‘Dear Mr Gove…’ An Open Letter to the UK Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove

Dear Mr Gove,

I read recently how you described the current cohort of teachers in the UK as “…the best generation of teachers ever seen in our classrooms- including the very best generation ever of young teachers.” You described how you believe teachers hold the success to this country and the well being of its citizens in their hands.You rightly claim that teachers are the most important fighters in the battle to make opportunity more equal. Therefore, I hope you will appreciate how difficult it is that I, as a young teacher, have felt the need to explain how I feel, Mr Gove, as I am exhausted, demoralised, disengaged and surfeited.

I attended a CPD (Continuing Professional Development) session today. In this conference we, as a group of professionals, sought to address the imbalance between boys and girls attainment in reading and writing. We examined a multitude of ways to support boys in literacy, to engage them in writing, to deconstruct barriers to learning and to enhance the life opportunities of reluctant readers and writers. Finally, to finish the session, we discussed how ludicrous school league tables were and considered SATs (Statutory Assessment Tests) in a facetious manner. We compared the creative and engaging ways we can make a text come alive for children to interact with, and the monotonous and uninspiring manner in which all SATs are presented. We discussed how difficult and abstract exams really can be. We considered how absurd it is to compare the scores of two different schools which will be so incredibly different in terms of prosperity, cultural diversity and parental support. And then, we looked at funny answers from SATs gone by.

funny-test-answer-or

We laughed, oh how we laughed, Mr Gove, as one by one we were shown unintentionally humorous retorts. Then, slowly, after looking at 5 or 6 ridiculous answers, we sat in silence. Suddenly, it wasn’t very funny any more. The joke had been lost, for we came to realise that we work in a regime that repeatedly and systematically provides opportunities for pupils to fail; for pupils to be labelled failures.

In the UK, pupils enter school at a younger age than almost any other country in the world. By the time they reach the age of 6, the age at which students begin school in Sweden (a country you often like to draw comparison from), our children already are provided with an opportunity to become failures as we assess them on their ability to use one reading strategy to read words which don’t actually exist in the English language, or indeed any other language for that matter.

The following year they complete their Key Stage 1 SATs. Already, by the age of 7, pupils begin to develop an awareness of where they consider themselves to be academically. You will often hear pupils as young as this professing how terrible they are at reading, or how they are unable to do maths, or how they cant write. If they are lucky they will have a teacher who can deconstruct this self image before it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. If they aren’t, we have lost them before other nations have even considered their pupils’ attainment.

Then they move into the big world of Key Stage 2 where they can look forward to three years of a generally “broad and balanced curriculum” which of course is continually being eroded by more and more time being spent on being able to identify your subordinate clause from your main clause and the article from the pronoun, before counting to 1000 in Roman numerals. Of course this is before you even enter the graveyard of educational creativity, vibrancy and expression that Year 6 has become in this country. Children will be blitzed with maths, reading and writing until every ounce of their being becomes disengaged. We force SATs upon our children in such a way that stifles creativity, limits vibrancy and diminishes expression…and that’s among more able pupils. Those who were lost somewhere around Year 2 have long since resigned themselves to failure and ridicule. If they try, they may just be able to come out with a personal best which is in no way celebrated privately as it still below the target that the Fischer Family Trust set for that child many years previously, failing to account for the individual needs and circumstances of that child. But hey, Mr Gove, they’re only a statistic. Its not like we are setting that child up to be seriously disadvantaged throughout their entire life, right?

Then we move our children on into secondary school. We (and by we, I mean you) continually move the goalposts so that it is progressively more difficult to achieve meaningful GCSE or A Level results. In fact, the ever changing system of assessment seems to be shifting towards a style that will make it increasingly easy to fail, and increasingly difficult to do anything about it. Finally, if a pupil has managed to achieve in spite of our education system, they will face the dilemma of whether to pay £9,000 annual fees to access further and higher education before entering a system where youth unemployment and underemployment is as high as we’ve ever seen in this country and economic promise looks bleak, at best, Mr Gove.

Now, forgive me if I am presumptuous, Mr Gove, but I rather suspect you wont reply to me so I shall hazard a guess at one of your replies. You often speak of ’rigor’, so I suppose I could assume that you will claim you are making our exams more rigorous. If encouraging pupils to fail is rigorous, perhaps you are right. If responding to 100 educational experts by calling them ’enemies of promise’ when they wholeheartedly (and rightly) disagree with your policies, is rigorous, perhaps you are right. If independently writing an entire section of the National Curriculum despite having no qualifications or experience to do so is rigorous, perhaps you are right.

I’m tired, Mr Gove. I’m tired of being told I am a valued educational professional when I see unqualified teachers being employed in other schools. I am tired of being told I have a vital role to play in addressing educational imbalance when we are forced to fail children at the age of 6. I am tired of pupils being disengaged in reading and writing when we present them with such ridiculous and unsupportive means of assessment. I am tired of being made to feel like I am lazy or incompetent when I spend every ounce of energy I have trying to provide opportunities for every child I encounter on a daily basis to succeed. I am tired of such destructive and invalidating means of judging schools capabilities. I am tired of daily attacks on my pension, my work ethic, my commitment to raising standards, my commitment to improving the quality of pupils lives and my reputation as a professional. I am tired of a pretentious egomaniac, who has no experience of education other than having gone to school as a child, holding the education system in this country to ransom.

