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Speech

Michael Gove: Politeia Think Tank Speech

Rt Hon Michael Gove, Tuesday, October 23 2012

Michael Gove

Can I thank you, Sheila, for your kind invitation to speak today. I am an admirer of yours, and of Politeia, and the wonderful work you do.

One of the many virtues of Politeia is that it has been both a custodian of certain important political traditions – classical liberalism, parliamentary sovereignty, liberal education and the cultivation of virtue – as well as an incubator of new ideas – on welfare, the constitution, financial regulation, improving the quality of teaching and refurbishing the curriculum.

And it is that open-ness to new ideas, fresh thinking, radical action, that has been the real hallmark of intellectual life in Britain throughout our history. Although we are sometimes characterised as a small-c conservative nation, a land of warm beer and cold fishes, stately homes and tinkling smithies, the truth of our Island story is that we are – and always have been – an innovation nation. 

All the drivers of global progress in the last two centuries - representative democracy, property rights, the separation of judicial and executive power, limited companies, the computer, the Royal Navy, penicillin, nuclear fission, competitive league football – all were Made in Britain.

And that has been because we have – traditionally and at our best – been an open society.

Indeed the very phrase Open Society was given its fullest expression by the writings of one of Politeia's household gods, the LSE academic Karl Popper, himself a beneficiary of British openness as an escapee from authoritarian and closed-minded central Europe.

Indeed it is remarkable how our openness throughout the last century helped maintain – and strengthen – our traditional liberties and our intellectual edge. Popper, Hayek, Wittgenstein and Berlin are not the names of individuals who've sat under the same old oak trees for five hundred years – but the bearers of those names planted ideas about freedom, reason and progress which grew naturally in England's soil. 
 
Now some of you may have noticed that the phrase I just deployed – about sitting under the same oak tree for five hundred years – is not my own.
 
I have deliberately purloined it from the beautifully-written and elegantly delivered speech Ed Miliband gave to the Labour Party Conference last month.
 
Like many listeners, I was impressed by the breadth and sweep of the Labour leader's address. He is a gifted politician, thoughtful without being ponderous, serious without being humourless, fluent without being glib.
 
Which is why we owe his speech the compliment of paying attention.
 
Because it marks a very deliberate turning of the page from Labour's recent past. And its period of greatest electoral success.
 
Tony Blair was Labour's most electorally successful leader ever.

And in considering Ed Miliband's speech it is worth pausing for a moment to understand why Blair was so successful.

Blair displayed a keener understanding of Britain than most leading Labour politicians ever have. He instinctively appreciated that British citizens have robust views on crime, traditional ambitions for their children's education, natural respect for the armed forces and a principled dislike of penal rates of taxation. As important, he knew that there was nothing either unrespectable or reactionary about such sound instincts.
 
But even more powerfully he understood that Britain's strength lay in its open-ness and that the principle political challenge of the twenty-first century was how to preserve, and extend, that open-ness.
 
In a speech at Blenheim Palace in 2007 he laid out the challenge of our times.
 
“If you take any of the big motivating debates in politics today… each essentially has, at its core, this question: Do we open up? Or do we hunker down?”
 
He went on to say:
“I advocate openness, see it primarily as an opportunity not a threat. A world that is opening up offers a chance for a more just and fair and kind way of ordering human affairs. In other words, for me, I don't wish globalisation wasn't happening, but none the less accept that it is. I like it, I think it's great.”

And developing his argument, he continued:
“For countries, companies and people there is a huge premium today for all of us on the ability to adapt, on flexibility, on willingness to engage with and welcome change. The welfare state, the public services of any modern developed nation are subject to stresses and strains that require deep and even at points constant, evolutions, sometimes revolutions, certainly reform.
“I always used to say my worry with our reform programmes was the precise opposite of the usual complaint of the critics. I worried that we weren't going far enough, fast enough.”

That orientation towards the future, that embrace of change, that restlessness for improvement, that thirst for the innovative, the responsive, the genuinely progressive stands in stark contrast to the vision outlined last month by Labour's current leader.
 
Because that speech was – in almost every sense of the word – remarkably conservative.
 
It attracted attention because the Labour leader invoked the nineteenth century Tory Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli as his hero.
 
And it certainly is attention-grabbing to take as your guru for the twenty-first century a man whose political instincts were already reactionary in 1874. Because Ed Miliband is an intelligent man, indeed an intellectual, he will not have chosen Disraeli by accident.
 
