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2 Jun 2010 : Column 462

Michael Gove: My hon. Friend served in a distinguished way on the Select Committee that deals with these matters, and I am sure that he will continue to serve in a distinguished way in the future. He will know that many of the Select Committee's recommendations chimed with those that we made in opposition, but we need to learn from countries like Finland and Singapore that have succeeded in attracting an ever-more talented group of our graduates into teaching. In fairness to the Government, we have seen over the last 15 years an increase in the number of talented people coming into teaching. We have among the most talented cohort that any of us can remember, but we need to build on it and ensure that organisations outside the reach of Government such as Teach First are given the opportunity to expand; the Government must support them. Unlike the last Government, who refused to fund their expansion to the north-east of England, we will support that expansion while ensuring that the current graduate teacher programme, which is too bureaucratic and puts barriers in the way of those who want to enter teaching, is expanded by turning it into a Teach Now programme. I see from the nods coming from the former Chairman of the Select Committee that he appreciates that there is room for consensus and for constructive work in this area, which unites everyone who is serious about raising teacher quality. [Interruption.]

As well as mentioning the support we enjoy from the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), I should say that it is across the piece of public sector reform that our belief in trusting professionals and attracting more talented people into the front line guides our hand. That is why the Health Secretary has said deliberately that our reforms to the health service will be led in future by clinicians and not by bureaucrats. He has called a halt to the reorganisation of health services promoted by his predecessor, so that we can ensure that every change is driven by professional wisdom and not by bureaucratic convenience. That should mean that in communities across the country, the maternity and A and E services that are cherished by our constituents are protected, because clinicians put their needs first. It is also why my right hon. Friend has ensured that in place of the more than 100 targets insisted on by Ministers in the past, we will have a health care system driven by results, not by processes, by clinical evidence, not political whim, and by patient choice, not top-down diktat.

Bob Russell: In the spirit of an holistic approach to education and health, may I ask the Secretary of State to look at early-day motion 25, entitled "Fitness of Children", before the end of the debate, and may I ask whoever sums up the debate to reflect on it? It clearly states that children who walk or cycle to school are fitter than those who are driven in a car or school bus, but everything that the Secretary of State is proposing is literally driving children out of their communities into cars and buses to travel to schools at the other side of town.

Michael Gove: I thank my hon. Friend for another constructive contribution. It is true that as I listened to it, the words "On your bike" passed through my head, but I have to say that I agree with him. It is because I believe in community schools and want them to survive that I believe we should work together to ensure that they are saved from the pressure-whatever it is and
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from whoever it may come-that may lead communities to be robbed of the schools that they love. One of the aspects of the reform programme that we are proposing, which I hope will commend itself to him and to many of my hon. Friends, is our determination to ensure that small schools, urban or rural, can survive where there is strong parental support for them.

The vision that we have for our education and health reforms is driven by the shared values of this partnership Government. We believe in devolving power to the lowest possible level. We believe that the function of the state is to promote equity, not uniformity; to enable, and not to conscript. We also believe that the power of the state should be deployed vigorously to help the vulnerable and the voiceless, those who lack resources and connections, and those who are poor materially and excluded socially.

However, we also believe that those most in need will never be helped to achieve all that they can unless we harness the full power of civil society, the initiative of creative individuals, the imagination of social entrepreneurs, and the idealism of millions of public sector workers. That means reducing bureaucracy, getting rid of misguided political intervention, respecting professional autonomy, and working in genuine partnership with local communities. It is that genuinely liberal, and liberating, vision that unites every Member on this side of the House and gives our reform programme its radical energy, not least in education.

We have-we have been bequeathed-one of the most stratified and segregated school systems in the developed world. The gap in exam performance between private schools and state schools grew under the last Government. That was a reverse for social justice, and an affront against social mobility. In the last year for which we have figures, just 45 of 80,000 young people eligible for free school meals made it to Oxbridge. More students went to Oxbridge from the school attended by the Leader of the Opposition, St Paul's, than from the entire population of poor boys and girls on benefit.

I know that the consciences of Opposition Members who are motivated by idealism will have been pricked by those figures. No one contemplating that record can be in any doubt that reform is urgent. That is why we are pressing ahead with the sort of changes that will drive improvement across the whole of the state school system. We are cutting spending on the back office to prioritise spending on the front line.

