Would you trust Gove on the environment?

So, Gove has a “green plan” for Brexit.

Let’s none of us forget the state in which he left education:

A primary school teacher wrote:

“The most shocking thing about Michael Gove’s reign as education secretary was that one individual was able to change the system so much for the worse, writes this primary teacher
Dear Mr Gove,

I see that you are driving yourself back into the public eye. You came back on to my radar with your scoop of an interview with Donald Trump. I noted the grin, the twinkle in your eyes (à la Nigel Farage in a gold-plated lift) as you posed for a “thumbs up” photograph with the then president-elect. Your mutual appreciation was evident and hardly surprising, given that you appear to share many of the same ideas and core beliefs.

Firstly, Michael, you and Trump both appear to share an insatiable need to be in the public eye. How else to explain Trump’s early morning tweets? How else to explain your rapid return to the spotlight after such an ignominious debacle in the days following the Brexit referendum?

Moreover, both of you share a belief in belittling the opinions of experts, whether they be civil servants or career professionals in a specialised field. We all know Trump’s views on the “swamp” of the Washington bureaucracy and his views on environmentalism, despite the accepted wisdom of a vast majority of scientists. In recent days, you have argued that your anti-expert rhetoric during the referendum has been misconstrued. However, as long as seven years ago, you were already demonstrating, by your actions, a deeply held distrust of expert educational opinion.

As you embarked on your role as education secretary, you set out to put to one side the views of civil servants within the Department of Education, to disregard the prevailing wisdom of the teaching profession, in order to oversee an overhaul of the national curriculum. The new document proved to be, to an almost fantastical degree, the personal educational manifesto of a single individual. By dint of the fact that you had been to school, by dint of the fact that you had experienced the power of an inspirational teacher or two, and by dint of the fact that you had (to your credit) a daughter in a state primary school, you had the arrogance, Michael, to believe that you alone had the expertise to design a curriculum for all.

What followed was the publication of a curriculum that included some good ideas – who could argue with the oft-quoted aim of desiring to expose children to the “great thinkers”? However, in reality it was a massive missed opportunity to deliver a truly outstanding education system for the future. Through your fundamental misunderstanding of education, you increased (or in some cases, merely reorganised) the content of the curriculum, reducing it, in the process, to what is most easily measurable. Michael, it would have been much more innovative and powerful to refocus education on principles rather than facts. What we needed was an educational system which strove to be exceptional within a rapidly globalising world; which promoted understanding rather than recall; which used everything that we have learned from educational research to optimise children’s learning; which promoted sustainability rather than short-term performance. It took over 20 years for the original national curriculum to be modified – unfortunately, we are going to have to live with your version for a long time.

A ‘damaging’ new leadership culture
What is most shocking about your reign in education, Michael, was that one individual was able to impose his own beliefs and prejudices to such an extent, virtually unimpeded. For this, David Cameron must take the bulk of the responsibility. Your appropriating of power to deliver a personal agenda, albeit on a smaller scale, cannot fail but to remind one of somebody across the pond. We can only hope that the oft-quoted “checks and balances” of the US’ political system are more effective in curbing the excesses of Trump, than Cameron was in curbing yours.

Another damaging product of your period in education, Michael, has been a change in the culture of school leadership, which corresponds to your own style of leadership. Much has been spoken of legacies in recent weeks. Well a legacy of your period of office has been a change in culture within schools, which has been at best unhelpful and at worst downright damaging. This change is characterised by a movement away from collaborative endeavour, and a corresponding movement towards autocratic decision-making – a change which reflects the political move towards greater individualism.

One of the most powerful products of the Blair government’s education policy was the focus on collaborative endeavour. Education ministers actively sought the opinions and advice of experts in the field. This was manifested through the primary strategies which sought to collate and disseminate good practice. Basically, good practice was developed by teachers and advisers, shared between schools and modified accordingly. The culture in schools was much more inclusive; headteachers were actively encouraged, through the National College of School Leadership, to use more distributive models of leadership.

Under your leadership, Michael, the culture of leadership within the Department of Education changed, and this has filtered down into schools. Heads, for example, are now expected to be seen to “lead” on everything, especially on “teaching and learning”. Modern heads feel it incumbent on themselves to be seen to be the one making decisions, to be seen to be leading from the front. This change in emphasis may seem small but it has led to a decline in interest in headship, a lowering of teacher morale (since their voices are less valued) and a subsequent increase in the numbers taking time off for stress-related illness or, even worse, leaving the profession. Such leadership affects teachers’ lives; it affects their mental wellbeing.