I ask you, Mr Gove, who is the real enemy of promise?  Who is causing incomparable destruction to our education system? Who is condemning a generation of young people to mediocrity and demise?

Surely not you?

Secret Teacher

Update: Open Letter to Mr Gove Revisited

 

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173 thoughts on “‘Dear Mr Gove…’ An Open Letter to the UK Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove

  1. BearVincent March 28, 2014 at 8:59 am Reply
  2. Why I Am Going On Strike | Secret Teacher February 15, 2014 at 12:45 pm Reply

    […] years ago I entered the teaching profession with a naive enthusiasm. This vivacity has since been crushed out of me by a system that cares more about statistics than students. The almost daily attacks on the […]

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  3. Pamela Gresty February 9, 2014 at 8:29 pm Reply

    Since the early 70’s education standards have fallen year on year. Not because teachers are less competent but because successive governments have made far to many changes to a system that didn’t need change. Now, in an effort to improve standards, pupils are tested and assessed to excess in order to show progress, they are given levels, targets, learning objectives and outcomes, they have to reflect, self evaluate, peer evaluate, respond to targets in retrospect. The result, teaching and learning time is greatly reduced and so pupils can’t make the expected progress. We all know that schools give inflated levels to look good in league tables and the governments answer is to make exams easier. So glad I took early retirement.

    Like

  4. Ray February 9, 2014 at 7:51 pm Reply

    Very good article but I suggest that you go over for some grammar mistakes cant is can’t and wont is won’t these sort of mistakes will not enamour you to be Mr Gove who may just send your article back with red pen marks. As a school governor I am fed up with successive government ministers who are not educationalists dictate policy to those who are better qualified to teach.

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    • Simon March 8, 2014 at 1:21 pm Reply

      Ray: In the few lines you wrote I spotted 6 mistakes. I suggest you focus on the message and not on the inevitable typos that are produced when relying on electronic devises.

      Like

  5. Nigel February 9, 2014 at 7:40 am Reply

    I wrote to you to state my disfust that you brought in alien words. Your department wrote back stating all current bodies, you provided a list, were fully in support. I wrote to these organisations, one didn’t exist, the test emailed back stating that they told you they had vast concerns! This makes you look incompetent and a liar

    Like

    • epteacher February 9, 2014 at 7:57 pm Reply

      What are you babbling about??

      Like

    • secretteacher6 February 9, 2014 at 9:08 pm Reply

      Are you talking about Micahel Gove, Nigel?

      Like

  6. Sara Whiley February 8, 2014 at 7:02 pm Reply

    Thank you for eloquently summing up my feelings.

    Like

  7. Jackie Morris February 7, 2014 at 10:58 pm Reply

    I still remember my very intelligent son answering a sats question. The question was ” What was the author thinking when he wrote this?” He answered, “No one but the author would know the answer to this question.” I thought it was the right answer, but tried to explain that the question was very badly worded. It should have said ” What do you think the author meant when he wrote this?” I suppose having a mum who is a writer Tom would know that I might have been thinking about what comes next, something to do with plot or what to cook for supper. He was right.
    Tests only test people, they don’t teach. Our children are failed so much by a system where it is headed by people who don’t understand what it is like to teach children, because they have forgotten what it was like to be a child and have no empathy.
    Sad times.

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  8. Lynn Spreyer February 7, 2014 at 5:33 pm Reply

    What a thoughtful, intelligent and reasoned treatise the “secret teacher’s” open letter articulates. This should constitute the basis of an all-out campaign by the thousands of right minded teachers who will surely share these views. Mr. Gove and the rest of the political cabal responsible for the desecration of education should, by any society which claims to be democratic and just, be taken to task by the media. I doubt if he will respond to your letter, so maybe we should all push with whatever means we can, to highlight and publicize these issues. I speak as an ex-teacher, who was obliged to take ill health retirement – caused by the prolonged stress of having to comply with the monstrous attacks on the education process which began some 20+ years ago. Power to your elbow. I hope you have instigated the start of a revolution to reclaim the ground in providing a truly worthwhile and meaningful education.

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  9. thinkingcountry February 7, 2014 at 5:08 pm Reply

    What a letter! From someone who only gets to glimpse the life of teachers from the perspectives of friends, this letter reflects all the anxieties and angst that they present me with. It has saddened me to read some of the comments above (esp. Trudy Hindmarsh), offering a true realisation of what the profession has become.

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  10. Gillian Rae-Walker February 7, 2014 at 12:57 pm Reply

    Excellent and impassioned letter. I could add that the targets culture and always having to tell children what they have to do to reach the next level is also making our children sick as they then become obsessed by numbers, with no room for genuine enjoyment, exploration and creativity for its own sake. Many young people will now know no other way, because they are trained into obsession with numbers and levels and targets……..ending in emptiness, depression, meaninglessness……..

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  11. Nicola Johnson February 6, 2014 at 11:23 pm Reply

    We’re not focusing on how hard done by WE are and I spend every ounce if my energy abc every minute of my day trying to make sure that my pupils exceed expectations, challenge and surprise themselves and reach their full potential whatever that may be. I think David that you may be missing the point here. Michael Gove goes on about this fantastic generation of teachers but then doesn’t listen to or put any value in a word we say. My pupils and their happiness is of utmost importance to me. I don’t question how hard you work but constantly people do that to us. I know my job, I am good at my job, I work very very hard, I care about my pupils and there are flaws in our education system – I know this because I see the effects of it. I have been teaching long enough and been through enough curriculum changes to see what works and inspires and educates and what suppresses, demotivates and inhibits. Whatever the government puts in place I deliver because I have to. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with it. And it certainly doesn’t mean I don’t ‘focus on being a great teacher’ as you so patronisingly put it. That is my main focus all the time – always has been. But it is harder and harder to be what I believe to be a great teacher when I have to teach, test and deliver a curriculum written by people who have no clue about what great teaching is.