As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham)-who, sadly, is no longer in the Chamber-we have already saved millions of pounds by taking steps to abolish BECTA and the QCDA-two bureaucratic organisations with their own chairmen, their own chief executives, their own boards, their own communications teams, their own strategies and their own stakeholder groups-so we can ensure that money goes to the classroom. Today I can announce-as the hon. Member for Huddersfield anticipated-that we will take steps to abolish a third quango, the General Teaching Council for England.

The GTCE takes more than £36 from every teacher every year, and many of them have told me that it gives them almost nothing in return. I have listened to representations from teacher organisations-including teaching unions such as the NASUWT-which would
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prefer that money to be spent in the classroom, and I have been persuaded by them, the professionals. The GTCE does not improve classroom practice, does not help professionals to develop, and does not help children to learn. In short, it does not earn its keep, so it must go.

To those who argue that we need a body to help police the profession, let me say that this Government want to trust professionals, not busybody and patronise them; but when professionals dishonour the vocation of teaching, action needs to be taken. When the GTCE was recently asked to rule on a BNP teacher who had posted poisonous filth on an extremist website, it concluded that his description of immigrants as animals was not racist, and that therefore he could not be struck off. I think that that judgment was quite wrong and that we need new proposals to ensure that extremism has no place in our classrooms, and I also believe that the bodies that have failed to protect us in the past cannot be the answer in the future.

Mr Blunkett: There may well be an argument about the role of the GTCE, especially in respect of the example the right hon. Gentleman has just given, but does he agree that it does not behove him as the new Education Secretary to abolish the GTCE on financial grounds, given that the sum of £36 per teacher to which he referred will not be taxed on teachers and therefore will not be money that can be made available to the front line as he stated just a few minutes ago? Is this not the kind of nonsense that got us into having the pledge that £2.5 billion would be saved by doing away with biometric passports, when it turns out that the correct figure is £86 million over four years?

Michael Gove: I have great respect for the right hon. Gentleman, but I must point out to him that £36.50 per teacher goes to fund the GTCE, and much of that money actually comes from the Department itself, although some comes from teachers as well. I believe that the money the Department currently spends supporting the GTCE should instead be spent on supporting the front line, because I believe that overall we need to ensure that money that is currently spent on resources such as bodies, institutions, protocols and frameworks that do not raise the quality of teaching and do not improve the experience of children in the classroom should be shifted so that it is spent in the right direction.

Ed Balls: Just for the record, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how much he will save for the public purse by abolishing the GTCE?

Michael Gove: I have asked officials to calculate exactly how much we will save. [Interruption.] Well, we will bring forward legislation, but there is a sum of £36.50 for every teacher, which will save us hundreds of thousands of pounds. [Interruption.] Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that the GTCE is the right organisation to keep in place? Does he believe that this money is better spent on the GTCE than in any other area? Does he believe that the hundreds of thousands of pounds that I think we should have spent on the front line should continue to be spent on that body?

Mr Sheerman: I rise to try to educate the right hon. Gentleman. As he is very well versed in educational matters, he must know that what he is telling the House
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is a fiction. The fact of the matter is that he will not be saving £36.50 for every teacher. Many teachers pay the £36.50 themselves.

Michael Gove: Some do, but many do not. It is precisely because the Department pays the fees for so many teachers-it pays £33 of the £36.50-that I have asked officials to work out how much we can save. If, instead of simply carrying on objecting to saving this money, the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood wants to tell me how he would spend it, or whether he would keep the GTCE going, I would be delighted to hear from him.

Ed Balls: I remind the right hon. Gentleman that it is he who is now the Secretary of State, not I, and therefore he is the person who has to take the decisions and is responsible. It is not proper government for him to come to the House to make an announcement and for it to turn out that he has not even seen the advice on which the announcement has been made, and then for him airily to say, "Well, I think the figure is hundreds of thousands of pounds." The right way to do it is to get the information first, then make the decisions, and then report them to the House; that is a better way of doing things.

