What are the best-known changes brought about by the former Education Secretary? My guess would be the introduction of free schools and the expansion of academies.
However, these were not placed top of the table by John Bald, the former Ofsted lead inspector and teacher who contributes regularly to this site. He wrote -
“From my perspective, the most important is the reshaping of the school curriculum and examinations. This includes the introduction of phonics and the phonics check in infant schools, the reforms to the national curriculum, tests and examinations, the extended role of the national college for teaching and leadership, and the bonfire of the quangos.”
Bald goes on to list the phonics check in infant schools, the reforms to the national curriculum, tests and examinations, and the extended role of the national college for teaching and leadership.
He honours Glenys Stacey’s changes at Ofqal and the “hard, detailed work” undertaken by Nick Gibb, before noting the move to final examinations at GCSE and A-level.
Gove inherited an exam system in which the number of pupils gaining at least two A*s at GCSE increased by 50 per cent between 2001 and 2012.
As Stacey wrote, grade inflation had been “virtually impossible to justify and…has done more than anything to undermine confidence in the value of those qualifications”.
The former Education Secretary and his team of dedicated special adviser didn’t get everything they wanted. (He would have preferred GCSEs to be replaced by an O-level type system.)
But they have done much to prevent a generation of pupils from being fleeced by the exam system, and to help give them qualifications that hold real value.
When the historians look back on the Coalition, they may well judge that of the Ministers who helped to spread opportunity, raise life chances and made a difference, Gove was top of the class.