He will appreciate that Disraeli was a politician who scorned the commercial innovators, the emerging middle classes and aspirational liberals of his time and dreamt of an alliance between plain working people and leaders drawn from elite salons.
 
He will have known that Disraeli took shelter, in both his literature and his politics, from the shock of the new in Victorian times and dreamt of an England made gentler by a revival of medieval chivalry and aristocratic noblesse oblige.
 
He will have certainly appreciated that Disraeli's single most important, and memorable, political stand – on the Corn Laws – was in favour of protecting declining industries and crippling the growth of a new, job-generating, wealth-spreading, opportunity-enhancing economics.
 
And looking at Ed Miliband's speech, and policies, in the round, we can see that the choice of Disraeli as model was, indeed, inspired.
 
Ed, the son of one of Britain's leading Marxist theoreticians who, as a boy, discussed politics at the dinner table with the likes of Tariq Ali and Tony Benn is emphatically the gifted product of an elite salon.
 
And his vision of Britain's future is certainly imbued with nostalgic romanticism.
 
His argument that a tax cut is really a cheque from the Government suggests he believes all money is the State's by right. That’s a view which would have commended itself to absolutist statists such as Charles the First or Louis the Fourteenth but speaking for myself I think that position was already looking anachronistic in 1642.
 
And Ed’s praise for the enforced state conformity of Attlee's austerity Britain suggested that he believed utopia was having Sir Stafford Cripps in the Treasury and an extension of rationing.
 
As Wordsworth might have written.

Bliss it was to be alive in 1947, but to be the man in Whitehall was very heaven.
 
And Ed’s nostalgia didn’t just extend to the Attlee era.
 
His account of the virtues of his own education also made clear his view that the Crosland-era comprehensive was the best type of school in the world and the sooner such uniformity of provision was restored the better it would be for all of us.
 
He presented Haverstock Secondary – Hampstead's principal educational establishment – as though it were some sort of school of hard knocks, a nursery of social solidarity and home of class-consciousness to rank with Durham's mines or Clydeside's shipyards.
 
For some reason, as Ed talked of Haverstock I was reminded of William Woodruff's memoir of growing up in Thirties Lancashire – the Road to Nab End – quoted incidentally in Jack Straw’s recent autobiography – where Woodruff talks of the "intellectual socialists" he met at university – people who "collected working-class experiences as others might collect stamps or butterflies."
 
In any case, this nostalgic flavour, this conservative aroma, permeating Ed Miliband's speech was not, as some have suggested, mere rhetorical affectation.
 
It reflects a decisive ideological turn. Backwards.
 
There is a strain in the Opposition's current thinking, styled Blue Labour, which is deliberately small-c conservative. The most famous Blue Labour thinker is Maurice Glasman, the academic and community organiser ennobled by Ed Miliband in one of his first acts as leader.
 
Lord Glasman is one of the most engaging speakers on the contemporary political scene, all the more fascinating for his candour. And since that candour has caused embarrassment to the Labour leader on more than one occasion, Lord Glasman has taken to speaking out less often and his influence has been downplayed. But it should not be. For Lord Glasman's principal parliamentary ally, the bravely original Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas, was appointed by Ed Miliband to lead Labour's Policy Review in preference to the Blairite Liam Byrne. Other Blue Labour thinkers are prominent in Miliband's leadership team. And their collective imprint on the leader's conference speech won admiring comments from the most small-c conservative thinkers on the right like Phillip Blond.
 
Because Blue Labour thinking can sometimes seem unworldly, it has not been paid the attention it deserves.
 
It is essentially thoughtful anti-globalisation, explicitly anti-liberal and proudly protective of the past. It is anti-reform of the labour market because it fears any economic benefits can only come at the expense of existing workers’ wage rates.
 
It is sceptical of reform to public services because it is attached to the traditional model of labour organisation which unreformed public services protect.
 
It is ambiguous about the growth in the numbers going on to university because it fears that growth shifts society's values towards the academic and away from the practical, marginalising working class experiences and values, promoting in their place a culture of aspiration which is destructive of solidarity.
 
Blue Labour thinking – Ed Miliband's thinking – is not then a continuation or refashioning of Blairism, it is a critique and rejection of Blairism.
 