Michael Gove: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his kind advice, but the one thing he has not done in his question-or statement, even-is point out whether he agrees with the policy. If he will tell me whether he agrees with it, I will be interested to hear his views. We do know, however, that money will be saved, and that introducing this change in respect of this organisation is in the interests of teachers and of making sure that money that is otherwise spent on bureaucratic bodies can be spent on the front line. [Interruption.] I have had the opportunity to read the advice, and I know that this is the right thing to do. [Interruption.] I would be interested in advice from the right hon. Gentleman about whether or not he thinks-

Mr Speaker: Order. I am very sorry to interrupt the flow of the eloquence of the Secretary of State, but may I just say, particularly as we are discussing education, that we all believe in the importance of role models, and I am already finding that the behaviour of some senior Members is starting to be imitated by new Members? That is very undesirable, and I know it is not a precedent that the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) would wish to establish.

Michael Gove: As I am sure the Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood, knows- [Interruption.] Forgive me, I should, of course, have said the shadow Secretary of State. How sweet those memories are. As the right hon. Gentleman the shadow Secretary of State knows, the Department provides about £16 million every year to reimburse teachers for the cost of that membership. I believe that that £16 million is better spent on the front line. If he believes that the money is better spent on the GTCE, perhaps he will say so in his forthcoming remarks.

As well as getting rid of that bureaucracy, we will reform other bureaucracies. We will reform Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, so that instead of inspecting schools on the current 29 tick-box criteria, it will examine just
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four: the quality of teaching; the quality of leadership; pupil achievement and attainment; and pupil discipline and safety. We also want to free outstanding schools from inspection, so that more time and resources can be devoted to helping others to improve. The absurd practice of "limiting judgments", whereby great schools can be ranked as "poor" because of clerical errors, will end, and inspections will be driven by an in-depth look at teaching and learning, rather than by the current endless paper chase, which deprives classes of teacher time.

Lindsay Roy (Glenrothes) (Lab): I congratulate the Secretary of State on his appointment to a very challenging Cabinet post-it is becoming more challenging by the minute. Does he accept that a key factor in improving attainment and achievement is the quality of learning and teaching? Why would any graduate be able to opt out of a teaching qualification, given that, in my experience, some of the most gifted academics are not the most gifted pedagogues? Is this not a dilution that could have a negative impact on standards and quality?

Michael Gove: That was a beautifully read question from the hon. Gentleman. As we know, he is a former headmaster of some distinction-indeed, he was headmaster of the school that the former Prime Minister attended-so I shall listen to what he has to say. It is crucial to ensure that we have high standards of teaching and learning. As I pointed out in a reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), we are taking steps to ensure that we improve the quality of both recruitment and teacher training-that is central to our reform programme. That is why we will expand Teach First, institute a new programme called Teach Now and invest in continuous professional development to ensure that those who are currently in the classroom-they are doing a fantastic job-have the opportunity to enhance their skills and accept new responsibilities.

It is because we want to attract more talented people into the classroom that we will also remove the biggest barrier to people entering or staying in the teaching profession; we will focus relentlessly on improving school discipline. We will change the law on detentions so that teachers will no longer have to give parents 24 hours' notice before disciplining badly behaved pupils. We will change the law on the use of force and enhance teachers' search powers so that they will be able to prevent disruptive pupils from bringing items into school that are designed to disrupt learning. We will change the law to enhance teacher protection by giving teachers anonymity when they face potentially malicious allegations, and we will insist that allegations are either investigated within a tight time period or dropped. We will also change the law to ensure that heads have the powers that they need on exclusions, and we will ensure that there is improved provision for excluded pupils to get their lives back on track.

I hope that the hon. Member for Glenrothes (Lindsay Roy), and others who believe in protecting teachers and ensuring that we have good standards of discipline and behaviour, can support all those measures. I take it from his headshake that we have his enthusiastic assent. In addition to improving discipline, we will strengthen our exam system. We want to have fewer and better exams. We want to reverse the trend towards modularisation,
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reduce the role of coursework in certain subjects and ask universities to help us to design new and stretching A-levels that can compete with the best exams in the world.

