Cake and kumbaya matters; why I agree with Mr Gove

A confession first! I like my cakes. A lot! I have eaten cakes at GB meetings. I have even supplied cakes for GB meetings. Real ones, not the virtual @UKGovChat ones! I think there is nothing wrong with this. Governors give up their time to attend meetings. Some of them come straight from work and would not have eaten before. Sometimes we meet on Saturdays and I think supplying refreshments to people who gladly give up their weekend for GB business is only fair.

Now unless you live under a stone, you would have read or heard a lot about governance, cake, sherry and kumbaya recently. On 15th May the Inspiring Governors Alliance was launched, the purpose of which is to help governing boards recruit highly skilled people. Michael Gove spoke at the launch and attracted a lot of criticism. The part of the speech which people objected to as well as the reporting can be seen here.

The rest of the speech was ignored and all attention focused on the cake, sherry and kumbaya, which was a shame. I’m sure I’m not putting words in the Secretary of State’s mouth when I say that what he meant was that governance isn’t touchy, feely etc but is about asking tough questions. I don’t think he was condemning all governors as tree hugging, kumbaya singing people. He went onto say what governors actually do.

The publicity that the cake comment attracted meant that the rest of the speech was ignored.The context of the speech and where it was delivered makes a difference too. This speech was delivered to people who understand what governance and, more importantly, what good governance is. They would have heard the whole speech and understood where Mr Gove was coming from. One can argue that Mr Gove should have known that the press would go for the most shocking headline and so he should not have said this. That may be so but I think that perhaps Mr Gove may have thought that governors reading the reports would understand his sentiments. There doesn’t seem to be a transcript of the speech available which is a pity. I decided to look through my Twitter timeline and see what I could find. Below are some of the tweets which report what, besides the cake and sherry, Michael Gove actually said about governors. This is the next best thing to a transcript!

Mr Gove has used this phrase at another occasion too. The extract is below, see if you can guess who he is talking about.

“Thirdly, I had the opportunity myself, both at the launch of …… subsequently, in the speech that I gave to the ……. to explain how highly I thought of …… , and not in the abstract sense of giving them a hug and singing “Kumbaya”, but in the concrete sense of recognising that it is a uniquely difficult job that requires skills of emotional intelligence and intellectual rigour, which should rightly make us think that anyone who does the job of …… well is performing a task that is both vital to society and enormously demanding, and that they should be celebrated.”

No, it wasn’t about governors (see below) but I think that if asked Mr Gove would express the above sentiments about us too. I should make it clear that I don’t agree with everything that Michael Gove says or does. In this case, though, I think he has been misrepresented. He didn’t tell us to toughen up but meant that we already are. And we are! So, lets focus on doing what we do best!

The quote is from Michael Gove’s evidence before the Education Select Committee and he was talking about social workers.

Emma Knights, CEO of National Governors’ Association has written to Mr Gove asking him to publically correct the impression he may have inadvertently given. We await his response.


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