Michael Gove2Today is Michael Gove’s birthday. Huzzah!

To celebrate, here are some facts you might not know…

  1. Michael Gove turns 46 today. This is young by Ed Sec standards. The average age on entry is 50.
  2. The only other Ed Sec to turn 46 while in post is….. Margaret Thatcher.
  3. Gove is currently the 7th longest-serving Education Secretary having recently overtaken Kenneth Baker.
  4. He has another ~160 days before he steals 6th place (from Thatcher).
  5. He is the first Ed Sec in 46 years to have previously been President of the Oxford Union. Four other Ed Secs have held that role (Quintin Hogg, Michael Stewart, Edward Boyle & Anthony Crosland).
  6. He is the second Education Secretary to be born in Edinburgh. The first was Florence Horsbrugh, born in 1889 (79 years before Gove).
  7. He is the only Ed Sec known to have been raised from birth by adoptive parents.
  8. The most common degree subject for an Ed Sec is History. Second is Politics. Gove is unique in having studied English.
  9. He shares his birthday week with past-Ed Secs Anthony Crosland and Edward Boyle (both also past-Ox Union Presidents)
  10. Gove has said he shall never stand as leader of the Conservative Party.

In 2003, Charles Clarke (Lab) whipped up a fury when he allegedly said:

“I don’t mind there being some medievalists around for ornamental purposes, but there is no reason for the state to pay for them”

According to this Guardian article, the transcript of the occasion reflects a different point of view. However, the article states that Clarke was known to argue that ‘learning for its own sake’ is “a bit dodgy”.

It was therefore quite a surprise to discover this week that Charles Clarke is now a Visiting Professor of Religion & Faith at Lancaster University where he teaches a “range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules”.

Definitely not for learning’s sake though, right Mr. Clarke?

Charles Clarke Professor

Speculation is rife about a September Cabinet re-shuffle. If Gove leaves education, where might he go next?

Using the scientific medium of Wikipedia, it seems 12 of the 31 Ed Secs never transitioned to other roles (though many continued as MPs or Peers).

Since the early 90s, Home Secretary became a popular move. Not only have three Ed Secs in the past 25 years moved straight into this role, Alan Johnson also made it there after Health and Ed Balls took position as Shadow Home Secretary before becoming Shadow Chancellor (though admittedly that was only for 3 months).

Women seem to have done particularly poorly in moves, with only Ruth Kelly keeping a Ministerial position while still in power. However Margaret Thatcher did move from being Ed Sec to being Leader of the Conservative Party, which turned out to be a very important move indeed!

Subsequent roles taken by Ed Secs…..

1 Rab Butler Chancellor of the Exchequer
2 Richard Law
3 Ellen Wilkinson
4 George Tomlinson  
5 Florence Horsbrugh
6 Geoffrey Lloyd
7 David Eccles (1st time) President of the Board of Trade(2nd time) Paymaster General & Minister for the Arts
8 Edward Boyle
9 Quintin Hogg Lord President of the Council
10 Michael Stewart Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
11 Anthony Crosland Secretary of State for Local Government & Regional Planning
12 Patrick Gordon Walker
13 Edward Short Leader of the House of Commons/Lord President of the Council
14 Margaret Thatcher Leader of the Conservative Party
15 Reg Prentice Minister of State for Overseas Development
16 Fred Mulley Secretary of State for Defence
17 Shirley Williams
18 Mark Carlisle
19 Keith Joseph
20 Kenneth Baker Chairman of the Conservative Party
21 John MacGregor Leader of the House of Commons/Lord President of the Council
22 Kenneth Clarke Home Secretary
23 John Patten
24 Gillian Shephard Shadow Secretary of State for Education
25 David Blunkett Home Secretary
26 Estelle Morris
27 Charles Clarke Home Secretary
28 Ruth Kelly Minister for Women
29 Alan Johnson Secretary of State for Health
30 Edward Balls Shadow Secretary of State for Education
31 Michael Gove ??

In 1957 Quintin Hogg reluctantly took on the role of Education Minister. He did not want it.

“I next found myself summoned by the new Prime Minister and asked to join the Cabinet as Minister of Education. After four months of office this was promotion with a vengeance. But strangely enough I was not at all pleased. I had given my heart to the Navy, and believed I was popular. Such change is not good for morale, and I was afraid that there were people who would accuse me of careerism, as of course they did.”

Hogg nevertheless says he threw himself into the role. One major problem was a pressing need for more school buildings due to high birthrates and the raising of the school leaving age. The situation facing Hogg sounds remarkably like the one facing Gove when he entered office in 2010.

“The shortage of cash was intensified by the fact that the actual expenditure on school building had to be incurred by the local authorities who were small, numerous (146 in my time, I think), sometimes absurdly self-centered, often extravagant, and competitive with one another.

I found that they were actually driving the cost of school building up in a variety of different ways. They tended to employ their own architects with the result that their design were markedly more costly than we knew to be necessary, and had none of the advantages of large-scale production, which even in a labour intensive industry like building, can greatly reduce costs.”

Hogg could have cancelled the projects, just like Gove. But he took another path. Instead he found ways to link schools with similar problems – e.g. all schools with subsidence issues worked together on one design. He did so not by telling them they had to work together, but by making them think it was their idea and giving lots of public credit for it.

“On this idea was founded the first consortium of school building and authorities and, modestly, I claim the credit for it now. The secret, I may say, was that at the time I claimed none.”