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  12. David February 6, 2014 at 9:48 pm Reply

    Great teachers will always succeed for their students. You work out the best way to juggle everything that is thrown at you, the box ticking exercises and the real inspirational teaching, and you pass that on to your students. That is what the job is about. That is what the job has always been about. I appreciate that the system has its flaws and that many challenges are put in front of you by the government, but I wish teachers would spend less focus on complaining about how hard done by they are, and a bit more on becoming great teachers. If you all genuinely believe in your own abilities then you’d know that everyone you teach will turn out just fine.

    Like

    • bobo February 6, 2014 at 11:02 pm Reply

      Every day, every teacher I know wants to do their best for their children. It’s very difficult to exist as a teacher nowadays if you don’t care about children. The sad fact is that good teachers are leaving teachers at a rapid rate because it’s not possible to do all that’s expected and have a life as well.

      For those who point out how much teachers complain, try visiting a local school (say you’re thinking of training and get an escorted visit for a day). Observe a day of classes and then sit with teachers at the end of the day as they deal with the admin. Before you leave, get them to show you what they need to do that evening. Also get them to explain their pages of plans and consider where all that info came from and how long it takes to put it all together on a weekly basis and then amend and annotate it for the benefit of management on a daily basis. Then tell us we need to “spend less focus on complaining”.

      I’ve done a range of jobs in several sectors over 30 years and became a primary teacher 5 years ago (thinking that teachers were whingers and that it’d be a doddle). I’ve got so much respect for my colleagues now. I’ve never worked this hard or been under so much relentless pressure.

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    • Simon March 8, 2014 at 1:27 pm Reply

      David, I presume you are the product of our troubled education system as your comprehension skills are quite weak. The letter gives no hint of complaint about being hard done by. Perhaps you are looking for the opportunity to make that assertion as you troll through educational posts? Read the letter again and try to understand what is the subject matter of the letter.

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  13. ABooth February 6, 2014 at 9:12 pm Reply

    Those that can, do. Those that can’t, live a sheltered life in academia, then believe they can graduate from University and teach people about the real world.

    To me, graduating from University is like passing a motorcycle test. OK, you have the certificate, but then you need to go out there and actually learn to ride. Teachers should be required to spend 10 years in the private sector after graduating before they can return to academia to teach others. Otherwise they’re simply unqualified.

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    • secretteacher6 February 6, 2014 at 9:22 pm Reply

      Politicians, on the other hand, are free to waltz into parliament…

      The suggestion that teachers don’t live in the real world is ridiculous. If you want to swap for a week, I assure you it is you that would have your eyes opened! That said, this is possibly the least intelligent suggestion I have read on this entire blog.

      But thanks for voicing your opinion.

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    • Dr C Denny February 6, 2014 at 9:24 pm Reply

      Your analogy is weak. To become a competent motorcyclist you need experience at riding a motorcycle (as you suggest). To become an effective teacher you need to develop experience as a teacher. Prior experience in the private sector (as what?) may or may not add to your experience of life but is no guarantee of success as a teacher.

      Like

    • Mark Brandon February 6, 2014 at 9:41 pm Reply

      Ah yes, the ‘private sector’, the universal solvent of right-wing thinking. As Dr Denny says, experience as what? Ten years behind the till in Poundland? In Sainsbury’s post-room? Digging up roads for Murphy?

      I have worked in the ‘private sector’ all my career, and I can assure you that it delivers as many hopeless and moronic non-jobs as you might want, alongside the golden opportunities to learn that doubtless exist.

      Being in the ‘private sector’ is not, either, a guarantee of understanding ‘the way the world works’ (ie commercially). Most companies fail. Most products fail. Are lessons learned? Only sometimes. Mostly the incompetent managers and CEOs go on to make the same old mistakes somewhere else.

      The plain fact is that most people in most jobs in the ‘private sector’ wouldn’t last five minutes teaching and have absolutely no idea what it’s like. Many of my friends are teachers and I know just how hard they work, how intelligent they are and how dedicated.

      This open letter is touching and inspiring. It is a shame that there is no chance our current narrow-minded, ideologically-obsessed Education Secretary will take any notice of it.

      Like

    • Simon March 8, 2014 at 1:40 pm Reply

      ABooth, those that can teach, teach. Those that can’t teach sit back and pass judgements without experience or knowledge. While there is undoubted benefit to working outside of education, your argument hold no water. You make it sound like teachers never leave the classroom and take a peek outside at the’real’ world! Apart from anything else, we all live in the real world. Perhaps you think that working behind a shop counter, or in a bank, or driving a bus, or any one of other thousands of examples would make someone better qualified to teach children about maths, geography, music, science history, or anything else? Having one job instead of another between 8am and 5pm might give some people a whole different perspective about life, but I can’t see why. Personally I think life is about what you do with your time after work, your attitude to society, your friends and your family. Think about it ABooth. There’s very little substance in what you say.

