to think if you are going to criticise teenagers' historical knowledge, you should at least do some proper research first - Gove, that means you

(64 Posts)
kim147 Mon 13-May-13 21:52:39

Gove came out a while ago criticising teenagers for not knowing who Churchill was or much about other aspects of UK history.

Hence the curriculum changes to history - which look really uninspiring.

So where did he get his facts from? Quality academic research?
No - according to a FOI request, it was from a Premier Inn survey and a survey for UKV Gold.

Don't you just love him - the man responsible for our children's education.

partystress Mon 13-May-13 22:24:44

I haven't got the words to say how I feel about him. Appallingly arrogant, ill-informed, bigoted, hypocritical, dangerous, destructive sack of smugness. Actually, those words will do nicely angry

BlackeyedSusan Mon 13-May-13 22:31:45

oh joy. oh well, the other lot will be in soon and it will all change again.

Michael Gove, for example, is a twat.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Mon 13-May-13 22:39:10

God Bless that tenacious retired teacher, and the FoI act.

Panzee Mon 13-May-13 22:44:31

The NUT magazine refers to the new History curriculum as "Pub Quiz Curriculum". I think this sums it up rather well. I wish he'd hurry up and get out of Education.

I prefer the Michael Gove, is, for example, a cunt.

But that's just me!

wish I could do a Gove History of the World Atlas.....Big old red blob surrounded by small grey floating bits (AKA rest of world)

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Mon 13-May-13 22:53:53

To be fair, Gove's article was in the Mail on Sunday, so a survey for Premier Inn is way above the usual level of factual evidence required.

It's a major flaw in our system of government, not just Gove TBH; we get career politicians with no relevant work experience or knowledge put in charge of running the country's education (or whatever) system.
They force through whatever random changes their party philosophy suggests, with no evidence basis whatsoever (see the NHS reforms, too), causing disruption, harming staff morale and costing a fortune.
Then by the time it's clear it was a really shit idea, there's been a reshuffle and they've moved on to fuck up another department. It's crazy really.

LadyRainicorn Tue 14-May-13 08:04:46

I'm always embarrassed to think he's my MP. In addition to everything else, the man looks like a ventriloquist's dummy.

limitedperiodonly Tue 14-May-13 09:10:52

Hurrah for Mrs Downs. Won't stop him though.

I have to say I grudgingly admire the Mail On Sunday for their headline on the Gove interview: “Why I refuse to surrender to militant Marxist teachers hell-bent on destroying our schools”.

Someone on that subs desk was surely having a bet.

cory Tue 14-May-13 09:49:57

I'd like to take a look at those questionnaires before I decide how reliable the answers are likely to be.

My 13yo takes a keen interest in modern history and politics, to the extent of watching parliamentary debates (wouldn't be my idea of fun), but even he would not be able to restrain himself if faced with a question along the following lines:

Was Henry VIII's first wife:

a) Catherine of Aragon

b) Isabel of Spain

c) Delia Smith

As for the Churchill question if the question looked like this:

Identify the following:

i) Churchill

a) the dog advertising Churchill insurance

b) The British Prime Minister during WW2

then surely both answers are accurate and even I might be tempted to answer a) though I have a degree in history and Churchill's history of the Second World War (the PM's not the dog's) sits on the shelf behind me.

Teenagers take the piss. It's what they do.

Abuelita Tue 14-May-13 09:51:03

I'm pleased my research has caused so much hilarity. But under the mockery is a serious concern about what Gove has done and still intends to do with the English education system. It's not the first time, and I doubt it will be the last, when Gove misrepresents data or relies on unreliable (even non-existent) evidence to back up his pre-conceives ideas.

My article about the FoI response is here on the Local Schools Network where you can find other examples of Gove's misrepresentation.

Abuelita Tue 14-May-13 09:53:25

cory - I shared your suspicion that the answers were given by teenagers having a bit of fun. My favourite answer was that the plague was a heavy metal group.


trice Tue 14-May-13 09:56:22

Gove is actively destroying the education system and wrecking thousands of lives. It is not remotely funny. It is a disaster. I could weep.

cory Tue 14-May-13 09:59:18

I remember another survey from my teens, where we actually answered the questionnaire quite seriously and truthfully, but where the answers gave rise to a certain amount of unjustified handwringing and concern. The question was "if you wanted to buy drugs, would you know who to get in touch with?". We all unanimously answered that we would. The truth being that we all suspected that there was one girl in another class who almost certainly did know, so we could have asked her. This was not proof that we ever intended to actually ask her, let alone act on the information, we were just answering the question as it was written. In fact, there was very little drug taking in my school and no cause for concern whatsoever.

cory Tue 14-May-13 09:59:54

Agree that it isn't funny and that Gove is a shithead.

