Shine A Light

Ask Michael Gove

Got a difficult decision to make? The British education minister can advise.

Ellie Phillips
16 September 2013

Education minister Michael Gove’s assertion last week on visiting a food bank that "there are families who do face considerable pressures…often as a result of some decisions that have been taken by those families" seems calculated to undermine the self-esteem of the vast majority of us who have seen bills rise and incomes fall.

Me and my husband were upset by the casual cruelty of his you’ve only got yourselves to blame attitude and couldn’t help noticing the absurdist degree to which he seems to have taken the "there’s no such thing as society" mantra to heart. We wondered whether such an absurd political position required an absurdist response?  So we set up a Facebook page called ‘Ask Michael Gove’ and you know what?  It really cheered us up. 

AskMichaelGove has all the answers on what time to go to bed, how to educate your children and what to do if you find yourself actually living in Cornwall. If you’re about to make a decision, why not ask him first?


Dear Michael,
My friend has 3 children and unfortunately lost his job 3 months ago. His girlfriend is disabled and he is struggling to look after his children and take care of his girlfriend who cannot also work. What would you suggest I do?

  • Ask Michael Gove I think it would be really helpful if I pointed out where your friend has made some poor decisions Donna; firstly having a disabled girlfriend who cannot work is not the brightest decision one could make. Secondly, to lose one's job seems rather careless - as is having 3 children. I have 2 children; a boy and a girl - well planned - both excellent decisions on my part. My wife and I have extremely well paid jobs so we can easily afford to look after them. I would suggest unfriending this person. They are clearly a no-hoper and will start asking you for handouts before you know it.

 Dear Ask Michael Gove One year ago I finished my degree in Film Studies where I got a first class honours. Unfortunately I've not been able to secure a job as all the internships in film are unpaid and this will mean I can't afford to pay rent, and, as my parents live in Whitley Bay there aren't that many jobs in film going in that area so there's no point living with them. At the local Job Centre I've been strongly advised to take an apprenticeship with Tesco earning £102 per week. Unfortunately this won't cover my rent in Newcastle where I would like to live and where there may be job opportunities. I have tried to explain this to the my adviser but as I've been unemployed for more than 6 months I don't really have much choice about what I accept and what I don't. I could go home to my parents and take a job in Tesco but I won't be party to any jobs that may come up. I'm worried about making the wrong decision here. What do you think I should do?

  • Ask Michael Gove Hi Trina, I'm glad you asked me that question. Firstly I would say that it was a very poor decision to do Film Studies in the first place. It also sounds as if you've been completely born into the wrong family as you clearly have absolutely no contacts in the film industry - Big Mistake. Being based either in the North East is really a terrible idea altogether. Bad Bad decisions Trina! I'd take the job in Tesco definitely  . . . I don't think there's an awful lot I can do for you. 

Richard Garside

Dear Michael,
My wife made the very poor decision to become a teacher some years ago.
Over recent years her pay has been frozen. She is also having to pay more into her pension while being expected to retire later.
She is now wondering whether she should leave teaching to earn bucket loads of cash in the private sector.
What kind of job could she do with the skills she has developed as a teacher?

  • Ask Michael Gove May I hazard a guess that your wife has been teaching in the public sector? For a teacher, this would appear to be an elementary mistake. I would suggest that she simply transfers her 'skills' to teaching at a private school. I'm assuming that her poor decision making hasn't extended to living outside of the Home Counties - otherwise her chances of making any sort of a second career really are rather minimal.  

Joanna De Guia

Dear Michael Gove
I own a small independent children's bookshop in the East End of London. We do alot of "good works" in the community providing advice for local schools and bringing authors in to meet local children thus helping to create excitement around literacy - reading for enjoyment (we have been taking your edicts to heart as you can see) - and encourage good literacy skills. We employ school age volunteers on the weekend to come in and help us in the shop and to give them work experience and enable them to obtain their Duke of Edinburgh awards and so on.
However we are unable to make enough money to keep the business alive and so I am considering going back to work. This will mean closing the bookshop and depriving the local community of an invaluable resource.
What should I do?

  • Ask Michael Gove Poor Poor decision making Joanna De Guia! 'Good Works' will not pay the rent, will they? Good literacy skills were not founded in bookshops in East London - but on the playing fields of the top public schools! If I were you I'd get a job with - they seem like a top money-making outfit with plenty of opportunities. This, I feel, would be an excellent decision. 

Saul Freeman

Dear Michael Gove, I have a young friend who has taken a Training Apprenticeship job with a large multi-national company. My friend was pressured into joining this government scheme as otherwise his benefits would have been stopped. This job pays him just over £2 an hour and my friend is now struggling to pay his bills and keep himself fed. He does not have any family who can support him and has to rely on his apprenticeship earnings, though he is fully aware that when his post comes to an end in 4 months there is almost no chance of him being offered a proper job with this company. My friend is beginning to show signs of malnutrition and depression. He is concerned that he may have made a poor decision in taking up the apprenticeship role. Could you advise him on how he could have made a better decision in this case and what his next decisions should be when his training scheme comes to an end soon? I know he will be very grateful for your help and advice.


  • Ask Michael Gove Dear Saul, I think we have to turn the clock back and find out why the apprenticeship was the only option open to your friend in the first place. Perhaps he made some poor decisions early on in his career and that's led him directly to where he is now. He's probably 3rd generation unemployed - so failure is in the genes. Poor planning all round. Your friend needs to 'shop smarter' to counteract the malnutrition - he's probably one of those people who thinks salad comes out of a bag. Has he considered an allotment? That might be a good decision. Meanwhile the NHS still continues to cater for those in our society who 'aren't coping' so he should get himself along to the GP and whine for some anti-depressants. That seems sensible. 

Trystan Negus Dear Michael Gove,My friend's family lives in Cornwall, and they are struggling to make ends meet. Cornwall is an area recognised to be poor by the EU, but benefits from income & jobs from tourism in the summer. My friend is able to take advantage of the associated employment boost in the summer with restaurant and bar work, but cannot find work in the winter. Tourism dips and second homes are empty. 

  • Coupled with this, they are paying exorbitant rent with no cheaper alternatives, and have no hope of buying their own home because house prices in Cornwall have been inflated by short supply while wages remain amongst the lowest in the country. The net effect is that their rent is overdue, their families have no resources to help, and they will soon be kicked out. 
    With your experience, I & they would be grateful if you could offer some guidance to them. Thank you!


    • Ask Michael Gove Did you say your friend actually LIVES in Cornwall? I have many close friends who have homes in Cornwall - I wasn't aware that anyone actually LIVED there. In fact I thought it was the sort of place that didn't exist outside of the holidays - sort of like Brigadoon. I think your friend should pull him/herself together and stop pretending to live in places like Cornwall and move somewhere sensible like the South East. Then they might be able to afford to have a house down there like the rest of us. 

If you've got a question AskMichaelGove on Facebook, or @AskMichaelGove on Twitter. 

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