Help
BBC NewsAndrew Marr Show

MORE PROGRAMMES

Page last updated at 11:25 GMT, Sunday, 4 September 2011 12:25 UK

Transcript of Michael Gove Interview

THE ANDREW MARR SHOW, MICHAEL GOVE, MP, EDUCATION SECRETARY

SEPTEMBER 4th 2011

ANDREW MARR:

The Education Secretary Michael Gove once promised "a superb new school in every community" - which is not something that of course can be delivered overnight, but the first wave of the new free schools are opening this week. Whether they measure up to Mr Gove's ambitions will take time to judge. They're centrally funded, outside local authority control, and these schools have a lot of freedom, therefore, over what they teach and how they teach it. But their critics say free schools are an ideological distraction. Well Michael Gove is with me now. Good morning.

MICHAEL GOVE:

Hi.

ANDREW MARR:

Lots to talk about on free schools. But I know that you sit for an English seat, but you are Scottish and you are a Conservative, and therefore I must ask you, to start with, about this interesting Sunday Telegraph story by Alan Cochrane, a very fine reporter - 'Tories set to disband in Scotland' - saying that the name 'Conservative' may go in Scotland.

MICHAEL GOVE:

Yes.

ANDREW MARR:

Is this something that you recognise or would welcome?

MICHAEL GOVE:

Well it's a while actually since we've had in the same sentence the words 'exciting', 'intellectual debate', 'innovation' and 'Scottish Conservatives' (Marr laughs) and what this story reflects is the fact that actually the Scottish Conservative party is where the action is now in terms of opposition to the SNP. And critically …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But why are they abolishing themselves though?

MICHAEL GOVE:

Well inevitably when you've got a newspaper as elegantly composed as the Sunday Telegraph, then they'll put a little bit of hype into the headline. The truth is that we're not talking about the dissolution of the Conservatives north of the border. One and only one of the leadership candidates - a very bright guy called Murdo Fraser - is suggesting that the Scottish Conservative Party look at the fact that there are more folk who are naturally in tune with Conservative values that happen to vote for the Conservative Party. So some things clearly he believes needs to change. But one of the things I've learnt as a politician from Scotland but representing an English constituency is that the reality of devolution means that you should allow the party in Scotland to determine its own destiny, and critically we do need to have an effective force north of the border challenging both the danger of separatism that we get from the SNP and also making sure that you have a party that's championing high education standards, lower taxes, and the broad set of values that the majority of mainstream Scotland would like to see championed in opposition to a high tax, separatist, socialist SNP.

ANDREW MARR:

So you could see a different party? Not the Conservative Party, not the Scottish Conservatives, but something called something entirely different emerging in Scotland, but no doubt with lots of current Scottish Conservatives inside it?

MICHAEL GOVE:

It's a decision for the Scottish Conservative Party what its future should be. But I believe …

ANDREW MARR:

What should the name be?

MICHAEL GOVE:

Well … (laughs)

ANDREW MARR:

Give us a name.

MICHAEL GOVE:

By definition, given that it's their decision, it would be wrong for me to poke in and to say well I'm your Fairy Godfather and this is the name that I'm bestowing on you. What we're seeing at the moment is on the right of the spectrum in Scotland a revival, intellectually and politically, which is being led by Murdo, by Ruth Davidson, by Jackson Carlow, by some very impressive young politicians, and I think that we should welcome the fact that it's the Conservative Party north of the border, as it is the Conservative Party in England …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) So is this just rebranding?

MICHAEL GOVE:

… where the action is.

ANDREW MARR:

Is this just rebranding then?

MICHAEL GOVE:

No. What you're seeing in Scotland is an examination of what the policies are now. That we have a majority SNP government potentially threatening the union, potentially taking Scotland in a very left wing direction. We need action. The Labour Party's absent from the fight.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) So how does it help to break up the Conservative and Unionist Party then?

MICHAEL GOVE:

Well I think if you look at what Murdo Fraser is saying, he wants to put the argument for the United Kingdom in the context of the changes that the SNP are attempting to make and in the context of a devolutionary settlement. So you've got to ask some tough questions about what it is that we can do in order to better put the message for the majority of people in Scotland who are, as we both know having grown up there, keen to be part of the United Kingdom, keen to make devolution work, but keen above all to ensure that economic growth returns, and above all that we get the sort of education reforms in Scotland that we're enjoying in England.

ANDREW MARR:

Now you said that you weren't the Fairy Godmother of the Scottish Conservatives, but you are the Fairy Godfather of the free schools in English education system. This has been your idea. We've got twenty-four free schools starting up and down the country, a tiny number to start with. Is it the case that these schools are going to be obliged to mirror the social make-up or pattern of children in their area? Will they have to have the same proportion of children on free school meals, for instance, as other schools around them?