BarbarianMum Tue 14-May-13 10:00:12

<<Gove is actively destroying the education system and wrecking thousands of lives. It is not remotely funny. It is a disaster. I could weep.>>

^^This. He would be funny (hysterically so, in fact) if he were a local councillor spouting off. As the Minister of Education, not so much.

Abuelita Tue 14-May-13 10:04:04

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep - I wrote about the Mail On Sunday article on the Local Schools Network. As well as the "survey after survey" mentioned by Gove, he also cited an allegedly dumbed down question on GCSE science paper. He'd used that before in 2009 and Channel 4 FactCheck had investigated at the time. The FactCheck found that the cited question was a small part of a question and that the paper also contained more difficult questions. This didn't stop Gove from repeating it though.

As I told the Independent, I think that Gove shows contempt for us if he thinks we're so stupid and uncritical that we'll swallow everything he says. It doesn't help that many sections of the media pick up and run with his misinformation.

The UK Statistics watchdog censured Gove and his department for misusing data from international league tables. I wrote about it here:

Abuelita Tue 14-May-13 10:13:13

cory and trice - I agree that deep down it isn't funny. But it took two years of serious lobbying by FullFact, Local Schools Network and others before the UK Statistics Authority censured Gove and the DfE for misusing international test data (see my post above). By that time it was too late - the myth about UK education "plummeting down league tables" had become "truth". It was even repeated in the Commons by Tory MP Chris Skidmore after the Stats Watchdog had warned the data was unreliable. I wrote about it here:

Sometimes it takes mockery to make the point. The survey story has generated more headlines, tweets and so on than any number of my more serious offerings on LSN. Some of these are not exactly exciting reads although they deal with important subjects. For example, how many articles about the findings of the Academies Commission (see LSN faqs) can readers possibly take?

noblegiraffe Tue 14-May-13 10:14:14

Keep up the good work, Abuelita.

Gove's anti-Marxist piece in the Mail really alarmed me, it read like the paranoid ramblings of a conspiracy theorist. People couldn't possibly be rejecting his ideas because they simply think they're shit, could they? No, they have to be mindless slaves to an out-moded political ideology that most people would probably be hard-pressed to define. Utterly bizarre.

I don't think Gove highlighted his concerns in a particularly illuminating way, but I do have some sympathy with him, because the state education system across the UK as a whole really isn't good by international standards and hasn't been for a while. The system really does require reform and, I suspect, a shake-up by someone outside the system.

I don't intend any criticism of teachers by making this point. I think they have a thankless task and do it well in circumstances that are not their fault, and are the fault of successive Education Secretaries from Kenneth Baker onwards, amongst other reasons.

I live in NZ. Tales of the awfulness of UK schools are legion amongst teachers down here, both amongst emigrants and also Kiwis who have taught in it. I could wax lyrical about the NZ state system, but it's probably enough to say that it is one of the major reasons I am bringing up my DDs here and not the UK. There is nothing flash about the schools here: they are simply run by common-sense, discipline and hard work, and in attainment in core subjects they kick the daylight out of UK schools.

noblegiraffe Tue 14-May-13 11:44:56

England did way better than New Zealand in the 2011 TIMSS mathematics achievement rankings.

noblegiraffe Tue 14-May-13 11:48:32

And way better in science and slightly better in reading.

Abuelita Tue 14-May-13 13:07:47

Toadinthehole - you've been misinformed about UK education probably because of Gove pushing the "plummeting down league tables" line until the UK Stats Watchdog told him to stop misrepresenting the figures.

See faq "Is the UK tumbling down the international league tables?" for up-to-date data on the position of England and the UK in global education tests (with links to the evidence):

You're right, however, about the constant interference in schools of successive politicians. Teachers in England are punch-drunk with initiatives and the accountability system (national league tables, Ofsted forever chaning the goalposts) encourages teaching to the test, gaming and neglecting important skills which can't easily be assessed.

iPadTypo Tue 14-May-13 13:31:50

Marking my place to read some of the links later on.

