from inappropriate teaching materials and they learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children.

63. the a&e charge nurse

[62] “they learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children” – is teaching expected to be along the lines of an idealised, Walton’s version of the family – or will the poor old kids get the Fred West model, with a few clues about how closed systems can be the ideal vehicle for all manner of depravity?

I mean does any of this claptrap go beyond frightened adults not having the first clue about how to engage their children on matters of a sexual nature?

Here James Fox embraces the Grovesian approach to teaching ‘the birds & the bees’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fgT-OjrdDM&feature=related

64. Robin Levett

@Flowerpower #62:

Wrong. You have only partially quoted the MFA.

Sorry? Reread my quote (copied and pasted from the clause)alongside yours and tell me where they differ. My quote, by the way, is from the model on the DoE website.

@61 Actually it appears SMFS buggered up the formatting, the flood of italics start at his comment @41. At least he didn’t set the font to Comic Sans.

@ 64

Sorry Robin, I speed-read your comment and thought you had missed out the guidance bit.

if this includes the statutory guidance issued under the L&SA, then there is no difference between free and maintained schools

Quite.

if however it doesn’t, and (as appears to be the case) the SoS has issued no guidance specifically for free schools…

Why would he? Free schools are not a distinct category of school – they are one of a number of ways of opening an academy. Once open, a FS is just another academy.

The whole point of the clause 28 is to put the schools on the same legal footing as the rest.

67. Robin Levett

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Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Jamie

    They never change: Michael Gove and Section 28 http://t.co/XeprRGp7

  2. Alex Braithwaite

    They never change: Stalinist Michael Gove and Section 28 | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/gSz9Y7Lk via @libcon

  3. Molly

    They never change: Stalinist Michael Gove and Section 28 http://t.co/t15C14XU

  4. Cllr Darren Cooper

    They never change: Stalinist Michael Gove and Section 28 http://t.co/t15C14XU

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    They never change: Stalinist Michael Gove and Section 28 http://t.co/t15C14XU

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    They never change: Stalinist Michael Gove and Section 28 http://t.co/t15C14XU

  7. Natacha Kennedy

    http://t.co/hYC35dKn Stalinist #Gove and Section 28 #schools

  8. Cyrus Bulsara

    They never change: Stalinist Michael Gove and Section 28 http://t.co/t15C14XU

  9. Simon King

    They never change: Stalinist Michael Gove and Section 28 http://t.co/t15C14XU

  10. Staffordshire UNISON

    They never change: Stalinist Michael Gove and Section 28 http://t.co/t15C14XU

  11. Alex Panayotopoulos

    Gove in "Total right-wing homophobic controlling cunt" shock: http://t.co/RbqJYuaM

  12. Europe leaves Britain behind, In The Black Labour makes a splash, and inequality rises fast: round up of political blogs for 3 – 9 December | British Politics and Policy at LSE

    [...] Academies and free schools are not far away from coming under direct control of Whitehall, writes Liberal Conspiracy, as Left Foot Forward covers the debate over promoting religious morals in free schools’ curriculum. Elsewhere, Guido Fawkes unveils the numbers of interns working for the Conservative party for free, noting that “exploiting slave labour goes to the very top of government”. [...]

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    @LogicalLorena Or this http://t.co/ZXWJxhzZ





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