A Lesson for Gove

I was not sure what I was going to find when I arrived at the Department for Education. A day earlier I’d read an invitation from some London teachers to a protest there against the political interference by Education minister Michael Gove in the teaching of GCSE English, where he had called for changes which resulted in the removal of some of the more popular works from the syllabus – and the exam board had danced to his tune.

The works that have been removed were 20th century works written by Americans, and included ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘The Crucible‘. Gove’s changes called for a syllabus that centred on British English writers and avoided these more recent and more political works.

I was late for the party, having waited for some time at another event for more people to arrive, and by the time I arrived at the DfE there was no sign of the protest I had expected outside the building. But a man I thought I recognised as one of the protesters was being interviewed for TV outside the building, so I thought that something must still be happening,

I looked through the glass doors, and was surprised to see a group of people sitting around in the foyer, many with books in their hands and taking part in what appeared to be, as I went inside to join them, a very well disciplined English lesson, intently discussing a book (though I couldn’t tell which book.)

I’d come with a colleague who I’d met up with at the previous event and had told him I was going to the DfE. He walked in after me, and while I made my way into the group he stood by the doorway. I was a little surprised that the security men at the back of the foyer had taken no notice as we walked in, but after I’d been taking pictures for half a minute or so saw that they were ushering my friend outside.

The two security men by the desk have not yet noticed me

The lesson was then interrupted by one of the security men shouting across in my direction that photography was not allowed. There didn’t seem any good reason to stop, and I was sure there was a clear public interest in reporting the event, so I ignored him. After all, it’s rude to shout, so I just felt a little selective deafness occuring. The floor was crowded with the people sitting down for the lesson, so it took him a little while to reach me as I continued to take pictures.

but now they have and are advancing towards me

His senior colleague came at me from the other direction and together they ushered me out very politely. They had done their duty, though I don’t think their heart was in it, and I had done mine and it was all very civilised. I would have liked to have had a few more minutes to work – time to think more about the pictures – to get some where the ‘banned’ books were more visible (one is rather small in one image) but they were enough to show the event.

And they shut the door in my face as I’m still taking pictures.

You can see the set I took at Gove “Read-In” protest in DfE.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated are by Peter Marshall and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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