High-profile authors in Gove attack

High-profile authors in Gove attack

Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy and children’s laureate Malorie Blackman are among over 190 authors who have signed a letter criticising education secretary Michael Gove’s policies as leading to “harmful stress” on young people, their parents and their teachers.

The letter has appeared in the Times newspaper today, timed to coincide with a speech Gove is expected to make later at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

Other signatories to the letter include author Michael Rosen, Melvyn Burgess and biographer Michael Holroyd. Academics who have lent their name to the protest are from Oxford, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, King’s College London, Nottingham and Newcastle. Tim Hands, the incoming chairman of the Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference has also criticised Gove’s education reforms as heralding a “funeral” for the understanding of the child. The chief executive of Reading Matters, Rachel Kelly, is also among the signatories.

The letter says: “We are gravely concerned at the impact that current developments in state education in England are likely to have on our children and their futures. The new national policies around curriculum, assessment and accountability are taking enormous risks with the quality of children’s lives and learning. Competition between children through incessant testing and labeling results in a public sense of failure for the vast majority.”

The letter goes on to call for the damaging developments to stop immediately and asks the government to set up a major "commission" of business leaders, parents, teachers, academics, children’s authors and politicians across all parties to examine the potential consequences of the proposals and offer alternatives “on what we want for our children and how best to achieve it".

The letter said: “These damaging developments must stop. If they go ahead there will be devastating consequences for children’s mental health, for future opportunities and, most importantly, for the quality of childhood itself. Children are natural learners who deserve an abundance of new experience, but the proposed straitjacket of government demands on their teachers will destroy the educational richness that should be children's birthright. Childhood is too important to be squandered or exploited.”

The Times quoted a "a source close to Gove" as dismissing the signatories' claims as “full of vapid clichés”. The source added: "[they] keep sending letters full of vapid clichés because their power base is dissolving. They screwed up state schools and we’re taking their power away.”