Is Education the next Coalition row waiting to happen?

4th September, 2012 1:19 pm

David Laws has returned to Government, replacing Sarah Teather at Education. Leaving aside whether or not Laws should have returned to government afte rbeing found guilty of wrongdoing in the past, he’s made some very strident statements on education – and Michael Gove – in the past. Here are some extracts from his 2010 ATL conference speech, which sought to set out the “Liberal Democrat vision for England’s education system”:

“Too often even the Conservatives seem only to want to replace one set of central diktats with another.”

“Michael Gove…. has proposed that school improvement can be delivered by creating an educational market-place and by allowing new providers to open up schools…..But there is a risk that what is being claimed by the Tories for their model is being vastly over-sold, and will fail to deliver higher standards.”

“In Michael Gove’s model, that is the education market. But we are not talking about petrol stations or sweet-shops, we are talking about schools, and more importantly – children.”

“We do not, however, support Michael Gove’s proposal to drop vocational subjects from all league tables. That, in our view, would merely replace one undesirable incentive with another, and set back even more the prospect of offering students serious vocational options.”

“The Conservatives have a naïve view that the market alone will deliver.”

There may be trouble ahead…

Update: It seems David Laws was also a fan of Labour’s work on education, saying back in 2010 that the improvement under Labour had been:

“astonishing, dramatic, unbelievable”


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  • To be blunt, I don’t think the Lib Dems are particularly troubled by the fact that their rhetoric before May 2010 suggested they stood to the left of Labour and now they are endorsing policies well to the right of the centre. The economy is the classic example.

    • Jeremy_Preece

      I agree with you Adrian. But I must also add that we should not overestimate the LibDems. Their very best poll results over the last two years indicates that there will be less than half them in parliment next time, and that could turn out to be even less than a quarter.

      It also seems to be that case that about two thrids of their dissafected voters are going to vote Labour while about a third in areas like the South West, will vote Tory. Labour therefore needs to be bold, to talk flagship policies, principles and ideas – and hold fast to them.

      The real problem I have with the Lib Dems is that their part in the coalition diverts public attention. People are looking for differences and splits between two different parties, Tory and LibDem. What they then fail to notice is the real divisions within the Tory party itself. In the Tory party there is a real gravitational pull of the right who want to win back votes from UKIP, as UKIP has become the stronger (than BNP) haven for right wing nutters.

      The danger in British politics now is that with many of the electorate swallowing the idea that “it was Labour’s fault in the first place” and that “they are all as bad”, the Tories could well win an election by default. Worse, the cliamte is ripe for a right wing thug group who want to offer nothing but a group or two of people to blame. Where that has happened in the past History shows that the result to be horrific.

  • rekrab

    Their will be thousands questioning this decision, countless people who have been unfairly dismissed from their position will be asking themselves that when it comes to government ministers fair dismissal isn’t a barrier to getting a second bite at the cherry.

    This whole reshuffle is a complete dogs dinner, we have Ken Clarke as the now unofficial chancellor.We’ve got Boris firing warning shots at the removal of  the transport secretary and the possible third runway.No doubt there’s more to come?

    • AlanGiles

       It shows the lack of talent in the Coalition that this shop-soiled non-entity has been allowed back.

      I think the fact that Cameron was unable to shift Duncan-Smith to a different position is indicative of how weak he is. It is akin to the moment when a desperate Brown had to bring Mandelson back: just another sign Cameron is so desperate and so weak he will capitulate to his own team. As PM and leader of his own party, he should be the ringmaster, and crack the whip; not leave it to one of the clowns.

  • Pingback: Government Reshuffle live blog()

  • I doubt it. I think Laws will get another ministerial job on top of the one he already has, working on policy. I bet that Liz Truss could come in as a junior education minsiter.

  • williamtheconker

    Laws isn’t up to much is he?
    And he’s a LibDem too!
    Lots more internecine wriggling and hypocrisy on the way!

  • Mr Arthur Cook

    ….”Is education the next coalition row waiting to happen?”

    No it’s not. It’s just a convenient way to get a damaged right wing Lib Dem back into government.
    He will spend little time in education.
    Danny Alexander is, I suspect, at the end of his period of 6th form work experience.

  • Daniel Speight

    I know you wished to leave aside the question of whether Laws should return as a minister, but this question should be discussed somewhere.

