BBC NewsAndrew Marr Show


Page last updated at 11:06 GMT, Sunday, 1 June 2008 12:06 UK

Causes of youth crime

On Sunday 01 June Andrew Marr interviewed Michael Gove MP

Conservatives blame lack of authority in the home.

Michael Gove MP
Michael Gove MP

ANDREW MARR: Now then, from the era of Lloyd George to the problems facing 21st century politicians - unteachable children, ignorant parents, anarchy, chaos - that was the picture of some state schools painted by a leading figure in private education yesterday.

The comments were immediately dismissed by the government and teaching unions as snobbish and misguided, but amidst the anxiety over youth violence, knife crime, teenage binge drinking and so on, they were bound to cause a stir.

Well I'm joined by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Michael Gove. Thank you very much indeed for coming in. Good morning.


ANDREW MARR: Let me just start with this picture of the state system, portrayed by the guy in charge of the independent sector of the independent schools council, a pretty damning assessment of just how bad the state system is across very, very many schools. Overall do you agree with him?

MICHAEL GOVE: No I don't. I think it's an unduly bleak picture. I think it is the case that we do have real problems with discipline in many schools and it's also the case that we have concentrated pockets of underachievement, very often in areas of deprivation.

One of the striking things is that it's not just Chris Parry who's concerned about what's happening in our state sector, the chief inspector of school Christine Gilbert just a couple of weeks ago said that standards were stalling in the state sector.

And we know that if you look at international comparisons that we as a country are falling behind other countries, that when it comes to maths, when it comes to science, when it comes to English, we're plummeting down all the international league tables, so there is cause for concern.

But the sort of language that Chris Parry used I certainly wouldn't endorse and it's also important to recognise that there are within the state sector some absolutely brilliant schools - comprehensive schools that are turning out young people of whom any parent would be proud.

ANDREW MARR: Now your solution for the problems is to have many, many more independently-run schools, as it were, and you would allow private companies to make a decent profit out of running schools for the state sector.

MICHAEL GOVE: That's only half right. One of the things that we think can transform education is getting more expertise from outside, from people who have devoted their lives to improving schools, into the state sector. At the moment there are all sorts of parts of the United Kingdom where essentially the local bureaucracy has failed our young people.

There are some schools, for example there's one in Merseyside, where only one per cent of children get five GCSEs, and there are more than 600 schools where fewer than a third of children get five good GCSEs, so we can't be so arrogant as to say that we can't welcome people in who can improve our education.

The key thing is the area where I think that the question was potentially poorly briefed, I don't know, was the whole question of profit. We don't believe that the organisations that should come in to help our schools improve should be profit-making. We believe that there is a reservoir of expertise out there, from all sorts of organisations and individuals, from charities, from livery companies, from a variety of people who've already shown the way in helping to improve state schools and some of the most deprived areas.

ANDREW MARR: So you'd give these schools greater freedom?


ANDREW MARR: Do they have to follow the national curriculum?

MICHAEL GOVE: No, we think that one of the things that's important...

ANDREW MARR: Why do you go for the national curriculum but not in schools?

MICHAEL GOVE: Well Tony Blair when he introduced the City Academy concept, and Ken Baker when he introduced the City Technology concept, recognised that if you're going to have innovation in the state system then you needed to have flexibility. And head teachers would be given a greater degree of freedom to be able to shape the national curriculum in the interests of children.

And we believe that one of the successes actually of independent schools has been the way in which head teachers have been able to shape the curriculum in the interests of their pupils. Why should we restrict the freedoms which independent school pupils are benefiting from, simply to the independent sector? Why shouldn't good head teachers in the state sector, why shouldn't good teachers in the state sector have greater freedom? They're professionals, they know better how to get the best out of children than ministers do. So less bureaucracy is the answer.

ANDREW MARR: How will the rest of us know whether these schools are any good or not if they're not following the national curriculum, if they're not being monitored in the same way as other schools? They could be pretty rotten and we wouldn't know.

MICHAEL GOVE: Well there are two things. Firstly, no one's forcing anyone to send their children to the sorts of new schools that we wanted to bring into the state sector, we wanted to encourage parents to have a greater degree of choice.

Secondly, no one is going to go to these schools unless they offer a rigorous set of qualifications to those who go through four, five or six years in those schools.

ANDREW MARR: So follow the GCSEs is what you're saying?

MICHAEL GOVE: Yes exactly,but one of the striking things actually, one of the striking things is that the very best schools in this country are increasingly worried actually about state qualifications.

The GCSE is being abandoned by some of the best schools because they believe it's not rigorous enough.


MICHAEL GOVE: But they take the international baccalaureate or other exams.

ANDREW MARR: Let me ask you about selection. Are these schools going to be able in any way to select their pupils?

MICHAEL GOVE: No, we don't believe in selection. We do believe in these schools.

ANDREW MARR: Your voters, and many of your MPs, many of your supporters up and down the country do believe in selection, they think that is the way that you get real change in schools. Why are you setting your face so hard against it?

MICHAEL GOVE: We believe that these schools should have the freedom which existing academies should have, to take 10 per cent of people's biaptitudes of those who are strong in music or arts, or the sport. But, we have to be clear that we have a recognition that the comprehensive model of education, the idea of social mix, is a good thing. But within that comprehensive model what you need is teaching by ability.

So rather than having a simple filter at age 11 and saying some children will go to one type of school and some children have another, have children from a local community educated together, but within that school ensure that those children who are really bright at science are stretched, and those children who are perhaps weaker in another area get the special support they need. So within a school, yes, teaching by ability. But the model of a community school is one that we believe in.

