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Transcript of Michael Gove interview

On Sunday 21st November Andrew Marr interviewed Education Secretary Michael Gove.

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

ANDREW MARR:

And from Ed Balls to the man he shadowed until very recently - Michael Gove, the Education Secretary. Now if you go only on the number of stories in newspapers and the number of initiatives being announced, this must be one of the busiest people in government and he's about to unveil further reforms to the way schools in England and Wales are run. He wants to give them more control over their own budgets and curriculum and he also hopes they'll put an emphasis on traditional subjects and teaching. And he's with me now. Good morning.

MICHAEL GOVE:

Good morning, Andrew.

ANDREW MARR:

Let's start by talking about some of the key announcements that you've been involved in the last few days. First of all, you want to directly control the budgets of schools. You're going to take the budgets away from local education authorities and run them centrally from Whitehall.

MICHAEL GOVE:

No, actually what we want to do is to decentralise control in our education system. So local authorities will still be responsible for distributing the money that they receive to the schools which are part of the local authority family.

ANDREW MARR:

So this notion that you're going to decide which schools get how much money is not true?

MICHAEL GOVE:

No, it's not true.

ANDREW MARR:

We've read it all over the papers, but it's not true?

MICHAEL GOVE:

The Financial Times had an account of what they thought was going to be in the white paper - fair play to them, journalists often try to anticipate events - but the truth is that we will be funding schools through local authorities, as we do at the moment. But one of the things we are doing is simplifying funding overall. It used to be the case in the past that there were all sorts of ring-fenced pots for particular types of activity. What we're doing now is we're saying that individual schools can spend the money on their own priorities, so that head teachers can decide what's truly important, because the big shift in approach on education that we're taking - which is different from what happened before - is that we trust teachers and we trust heads. Just this week we had more than 200 head teachers in No. 10 Downing Street applauding David Cameron for the change that he's been leading.

ANDREW MARR:

That sounds a little North Korean, if I may say so. But let's turn to this suspicion that perhaps you're rather more centralising than you say you are. You want a more traditional curriculum, you want more emphasis put back on grammar and spelling in exams. You're looking again at the exam system generally. You want a more traditional sequential teaching of history. And a lot of people might say hooray or amen to all of that, but nonetheless this is you sitting in the centre as Education Secretary telling schools what to do. You give them the money. Then you tell them how to spend it. Shouldn't you just trust them and let them get on with creating their curriculums?

MICHAEL GOVE:

Well I'm clear about standards. I'm clear that we do need to improve what's happening in our schools.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Trust the teachers. Let them do it.

MICHAEL GOVE:

But we're going to make changes which will give teachers more power. For example, over the national curriculum we're going to remove hundreds of pages of prescription which currently explain to teachers what they should do and we're handing more power back to them - power over discipline, so they can keep order better; power over how they can teach; power over how money is spent. In all these areas …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But this is power …

MICHAEL GOVE:

… I'm trusting professionals.

ANDREW MARR:

But this is power to allow them to do what you want them to do.

MICHAEL GOVE:

No, it's power to allow them to do what made them come into teaching in the first place. We know …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Which you define as the same thing. But I mean it's still you saying this is what you as teachers must do.

MICHAEL GOVE:

No, not at all, Andrew. I think that's a fundamental misconception. And it betrays, I think, a suspicion of teachers which sadly too many people have, but I don't share. I believe that when people go into teaching, what they do …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) So why not let them run their curriculums then? If you trust them and if you trust these great head teachers who are applauding the Prime Minister, let them decide what they're going to teach in their schools.

MICHAEL GOVE:

I have. I've increased the number of schools which have become academies, which do have control over their curriculum.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But you're still telling them what to do. I mean you know this traditional, this drive for back to basics education - which, as I say, lots of people will say hooray to - nonetheless that is telling teachers to teach in one way and not in another.

MICHAEL GOVE:

No. Again a fundamental misunderstanding on your part, which betrays, if I may say so, a North Korean mentality. (laughs) Your view is that you can only get something good if you prescribe from the centre. My view is that if you look actually at the best education systems across the world …

ANDREW MARR:

I … I …

MICHAEL GOVE:

We've had your view. Now mine. (Marr laughs) If you look at the best education systems across the world - South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Alberta, Sweden - what happens there? They devolve responsibility to teachers and heads.

ANDREW MARR:

Exactly!

MICHAEL GOVE:

They trust them. And what happens, and what happens is that …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) All I'm asking you is to do more of it.

MICHAEL GOVE:

Exactly and I am. And as a result of that, what you get are more teachers inspired to teach the subjects that they love. The problem that we've had over the last thirteen years is too much bureaucratic control. People attack me for increasing the academy programme, doing what Tony Blair wanted to do and what Ed and his team managed to prevent in the last five years. By extending the academies programme and by making sure that we focus again on ensuring that all schools and all teachers have greater freedom, we are ensuring that the most important thing in teaching - teacher quality - is at the heart of the debate.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

MICHAEL GOVE:

Which is why we're improving teaching by making sure that we provide more support and development for teachers. It's an inspirational model.

ANDREW MARR:

Well let me ask about another of the things that many of those applauding head teachers and teachers have asked you for, which is to get rid of the old law which says that there must be an essentially Christian service or moment at the beginning of the school day. As you know, up and down the country lots of schools just ignore this or dodge round it. Do you think its time has come?

