John Harris

Journalist & Author

I’d rather have a Margaret Thatcher state school than a Michael Gove one | John Harris

His legacy is clear to see: no room for creativity and critical thinking, plenty for exams and rote learning

The other week, my six-year-old daughter had one of her school friends over for tea, and the two of them decided to have a read of Julia Donaldson’s The Snail and the Whale. For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s the story of a worldwide voyage jointly undertaken by the titular animals, with lovely subtexts about friendship and co-operation, and some brilliantly executed dramatic tension.

At our local state primary school, my daughter’s class do brilliant work inspired by it – building a huge humpback whale out of household rubbish, learning about the same creature’s migration paths, and so on. But that afternoon, such things receded into the distance, as my daughter’s friend looked intently at the text, tuned out of the actual story, and began to pick out the word types: “Noun … verb … noun … verb.”

I was taught three to a desk, but the teaching had no end of things going for it

Related: ‘Massively’ improved state schools threaten private sector

Related: How Michael Gove’s reforms drove me out of teaching

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