It's an attempt to repudiate the period in the party's recent past when wealth creation was welcomed, when spin doctors argued education reform would mean a move away from the bog-standard comprehensive, when the director's box at the Emirates was preferred to the Durham Miners’ Gala.
 
That is why it is a fundamental mistake – what Marxists like Ralph Miliband would have called a category error – to see Ed Miliband's One Nation Speech as a move to the centre. It was an explicit disavowal of the centrism practiced under Tony Blair and a celebration of an older, more solidaristic, socialism of the kind which would have found favour with Tony Crosland or even Tony Benn.
 
Where Tony Blair used his speeches to identify the forces of conservatism and declare war on them, Ed Miliband has used his speech to celebrate the forces of conservatism and declare he wants to become their leader.
 
And the speech confirmed rather than changing Ed’s ideological trajectory.
 
It was another step in his emphatic embrace of those who want keep society closed rather than open.
 
The Labour leader's open celebration of trade union power, the transparent gratitude he shows the trade union movement for electing him and sustaining him, the appearance at the Durham Miners’ Gala and the TUC’s anti-balanced budget marches, all show where his heart lies.
 
With those opposed to opening up our society and our economy to new people, new influences, new ways of working.
 
We can see Ed inch towards a restrictionist approach on the labour market in sympathy with union concerns.
 
We also know, in line with other trade union thinking, that he wants to place restrictions on how companies operate, which will inhibit innovation and prevent us enjoying lower prices and better services.
 
And as I know, all too well, that he is totally opposed to an open society approach to reforming education. On every single major area of reform in education on which we are embarked, the Labour party is opposed.
 
I believe – as Tony Blair did but Ed Miliband does not – that we must embrace open-ness in education because the changing nature of our world makes it impossible to ignore the improvements to education being pioneered and extended in other nations.
 
I also believe we should welcome open-ness and innovation because anyone who really believes – as I do – in the transformative and liberating power of education to change lives for the better will want to know how we can further democratise access to knowledge and introduce more and more young people to the best that has been thought and written.
 
Thanks to innovations introduced into our education system at the behest of Blairites over the last fifteen years – like the academies programme, Teach First, the spread of new technology and the recruitment and enhanced training of better teachers and heads – our schools and our children have made progress.
 
But it has not been fast enough.
 
And, critically, it has not been as fast as other nations.
 
The OECD's rankings of different country's school systems – the PISA league tables – show Britain falling behind other nations, struggling today to stay in the top thirty.
 
Because other nations are improving their education systems faster than ours we have to speed up our reforms simply to catch up with our competitors – in the memorable phrase of the education expert Professor Dylan Wiliam – we are in the position of a man running up the down escalator – we have to accelerate.
 
And the coalition Government's programme of education reform is explicitly designed to apply lessons from the highest performing education nations to create a more open, innovative and aspirational education system.
 
Why?
 
Well – let me quote Tony Blair once more from 2007 – on the purpose of education – and the structural changes needed to improve our schools.
 
Education today, he argued is of course about passing exams, but also involves: “nurturing an attitude, one that is open, and creative. One in other words that fits the world's zeitgeist today.

“For this the education system needs to be far more focused on broad not narrow skills, on extra as well as intra-curricular activities and on different ways of teaching and learning. But again to do all this will require governments and states to undertake the most profound structural reform.
“The old monolithic systems of education are too cumbersome, too conservative, too narrow to work. That's why the academy system, modeled in a sense on the best of British private schools is so revolutionary in its implications. It's not about new buildings and equipment, vital though they are. It's about the freedom to adapt, to innovate to circumvent unnecessary bureaucracy, whether that of the government's curriculum, the local authority structures, or the teaching unions' rules.”

I could not agree more. 
 
Indeed, often that bureaucracy harms the very people it’s supposed to help.
 
Take the prestige of teaching.
 
We know – from Finland, Singapore, South Korea and every high-performing nation – that the quality of teaching – and the prestige of the teaching profession – is the single most important factor in driving up educational standards.
 
In England, the teaching unions have traditionally kept entry to the profession closed to many talented individuals who could help raise achievement for all children.
 
We have opened up the way the profession recruits and trains teachers so we can have even more talented people in the classroom.
 
We are shifting the funding teacher training away from scores of teacher training colleges – some of them in thrall to outdated orthodoxies and simply not good enough – towards outstanding schools.
 
