Wednesday 31 October 2007

Ed and excellence

It is a bit disconcerting to be prayed in aid by the Tories to make their case, as Michael Gove has done in his argument that Ed Balls is against excellence in education, in today's Telegraph. That Gove does so with his inimitable erudition does not make him right. While he has quoted me correctly from my Guardian piece last week, he is wrong to suggest that I believe that Ed Balls has been undermining excellence or caving into the 'education establishment'. Was he doing so, he could have announced the end of A levels. Instead, he is allowing the market to decide, which is as it should be, provided that young people are exposed to all their choices. But to suggest this proves a wider case of antipathy to excellence is stretching a point. Today's targets for schools are ambitious, challenging and just about achievable, but they will hardly enthuse the education establishment. Balls may have tweaked the academy rules, but has speeded their introduction. And it is to academies and trusts that ministers will turn to replace failing schools, not local authority-led alternatives. If Ed Balls has a weakness, it is his desire to cloak radicalism under language that soothes the education world. But Gove is mistaken if he misses the radical reality by focusing on the rhetoric.

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