Protestant Michael Gove confronts the Roman Catholic hierarchy
There is a great deal still to be unearthed and disseminated from Michael Gove's writings from the time he was a columnist for The Times: he wrote much on the Protestant ethos of the United Kingdom, and how this has shaped his worldview (and so, now, his politics). It is perhaps eloquently illustrated by Charles moore, writing in The Telegraph, who provides us with a fascinating account of the Secretary of State's Protestant instinct which has swept aside the inefficient bureaucratic hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster in order to liberate one of the best schools in the country from those who sought to undermine its ethos. Thus do we read:
...the Cardinal Vaughan School in west London is in big trouble. Its places are seven times oversubscribed. It got 11 pupils into Oxford and Cambridge this year. According to The Daily Telegraph’s table, it is the most successful comprehensive school in the country. Its parents and staff are fiercely loyal to it.The parents were having none of this, and the protest reached the ears of the Secretary of State himself:
Sure enough, “The Vaughan”, as it is commonly known, has come under constant attack from the education bureaucrats in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster... Last year, the diocese set to work to appoint “foundation governors” who would outvote the elected parent governors and staff representatives who always support the school’s disciplined, traditionally religious and academically rigorous ethos. It tried to get round the rule that foundation parent governors should be, as the rule obviously intends but does not precisely state, parents of children in the school. The ensuing court case has prompted the Government to strengthen the law to prevent such a thing happening again... With the retirement last year of The Vaughan’s popular headmaster, the diocese saw the chance to find a successor who would change the attitudes of the staff and so neutralise the staff governors.
...It seems that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, was so struck by the strength of the parental protest that he looked into the matter. He did not like what he found. Under the 1996 Education Act, he has the power to order an investigation of whether a governing body has behaved unreasonably. On Monday or Tuesday, he telephoned the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, and told him that he was minded to do so in this case.Is it not glorious that religious liberty in education is upheld for Roman Catholic parents (and, indeed, those of all faiths and none) with an appeal to the Protestant instinct to heed the wisdom of the laity? To trust their judgement? To respect their spiritual convictions? As Charles Moore observes: "Only with the help of the minister can bureaucracy be defeated." Yet that is true only for as long as the minister is attuned to the principles of democracy, subsidiarity and accountability. What might have been the outcome of this case had the Secretary of State for Education been a Roman Catholic loyal to his or her church's education bureaucrats and a very good friend of the Archbishop of Westminster?
It seems that the archbishop was displeased with Mr Gove, but also alarmed at the prospect of an investigation: processes would be inspected and minutes unearthed. In the past, the foundation governors have always appeared to do whatever the diocese wanted. Now the diocese did not want an investigation. No one is saying exactly what happened next, but on Wednesday, Mr Stubbings was appointed. With a bit of luck, he will achieve his ambition of turning The Vaughan into an academy.