In the PISA rankings (which simply compare attainment) for 15 year-olds, NZ, Australia and Canada are consistently way ahead of the UK and always have been. Gove is not correct in alleging that UK schools have "got worse". As I noted, they've been bad for some time.

It all ties in with the dreadful pressure teachers are under not to mention the way education is used as a political football in the UK. You don't create a well-run education system that way.

piprabbit Wed 15-May-13 00:31:05

Gove is a bull in a china shop, and about as bright.

cory Wed 15-May-13 07:34:28

Coming from Sweden, where members of my family have been teachers since the Victorian age, and visiting/living in the UK since the late 70s, the one thing that has always struck me is how teachers have been looked down on and regarded as subversive elements by every government of any political shade during these 40 years. Tory or Labour, that aspect never seems to change.

This came as a great surprise to me, coming from a country where teachers are highly respected members of society (or, at least, were until the disastrous free school experiment), and I cannot believe it is the best way to run an education system.

Tales of the awfulness of British schools have been legion in Sweden since the 70s (my mother's staff room took in the Daily Mail and she believed every word of it). I was very surprised when my own children started (state) school in the UK and I realised they were not learning less than their Swedish cousins. Who would have thought it?

cory Wed 15-May-13 07:35:27

correction: "how teachers in the UK have been looked down on and regarded as subversive elements"

We're going to end up in a situation where noone wants to become a teacher - a bit like social workers. Gove has no long term thinking, all short term headlines.

Panzee Wed 15-May-13 08:14:26

We're already in the situation where nobody wants to be a Head.

GiraffesAndButterflies Wed 15-May-13 08:28:22

Abuelita- so glad you are on this thread so that I can say congratulations, well done and bravo for your exposé of Gove.

^ he also cited an allegedly dumbed down question on GCSE science paper. He'd used that before in 2009 and Channel 4 FactCheck had investigated at the time. The FactCheck found that the cited question was a small part of a question and that the paper also contained more difficult questions^

This headline-grabbing tactic is habitual now and really gets my goat. If exams need to differentiate between those who can achieve a G grade and those who can't, then there need to be appropriate questions on the paper to do this. Said easy questions then invariably get used as evidence of dumbing down etc. <bangs head on desk>

I know that's probably not news to anyone here, but I just needed to have the rant!

kim147 Wed 15-May-13 08:33:20

It's the same when people say "You need 30% to get a C in maths"

Technically true - but:

That's for the Higher Maths paper where you get a grade D to A*. So it's a higher ability paper with hard questions on it.

If you did the foundation paper, you would need 70% to get a C. Because C is the highest you can get.

But people like to think things aren't good so they just pick soundbites which appeal to the DM.

limitedperiodonly Wed 15-May-13 08:39:35

cory Sorry I don't follow education threads so you've probably talked about it before.

But you mentioned the 'disastrous' free schools experiment in Sweden. I keep hearing that it's been a success - told you I don't follow education threads.

What's happened? Direct me to links if it's too big to cover.

bubblesinthesky Wed 15-May-13 09:06:34

We once got asked a written (anon) question when we were 14 -

Have you ever had sex? Most of the class answered no

Have you ever used a condom? The whole class answered yes.

Teachers were mystified. They'd conveniently forgotten (if they ever knew) that the previous years teacher who had by that time left had shown us all how to put a condom on a banana as part of the Personal Soicial and Health education classes. This is not a skill I've ever employed since though you never know when I may require it

I'd love to know what Gove would have made of that sample smile

cory Wed 15-May-13 11:03:01

Limitedperiod, afraid I haven't got any links, but there has been quite a bit in Swedish papers about how standards have fallen and the gap in attainment between children from different social backgrounds has widened.

More specifically, there have issues with free schools opening, taking a percentage of children from the existing schools so leaving those underfunded and unable to provide a decent education, but not filling their own capacity well enough to be working efficiently either. So where you had one well funded and efficient school you end up with two schools which are both less than efficient.

Other problems have included free schools failing to cope financially and closing down suddenly, leaving pupils stranded in their final year. And at least one free school, catering for a specific section of the immigrant population, which was found to have good results for boys and unacceptably bad results for girls.

The Swedish parents and teachers/ex-teachers I know say there has been a general drop in standards and this seems to be borne out by the international league tables, where Sweden is no longer at the head. The top position is held by Finland which has a more traditional state system.

