Education Secretary Michael Gove visits St Albans

Chamber manager Lisa Bates, Michael Gove, principal of Oaklands College Zoe Hancock and Graham - pho

Chamber manager Lisa Bates, Michael Gove, principal of Oaklands College Zoe Hancock and Graham - photo by Spike Brown - Credit: Archant

THE questions came thick and fast when a roomful of headteachers and business leaders had the opportunity to quiz Education Secretary Michael Gove at an event in St Albans on Friday.

Mr Gove was the main attraction at a networking lunch organised by St Albans Chamber of Commerce, and came ready to provide answers to some of the guests’ pressing educational concerns.

For 45 minutes the Conservative MP spoke on issues ranging from changes to the national curriculum, the process of opening a free school and the increasing cost of childcare fees.

Lisa Bates, Chamber of Commerce director, said: “It was a real coup to have Michael Gove at our event; a great opportunity for the headteachers and school governors present to ask him direct questions about the issues they face.

“I think he tackled the questions fairly and answered them all with knowledge and a sense of responsibility and understanding.”

The function, held at Sopwell House Hotel in Cottonmill Lane, attracted representatives from 29 schools, colleges and universities in the county, as well as members of the local business community.

One of the 200 attendees, Alan Gray, who is the headteacher at Sandringham School, said: “I think it is really good to see businesses and education professionals come together to network and share ideas.”

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He added: “It is wonderful that he [Mr Gove] could spare time to come here so we can hear him directly. Maybe some of our questions will filter back and we will see some change.”

BUSINESSES in St Albans should take a chance on a young person by employing them as an apprentice or trainee, according to the Secretary of State for Education.

Addressing the gathering of businessmen and women at Sopwell House Hotel Mr Gove said: “Please if you do believe there is an opportunity in your business to help a young person to succeed do contemplate taking on a trainee or apprentice and I am sure you will find it an investment that will repay for years to come, not just in enhancing the quality of your business but in also making you feel proud you have enhanced a young life for the better.”

He also encouraged businesses to pay a visit to their local school to help inspire youngsters by talking about their profession.

DELAYS encountered when setting up free schools are “just the way of the world”, Mr Gove told one of the parents behind Harperbury Free School which is due to open in Radlett next September.

The Education Secretary heaped praised on Clive Glover and those involved in the third free school planned for the district saying: “Setting up a new school is an amazing endeavour and doing so when you are doing battle with complex planning rules and difficult financial constraints is a heroic thing to do.”

Commenting on how hold-ups could be avoided he went on: “The Department of Education tries as hard as it can; there are some brilliant civil servants who work incredibly hard to smooth the path but sometimes it is just the way of the world.”

MR GOVE spoke exclusively to the Herts Advertiser last week about Herts County Council’s intention to have a new secondary school built on Green Belt land in Harpenden.

He said: “I think every individual project has to be judged on its own merits, so I am looking forward to finding out more from Herts County Council about how we are helping them to meet the need for school places, both primary and secondary, but obviously we need to respect the environment and in particular we need to respect planning rules.”

Last month this newspaper broke the news that residents felt they had been “kept in the dark” about the council’s plans to purchase 15 hectares of farmland off Lower Luton Road to pave the way for a new school for around 1,300 students.