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  14. herecosyouare February 6, 2014 at 8:50 pm Reply

    I love teaching. I don’t love the paperwork and the hoop jumping that goes with it.

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  15. Heathercat February 6, 2014 at 7:28 pm Reply

    I have devoted 36 years of my life to educating young people and trying to give them a well rounded education so that when they leave my care they can move on to something which they want to do. I am now so disillusioned with the whole system that I will be leaving within the next twelve months and all of that experience will be lost. By the way I don have a degree but I am still a consistently outstanding teacher!

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  16. teacher339 February 6, 2014 at 5:37 pm Reply

    People who aren’t teachers don’t seem to understand this at all! So it’s a teacher’s responsibility to make sure children pass the tests? That might be a fair point if the tests were actually an accurate measure of attainment….but they are not! Also, yes, a lot of current policies, i.e. children starting school earlier than other countries, are nothing to do with Gove, but HE is the one with the power to make the changes! I am sick of teachers being criticised by people who have no idea what the job entails.I am an educated professional, yet every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to tell me how to do my job!

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  17. Stone Me February 6, 2014 at 1:36 pm Reply

    I must say I agree with the need to express all comments with correct grammar and punctuation, otherwise we shoot ourselves in the foot. The rot set into education when it became a degree only profession. The connection between high achievement in a teacher, and their ability to teach, is tenuous to say the least. As a teacher and Headteacher of 35 years experience I found that, in primary education, some of the worst teachers I came across were the best qualified. It takes someone who can empathise with a child’s difficulties to be able to really help that child. The super bright just don’t understand what the problem is. It is dead obvious to them!
    As usual the answer to the secret teacher’s problems lies somewhere between Gove and his critics. There is undoubted slackness and lack of standards in some classes at some schools. But earlier and earlier testing is not the answer. I feel that Gove a slim grasp of what the issues are, but then proposes things that won’t actually help. He then accuses anyone who points out that his proposals are faulty of being ‘against improvement’ No we are not against improvement, we are against wrong headed solutions. I long for the day when changes are only made in education after they have been properly trialled and the data rigorously checked. I’m sick of having to follow various ideas off the top of ministers’ heads.

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  18. Sam Dulledge February 6, 2014 at 1:01 pm Reply

    Forgive me for this, but surely the whole point of teachers is to enable pupils to pass these exams? The exams are hurdles, not blockages.
    Pupils are not being ‘set up to fail’ as you seem to want to say over and over again.
    Maybe I’m biased.. After all, I was reading to the rest of my pre-school classmates at age 4, and knew my 12x table by Year 2 (And was even challenged to 24x). Surely the teachers should be spending their time in getting their pupils engaged as my teachers were? Maybe that way the pupils will be able to learn, retain, use and apply that knowledge as they go on in life?

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    • secretteacher6 February 6, 2014 at 7:01 pm Reply

      Believe me, we spend a hell of a lot of time and effort doing everything we can to engage the kids and provide real life contexts for their learning. Unfortunately we don’t all progress as you did. The exams in this country test a prescribed set of skills and, in my view, these hurdles are counterproductive to the aim of engagement and progression.

      A school close to mine had the Ofsted phone call lately. Their Year 2 teachers were consistently producing pupils who could read beyond national expectations (95%+). However, as they didn’t teach to the test for the Year 1 phonics screening, their scores there were below national expectation. Ofsted questioned why this was, and advised them to put in place strategies to improve this. Despite consistently producing kids who could read beyond national expectations, in a region with the top reading scores in the country, the Year 1 teachers now waste time teaching to the phonics test to tick a box. Surely this is wrong?

      Yes, we need to assess where the pupils are at to ensure progress is evident and we can identify the next steps in learning, but I’m afraid the system is definitely flawed.

      Like

  19. charly February 6, 2014 at 7:59 am Reply

    qualifications are bollocks, i was home schooled have very few peices of paper, but still own a good job that most people i know would die to have… i have a child. my own place etc, school is how the goverment mark failures…

    the goverment do this to create a problem with in the system it self…

    if its not broke dont fix it…

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  20. BigD February 6, 2014 at 7:59 am Reply

    I think George Carlin explains it best :-

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  21. Andrew Miller Photography February 6, 2014 at 6:43 am Reply

    You laugh at the myriad of SAT’s test papers yet fail to understand that teachers are responsible for making sure the kids understand the test papers in the first place? Am I missing something here or is this really a secret dig at teaching standards?

    “The joke had been lost, for we came to realise that we work in a regime that repeatedly and systematically provides opportunities for pupils to fail; for pupils to be labelled failures.”

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    • secretteacher6 February 6, 2014 at 6:53 pm Reply

      Schools are held to account by Ofsted, who judge schools on their school data, i.e. assessment scores. Even if a school had outstanding teachers and teaching, the school would be severely marked down if the scores aren’t right. Schools who do not engage with the testing system will arguably have more rounded children, but their assessment scores will most likely suffer. As a result they will be deemed to be a failing school, and may be put into a special measures category which sees half-termly inspections until they fit the mould again.

      The system needs to a total re-haul from top to bottom. Individual teachers will not be able to do this on their own.

      Like

  22. Truther February 5, 2014 at 6:23 pm Reply

    How about the entire education system be scrapped and we simply teach and expand our children’s creativity and uniqueness in order to create an awesome future full of prosperity. A world where 7yr olds are not walking around feeling bad about themselves because they have failed at system that is government propaganda, history built on lies, geography where they are taught the world has governmental borders creating division between fellow humans, a mathematics curriculum that is of no use in reality to most people.