But obviously when politicians go and visit from the UK to talk about free schools, the people they will meet are the people who organised them from the start: they will be talking about how wonderful they are and what a success their experiment has been.

soverylucky Wed 15-May-13 11:14:06

" I have a brilliant idea. I have never been a teacher, I have never studied for a PGCE, I have never completed school based observations but I am going to change not only the entire education system of the country but also the teaching profession too. I can't think of anyone better to do this."

noblegiraffe Wed 15-May-13 11:16:01

soverylucky you mean like this cartoon? grin

Abuelita Wed 15-May-13 11:18:24

Toadinthehole - the "fall" of the UK in PISA rankings between 2006 and 2009 was due to there being more countries taking part in PISA. The actual scores in Reading, Maths and Science were slightly lower but this was statistically insignificant. The UK was at the OECD average in Reading and Maths, and ABOVE average for Science.

It's not possible to judge UK's PISA record before 2006 because the 2003 and 2000 figures were flawed. The OECD warned that the 2000 figures should not be used for comparison but it didn't stop the Government and others from doing so. The UK Statistics Watchdog ruled in Autumn 2012 that the Government had been misusing the data.

I wrote about it here:

International rankings present a mixed picture. The Pearson report (2012) number-crunched all the available figures and concluded that the UK was 6th in the world. It has to be said, however, that Pearson's methodology has been criticised.

In PIRLS 2011, the score of English pupils rose and was significantly above 31 other countries including New Zealand, Sweden and Australia.

In the Trends in Maths and Science Survey (TIMSS) 2011, English 10 year-olds significantly outperformed forty-two participants which included Germany, Sweden, Australia in Maths although the performance of English 14 year-olds fell putting them among average instead of above average performers.

In TIMSS Science performance of English pupils (10 and 14 year-olds) in Science tests remained high although their position at the top has fallen since 2007 when they were top of the European league at ages 10 and 14.

On the other hand, UNICEF (2013) wrote that the UK was 24th out of 29 developed countries for “educational welfare”. This low ranking was caused by the large percentage of 15-19 year-olds who were not in education, employment or training.

League tables come with a warning: jumping to conclusions about a country’s education system based solely on league table rankings could be misleading.

For more details see faq "Is the UK tumbling down the international league tables?" here:

soverylucky Wed 15-May-13 11:19:26

Thanks for that noble

Very funny but at the same time ..........I am very, very scared.

soverylucky Wed 15-May-13 11:20:49

abuelita I think I love you.

Abuelita Wed 15-May-13 11:23:45

cory - the Academies Commission (2013) looked at the available evidence about Sweden. Its findings are summarised in the faq "What does a January 2013 review of evidence say about market intervention in education in Sweden and Chile?" in the link below. Look under "International Comparisons".

Hullygully Wed 15-May-13 11:25:42

You couldn't make it up

Oh wait...

Abuelita Wed 15-May-13 11:33:17

If you enjoy cartoons, then this one about a new Mr Man character might appeal:

I posted about Mr Gove's latest speech in which he misrepresented a revision task which asked pupils who'd been studying the Weimar Republic for several lesson to summarise the main events in a simplified Mr Men format which could be read to younger pupils. Gove said it was an example of infantalised teaching.

But it wasn't teaching, it was consolidation. The author of the lesson plan, Russel Tarr, defended his plan by quoting Einstein,

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

Ilikethebreeze Wed 15-May-13 11:39:42

Agree with Boulevard. Cabinet reshuffle. Someone is made in charge of prison for example, and is suddenly expected to know all about them, and comment knowledgely on them 4 days later.
I remember a few years ago, there was a politician, who had about 6 different cabinet posts in 2 years. How on earth was he supposed to keep up with all that lot.
I appreciate some of them are very very clever, but it is indeed a failure of the system.

limitedperiodonly Wed 15-May-13 12:59:36

Thanks cory. It's what I suspect will happen in Britain but any criticism is portrayed as whingeing.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Wed 15-May-13 18:50:13

I wish we had a genuinely intelligent satirical news programme in this country, like the US Daily Show. They would mercilessly rip apart this goon's "statistics"

ravenAK Wed 15-May-13 18:59:16

Abuelita, you are now officially my heroine.

