This article explores what did Michael Gove do to education? It also considers the Government’s obsession with synthetic phonics and the impact of free schools and academies. It concludes that the reforms have a mixed legacy, and that the Government should consider other options before making sweeping changes.
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Michael Gove’s education reforms
As education minister, Michael Gove is pursuing an education reform agenda that has its critics. This agenda is influenced by Gove’s personal tastes. He has a history of decrying school funding and has framed education as a civil rights battle. Sadly, his rhetoric is increasingly incongruous with his own education record.
Gove has also faced criticism from teacher unions. While he was Education Secretary, he introduced the National Pupil Database, which tracks pupil progress, as well as the phonics check (a reading test for year one pupils). However, his tenure was marred by the Trojan Horse scandal, which led to widespread criticism from academics and teachers’ unions. As a result, Mr. Gove’s education reforms came under fire during his term as Education Secretary, and Prime Minister David Cameron subsequently moved Gove to the office of chief whip, a position that does not require a minister to have any expertise in education.
Despite the criticisms, many of Gove’s reforms have been successful. Most prominently, the academy policy is one of the most visible of his reforms. Other initiatives include the introduction of the School Direct program, which replaces university-based teacher training. The education reforms are being opposed by the Labour party, who say they will not repeal any Coalition education reforms.
The education reforms were originally launched to address academic concerns that A-levels were not rigorous enough. But in reality, these policies will do little to raise standards, and may even precipitate a destabilizing decline in core subjects. The Government will need to rethink these plans if it wants to improve education.
Michael Gove has faced repeated criticism over his alleged efforts to avoid the Freedom of Information Act. He has used private email accounts for government correspondence. By doing so, he and his advisers hoped to avoid FOI requests. This has cost the public PS12,540 in legal fees.
Gove announced a restructure of the English national curriculum in a white paper in November 2010. This plan involves a change in the way GCSEs are assessed. It will also reinstate the study of authors in English lessons, thereby improving children’s understanding of English literature. It will also require more intensive teaching and testing of teacher trainees. In addition, he has proposed to retrain ex-service soldiers to become teachers.
Government’s obsession with synthetic phonics
The Government has a fervent obsession with synthetic phonics in education. Its supporters claim it helps students make faster progress and outperform their non-phonics counterparts. They also claim that phonics improves a child’s ability to deal with unknown words. Synthetic phonics involves teaching the students to read words by sounding them out. This method also involves teaching children to read words in context.
However, these findings are not supported by research. While the ‘best’ approach to teaching reading is contextualised teaching – combining phonics with reading whole texts – the research evidence is mixed. Moreover, the use of synthetic phonics in England is an outlier. In international assessment tests, children from England do worse than children from other countries.
However, the Government’s recent publicity about raising the reading standards is a welcome step. It seeks to streamline programmes and boost the standards of reading. While the aim is to promote reading for life, the use of synthetic phonics is not helping everyone. There is a clear need for a balanced approach to reading in order to increase reading levels.
Despite this, the Coalition is still obsessively promoting the use of synthetic phonics in education. The government is giving extra funding to schools to train their teachers and implement this approach, but there are also risks. This approach has the potential to lead to the reduction of time that schools would otherwise spend on other aspects of reading.
The synthetic phonics method is controversial and has been proven to kill the love of reading in children. Many teachers’ unions have written to MPs to support an alternative approach. They also point out that phonics tests are ineffective and confusing, which makes them counterproductive.
A study conducted by Johnston and Watson (2005) in Scotland showed that children who were exposed to’systematic synthetic phonics’ had an average reading age that was three years older than their actual age. Despite this, the teachers were still determined to use the ‘best’ method for their pupils.
Impact of academies
A recent paper from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) and London School of Economics explores the impact of academies on education outcomes. The authors use data from the National Pupil Database and school-level data from predecessor and non-Academy schools to compare the performance of a sample of 33 Academies. They then apply difference-in-differences regression analysis to the samples of the control schools and the Academies.
Career Academies are organized around a single career field and incorporate academic and technical aspects into the learning experience. They also provide students with practical experience in their chosen field through partnerships with local employers. In some cases, these partnerships include work-based internships and mentoring experiences. In order to maximize student potential, these schools encourage students to work hard in order to achieve their educational and career goals.
School environment has a major impact on students’ mental health, as well as their feelings of school connectedness and academic outcomes. Since academy schools have increased in number in the UK in recent years, it is important to understand the impact of academies on these aspects of education. While many studies have compared the academic performance of academy schools with those of non-academy schools, the impact of academies on student wellbeing has not been studied as closely.
Rising Academies has achieved BCorp certification in 2019 and is now the first BCorp in Sierra Leone, Liberia and West Africa. It is ranked among the best BCorps for 2021. In addition, the school ranked among the top 5% of BCorps on the B Impact Assessment (BiA).
Rising Academies’ audio content was also evaluated for impact on student and teacher learning outcomes. The results of this research are published in the Evidence Library of the EdTech Hub. The study also found that teachers from Rising Academies had a higher level of implementation fidelity. This means that they gave students 10 out of 16 calls per subject compared to public school students with only seven calls.
Impact of free schools
There is a real debate about the impact of free schools on education. In many areas, a free school can benefit students’ learning. In some areas, a free school may not benefit pupils at all. In rural areas, a free school may lead to a decline of 5.4 pupils in the reception year, a loss of 3-4 pupils at a neighboring secondary school, and the loss of half a class at the nearest primary school. In towns, however, the impact of a free school may be insignificant.
The impact of free schools is particularly important in areas with high levels of deprivation. This is because many free schools admit students with higher levels of prior attainment than their neighboring schools. In addition, because they’re free, they often attract a more affluent demographic.
Free schools are a good way to improve education standards. However, they are not without problems. Unfortunately, some free schools have failed spectacularly. Some of them have closed down or been “rebrokered” to academy chains, and others have had problems with poor planning. Some of the free schools have been doomed from the start – such as the Al-Madinah free school in Derby, which closed its doors two years after it opened.
In countries where free education is not readily accessible, parents may choose to work instead of sending their children to school. This may reduce the amount of money available for education. Children may also have to perform household chores or work to help support the family. Orphaned children living in AIDS-affected countries may be required to stay out of school to take care of sick family members. These costs can make even free schooling in these countries unaffordable for some families.
The study also found that parents in many low-income countries are willing to pay school fees. This increases the demand for education, but it is unclear whether this will result in higher quality. Nonetheless, user payments may be the only way to help parents in low-income countries afford to send their children to school.