Just as we plan to learn from the rest of the world in order to improve our exam system, so we will learn from the rest of the world in order to improve our school system. In America, President Barack Obama is pressing ahead with radical school reform on the model that we believe in. He is attracting more great people into teaching, demanding greater accountability for parents and welcoming new providers into state education. He has insisted on having more great charter schools-the American equivalent of our academies-to drive up attainment, especially among the poorest. He, along with other reformers, such as the Democrat Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the Democrat in charge of New York's schools, Joel Klein, and the Democrat in charge of Washington DC's schools, Michelle Rhee, wants more schools like the inspirational Knowledge is Power Programme-KIPP-schools, which are raising attainment in ghetto areas. Such schools are founded by teachers and funded by public money, but they are free from Government bureaucracy. They operate in neighbourhoods where, in the past, most children did not even make it to the end of high school. Now, thanks to these KIPP schools, a majority of these young people are going on to elite universities. These schools have a relentless focus on traditional subjects and a culture of no excuses, tough discipline and personalised pastoral care. The schools have enthusiastic staff, who are in charge of their own destiny and work hard to help every child to succeed. Such schools are amazing engines of social mobility, which is why we need more like them in this country.

That is, in turn, why we need to expand and accelerate the academies programme and why we are reforming state education to help groups of teachers, charities, philanthropists and community groups to set up new schools. It is also why I have been determined to give professionals more scope to drive improvement by inviting all schools to consider applying for academy freedoms. We have invited outstanding schools to lead the way.

I believe that heads and teachers, not politicians or bureaucrats, know best how to run schools, which is why I am passionate about extending freedom. Since I issued my invitation last week, I have been overwhelmed by the response. In less than one week, more than 1,100 schools have applied for academy freedoms, more than half of which are outstanding-626 outstanding schools, including more than 250 outstanding primaries. More than half the outstanding secondary schools in the country have applied, and more than 50 special schools have expressed an interest. That is a vote of confidence in greater professional autonomy from those driving improvement in our schools-inspirational head teachers.

Mr David Ward (Bradford East) (LD): Does the Secretary of State acknowledge that it is dangerous, and certainly misleading, to use terms such as "outstanding" to describe schools when the evidence and research show overwhelmingly that the single most important determinant in success and attainment is the deprivation levels among parents of the children in a school?

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Michael Gove: I take my hon. Friend's point that deprivation matters, which is why we have secured a partnership agreement guaranteeing that deprived pupils receive more for their education. I believe in the pupil premium and the progressive alteration to education spending. However, deprivation does not automatically mean destiny. As has been pointed out, there can be outstanding schools with challenging intakes, and what marks them out is the quality of their leadership, which is why it is so inspiring and encouraging that so many great head teachers, including of schools in some of the most challenging circumstances, have endorsed our proposals.

Bob Russell: Does the Secretary of State consider that the rush for freedom, as he would describe it, is perhaps more a vote of no confidence in local education authorities, which are predominantly Conservative-for example, Essex county council, which totally ignores the views of my constituents?

Michael Gove: Once again, my hon. Friend makes the sort of constructive contribution that I know will make our encounters over the next few years things to cherish. I say to him that it is across the board, whether under Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour-led local authorities, that schools want to embrace freedom. Many of them want to do so, not because they resent or are critical of local authorities, but because they relish the additional autonomy and freedom to disapply parts of the national curriculum, and because they want to work in partnership with existing schools. I want to encourage that sort of partnership, between our two parties and between academies and local authority schools. That is why I have requested that every outstanding school that acquires academy status takes with it an underperforming school on its journey, so that the process of collaboration, with the best head teachers driving improvement, continues, and so that schools can use academy freedom and head teachers can use additional powers to ensure that every child benefits.

In addition to asking that of outstanding schools, we will ensure that the academies programme delivers faster and deeper improvements in deprived and disadvantaged areas. Many more of our weakest schools will be placed in the hands of organisations such as ARK, the Harris Foundation and other academy sponsors best placed to drive improvement. We will also ensure that parents have more information about all schools, so that pressure grows on schools that are coasting to improve, and work in partnership with local government, from Essex to Cumbria, empowering strong local authorities to continue to drive improvement. Most importantly, as I have pointed out, we will target resources on the poorest. Our pupil premium will mean taking money from outside the schools budget to ensure that those teaching the children most in need get the resources to deliver smaller class sizes, more one-to-one or small group tuition, longer school days and more extracurricular activities.

Lindsay Roy: Apart from outstanding schools, special needs schools and some failing schools, what are the criteria for acceptance to the academy programme?

Michael Gove: Schools must demonstrate that the acquisition of the freedoms will help drive attainment for children in that area, and that it will also work for other schools.

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