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    • bobo February 6, 2014 at 10:45 pm Reply

      Sorry, this is a grown-ups’ conversation.

      Like

  23. Brian February 5, 2014 at 10:32 am Reply

    ‘Over-inflated GCSE results’ is something we hear about so often. As a teacher of twenty odd years, there has always been pressure to increase pupil performance. Teachers, like me, took this on board (whether we agreed with it or not) and taught kids the skills they needed to pass the exams that we were told thet would sit. The ‘pass’ rate improved. We were told to make students jump through a certain set of hoops and now that they have become better at this we blame the state of the nation on easier exams and dumbing down of the educational system. Maybe, this has more to do with the ministers, without any real experience, making the judgements about the changes to the sysytem, more than the people who have to work in the system. Why can’t ‘we’ take advice from industry and universities so that the education that children receive reflects the skills that are needed for life after school. Maybe then we would not hear about A* pupils not being able to cope tith courses, etc. Gove is not to blame for history, but he sure ‘ain’t’ doing much to help the future!

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  24. misslolax February 4, 2014 at 11:05 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Harsh Realities .

    Like

  25. Niklas Re February 2, 2014 at 7:06 pm Reply

    This is why me and my family (2 boys 8 and 6) moved to Sweden 2 yeras ago. Boys are great now. Not depressed like they were in english school. Free food 3(!) times in a day to keep energylevels up to be ale to learn. ,such a different world here ,,,in short …English education sucks

    Like

    • Truther February 5, 2014 at 6:24 pm Reply

      Amazing.

      Like

    • Rachel February 6, 2014 at 5:36 am Reply

      I have just become a primary school teacher. I am an excellent teacher and children are engaged in reading and writing like no one would believe. However I just can’t keep it up. I am sacrificing my own family and personal well-being day in and day out and I am exhausted. Instead I am moving abroad to work in an international school with better terms and conditions and frankly more creative curriculum. Most importantly, my 4 year old will not be subject to this English system which the author rightly accuses of stifling and demoralising children. It is terrifying what is happening in primary schools. Even the best achieving are still ‘coming up short’. I do not want to subject my own child to this system.

      Like

  26. Benedict January 12, 2014 at 12:41 am Reply

    Minecraft 1.2 5 Minecraft server.exe download free

    Like

  27. How do I respond to Gove? | Bedford Burrow December 13, 2013 at 1:40 pm Reply

    […] Dear Mr Gove… (secretteacher6.wordpress.com) […]

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  28. Alex December 7, 2013 at 2:51 pm Reply

    I agree with basically everything you say, but do you realise the damage you do to your own argument by being apparently unable to spell?

    Surely knowing the difference between American and UK spelling is a must for a teacher – as is understanding apostrophes.

    You give teachers a bad name.

    Like

    • Student January 6, 2014 at 1:34 pm Reply

      Are you being serious ?
      This gives teachers a bad name ?
      It is obvious this teacher is in the business because he/she cares for the individual students as apposed the majority of teachers which look at the statistics of a collection of students and base themselves as a success or failure depending on their classes achievements.
      This type of teacher is rare and the only way it gives teachers a bad name is by making them look bad compared to this person.

      Like

      • Robert Ellitts February 5, 2014 at 7:23 am

        Perhaps you meant “opposed”?
        Agree with Alex.

        Like

    • Cheshire Cat February 7, 2014 at 3:30 pm Reply

      Couldn’t agree more with Alex, but then, the author was failed in their turn 20 or so years ago by teachers who could not spell or understand apostrophes, so what chance do today’s children have?

      Like

  29. Clare Flourish December 5, 2013 at 12:57 pm Reply

    I apply my super-power, pedantry, to that question and find it wrongly expressed. It should be write “”. Since I have just used the command < em > I know that < can be a bracket as well as a less than sign.

    Like

  30. benjuggler December 2, 2013 at 12:40 am Reply

    Thank you for the excellent articulation of problems that Gove & successive Governments in this country has visited on education…my beloved is a teacher of years 1 and 2 and has been for nearly 18 years now….she is sick and tired of it & feels she is now in danger of becoming one of those teachers she hated when she went into teaching…ie bored of it,cynical and increasingly dis-engaged. My teenage kids are bright and articulate but so bored and disengaged with the dreary approach to GCSE…..Minecraft and 1/2 social media sites just wipe the floor with the possibility them being engaged with anything they’re learning at school. Gloomy outlook…I’m sorry to say I agree ….

    Like

  31. Claudette November 26, 2013 at 1:39 am Reply

    She needs you to reassure her that you are committed to her and that you will marry her eventually.
    In your strategy of “How to write a sorry letter to girlfriend. Others use RV’s for business offices approximately.

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  32. […] ‘Dear Mr Gove…’ An Open Letter to the UK Secretary of State for Education, Michael…. […]

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  33. voiceofthepoets November 12, 2013 at 12:30 am Reply

    Reblogged this on voiceofthepoets's Blog and commented:
    Wise speak

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  34. Lilian November 7, 2013 at 9:47 am Reply

    An excellent post, Secret Teacher. I’m expecting a baby at the moment and I worry about what kind of a school system he/she will be entering in a few years time. Let’s just hope it’s better than the current one!