The best schools – wherever they are in the country – will receive cash to train the best graduates in the skills of great teaching. We are specifically targeting top graduates in physics, chemistry and computer science who might never have thought of teaching before, with £20,000 scholarships to encourage them into the classroom.
 
Attracting top graduates into teaching – bypassing the old-fashioned teacher training colleges and getting them into the classroom at the earliest possible point – has been the hallmark of the highly successful initiative TeachFirst - now one of the biggest and most prestigious graduate recruiters.
 
TeachFirst was, of course, opposed by the teaching unions when it began, but it has now been proven to have had a demonstrably transformative effect on pupil achievement, particularly in poorer areas.
 
Which is why we've tripled it in size. And now we're applying the principles behind TeachFirst to many more people, to allow those who've succeeded in another career to switch to teaching, enjoying a decent salary straightaway, without having to go to a teacher training college.
 
We also have a dedicated programme – Troops to Teachers – to get distinguished former service people into the classroom and we've improved the range and quality of vocational education in schools by allowing those who lecture in technical subjects in further education colleges to teach in schools for the first time.
 
And as well as taking an open society approach to improving teaching, we're taking an open society approach to improving our curriculum and exams.
 
We've long argued that we must move away from comparing our exams and curriculum with the past and instead compare them with the best.
 
That is why we've instructed the exam regulators to ensure our tests aren't just rigorous over time but as demanding as the world's most successful education nations.
 
We're replacing the GCSE – whose designs faults were exposed once again over the last twelve months – with new exams which will have to match the sort of standards expected in the highly successful International GCSE and International Baccalaureate.
 
We've already moved as fast as we can to free schools from those aspects of the existing curriculum and exam structure which are sadly outdated – which is why we have disapplied the national curriculum in ICT and supported the establishment of new Computer Science qualifications.
 
Instead of students simply learning how to use already obsolescent programmes and applications we are getting children to code, and to design their own applications. The new curricula and exams are being designed with the help of Microsoft, Google and leaders in the computer games industry – in a pioneering example of how qualifications benefit by being opened up to the expertise of those in the vanguard of business innovation.
 
We know that the whole way in which curricula are being studied is being transformed before our eyes. The example of Sebastian Thrun, the Stanford academic who opened up his course, in artificial intelligence, to the whole world is a harbinger of things to come.
 
Thrun put all the content of his course – lectures, study notes, problems – online and allowed anyone in the world to submit their work for marking and feedback.
 
Expectant mothers in sub-Saharan Africa were grappling with Bayesian mathematics alongside the digital natives of silicon valley. Because Thrun is the world authority in his area his course was – is – even more prestigious than his own university.
 
It is as dramatic as if Karl Popper, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Friedrich Hayek or Isaiah Berlin had been able to offer their own tailor-made degrees. To anyone with wi-fi. No need to go to Oxford or Chicago when you can study the most rigorous academic disciplines from the comfort of a seat in your local coffee shop.
 
What Sebastian Thrun has done in liberating himself from Stanford has helped inaugurate a new revolution in liberating learning whose consequences we cannot foresee. The only certainty is that education systems designed to be flexible, adaptive and aspirational – open society education systems – will be those best placed to thrive.
 
And it’s in that spirit of encouraging innovation that we’re supporting more schools to develop their own curricula and become generators of innovation. Like Pimlico Academy, which has set up its own Curriculum Centre to create and update the Pimlico Curriculum. The new curriculum is as rigorous as any in England – it takes a fastidiously chronological approach to history, starting back in antiquity; it treats all the sciences – physics, chemistry and biology as separate disciplines with defined and extensive bodies of knowledge from the start of teaching. Yet the curriculum is also as innovative as any in the world – encouraging pupils to develop creative links between different subjects, giving pupils a curriculum which is stimulating, challenging, and the best possible preparation for their future.
 
The new West London Free School is also pioneering curriculum innovation. It is developing a new knowledge-based curriculum incorporating the ideas of the American educationalist E D Hirsch, and drawing on the educational experience of Massachusetts, America’s highest-performing state, to provide students from disadvantaged homes with a better route into higher education.
 
And UCL Academy is introducing a new International Middle Years Curriculum. Specialising in Maths and Science, the academy offers compulsory lessons for all pupils and staff in Mandarin, and lectures across the curriculum from UCL academics.
 
