MICHAEL Gove faced a storm of fresh criticism for his attack on “defeatism” in East Durham schools tonight (March 4) – after his evidence collapsed in the Commons.
The Education Secretary, pictured below right, told MPs that he based his case on a gloomy teacher who had warned that his pupils should give up on any hope of ever getting a job.
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The teacher had said: “In the past, children turned right to work in the shipyards or left to work in the coal mines. Now they might as well walk on into the sea.”
A defiant Mr Gove said the “telling remark” – uttered to Andrew Adonis, a former Labour Education Secretary – summed up the “spirit of defeatism” in East Durham.
And he told MPs: “I absolutely will not apologise to the people of East Durham for standing up for better education for their children.”
But The Northern Echo can reveal that the remark was uttered at least ten years ago – about a school that has since closed and reopened as a privately-sponsored academy.
Exam results – at Red House Academy, in Sunderland – have improved dramatically since it replaced the failing Hylton Red House comprehensive, in 2009.
Last year, 89 per cent of Red House pupils achieved five good GCSEs at grade A*-C – up from just 22 per cent back in 2002 and 13 per cent in 2000.
Later, Mr Gove admitted he had not visited a single school in East Durham, but insisted he had been “alerted to the problems” on a trip to the north of the county.
Last night, Lord Adonis, above, told The Northern Echo: “I don’t think Michael Gove would get a GCSE pass for accuracy or relevance.
“He has taken a quote of mine, from ten years ago, completely out of context - about a school that has since closed. That is not what I expect an Education Secretary to do."
And Phil Wilson, the Sedgefield MP said: “It is his use of language that is so wrong.
“It knocks the confidence of these schools, when we need to build that confidence up. Schools are improving, but they need to improve more.”
Mr Wilson has now written to Mr Gove, inviting him to visit Wellfield Community School, in Wingate, to view the improvements made.
But, in later exchanges during education questions, Mr Gove name-checked the school among many in the area that had “underperformed dramatically”.
And, pointing out results were worse than the national average in the English baccalaureate, Mr Gove accused all five of failing to “provide the quality of education that children deserve”.
Defending his earlier attack, he said: “I was first alerted to the problems in East Durham schools when I visited schools in North and North-West Durham.
“Those who were responsible for raising attainment in those schools shared with me their concerns about the underperformance in East Durham.”