    Like

  35. David November 6, 2013 at 8:39 am Reply

    Fifteen years ago I taught IT in a further education setting that was contracted to the Army. I was appalled at the number of young men I had to teach who could barely read or write. In fact, the problem was so bad, the majority of them were attending remedial classes sponsored by the Army.
    I have also experienced the same problem as an employer where young people not been able to demonstrate a basic level of numeracy skill.
    This was a long time before Mr Gove had anything to do with education. I am not convinced that teaching in this country has been as could as it should have been. From my standpoint, I simply see the product of teaching that appears to have been happy to let young people fail to succeed in the basic skills. So don’t point the finger at Mr Gove but instead reflect on what you have achieved in the teaching of young people. And if you are new to teaching, think about what your predecessors achieved.
    Might your answer include ‘a large number of illiterate or semi literate young people’?
    In my view, SATS etc highlight failure of teaching – not failure of the young people.
    I know teaching is a hard job. But it is one of the most rewarding when you see someone succeed in doing something they were unable to do when you first had contact with them.

    Like

  36. Scruffy Nellie the Haggis Pudding November 4, 2013 at 1:41 am Reply

    Well said Secret Teacher xx

    I agree that teaching is a vocation; the best teachers are not simply those who are dedicated and hard-working but those given the chance to share their creativity and enthusiasm for learning about the world – across every subject.

    In my eyes, we should be looking at students holistically. What kind of people do we ideally want to emerge from our education system: socially-responsible free-thinkers with a zest for learning and for life and a strong sense of self-respect and personal identity, or dispirited teenagers having worked only with the notion of passing a handful of exams (the true ‘worth’ of which is certainly questionable)?

    While Mr. Gove’s intentions are surely from the heart, teachers (past and present) are, I believe, unanimous in their horror. This surely indicates a little something.

    Like

  37. stickinsect November 3, 2013 at 12:21 am Reply

    Whilst not a teacher myself, I sympathise with your current situation and support what you said here. One of your biggest problems I think is that many people think that they can teach (or indeed make policies for teachers). Why is this, because that everyone has experience of school themselves perhaps? Of course, it is not simple though. We are unfortunately seeing the consequence of this way of thinking in some of the free schools in the UK. Imagine if this sort of policy was enacted in other lines of work.. untrained nurses or surgeons being let loose in hospitals for example!

    Like

    • Trudy HIndmarsh November 3, 2013 at 6:42 pm Reply

      Absolutely. Im waiting for the first big scandal to come out of this `free-for-all` schooling provision. And there will be one!

      Like

  38. murphyji November 2, 2013 at 2:31 pm Reply

    Teaching in my opinion is not so much a profession as a vocation. It is therefore sad to see so many teachers demoralised and ‘waiting to get out’. I have taught part time and know the rewards in seeing children fired by a subject. Unfortunately as your article illustrates teachers are bogged down in stats and targets, spending a lot of time under a paper mountain which has little relevance to contact time with pupils. Teaching is not the only profession to be subject to interference from ministers and apparatchiks who show little understanding or empathy and are themselves subject to elections and reshuffles. Each successive government has interfered to the detriment of our education system. The demise of apprenticeships replaced by a fervour for third level education for all is a case in point as our current Government is now attempting to readdress. Don’t hold your breath for a response but a reshuffle is in the post. Inspire the pupils. Best wishes.

    Like

  39. Julie November 2, 2013 at 11:32 am Reply

    Well Mister Groves.
    Are you going to honour us with the courtessy of a reply, or are we, the great unwashed unworthy of a response?

    I think I can answer for you in simpler terms than we would expect from your office. After all, we wouldn’t be so presumptious as to expect you to compile and type a reply your good self.

    I don’t proffess to have been educated to a high standard To a high standard through my years at school system. Admittedly this was no fault of the of the education system of the day. I am 56 and i have to admit through lack of interest and parental neglect I wasted every opportunity offered me. I had to set about educating myself later on in life
    Which I might add, I am proud of, even if I don’t have many pieces of paper to prove my achievmemts

    So, as a none academic, I can see where you are coming from. I have also to add that I can see your point. Setting our children up to fail can omly be of bemifit to you

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  40. Nancy November 2, 2013 at 2:36 am Reply

    Another leftie teacher moaning away.
    It wasn’t Gove who started SATS, or kids starting at 4 was it?
    Why are you blaming him for a system that has been failing for decades?
    I am fortunate enough to home educate my children so I am less affected by day to day changes than others. However, I do actually believe that Gove does want children to receive a better education than they currently get.
    The best place for my 4 year old certainly wasn’t in a school, and for families like me starting school later would be welcomed. But what about the children who cannot use a knife and fork and aren’t toilet trained when they enter school- how far behind do you think they will be at 7?
    It isn’t an easy problem to fix, and it is simplistic to write a whineging letter to the current education secretary, (most probably because you know you cannot teach to a more demanding curriculum yourself) blaming him for the problems that this country has had with successive governments, and successive education secretaries.
    What we really need to do is take best practise from models in more successful countries and implement what we can, while also looking at their social structure.
    It cannot be done by what happens in schools alone.
    I have to say that of all the teachers I have ever met, from my own schooling, from my children’s (who entered the system briefly) and from people I meet who are teachers, the vast majority think they are a lot brighter than they actually are, and they don’t like children!

    Like

    • Leroy November 2, 2013 at 10:01 am Reply

      Nancy,

      Your selfishness and naivety make for difficult reading.

