A VISIT from Education Secretary Michael Gove brought traffic to a standstill in Stroud today, Friday, as nearly 200 protesters lined the streets outside Marling School.
Labour, Green Party and Stroud against the Cuts members took to the streets outside the school in Cainscross Road holding placards and shouting slogans such as ‘Gove Away’ as they waited for the arrival of Mr Gove – who met with students during a tour of the boys grammar which recently received an outstanding from Ofsted.
A number of Marling and Stroud High School students, as well as pupils from other schools, joined the protests as they left for the day to voice their concerns about the recent decision to scrap January exams.
Connie Gleeson, 17, who is in Year 13 at Archway School, said: “It is really unfair that our whole lives are now going to be determined by one exam and one day.
“For the past three years we have been taught through a module system and now our education has been completely changed during the most important year in our school lives,” she said.
Marling School Year 13 pupil Lawson Falshaw, 17, who was holding a placard with the slogan ‘how foolish is Gove from one to eight’, said there is no consistency in current education policy.
“It seems that every year something has changed,” he said.
“How will an employer be able to measure and compare candidates against each other in the future if everyone has been educated by a completely different format?”
In response to the large number of student protesters awaiting his arrival at the school Mr Gove said it was a reflection on how well they have been taught.
“Marling is an outstanding school and the young men, and women in the sixth form, are a credit to the community.
“Political engagement is very important. I remember being a teenager myself and it’s part of what growing up is all about.”
Mr Gove said he did not have enough time to meet with the protestors, however invited anyone interested in visiting him at the House of Commons to get in contact with Stroud MP Neil Carmichael.
Many of the protesters were concerned with the proposals for a free Steiner school in Stroud, which has caused a huge amount of controversy in the district.
Labour’s parliamentary candidate and former Stroud MP David Drew shared his concerns about the free school initiative saying it could hit other schools with surplus places hard.
Mr Gove explained: “Before any free school is accepted we always think about the impact on other existing schools.”
Since the initiative began the Department of Education has received more than 1,000 free school applications however according to Mr Gove only one in four have been accepted.
Mr Gove also attempted to calm fears about the future education of the 35 pupils who attend St Rose’s in Stroud.
The special educational needs school, which last year celebrated its centenary, could face closure because it is no longer financially viable due to a substantial fall in the number of pupils.
“We will always make sure that children who have special educational needs are looked after,” said Mr Gove, who also visited Bournside School and Sixth Form Centre in Cheltenham earlier in the day.
“However we need to make sure the school is run in a way that gives the tax payer value for money.”
Mr Gove also attempted to set the record straight about his opinion of Blackadder after he accused ‘left-wing academics’ of using the TV show as a propaganda tool for teaching children about the First World War this week.
“I am a fan of anything that Stephen Fry is involved in and Tim McInnerny (who used to attend Marling) is a brilliant actor,” he said.
“It was an interesting argument and I am glad to live in a country where people are interested in history rather than indifferent.”