Cultures of leadership matter. Perhaps Obama’s greatest legacy is the culture of his leadership – a leadership characterised by honesty, dignity, humility and grace; characterised by listening and by collaboration. The culture of your leadership in education mattered, Michael – it will take a significant time before it is replaced by a more effective one.

It is also a culture that appears to be about to be repeated in Trump’s administration. No wonder, in that photo, that the two of you look so at ease with each other – a mutual admiration society. You have much in common.

David Jones”


“Cost of care will take up most of council tax within two years”

”Most of the council tax people pay will need to be spent on providing care for children and adults within two years, the LGA has warned.

It said almost 60 pence out of every £1 of council tax be taken up by the rising demand for social care and children’s services by 2020, leaving less money for other vital local services, like collecting bins, fixing potholes, buses, street lighting and food safety.

The LGA is calling on the Government to use the Autumn Budget to allow local government as a whole to keep all the business rates it collects to plug funding gaps.

Cllr Claire Kober, Chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, said: “Demand for services caring for adults and children continues to rise but core funding from central government to councils continues to go down. This means councils have no choice but to squeeze budgets from other services, such as roads, street lighting and bus services to cope. Councils will be asking people to pay similar levels of council tax while, at the same time, warning communities that the quality and quantity of services they enjoy could drop.

Local government in England faces a £5.8 billion funding gap by 2020. Even if councils stopped filling potholes, maintaining parks and open spaces, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres, turned off every street light and shut all discretionary bus routes they still would not have saved enough money to plug this gap in just two years.”

Cllr Kober will be interviewed by ITV News today and the story is running across Sky News bulletins.”

Source: Mail p8, Times p2

“Number of pensioners living in rented homes may treble by 2035”

Of course, rich people will be able to afford flats in PegasusLife developments – with annual service charges higher than most people’s annual rents.

Almost 1 million pensioners could be trapped in the private rented sector in 20 years, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation from rogue landlords, according to a renters’ rights campaign group.

There are 370,000 pensioner households currently paying rent to private landlords in the UK.

But campaigners expect that figure to almost treble to 995,000 by 2035-36 if housebuilding remains at current levels.

The Generation Rent campaign group has warned that these pensioners will be forced to rely on housing benefit to cover their rent, which will then pile pressure on the welfare budget.

New research from the lobby group also revealed that older renters are more likely to prefer secure tenancies with rent controls and tenancy guarantees.

Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent, said: “With most debates on housing focused on young adults, politicians risk neglecting the vast numbers of people who are already too old to get a mortgage and face a lifetime of renting.

“As they start retiring in greater numbers, the state will have to pick up the tab unless it makes some fundamental changes to the housing market.

“The answer is not further cuts to housing benefit, because that will only further immiserate people who have nowhere else to turn.

“Instead, we need years of investment in new homes to bring down rents and a transformation of the private rental market into a professional provider of long term homes.

“This means giving tenants protection from unfair evictions and putting a limit on rent rises.”


“Social care could drain local services cash dry, warns LGA”

For every £1 of council tax, almost 60p could be spent on social care by 2020, taking away from “vital day-to-day services”, the Local Government Association has warned ahead of the Budget later this month.

The umbrella-group has called on the government to ensure councils could keep raising the local tax to keep providing services as the money is “running out fast”.

Clair Kober, chair of LGA’s resources board, said: “With the right funding and powers, local government can play a vital role in supporting central government to deliver its ambitions for everyone in our country.”

She added: “Demand for services caring for adults and children continues to rise but core funding from central government to councils continues to go down.

“This means councils have no choice but to squeeze budgets from other services – such as roads, street lighting and bus services – to cope.”

The association projected 56p could be spent on caring for the elderly, vulnerable adults and children, up from 41p in 2010-11, and that this would take away funds that could be spent on services such as waste collection, road repairs and bus services.

Almost half of all local authorities (168 councils) will no longer receive any revenue support grant funding from central government by 2019-20, the LGA point out in a new analysis.

Uncertainty was growing over how local services would be funded after 2020, as the Local Government Finance Bill, which was passing through parliament before the election, was not reintroduced in the Queen’s Speech, the association said.

This has made it uncertain whether councils would be able to keep all their income from business rates by the end of the decade.”