Why doesn’t Michael Gove talk about Special Schools?

On the DfE website a search of speeches delivered by the Secretary of State came up with 33 different occasions. It may not be an exhaustive or necessarily complete list and if I have missed some crucial event I’d be delighted to know.

The speeches started with one to the National College on June 16th 2010 and finished with one at the London Academy of Excellence on February 3rd this year.

The speeches themselves are cleverly constructed and quite entertaining. They are well informed, often quite reflective and peppered with references to a wide range of sources both formal and informal. Michael Gove is clearly well read, intelligent and articulate. He covers a wide range of issues relating to a variety of socio-economic groups, geographic locations and school structures. Which is why it is staggering that during the course of reading the 33 speeches the following was the only comment I found which made reference to a Special School.

“For the first time we called for groups to set up special free schools so that children with SEN could have access to more excellent state special schools.”

20th June 2011 at Policy Exchange

He also once referred to the fact that Charlie Taylor formally worked in a Special School and does pass comment on children with SEN in mainstream settings, but having read through 33 speeches covering the last three and a half years, this is the only comment I have found where he shares a view relating to the schools which meet the needs of some of society’s most vulnerable learners,.

Five speeches taken at random were composed of approximately 20,000 words. If we use that figure as a crude average it would mean that the speeches read were made up of nearly 140,000 words. 28 of them were used to comment on Special Schools.

We are the 0.02%

It is not as if the Secretary of State likes to stick to generalities and broad observations. Michael Gove is very keen to reference individual schools and school leaders, bloggers, thinkers and commentators of all kinds and of all political persuasions. He draws on evidence of attainment and opportunity relating to a wide range of disadvantaged groups and make suggestions regading to how their lot can be improved. He talks at length about the importance of educational equality and having aspirations which are inclusive of all, but he doesn’t talk about Special Schools.

Now it is possible that this area is perceived as being the responsibility of Edward Timpson whose portfolio includes the current SEND reforms, but for the state’s educational leader to be so reluctant to comment on an entire sphere of state funded education is deeply concerning.

So why is it that Michael Gove doesn’t talk about Special Schools?

I don’t know the answer to that question and I’m not going to speculate on it, even though I am very tempted to do so. What I do know is that for Michael Gove to so consistently fail to acknowledge the individuals and institutions that work so hard to meet the extremely complex needs of some of society’s most vulnerable people, does not reflect well on him personally or on Government more broadly.

After all this is a man who is skilled in sharing his views and articulating them effectively. I would love to know what he thinks of what we do and the extent to which he values our contribution to the society which he has been elected to serve.

Speeches read in order of delivery:

National College Annual Conference
Westminster Academy
Local Government Association
National Conference of Directors of Children’s Services
NCSL
Policy Exchange
Royal Society
Durand Academy
National College
Edge Foundation
OFQUAL standards summit
London Early Years Foundation
Twyford C of E High School
Cambridge University
Pension Reforms at Policy Exchange
BETT
Education World Forum
Schools Network
Newton Centre for CPD
ASCL
Brighton College
National College
Spectator Conference
FASNAS
IAA
Institute of Public Policy Research
NCTL
Brighton Conference
Policy Exchange
NSPCC
Mayor of London Education Conference
BETT
London Academy of Excellence

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