      You are fortunate to be in a position where you can home teach your child. I would dearly love to do the same, but our family cannot afford to lose my income.

      To say teachers think they are brighter than they are is idiotic. To say they don’t like children is downright preposterous.

      Regarding the child who cannot use a knife and fork and/or are not toilet trained when they start school. Has it not ever occurred to you that this could be the responsibility, and fault, of extremely poor parenting? Do you honestly, and serious think these matters are the responsibility of teachers?

      You have an extremely blinkered impression of children in this country and it scares me to death that I fear there are also many like you.

      Like

      • Leroy November 2, 2013 at 10:12 am

        *seriously

        Like

      • Nancy November 2, 2013 at 11:46 am

        Leroy, you misunderstood the point I was making about children starting school later. Of course those things are the responsibility of the parents. The OP suggested starting school later than 4, which I absolutely agree with, and a lot of studies support. But what do we, as a society, do with the children who are ill prepared and already falling behind their personal as well as educational learning at 4? If we left them at home with their feckless parents until they were 6/7 what kind of children do you think they would be by the time they start school?
        It is too simplistic to blame Gove.
        We have big problems in this country, no doubt about, it but it isn’t all Gove’s fault!
        And as for naive quite the opposite. Unlike most teachers and ministers I have been to school abroad, as have my children, so although not an expert by any means, I do at least have some experience of other educational systems.
        My dad lectures a top subject at a top university, and his experience is that year on year students arrive with top grades but due to grade inflation are increasingly unable to meet the rigours of the course, and now, the only students bright enough to be able to meet the demands of the course are the ones who come from abroad. Is that all Gove’s fault too?
        You don’t really think we should continue with GCSE’s do you? And the ludicrous re-marking of coursework? And such a high percentage getting A*?
        If we don’t do something urgent, no British kids will have a job in twenty years’ time, as other countries already speak ( and teach) English better than we do!

        Like

      • Rachel November 26, 2013 at 9:09 pm

        These issues may not personally be Gove’s fault but that doesn’t mean he is doing the right things to to correct them. Just because you feel his heart is in the right place doesn’t mean he has the answers, and believing he does simply because he seems to want the best is very naïve.

        If you are going to place yourself on a pedestal because you home school and make such generalised sweeping comments criticising teachers as “I have to say that of all the teachers I have ever met, from my own schooling, from my children’s (who entered the system briefly) and from people I meet who are teachers, the vast majority think they are a lot brighter than they actually are, and they don’t like children!”, then for goodness’ sake PLEASE make check through your posts first. There is nothing more embarrassing than criticising an entire educational profession through a post riddled with grammatical and spelling errors.

        Like

    • Rachel November 26, 2013 at 8:51 pm Reply

      These issues may not personally be Gove’s fault but that doesn’t mean he is doing the right things to to correct them. Just because you feel his heart is in the right place doesn’t mean he has the answers, and believing he does simply because he seems to want the best is very naïve.

      If you are going to place yourself on a pedestal because you home school and make such generalised sweeping comments criticising teachers as “I have to say that of all the teachers I have ever met, from my own schooling, from my children’s (who entered the system briefly) and from people I meet who are teachers, the vast majority think they are a lot brighter than they actually are, and they don’t like children!”, then for goodness’ sake PLEASE make check through your posts first. There is nothing more embarrassing than criticising an entire educational profession through a post riddled with grammatical and spelling errors.

      Like

    • jjobrien78 February 4, 2014 at 4:20 pm Reply

      Exactly how large is your sample group of teachers to base this opinion on? What a ridiculous thing to say.

      Before you make a sweeping generalisation about an entire hard-working profession, spend a week in a school, working on all the things that teachers do. Then you will be equipped to make some kind of opinion based on a limited sample of truth, rather than the – frankly insulting – opinion you currently hold of people you have yet to meet.

      Like

  41. Mohammed November 1, 2013 at 10:48 pm Reply

    I hear this and echo this massively. I have been teaching for 12 years and have done nothing else but this. Its in my blood and soul. However, for the first time in my life, I have lost faith in the system and this government. These stupid swinging changes in GCSEs most recently are putting the nail in the coffin of good quality teachers. Shame on you Gove and shame on you Cameron for not reshuffling Gove when you had a chance… you near sighted nit-wits.

    Like

  42. Jess October 31, 2013 at 9:28 pm Reply

    Thank you for writing exactly what I feel.

    Every Inset, we have some teaching and learning based initiative to make school creative and exciting. At the end of every single one, we leave miserable and demoralised because the things we want to do are rendered impossible by a culture of grade-grubbing and data mania.

    It is impossible to see how Gove can call teachers valued, when every decision he takes undermines us. This term I have had to stand in front of my Y11 class 3 times and tell them that what they were learning last term/last week/yesterday (literally) is no longer relevant and doesn’t count towards their grades anymore. And it’s only October.

    I love my profession but, five years in, I feel like you: exhausted, demoralised, disengaged and surfeited.

    Like

  43. Sarah October 31, 2013 at 8:01 pm Reply

    I have a 4 year old. Luckily she missed out on starting school this year. I dread her starting. What a thoroughly demoralising and distressing opportunity school is for children today, and it’s only getting worse under Mr Gove. I want my child to continue her current love of learning and experiencing everything new. I don’t want her to be forced to sit at a desk and learn by rote. Please let children be children while they still can 😦

    Like

  44. […] ‘Dear Mr Gove…’ An Open Letter to the UK Secretary of State for Education, Michael…. […]

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  45. llivelifewell74 October 31, 2013 at 1:36 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on llivelifewell74's Blog and commented:
    I read this and I completely hear what this teacher is saying…I am not from UK..USA same Feeling I feel about our education system.