    I feel it shows tremendous insensitivity to public perception that our political class disobeys the rules with very little long term damage to themselves. We do have a problem of course in that Labour has previous. Peter Hain was caught out quite badly in the deputy leadership election but still made a comeback.

    In this case Laws quite openly cheated, and outside of the Westminster bubble would probably have been taken to court, and certainly permanently fired. It was complicated by an excuse of protecting himself from being outed over his sexuality, an idea that found some support amongst the gay community. But again it needs to be said that this excuse would find little support outside of our political class. Labour and LL should not allow another posh spiv to get off so lightly. We have already seen Cameron moon* public opinion by promoting Jeremy Hunt. Clegg is doing the same with Laws.

    *moon as in show his backside to.

  • ColinAdkins

    A bit over optimistic. I think the LDs will always seek to pander to their middle-class constituency of support. As long as ‘choice’ and ‘diversity’ of providers will ensure this constituency get their children into the better schools then they will be content. Much in the same way they said the abolition of fees for middle-class students could be funded by abolishing Labour’s jobs fund for mainly working class young adults.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Overall I have to say that in the UK we have one really major problem with education, and that is that it is a number one political football used by all the main parties.
    Over the years that my wife has taught, philosphies and policies change almost every year and always as a political headline grabbing exercise. Ideas are always introduced, never thought through but rushed, teachers are put under ever more scrutiny. Now they have their salries frozen for what will soon be the third year running. Doctors who make life and death errors do not get the same scrutiny as a primary school teacher if the children have not made “enough progress” or OFSTED finds that not everyone is managing to be much higher than average (which of course is impossible).

    Every year the exam results will either be better than last year, about the same or not as good. If they are not as good then the government takes credit for raising standards and needs to publically kick the teachers to solve the problem, if the results are the same then the standards have not risen and so teachers need a public kicking for not improving, or if they are better then standards are slipping and the exams need to be made harder and the teachers need a public kicking.

    When kids riot in the streets, when parents fail to stop their children from growing up to be criminals, or whenever an ill in society is highlighted, the answer we are told is that teachers and schools need to deal with it. Niether Labour or the Conservatives have the strength to tell people the truth.
    The truth is that parents have to bring up their children and school can educate them to their potential with the cooperation and support of the parents. Children also need their holidays, and a quality of home life that means that they are loved and communicated with. There is strong evidence also to show that children do better in countries where they start education at 6 years old. In the UK education is an unoffical free child minding and upbringing centre as well as an educator. We dump our children into education ever earlier, and the number of children who are behind in communication and langauge increases as more parents spend thier decreasing time with their children divided between childcare and talking and texting and emailing on mobiles.

    I am really sorry to see Gove still in post as he is the worst minister of education, and deservedly the most hated of all time. His “reforming ideas” are really as half baked as most Tory ideology. Given that private schools usually select the children that they want to teach and/or charge money to parents who are therefore very “pro-school” the best and the most parentally supported children get creamed off to private schools. Therefore these advantaged children tend to do well. Government’s answer is to blame the teachers and the other state schools who are in some areas left to deal with the childrent that the other schools don’t want. Therefore these state schools in theory compare poorly with the private sector. However this comparison is totally bogus as it does not compare like with like.

    Many private schools have also managed to avoid the scrutiny that those in the public sector come under. There is certainly enough evidence that private schools do not do well with difficult children, and most are able to exclude those that they don’t want. All children have the right to a proper education, and the Tory ideology fails to actually deal with the issues.

    What Gove and his henchmen are really about is trying to destroy local education authorities (because the Gospel according to Tory mindset is that they must be bad because they are public sector) and turn schools into busnisses.  The theory is that they will then be better because they are private. As with all this governement’s policies you have to ask the same old questions, 1. who is made better off? and 2. who is made worse off?

    It is all about private companies, shareholders and lining the pockets of the top 10% wealthiest, and in that there is nothing that is sacred. Tory plans for the NHS are just the same, hatchet the NHS and sell it off at reduced price to private companies whose shareholders are Tory voters and very often Tory fund raisers.

    Sadly if Labour was doing really well, the truth about Gove and the other Tory (Daily Mail appeasing) monkies would get through to the average voter, and Gove would have been hounded out of office a long time ago.


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