Lord Baker: Gove's policies 'entirely derived from own experience'

Education secretary Michael Gove’s policies are “entirely derived from his own experience,” according to Lord Baker, Margaret Thatcher’s education secretary. He also said that Thatcher’s views on education were “not worth listening to” and that David Cameron is “not that interested in education, frankly”.

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By Joshua.Chambers

24 Oct 2013

Speaking from the crowd at the Sir John Cass Foundation Lecture at Cass Business School yesterday evening, Baker said: “Michael Gove is a very dominant education secretary whose policies are entirely derived from his own educational experience. Michael Gove had a tough upbringing and he believes if he did it, anybody in the country could do what he did: whether they’re orphans, whether they’re poor, whether they’re impoverished, they can all rise to the top. Well that is not actually true, and that is dominating the attitude of a key minister in government.”

He continued that “David Cameron, I like his views on education because he agrees with me, and he supports the technical school movement that I’ve launched in the last four or five years, but he is not really all that interested in education, frankly.”

Baker said that “my experience of prime ministers and their views on education is that they’re not worth listening to, quite frankly. They invariably extrapolate from their own experience, which is totally irrelevant.”

The former education secretary said of prime ministers that “whether they’ve been to a state school or a public school, university or not, their views are totally out of date, in my experience.”

Baker said that Thatcher didn’t discuss her own experience as education secretary with him because “she was rather ashamed of it, because she signed the death of more grammar schools than any other secretary of state since the war.”

“She was inveigled by her civil servants to support that, and regretted it immensely and wanted to try and reinvent [the model].”

When he was appointed education secretary, Baker revealed, “I expected to be told what to do – because that’s the moment when prime ministers tell new ministers what their views really are – and she didn’t tell me to do anything.”

Thatcher only told him “please go away and work out some ideas, and come and see me in two months’ time,” he recalled. “That was the brief I had from Margaret Thatcher. I had my own ideas, I put a few to her then, like schools in local authorities, more technical education. She said: ‘I like all that, work it all up, work it up'.”

“She didn’t have an agenda for education, but she wanted something done because industry was complaining about the state of education in the country,” Baker said.

Baker made his comments in a question and answer session after Lord Peter Hennessy gave a speech on the “indispensability of political education since 1945.”

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