    Like

  46. neilsidea October 31, 2013 at 8:29 am Reply

    So, wehre are your solutions? It can’t be all Mr. Gove’s fault! Maybe you all need to go on strike about the situation rather just about pay and present a workable plan to the politicians and the public that addresses all of your concerns.

    Like

    • English Teacher October 31, 2013 at 8:48 am Reply

      If you had any knowledge at all you’d know that striking for ideological reasons is not permitted bA typical example of the woefully misinformed.

      Like

      • neilsidea October 31, 2013 at 6:40 pm

        I am not woefully misinformed just not informed and I have very little knowledge about teachers but I all I hear is ” “.
        It don’t think ideology has stopped anyone who belongs to a Union going on strike.
        I admire all people who continue to work in jobs they obviously hate for the greater good (mainly those employed by the Government).

        Like

    • armageddondays November 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm Reply

      Sir – I am 57 and I will be out of education soon. I will have supported every strike that the NUT has called – and voted for it – not because I am a dyed in the wool ‘Trot’, and not because it is of the slightest possible benefit to me. It is because I have serious concerns about the future of state education. Rising school rolls, disabling LEA’s ability to plan effectively for local education provision, removing piece by piece every benefit /advantage of being a teacher spells big trouble in the near future. I know excellent young teachers who can’t wait to get out. It is NOT just about the pay – it’s the undermining of the whole collaborative and supportive ethos of schools, it is having teachers work to 68 or even 70 when they are probably not (mostly) capable, or being shot out before then by increasingly harsh performance management and capability procedures. Nne of this is good for teachers OR their pupils.

      Like

  47. Trudy HIndmarsh October 30, 2013 at 10:15 pm Reply

    I pity you, secret teacher – as a young teacher so full of ideals and aspirations, who has had the stuffing knocked out of you so early on. Speaking as a teacher of all age groups and in several different settings across a 37 year period, I deplore what schools have become. They are nothing better than sausage factories attempting to churn out regulation sized sausages of pale colour and no flavour – but which perform well in tests requiring ticky boxes!

    The politicisation of education has been its downfall and I fear it can never again be redeemed. There are too many political reputations to be made on its back for it to be left to the people who understand and love it the best – the teachers, the students and their parents.

    The reason that so many teachers have to leave the profession on stress grounds is because of their feeling of abject powerlessness in the face of mindless bureaucracy. They cannot do what they KNOW to be right because of the latest initiative or edict.

    No initiative is left in place long enough, without tampering, to know whether it would have worked or not. Piecemeal platitudes are all that are fed into the system by politicians on all sides and meanwhile our children are becoming ever less confident and ever more stressed, – self-harm, eating disorders and bullying becoming commonplace. Where is the safety? Where is the nurturing? Where is the FUN!

    My grand-daughter started school in September, aged barely four years old. Two lots of homework a week!! That will be the same for four year olds who are in after-school care until 6pm each evening too. No wonder kids `tune out`, biding their time until they can leave.

    In my present post I am picking up the pieces of the worst that our schools can do to kids. We are creating an anxious next generation that do not believe in themselves. What hope can we have, if that continues?

    Like

    • Chris Murray October 31, 2013 at 10:50 am Reply

      I totally agree with these comments. I went into teaching because I thought it would be a worthwhile and valued profession. Instead teachers have just become whipping boys for politicians and anyone with a grievance (as an example I can’t help but relate, I saw a member of the public complaining on tv when teachers were demonstrating over pensions. He claimed that he would have to pay 6%(!!) of his salary if he wanted the sort of pension teachers earned. When I checked my payslip, I found I was paying 7% of my gross salary towards my “goldplated” pension). Now I just try the best I can for the kids I teach and count the years ’till I can get out. I feel so sorry for young people going into the profession now.

      Like

      • Trudy HIndmarsh October 31, 2013 at 11:31 am

        And yet we need the brightest and the best!! They will just need to be incredibly resilient too!! So don’t let us put you off. Go in and FIGHT!

        Like

    • Katharine G February 7, 2014 at 11:28 am Reply

      So sorry to hear about your stress and that we are losing yet another excellent teacher. Don’t listen to those who say you are just moaning – you are one of many many good teachers who are leaving/have left the system to have a more healthy balanced life. I loved teaching in schools but couldn’t go back – also had some outstanding OFSTEDs. I still work hard, but am self-employed now. Miss the classroom, the lovely pupils, great colleagues but not the bullying heads, the useless extra tick boxes and lack of family time. All the best in your new life.

      Like

    • Katharine G February 7, 2014 at 11:35 am Reply

      Hi Trudy… My grandson in Yorkshire started half days in January, (Free childcare – whoohoo! ) aged 3 years and 2 months. He is lively, bright and can do all sorts of amazing things from puzzles to playdoh. After 3 weeks in said new ‘school’ the teacher informed his mother that his ‘concentration’ is poor. He goes from one thing to another too quickly. WHAT??????? Is this the result of the teacher having to evaluate and tick a box somewhere? The first feedback my daughter gets and it is negative. Aged 3.

      Like

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