Tom Richmond: Meddling Gove must do better for teachers

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MICHAEL Gove needs some lessons in common sense before he causes even more damage to education policy.

His latest wheeze is to offer inducements of up to £20,000 to recruit new teachers.

Regardless of its merits, it might have been better if the Education Secretary did not make this announcement just as talks to halt Thursday’s strike were collapsing, with teachers rebelling against changes to their pension entitlements.

And it might have been better still if Gove had not proposed this scheme on the day that he was announcing even more changes to the GCSE curriculum.

After all, the reason the Government is having to look at new ways to promote education as a vocation is because too many teachers have become alienated by years of political interference – and Gove appears to be a master of this unhelpful trait.

If you’re going to have to contend with rowdy youngsters, meddling Ministers and a diminished pension, you’re hardly likely to volunteer to stand in front of a class of 30 pupils each day.

Yet, while many within the Tory ranks will welcome the onus that Gove is placing on teachers learning their trade in class, rather than at university, his change of emphasis is likely to make little difference to overall standards.

Those schools that are likely to take advantage of the new incentive scheme will be those who have the means to do so – while inner-city schools, bereft of funding because of an above-average number of under-privileged pupils, will struggle to find the necessary finances.

Yet it is these schools that need the means to recruit experienced staff to help raise standards rather than being left at the whim of a Ministerial gimmick that will widen differences between successful and failing schools.

In short, the Minister’s own end-of-term report reads: “Must do better.”

THE Government’s unhelpful denigration of non-uniformed police personnel could well rebound upon it.

After visiting the main police station in his Huddersfield constituency, Labour’s Barry Sheerman told policing minister Nick Herbert: “If he has been in the intelligence room of a police station, he will know that it is not a back-office function that can be wiped away. Those intelligence teams are under threat, and the police cannot work without them.”

The Minister’s reply?

“Around 25,000 police officers are working not on the front line, but in back and middle offices. That is something to which chief constables need to pay attention.”

Talk about short-sightedness – especially when it was those same “back office” staff scanning CCTV cameras who were responsible for identifying the gang who murdered Pc Sharon Beshenivsky on the streets of Bradford, and helped bring serial killer Stephen Griffiths to justice in West Yorkshire.

And, without their expertise, evil killer Levi Bellfield would never have been convicted of the murder of Milly Dowler – judging by the revelations in this week’s TV documentary about the case.

Having appeared out of his depth over this week’s bail row, Herbert should think again before his ignorance and complacency causes even more harm.

THOSE advising Ed Miliband, the Doncaster MP and Labour leader, seem to be on a different planet to the electorate.

They say scrapping the Shadow Cabinet elections, enabling Miliband more flexibility over the appointment of his top team, will transform Labour’s fortunes.

Two points. First, the overwhelming majority of the British public were not even aware of these elections. Second, the change will achieve a negligible impact if Labour does not have any future Ministers emerging from within – people who are capable of defending the party’s strikes policy on programmes like Newsnight.

Labour’s silence this week was, frankly, deafening.

WATCHING Question Time from the University of Huddersfield, it struck me that Rachel Reeves, the Labour pensions spokeswoman and Leeds MP, had quite a bit in common with John Redwood, the former Tory cabinet minister.

Though it was easy to be sidetracked by the non-contributions of TV presenter Fern Britton, could this be to do with the non-confrontational manner of the debate?

And would Prime Minister’s Questions be any different if the chamber was circular, rather than the Government and Opposition simply trading insults – and jeers – across the Despatch Box?

A SIMPLE question for Nick Clegg. During the election, the Liberal Democrats ran a high-profile campaign stating its opposition to the Humber Bridge tolls, and calling for the Government to scrap its long-standing debt.

Now the Lib Dem Transport Minister, Norman Baker, has rubber-stamped moves that will see the cost of crossing the bridge rise by 11 per cent, from £2.70 to £3 each way.

Just where do the Lib Dems stand on this issue?

THE replaying of the 1981 Headingley Test on ESPN Classic has been a joy, as first Ian Botham, and then Bob Willis, destroy Australia in cricket’s greatest match ever.

It was not just the dramatic denouement that was so captivating. There was the brisk over rate, world-class wicket-keeping, no TV referrals, the unrivalled commentary of Richie Benaud and the advertising board proclaiming “Coal Your Future”.

There was another pleasant surprise. Headingley, and the tree-lined Kirkstall Lane, looked a picture in contrast to the concrete jungle of today.

THIS is the definition of sporting greatness.

Tuesday saw AP McCoy, the record-breaking jump jockey, pick up his OBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace. He then drove to Stratford to boot home two winners.

And his abiding memory of the day? Probably being beaten on the favourite in his third and final race of the night.

McCoy is never satisfied. It’s a mantra that others should follow.