Last week Michael Gove was invited by the Conservative Christian Fellowship to give the annual Wilburforce Address. The whole speech is worth reading if you want to understand how a Secretary of State fuses morals, beliefs and realities into what their department does, but I wish to focus on two key areas.
Michael Gove rightly defines Conservatives as people who believe in the positive power of relationships, human to human interaction:
“What we believe in is the primacy of relationships, the isolated individual on their own can never achieve in a political system built around the rights of the individual and nothing else, descends into selfishness, hedonism and atomisation. A political system built around the state may appeal to our patriotism but sometimes it calcifies into authoritarianism and distance. But a politics that is based on relationship understands that the most important and enriching things in all our lives are the intimate human relations that we have with others, with figures of authority and those whom we have authority over, with those whom we elect and those whom we serve….
That one of the things that’s drawn us, whatever our backgrounds, into service to others, is our belief that deepening the quality of relationships and strengthening the number of relationships that each of us has, is the way to generate a greater sense of well being, of opportunity and of fulfilment.”
Gove also called time on judging the success of the Department of Education by the yearly grade inflation. What counts is how our children are doing compared to the rest of the world.
“The children are benefiting from improved examination grades but the most critical test is not how we are doing compared to a generation ago or five years ago, the most instructive test with our education system is how are we doing relative to other nations? Because increasingly our world is one world. The jobs of the future are capable of being transported, exported from this country elsewhere.
In the last ten years, the international measures of how well we are doing as a country tell a melancholy story. We have fallen from fourth in the world for the quality of our science education to sixteenth. We have fallen from seventh in the world for quality of our children’s literacy to twenty-fifth and from eighth in the world for the quality of mathematics to twenty eighth.”