MICHAEL GOVE:

No, I don't believe that we should change our approach towards religious education. It's very decentralised. It's up to local authority committees, standing advisory committees on religious education how schools take an approach towards RE, and I think that's right. Now our society has changed and I think changed for the better.

ANDREW MARR:

Sorry, what about the actual religious moment at the beginning of the school day - which is I think what a lot of the problem has been?

MICHAEL GOVE:

Yes, I don't think there's any need to change the law at the moment. I think that there may be agitation from either side - from some people in the Richard Dawkins wing and some people in the Pope Benedict wing as it were. I think we've got a classic, if I may say so, English middle way, which I'm very, very happy to stick to.

ANDREW MARR:

And what about sport in schools because it is announced that you are no longer going to ring-fence the budget for sport in schools and that's going - which, as we heard from David Davies, and there are lots of other people terribly upset about this because they think in practice it'll mean schools undertaking much less sport?

MICHAEL GOVE:

Well spending is increasing in schools overall. One of the things about the spending review settlement that George Osborne had is that we're increasing the amount for schools and we're also decreasing the amount of prescription. We had a discussion earlier about your North Korean approach whereby everything is centralised …

ANDREW MARR:

No, your North Korean approach.

MICHAEL GOVE:

… and my approach whereby I …

ANDREW MARR:

Kim Il Gove.

MICHAEL GOVE:

Oh thank you very much, dear leader. (laughter) But one of the things about our approach is that we believe it's up to head teachers to decide. One of the problems with the existing system that we've had is that we haven't seen the increase in the number of people playing competitive sport. Just one child in five plays competitive sport against another school, even though billions have been spent on this scheme. Instead we're now going to have a new scheme. My cabinet colleague, Jeremy Hunt, has got a marvellous proposal for a school Olympics. It means that in every community every year, we will have competitive sport. And unlike the situation that we have at the moment …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But if you're cutting the money …

MICHAEL GOVE:

… the number of people playing rugby and hockey and football has either flatlined or gone down in some cases - we'll have a revival of competitive team sports just as Baroness Bakewell wanted.

ANDREW MARR:

But if you're cutting the money for this …

MICHAEL GOVE:

(over) We're increasing spending on education overall.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But not on sports. The sport money is going, isn't it?

MICHAEL GOVE:

No, we're increasing spending on education overall, so head teachers can decide on their own priorities.

ANDREW MARR:

Butl actually when you say you're increasing overall, almost everybody - having read the coalition agreement - thought that the pupil premium was going to be new money coming into the budget.

MICHAEL GOVE:

(over) Yes it is.

ANDREW MARR:

It turns out not to be … Well you said it wasn't going to be new money.

MICHAEL GOVE:

It is.

ANDREW MARR:

This is new money from outside the schools budget which is coming in.

MICHAEL GOVE:

Yes, it is.

ANDREW MARR:

That's not what you told in the House of Commons.

MICHAEL GOVE:

No, I did. It's actually £2.5 billion which is additional, and we're also bringing in £1.1 billion in order to deal with the baby boom - which we've been fortunate enough to have been living through, some of us have been participating in - but that extra £3.6 billion is on top of the schools budget that we inherited. It's additional money being targeted on the poorest. Because one of the things that we want to do, as well as raise standards, is also have a progressive education system in which we devote more resources to the poorest.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright.

MICHAEL GOVE:

We're also reforming our examination system as well, Andrew, which is very important.

ANDREW MARR:

I'm not going to come onto that because there's so much to talk about. One other thing I did want to ask you about in education was the end of the so-called 'no touch' rule …

MICHAEL GOVE:

Yes.

ANDREW MARR:

… where teachers have been encouraged and told that they can't intervene at all where there's violence or aggression and so on in the classroom. What I wonder about is where allowing teachers to presumably grab rather than hit a pupil in certain circumstances stops and ends and who will decide that? Will this end up in the courts eventually?

MICHAEL GOVE:

No. At the moment, I'm afraid that the discipline system doesn't give teachers the support that they need. One thing that I've been struck by is that the number of violent assaults on teachers increased last year. We need to be clear that teachers have the power they need in order to impose discipline. The balance, I'm afraid, has swung too far away from teachers and adult authority and towards those pupils who wish to be disruptive. So we will ensure that it is easier for head teachers to exclude disruptive pupils. We will ensure that teachers have the authority that they need in order to restrain violent children. We'll also ensure that teachers have the powers to search students for the sorts of things that cause disruption in class. And, above all, we will give teachers protection, so that if a false allegation is made, it will be investigated quickly and teachers will also enjoy the protection of anonymity until charges are brought.

ANDREW MARR:

And you know inevitably the parents of some pupils will take teachers to court. And you know what is reasonable restraint and what was too much force - all of this will be thrashed out eventually, and I don't see where it's going to end except in court. I mean it may very well be the right thing to do - I'm not saying it's not - but it's nonetheless a nebulous question, isn't it: what is appropriate force?

MICHAEL GOVE:

The problem is that at the moment the situation is nebulous and teachers feel they do not have the clarity that they require. There are 500 pages of guidance on discipline, another 500 pages of guidance on bullying. You've got a volume as thick as 'War and Peace' in this area. I think it's appropriate that we simplify, clarify and strengthen, so instead of this nebulousness, we have clarity and authority invested in teachers once more.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright. For now, thank you very much indeed Michael Gove.

INTERVIEW ENDS




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