Of course all of these curricular innovations have depended on an open society approach to education provision 
 
That’s why we’ve reformed the local education monopolies which used to exist. They have now been superseded by a rich mixed economy.
 
So in more and more of our communities it’s not just local authorities working to improve education but passionate and driven founders of free schools like Toby Young, Patricia Sowter, Peter Hyman and Liam Nolan.
 
Alongside them we’ve seen a fantastic growth in the number of academy sponsors who are turning round under-performing schools. Alongside the Ark and Harris chains, we now have the Kemnal Trust, Greenwood Dale, Tollbar Academy Trust, Outwood Grange and many others giving parents choice and helping to transform schools.
 
Alongside them more and more world-class private schools are getting involved in the academies programme and I also want, like Alan Milburn, to see more universities sponsoring academies helping more children to benefit from their high standards and high aspirations.
 
We’re also involving business far more than ever before in opening up state education to the realities of the world of work – with studio schools and University technical colleges offering prestigious vocational and technical curricula and qualifications.
 
Through the creation of academies, free schools, studio schools and UTCs, we have – at last – opened up the secret garden of state education and encouraged the blossoming of a rich, diverse ecosystem. More than half of state secondaries are now academies, or en route to becoming academies with freedom to innovate and grow.
 
Last year, Holland Park School, once the iconic Crosland-era comprehensive, the alma mater of Hilary Benn and the NUT’s west London flagship, voted to convert to an academy. As the school’s outstanding headteacher, Colin Hall, said, “we believe in the spirit of comprehensive education and becoming an academy will not alter that in any way. Times change, contexts change, and we are not living in the 1970s any more”.
 
Indeed, having visited the school just last month I have to say it is now achieving more for more students from a wider range of backgrounds than ever before in its history – and it is doing so because its an academy not in spite of the bureaucracy.
 
But while we’ve made progress, I would be the first to acknowledge it hasn’t been nearly enough.
 
We need to move even faster, extending the frontiers of opportunity, providing more excellent school places for more children than ever before. And I am determined that we concentrate our efforts particularly on the children in greatest need – those in the weakest schools – overwhelmingly in the most disadvantaged areas.
 
Last year, we announced that 200 of the worst performing primaries – those schools which have delivered the poorest results for the longest time – would be reopened as Academies with strong sponsors to drive improvement.
 
In fact, we managed to broker Academy solutions for 310 underperforming primaries. 140 of these new primary Academies are already open now, and the rest are well on their way.
 
In turning round those schools we faced fierce opposition. Not least in the London Borough of Haringey where an alliance including the NUT, other local unions, the Labour MP, the Socialist Workers Party and the SWP’s best-known supporter Michael Rosen, united to defend the right of children to be badly educated under council control.
 
Mercifully, the courts decided we were right to intervene and those children are now enjoying a much brighter future in an academy run by Lord Harris of Peckham, one of the most inspirational philanthropists of our time. 
 
There are hundreds more under-performing primary schools, many concentrated in other disadvantaged communities, where we need to act.
 
Children in those schools are not receiving the education they deserve. And today I want to invite the MPs in those communities to work with me to open up the education system in their areas to the new providers who can raise standards.
 
Over the next few weeks I will be writing to MPs in areas of concentrated educational under-performance outlining why we need to act and drawing attention to the failure, so far, of those in positions of power in local councils to move fast enough in improving our schools.
 
In a number of communities the local forces of conservatism have worked against reform and have thrown every possible obstacle in the path of potential academy sponsors and free school founders trying to make a difference.
 
Today, I have written to the first group of MPs – in two cities – Derby and Leicester – asking if they are open to reform, to opportunity, to improvement; or if they want to keep the door closed to new solutions and stick rigidly to the status quo which is failing the children in their areas.
 
In both of these areas, standards are far too low, with too many primaries which are judged by Ofsted to be unsatisfactory, or which have performed below national expectations for many years. 2012 results for eleven year old pupils in each region are lower than the national average, lower than the average for the East Midlands region, far lower than pupils and parents have a right to expect. 
 
I want the MPs in those cities to work with me to persuade their local authorities and their local communities that we need rapidly to improve their schools. They have a simple choice – stand with those in the academies and free schools movement who want to put children first – or stand with the adults who are blocking school improvement.
 