Thank you for your excellent work on this.

nobodysbaby Wed 15-May-13 20:38:42

Abuelita, thank you so much for this. I just wish the opposition or even the press would do what you do!

kim147 Wed 15-May-13 21:15:14

Bring back Spitting Image

burntoutteacher Wed 15-May-13 23:00:43

Micheal Gove always reminds me of a tape worm


I found your reply and links very interesting (the reason for this will become apparent at the end of my reply). The first thing to note is that I understand Gove claims that the UK education system has got worse. I'm not defending this claim, which I understand is based on the PISA 2000 figures, which ranked the UK 7th in reading, 4th for science and 8th for maths, significantly higher than subsequent rankings (25th, 16th and 28th in 2009, for example). My point is that the UK education system hasn't been world-class for a while. The fact that the PISA 2000 scores were flawed actually strengthens this point rather than the opposite, as it excludes the most obvious contradictory evidence. And while you point out that UK scores are at or above the average, I don't think this is anything to write home about, given that the table includes Kazakhstan, Panama and Brazil. I don't have anything against those countries, but I do assume that the UK, as a knowledge-based post-industrial economy and thus requires at least an above-average education system.

About Pearson: I understand that it measures what "goes in". So, a well-resourced education system could in theory produce indifferent results but still rank highly, which to me seems open to criticism.

While I find the PIRLS and TIMMS results interesting, I think all it does is perhaps highlight where the particular deficiency in UK education lies - in secondary schools. Given the UK's relatively poor record on youth wellbeing (not that NZ's is anything to write home about, for that matter) perhaps this is not just the fault of the education system. This seems the most obvious way or reconciling the the high PERLS/TIMMS results with the comparatively low PISA results which strike me as a better measure, because they are at, or close to, the end of formal schooling. I might add in fairness to Gove that the children assessed in PERLS/TIMMS will have had over half their schooling during the time he has been Education Secretary.

I understand that private schools are included in these measures, and furthermore that the UK independent schooling sector is one of the world's best. It hasn't escaped my notice that in the UK even pop stars and sports people these days seem to have gone to independent schools.

While of course surveys are no guide to whether a particular child will do well at a particular school, it is reasonable to consider them in some respects a helpful guide, and in this case the horror stories I've heard (particularly at secondary level) are borne out by the surveys and also my observation that the locals here tend, in my experience, to be more dextrous with language and maths than British people, including myself - Russell Group educated though I am.

I am, by the way, very happy to be proved wrong, apart from the slight loss of face it would cause. I endure regular bouts of homesickness and would love to return to the UK. DW is, however, very worried about the schools (she's not British, but she taught in them). I invite you to apply your most remorseless logic to tear apart what I've written, and then I can present what you say to DW. smile

EduCated Thu 16-May-13 10:11:35

Abuelita Can I just say thank you? It's people like you who give the faintest glimpse of hope that we might not be completely fucked.

YoniMatopoeia Fri 17-May-13 11:31:41

I would also like to applaud you Abuelita

Bumping, in the hope of a reply from Abuelita.

BoneyBackJefferson Sun 19-May-13 09:51:02

It is interesting that people quote the PISA league tables when PISA themselves have said that the results where never meant to be put into league table form.

Nehru Sun 19-May-13 09:51:41


its as if the WHOLE uk economy is based on historical knowledge

Nehru Sun 19-May-13 09:52:51

i was once teaching in a school that agreed to do a Sunday Times survey on HIstory.

it was a TOTAL set up - the "hilariously' wrong answers were put on the multiple choice questionnaire and half the stuff wasnt even on the curriculum

ComposHat Sun 19-May-13 10:25:43

I am a pacifist and forgive me for saying this, but Gove has a face you'd never tire of slapping.

Amen to that.

He doesn't understand the first thing about history as a subject.


Given that they are a comparison in statistical form, it's not surprising they are nor misleading to do so.

I've read nothing on this thread that dispels the belief of my DW or various teaching colleagues here that the UK education system is in trouble.

BoneyBackJefferson Sun 19-May-13 12:50:10


the organisation themselves have poined out that the information is not supposed to form a league table.

Given that they test one subject every 9 years and there is no datum for them to be based on, they are a flawed measure.

Yes the UK education system is in trouble, but putting forward bad statistical data and changing the system every couple of months without finding out if the changes are good is not helping.

I agree with your last point. Alas, I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel. sad

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