Perhaps, in 2010, if Gove had instead asked local authorities to convene the schools together and collectively they had prioritised building needs, the government could still have only given out monies now allocated for Priority Schools but it would have been based on the ideas of what local people needed, and might have encouraged co-operation that would reduce cost. It would also have been a more humane approach to deciding which young people would be stuck in squalor, than simply scrubbing names off a list inside a Westminster Ivory Tower.

Florence HorsbrughFlorence Gertrude Horsbrugh, Baroness Horsbrugh, GBE, PC

Born: 13 October 1889

Died: 6 December 1969 (aged 80)

Party: Conservative

Dates as Education Minister: 2 Nov 1951 – 18 Oct 1954 (1082 days)

Age when Minister: 62 yrs (0m) to 65 yrs (0m)

Best Fact: The first woman to hold a Cabinet seat in a Conservative government

Born in Edinburgh to an accountant father she was educated at Landsdowne House and St. Hilda’s in Folkestone, before completing a Liberal Arts education at Mills College in California.

Her initial rise to prominence was through her work as head of the Ministry of Munitions canteen during the First World War.  During this time she created a ‘travelling kitchen’ that could feed people after the National Kitchens shut, and she even managed to secure an invite to feed the Queen.

In 1931 she overturned a 14,000 Labour majority to become MP in Dundee and in 1939 gained a junior position as parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Health in 1939. During this time she oversaw the evacuation of children and the beginning of NHS reforms.

After losing her seat in 1945 she stood, and won, a seat in Manchester’s Moss Side in 1950 (can’t work out if this is even more surprising than a Conservative winning Dundee) . Shortly afterwards she became Education Secretary.

Unfortunately Horsbrugh inherited a bad lot. Churchill’s 1951 government put housing as its top priority and the budget for education was slashed right at the moment that the raising of the school leaving age and the 1946 baby boom were felt in force. The lack of money for school buildings meant over-crowding and squalor. In 1954 the TES argued that her policies were vague and she suffered ‘a want of courage’.

She left office in 1954, aged 65. In 1959 she took up residence in the House of Lords.

Is she a contender for ‘greatest’ ever education secretary? Highly unlikely.

Over the weekend I took part in some discussions about Matt Damon’s choice to send his children to private school (shhh…i’ll get to the history in a minute).

Many people were dismayed at Damon because he advocates hard for US state schools (see below)

And there was a feeling that this sort of hypocrisy is typical among politicians:

No doubt many education Secretaries have put their children through private establishments while simultaneously advocating for state schools. But to think that all politicians are inevitably hypocritical is to be overly pessimistic.

Reading Quintin Hogg’s biography last week I was stunned by a story which showed a remarkable lack of hypocrisy. It went like this:

Quintin Hogg

I joined the army by the back door in September 1939, just after war was declared. I do not wish here to say anything of my military career, which was sufficiently undistinguished. But I do make the point in my own favour that, having voted for the war in Parliament, I showed my willingness from the first to expose myself in it in an infantry battalion, and not in an administrative job, and, in the event, I did, in fact, have the honour to lead an infantry platoon in a minor battle and numerous night patrols in the desert in the summer of 1941.

That Hogg traded his comfy Commons position for the infantry is quite a remarkable act of courage and one that restores at least a little faith in politicians. Hogg also returned home from war to find his wife ‘not alone’ but instead ‘in the company of Charles de Gaulle’s ‘Head of Staff’. That story, however, is for another day….

After the recent post “Where did the Education Secretaries go to school?” several people asked whether it really mattered. One answer that came up several times was that it might be relevant if a Minister never used the service in their care.

But if an Ed Sec who doesn’t use service will inevitably do a less good job, then it matters whether or not the Ed Sec has children themselves. I therefore decided to work out which Ed Secs had children and which did not.

It was easier to find out this information for dead Ed Secs than live ones. Obituaries always have a section telling you about people’s partners and children. However, I managed to find information for all but two. I couldn’t find definite information on Geoffrey Lloyd or John MacGregor. Also, while I could find out that Richard Law had at least one child, I don’t know if he only had one.

There’s also the issue of stepchildren. Anthony Crosland, Gillian Shephard and Shirley Williams each have two stepchildren by marriage. For the purposes of this chart I haven’t included them because I wasn’t able to distinguish how much contact they had with the children.

As it stands the average number of children among Ed Secs is 1.79. If stepchildren are added it is 2.

The most common number is actually 0. Although this is largely down to the high number of childless secretaries pre-1965. Since 1967 there have only been two childless education secretaries, and none at all between 1967 and 1994.

0 Ellen Wilkinson 1945
George Tomlinson 1947
Florence Horsbrugh 1951
Edward Boyle 1962
Michael Stewart 1964
Anthony Crosland 1965
Gillian Shephard 1994
Estelle Morris 2001
1 Richard Law 1945
Reg Prentice 1974
Shirley Williams 1976
Mark Carlisle 1979
Kenneth Baker 1986
John Patten 1992
2 Edward Short 1968
Margaret Thatcher 1970
Fred Mulley 1975
Kenneth Clarke 1990
Charles Clarke 2002
Michael Gove 2010
3 Rab Butler 1944
David Eccles 1954
David Blunkett 1997
Edward Balls 2007
4 Keith Joseph 1981
Ruth Kelly 2004
Alan Johnson 2006
5 Quintin Hogg 1957
Patrick Gordon Walker 1967

What is perhaps most surprising is that there appears to be no pattern for women. Though several women had no children of their own, Ruth Kelly had four, Margaret Thatcher two, and Shirley Williams had one of her own plus two stepchildren.

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