MPs on the Committee wanted to ensure that their questions reflected the most pressing concerns in the world of education so asked the public via twitter ‘What one education policy question do you think the Committee should ask Michael Gove?’ Twitter users were asked to submit their question by tagging it with the hashtag #AskGove.
Between 23 and 27 January the Committee gathered 5081 #AskGove tweets, the majority of which were substantive questions on education policy. The most popular topics included the curriculum, the status and morale of the school workforce, special educational needs and the new schools system. Some organisations encouraged their supporters to retweet the same question or to send in questions on a particular issue but these were far outnumbered by individuals expressing their own concerns.
Sorting the questions
After the deadline Committee staff grouped questions by subject. The questions were then used in two ways. In the first part of the session, members asked the Secretary of State questions, informed by the tweets, on a range of themes under the general heading of aligning drivers with goals and schools accountability measures. In the second part, Mr Gove was asked rapid-fire questions, including many direct from the public, with members selecting the tweets from the subject groups or from the full list of questions received.
Shadowing a teacher
A considerable number of tweets called on the Secretary of State to shadow a teacher for a day or more, including preparation and marking time. For example:
@Rosesohappy: #AskGove Shadow a teacher at home and at school and find out the real story. 60+ hour weeks and work most holidays. Appreciate not Knock us!
@ett33: #AskGove would you like to come and shadow a real teacher for a week and actually know what it means in reality to teach?
@ricpalmer: #AskGove Mr Gove, I invite you to come and shadow me for a day or 2. I think I could open your eyes to a few things. PM me if interested.
@ky1980: #askgove I'm a history teacher & head of year at a big comprehensive. Want 2 come & shadow me 4 the day? Then u might understand what we do!
@RedCV2: I would like you to shadow me for 1 day, he day will include marking, planning, assessment, teaching and admin. Up for it? #AskGove
@paulhaigh: #AskGove would you like to shadow a teacher for a few days? (including the planning and marking till late at night)
@kev238 #askgove how many hours a week do you think a teacher should work, and how many hours do you think the average teacher does work?
@Janetmarland: How would you feel if the behaviour in your children's classes was as dreadful as that of MPs at PMQs? #AskGove
@NatashaCowan: #AskGove how are you planning to make teaching a more attractive career prospect to graduates to get good quality teachers in post? #AskGove
@NATEfeed: Will you explicitly encourage teachers to join their professional bodies - the subject associations? #AskGove
@LoquaciousMinx #askgove - 5 lessons a day, 30 pupils per class = 150 pupils. Impossible to tailor lessons to each child. Will you cap class sizes?
@crowmogh #askgove What exactly is your position on increasing Infant class sizes?
@choddurham #AskGove Can you really compare results from class sizes 16 vs 30?
Unqualified teachers in free schools
@NUTonline Why increase qualification levels for trained teachers and then allow unqualified adults to teach in free school? #AskGove
@StephenDCook: #askgove How come you don't trust teachers yet you'll let unqualified and inexperienced people to open free schools?
@Johngalloway: #AskGove You want high standards for teachers, but allow free schools to use unqualified staff. Does that strike you as inconsistent?
@PsychologyMarc: What's the point in tightening up teacher training when Free School can employ unqualified teachers? #AskGove
@leadbitter: #AskGove What is the DfE going to do about schools that use unqualified staff to teach students long-term, instead of using qualified staff?
@HH_52: #AskGove You want to improve the standards of teachers, yet let unqualified teachers work in free schools and Academies who aren't trained
Lots of tweets asked about school libraries, specifically why they are not compulsory in schools when they are in prisons.
@RPS_Library: If the government truly values literacy, why aren't school libraries statutory? Prison libraries are. #AskGove
@Squash1976: Every prison is required to have a library. Is it therefore time that every school had one too? #AskGove
@loveliterature: Remember to #AskGove when will libraries in schools become statutory. Pupils less rights than prisoners.
@sarahlmasters: #AskGove why in education do we value our children so little that prison libraries are statutory whilst school libraries are not?
The definition of ‘average’ attainment attracted a considerable number of twitter questions.
@TonyDowling #askgove Is there any evidence that it is possible to overcome 'normal distribution' in educational attainment?
@hlz83: #askgove If 'Good' requires pupil performance 2 exceed national average & if all schools must be 'Good' how is this mathematically possible?
@teaandfred #AskGove how are you dealing with the attainment gap between pupils on FSM and the national average?
@lesleylodge: #AskGove Can you pls set out the chain of accountability for academies when things go wrong?
@ayubkhan65: #AskGove What evidence have you to indicate that the Pupil Premium is working?
School admission code
@blisscharity: #AskGove why is there not the flexibility in the SAC to allow summer born, preterm children to delay their entry to school by a year?
Best practice from other countries
@aniazielinska: #AskGove Why do we start schooling by 4-5 when evidence from Europe suggest that 7 is a more app. age and the end result better?
@andylutwyche: #AskGove For Ofsted to give accurate judgments, should inspectors have had recent, regular classroom experience as an "outstanding" teacher?
@Pikeben: #AskGove - what is being done to ensure that schools and colleges are providing positive advice about apprenticeship routes?
@GeoffHolden1: #AskGove How many apprentices does the DfE employ?
@moggleye: When are you going to have policies that make pupils, and not teachers, responsible for their own learning?#AskGove
@pinkchez: #askgove what will you be doing to ensure local authorities stick to the law when writing policies regarding home education?
@chopsmama: #askgove when are govs going to realise that home education is a viable option, that it produces good results and is not a welfare issue?
@spadapr: #AskGove Can you afford to delay the Priority School Buildings programme announcement, considering the urgent need for more school places?
@mberry: #AskGove Does he share Prof Furber's view that disapplying the ICT PoS is a high risk strategy for computing in schools
@largerama: #AskGove What implications do you forsee with the speed at which you are proposing such radical change to the ICT Nat Curric? #ictcurric
@christiansmith6 why are you insistent on scrapping ICT curriculum in favour of a yet undefined computer sciences, surely best to define it first? #askgove
@hughparker: #AskGove - When will you tell us about the replacement computing / ICT national curriculum?
@MrAColley: #askgove Are we going to get a look at the 'new' ICT POS before September? My lessons are much better when I've had time to plan. #ictcurric
@Phil13A #askgove will financial education become a key part of the modern curriculum? As it provides life skills that other parts just don't touch
@peterweal: If you could be any Bond villain which one would you be? #AskGove