I began by reflecting on Ed Milband’s embrace of a new guru for the left in Benjamin Disraeli. I want to end by reflecting on the examples of two of my heroes – a man of the centre-right and a man of the centre-left. And I want to do so not just because it is a  pleasure to be able to indulge my taste for hero-worship in front of this distinguished audience but also because our success in building a more open society depends on learning their lessons.
 
First, Teddy Roosevelt.
 
The man they called Theodore Rex is not perhaps as well known as his relative Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the author of the New Deal, nevertheless the first Roosevelt President has much to teach us today.
 
He was an unabashed man of the right – he believed in encouraging vigorous competition, in the creative energy of capitalism, in lower taxes, freer enterprise and the US Marine Corps and he always gave thanks for the innate good fortune which had allowed Americans to be living in a nation blessed by the world’s most democratically robust institutions.
 
But he was not a conservative. He fought against the local government bosses – and indeed crime and corruption – when he was the elected police commissioner in New York. He tackled the monopolists of his time – the wealthy and powerful men who controlled business and the Senate – the Rockefellers and the Hannas – in the interests of giving citizens a voice, choice and a better deal. He was the first President to entertain an African-American at a White House dinner and he detested any barrier to man finding fulfilment, talent rising or cosy establishments being challenged.
 
Indeed the political approach which he took became known as progressivism – not least because his opponents on the left like the prairie populist William Jennings Bryan were explicitly backward-looking. It was striking this month how much Ed Miliband’s anti-modernisation arguments echoed Bryan’s and also how eloquently the open society journal the Economist made the case for a new form of Progressivism.
 
Teddy Roosevelt had a particular belief in the importance of innovation, risk-taking and open-ness to the new.
 
In a seminal speech in 1910 Teddy captured the essence of the attitude we need to cultivate if we want to encourage experimentation, innovation and progress
 
 “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement  and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
 
I would like those words to be circulated to every Government department in Whitehall, every newsroom in the nation, and in particular copied to the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee.
 
Because one hundred years old as it is, it chimes with everything the latest thinking tells us about innovation. As Britain’s most popular economist Tim Harford argues in his latest book, Adapt, you need to fail to succeed, to experiment to make progress.
 
But far too often the Whitehall machine is risk averse. Media commentary rarely allows early errors to be seen in context as experiments which will generate improvements. And the NAO and PAC, the most influential watchdogs in the country, are some of our fiercest forces of conservatism.
 
Time after time the NAO and PAC report in a way which treats any mistake in the implementation of any innovation as a scandalous waste of public money which prudent decision-making should have avoided. And yet at the same time it treats the faults of current provision as unalterable facts of nature – like the location of oceans and mountains – which should be accepted as the design of a benign Providence.
 
What we need – across the Westminster village – is a decisive shift in the culture in favour of risk and open-ness and away from small c-conservatism.
 
Which takes me to my second hero.
 
As I’ve said before, the line between those who welcome the future and those who oppose it is not drawn along party lines.
 
And one man who has always been on the side of the future is the great labour reformer Andrew Adonis. He created, protected, drove and grew the Academies programme. He did so in (and occasionally despite) a Labour government. He built alliances across parties – most notably in building on reforms introduced by another great moderniser – Kenneth Baker. And he has never stopped challenging all of us in Government to get on with it.
 
Because Andrew understands that one of the greatest enemies of innovation and progress is time.
 
There are hundreds of thousands of children in need in Britain – children at risk of abuse or neglect, children in under-performing schools – who need us to act quickly if their futures are not to be forever compromised.
 
But whenever we press for faster action to help those children there are always adults urging delay – time for consultations, audits, reviews, impact assessments, stakeholder management, securing professional buy-in, assuring ourselves of compliance with EU procurement rules, getting counsel’s opinion, assessing sector feedback, monitoring noise in the system, and so on.  
 
In Andrew’s recent book, Education, Education, Education – which I recommend to anyone who has not yet read it – he makes it clear that the cost of delay is young lives blighted. He often invokes Martin Luther King’s powerful phrase, the “fierce urgency of now”.
 
It comes from a sermon delivered a year before King was assassinated – a sermon where he said:
           
“We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today...In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late…We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, Too late." 
 
That is why we need to move further, faster, now.
 
When it comes to our children’s education and their welfare, let it never be said, that when we came to act, that it was, tragically – all too late.

Rt Hon Michael Gove

Michael is the Secretary of State for Education. He believes in helping children maximise their potential.

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