Zia Jian (or goodbye)
So, it’s out with the wordsmith and in with a woman who will surely never make the mistake of taking just about heroes, and never mentioning a heroine, as Mr Gove once did to an audience of head teachers.
No doubt we haven’t heard the last of Michael Gove’s views on education as in his new role he will be able to take part in the Conservative election campaign without the need to actually take responsibility for a department of state. At least his successor, as a corporate lawyer with Treasury experience, might be expected to have a better grasp of numbers than her predecessor; always I felt a possible Achilles heel for Mr Gove, who seemed happier with a speech that could be reported by the Daily Mail the following day with a ringing endorsement. Perhaps it was either the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham that finally did for Mr Gove or possibly intelligence from the constituencies picked up that the teacher vote was more important in marginal seats that was compatible with a Secretary of State with such an upfront manner. Either way, he is now added to the list of past holders of the office on the wall in the reception area at Sanctuary Buildings.
The departure of junior minister in the Department, Elizabeth Truss, to cabinet glory, leaves David Laws as the sole survivor in the Commons on the school side of the department. And one wonders whether he will survive the autumn re-shuffle of Lib Dem Ministers when it comes around at conference time. Perhaps, it may depend upon how the Scottish Referendum plays out and whether there is a vacancy for the post of Chief Secretary to the Treasury in October?
Much of the legacy of Mr Gove may come from his first year in office, and those heady first three months when he piloted the Academies Act through parliament and set schools on a new course towards independence. He also visited China with the Prime Minister that autumn, hence the headline for this column. However, although the teaching of Mandarin is now more common in our schools, it hasn’t yet taken off in the same manner as academies.
Hopefully, near the top of the new Secretary of State’s to do list will be to sort out teacher supply and the issue of how we prepare enough teachers for the boom years to come? Solve that problem and many others pale into insignificance. Some calming down of the curriculum changes might also be worthwhile now that there will be a new junior minister in place to take the burden. Finally, there is less than 300 days to mend fences with the teachers, or at least not to make relations any worse.