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Most of the time I don't think about being adopted. Any more than I think about the colour of my eyes. Or the size of my feet. It's all part of who I am — and how I was made.

But sometimes it hits you. There's a moment when you can't help but think that your life might have been different — very different — if another family had taken you into their hearts.  

Like the day six years ago when, as Shadow Education Secretary, I was looking at the recently published GCSE performance of schools. One in particular caught my eye. A comprehensive on Merseyside where just 1 per cent of the children had managed to get five C passes at GCSE, including English and maths.

Five GCSE passes (including English and maths) is the basic passport any child needs to be eligible for further study or a decent job. It's the minimum a 16-year-old needs to have a decent chance in life. There's not a single Labour politician, Guardian columnist, trade union general secretary or university professor of education who would conceivably find their child falling short of that standard acceptable. But in that school in Merseyside, 99 out of 100 children failed to acquire even that basic level of knowledge. What would happen to them, I thought? Who was angry on their behalf? Who cared?

And what would have happened to me if I'd been at that school? My own, adoptive, parents weren't wealthy. They'd been accepted to adopt me because their background was similar to my birth mother's. They were also chosen because they lived a few hours away from her home city of Edinburgh. 

What, I wondered, if I had been adopted by similarly loving parents who happened to live a few hours south of Edinburgh? On Merseyside? In the catchment area of that school? What chances in life would I have? Would I now be sitting around the Shadow Cabinet table?

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Anonymous
October 14th, 2013
3:10 PM
Why don't politicians stop playing around with peoples lives through the education system and I am not just talking about the teachers. There are massive gaps in peoples education where the curriculum has changed in the middle of their time at school because some politician has decided that they have a vision of how schools should be run without any real consultation with people on the workface. For education to improve in our country it should be completely removed from the political arena and should be run by a group of teachers and educationalists who have no political agenda to meet and who just have the welfare and education of our children at the forefront of their minds. This will provide a consistency which has long been absent from Education in the United Kingdom. People like Mr Gove who have a personal agenda and just see education as a political tool should be kept well away from it !!

T Lester
October 2nd, 2013
11:10 PM
The idea of performance related pay is the one that shows zero understanding of teaching. As far as populist politics goes, it sounds fine. But what it will actually do is turn teachers against each other, and without collegiality teachers are in a world of pain. Firstly, there will no incentive to share ideas or expertise. The main aim of the teacher will be to appear to be better than their immediate peers, or as I should say, competitors. Why would you help a younger colleague when you can cement your place as the 'best' teacher of Yr 10. Secondly, it will turn teaching into a popularity contest. Teachers will try to court favour with pupils, attempt to propagandise that they have the 'secrets' to the exam (and they may, especially if they set it!) and maybe even cheat in order to secure the best marks for their class. Thirdly, it will lead to an exponential increase in brown-nosing! Once it becomes clear who is deciding on the level of popularity-based pay, then their own popularity will skyrocket inexplicably. So if you want a staff room in which the worst in people is institutionally encouraged, where staff are pitted against each other and where a teacher's energy is focused on spurious 'results and appearances' - to quote Machiavelli - then go ahead with "performance related pay'. I know I would not want my child to be schooled in such a system. By the way, Gove, ' Massachusetts' has just one 's' after the 'u'.

Anonymous
October 1st, 2013
10:10 PM
An article so full of contradiction it's hard to know where to start. He states that he has had to overhaul the curriculum and yet academies are not obliged to follow it. He states that he is recruiting more highly qualified teachers and yet sings the praises of Teachfirst which throws teachers into the classroom after 6 weeks of training. One thing you say is true though Mr Gove, teachers do want change. We'd really like a new Education Secretary; preferably one who knows what he's talking about.

Hayley J
October 1st, 2013
11:10 AM
Michael Gove is proposing to help these children who don't get 5 A-Cs at GCSE by making exams harder and more full of memorising lots of facts. Why is coursework slated? I was amazing at exams while in school and this continued into university. My biology degree however required much more analytical thinking and application of knowledge so my ability to memorise facts didn't help me all that much. Now I am doing a PhD and hope to continue a career in academia. I will never have to sit an exam again but I will have to write many reports and papers. Surely in most jobs 'coursework' related skills will be much more useful and applicable?

Mark baker
October 1st, 2013
10:10 AM
Good grief! Many ideas in there, one hardly knows where to begin with a reply. The phrase that springs to mind with regard to Mr Gove is "keen amateur". He certainly is keen, but in almost all of his comments betrays a lack of real understanding of what he's talking about. For example, academies. According to him, they are all about giving schools freedom. Fair enough. Why then are many schools forced to become academies? Despite protests from teachers, governors, parents? Forced to be free? Utter nonsense. Again, he goes on about the higher-quality teachers he is recruiting. Again, a laudable aim. But has he actually thought about how to do it? He airily dismisses within a single sentence the work of teacher training colleges, and then makes some vague reference to Ofsted preferring in-school training. Is there any actual evidence of this? Have you consulted with any members of the profession on this? Ah, no, of course not, because they are part of the failing establishment that was committed to 'dumbing-down'. The only person who knows about reform is you, Mr Gove.

Paul
September 30th, 2013
10:09 PM
There are so many outrageous lies and half-truthes in this article it is impossible to know where to begin.

Fiona Hook
September 28th, 2013
2:09 PM
well, if you want 50 per cent of the population going to university, generally to spend the first two years covering what used to be covered at A level, someone has to pay for it. When 15 per cent of the population went it was sustainable.

Alan Norman
September 6th, 2013
2:09 PM
More power to Michael Gove's elbow in sorting out the school system, but what jaw-dropping chutzpah to invoke Educating Rita. Rita got her second chance via the Open University, but any of the 99% from that Merseyside comprehensive who aspire to follow in her footsteps will now need to find around £15,000 for an honours degree.

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