ANDREW MARR: All right. Knife crime, there's been a lot about that, that comes into your ambit as Children's Shadow Secretary. Do you think that anybody caught with a knife on the streets should be prosecuted?

MICHAEL GOVE: Well we believe in giving discretion to the police. One of the things that's striking about what we've seen over the last few days is the way in which the police in my own area, in Surrey, have said that it's important that they shouldn't be governed by targets, that they should exercise discretion.

But one of the key things is that it's not so much the prosecution, it's actually the apprehension of these people that matters. One of the striking things that's happened as a result...

ANDREW MARR: More stop and search?

MICHAEL GOVE: Absolutely. Yeah. One of the striking things that's happened as a result of Boris Johnson becoming Mayor of London is that he's been working with the Metropolitan Police. They've introduced a new operation.

Blunt Two, which has seen the number of people apprehended under using stop and search powers increasing. More knives as a result have been confiscated. More potential criminality nipped in the bud. And one of the things that I think is wrong.

ANDREW MARR: Yes, last time there was a huge amount of stop and search...


ANDREW MARR: ...being used on the streets of London it resulted in riots in the end. I mean there is another side to it, people can feel harassed and can feel got at by the police.

MICHAEL GOVE: I don't accept the logic of your position and I certainly don't accept the logic of people like Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the Children's Commissioner, who said that increasing stop and search would fuel alienation. Let's be clear about this, there are children on our streets dying as a result of knife crime. We need to take serious steps in order to deal with it. And that means...

ANDREW MARR: Should the law be changed?

MICHAEL GOVE: And that means that we need to ensure that existing laws are enforced as effectively as possible.

ANDREW MARR: But you don't think the laws should be, for instance...

MICHAEL GOVE: Well I think some of the bureaucracy that ties the hands of the police should go. I think it should be the case that officers should have greater discretion over using stop, and stop and search powers.

And one of the interesting things is that the black members of the Metropolitan Police Authority, I understand, supported this change because they understand, unlike some sort of, you know, free-thinking liberals, they understand that it's within urban communities that the problems that we have with violent crime need to be attacked.

But, it's also important to recognise that as well as tougher policing we also need to look, as Daniel Johnson pointed out, at the deeper and profounder reasons why children feel the need to carry knives, why this crime is occurring in the first place? And often the root of that problem lies in the lack of effective authority right from the very beginning, in the home.

ANDREW MARR: Well let's turn to a rather more immediate problem, which is booze.


ANDREW MARR: Big problem of binge-drinking, teenage drinking, the statistics are pretty hideous...


ANDREW MARR: ...about the number of kids boozing themselves up at an earlier and earlier age. What needs to be done? Would you approve of rules to make alcohol, for instance, considerably more expensive in supermarkets? Do you approve of plans to prosecute potentially the parents of children found binge-drinking?

MICHAEL GOVE: Well, on the first we've come forward with proposals which effectively target precisely those sorts of drinks which binge-drinkers tend to sort of use to fuel their antics. And George Osborne has come up with some specific proposals there.

On the broader question of the laws that the government are bringing forward, well we'll wait to see the detail, because one of the things that we've had with this government in the past, you know, over the past ten years or so, is their response to some of these problems has been to come up with new legislation, often well intentioned, but it hasn't as we're reading in the newspapers today tackled the underlying problem.

And the question is not so much how can we more precisely calibrate the laws in order to target offenders? Yes, let's look at that. The real question is why are young people drinking alcohol? What is the cause of disaffection, which leads teenagers...

ANDREW MARR: Frankly that's such a widespread question. That in terms of actually getting change on the streets relatively quickly, it's going to be near useless isn't it? You need to come up with clear solutions.

MICHAEL GOVE: Well Andrew I think, I can understand why you're asking the question, but I think that you're trapped in a Westminster village bubble which demands that the government have a crackdown, or an initiative, or a new law to deal with these problems. Yes, let's look at each law and if it's going to improve things, fine. But let's really look at the underlying factors because...

ANDREW MARR: Do you actually think these measures will make any difference, really?

MICHAEL GOVE: Well we'll see. But what will make a difference long term, are asking the question, or is asking the question rather, why do we need this forest of new laws? Why over the last ten years have we had all these new attempts to more effectively target a group of people who are causing us all concern?

ANDREW MARR: Would you dare to come into power and simply not legislate for a bit, for six months or a year, so I'm not going to do anything, I'm not going to pass any more laws, I'm just going to sit and watch.

MICHAEL GOVE: Well actually I want to pass several laws in order to improve our schools. And they all relate to some of the questions that we were discussing earlier, about freeing teachers from bureaucracy, and showing we can have more effective discipline, welcoming more people into the state sector to help it. But, laws alone aren't the answer.

You pose a divide which is either hyperactive legislation, or doing nothing. Actually, I suspect what most people want is a government that looks seriously at, for example, the causes of family breakdown, and asks what can we do to prevent that.

And also asks what are we doing to ensure that there are appropriate male role models in the home and in school? We have to ask why are there so few male primary teachers? Why is it that men in teaching can't necessarily exercise the authority that they want?

Why is it that fathers who relinquish their responsibility towards children aren't given every encouragement to live up to their responsibilities towards their children/ We've got to ask these deeply profound questions, because unless we do then we'll find ourselves continually scrabbling around for short-term solutions, that won't address the long-term problems.

ANDREW MARR: Well all good questions. For now Michael Gove thank you very much indeed.

MICHAEL GOVE: Thank you.


Please note "The Andrew Marr Show" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

NB: This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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