MICHAEL GOVE:

No, they're going to do better than that actually in most cases. What we've seen so far with free schools is that they have been overwhelmingly located in the most disadvantaged areas, and in those areas they've (in many cases) exceeded, even though they've only been set up in the course of the last year, the number of children from disadvantaged homes. So take one of the most controversial: Toby Young's West London Free School. It has more children eligible for free school meals attending that school than is the average for the borough. Overall if you look at these schools, nearly two thirds of them are in Labour areas.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But are you going to …

MICHAEL GOVE:

(over) More than half of them are in the poorest parts of the country.

ANDREW MARR:

Are you going to put rules and limits on them from the centre, or are they going to be free to do all of that?

MICHAEL GOVE:

They are free. And they've specified …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) And they're free … Sorry …

MICHAEL GOVE:

Of course.

ANDREW MARR:

… just on the freedom aspect of it. They're free to teach broadly speaking what they want, I mean in terms of a wide curriculum and all the rest of it. They don't have to have teachers who are actually trained as teachers. What about schools that perhaps go down ideological routes? What about schools that decide that Darwinism is all nonsense and they're going to teach Creationism? What about schools that are Islamic and, while staying just about within the law, preach very, very hardcore Islamist values to young children? Are they going to be allowed?

MICHAEL GOVE:

Well I've been crystal clear that we should not have schools which are set up by extremists whether they're Christian fundamentalists, Islamic fundamentalists or any other sort of outrageous and beyond the pale organisation. We've set up a unit within the Department for Education explicitly to monitor anyone who comes forward with a proposal for extremism. It's more rigorous actually in the allocation of public money than any previous government department has been. In the last government, we had money going to extremist groups, as we now know as a review of the allocation of money that was supposed to go to fight terrorism. Now we have a unit in place to prevent that. And critically …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Using MI5, I read.

MICHAEL GOVE:

Correct. We have been working with people who have been in the Intelligence Services in order to ensure that there is no-one from the wrong sort of background involved in education. And, I should add, not just with the free schools. There have been one or two disturbing cases with existing state schools where people have been trying to subvert them. But critically, I'm passionate about science and I'm determined to make sure that our country becomes more cohesive, and as a result I've said that we will not sign any funding agreements with these organisations. More than that. We are reviewing the science curriculum, the national curriculum overall, to make sure that there is no space for the teaching of wackoidal theories, and it's also the case that I'm making sure that public money is effectively spent on people who are seeking to help the poorest.

ANDREW MARR:

Right …

MICHAEL GOVE:

And talking about (inaudible) areas, we've got a school opening in Bradford being opened by an amazing guy called Sajid Hussein, who is an Oxford graduate. His dad was a bus conductor. He's now opening a school in the very poorest area and children from Muslim and other backgrounds are now going to have the chance to go to great universities in an area that's been deprived of great schooling for far too long.

ANDREW MARR:

Sounds like a great story, but to really change the system you need hundreds of these kinds of schools and it's going to be very hard for you to do that if people are not able to make profits out of running schools. Are you ideologically personally opposed to good education, companies providing education around the world, making a modest profit, coming into this market to do the same here? And if so, why?

MICHAEL GOVE:

I'm a pragmatist, not an ideologue, so I don't have any particular opposition to involving any organisation that is going to improve our education. However, we don't need to have profit making organisations involved at the moment because we have organisations which are philanthropic, which are public spirited.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Can I put it to you that that's wrong - that you don't have enough people coming into this market fast enough to really make the change without allowing profits?

MICHAEL GOVE:

You can put it to me, but you'd be wrong to because the truth is that there are twenty-four schools opening after only a year and a bit of our coalition government. It took Blair - great man though he was - five years to get the same number of academies. Margaret Thatcher and John Major didn't even get that number of city technology colleges after nine years. And also …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) I'm asking you about free schools and you have elegantly, if I may say so, moved off to the question of academies, which is different. Can I just return to free schools?

MICHAEL GOVE:

(over) No, no, no, but the other thing … But no, no. Twenty-four …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) It is said … Just on this …

MICHAEL GOVE:

Sure.

ANDREW MARR:

It is said that the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Nicholas Clegg, has said that he will not have, he will not accept free schools if there is any kind of profit motive involved and that you've had to back down and allow him that concession.

MICHAEL GOVE:

Well Nick Clegg and I are completely agreed on this. The Conservative election manifesto said that we didn't need to have profit at the moment. Nick doesn't believe that we need to have profit at the moment, and we don't. Actually it's not a big barrier.

ANDREW MARR:

And in the future?

MICHAEL GOVE:

Well we're in a coalition now and we're working to ensure that we get more free schools. And at the moment we've had more than 280 applications for the next round. I'm expecting that we'll have a significant additional number of free schools. The real barrier is not profit making. It's an argument that's happening in some newspapers. The real barrier actually are planning laws that we have at the moment which restrict the necessary growth both of the education sector and also of the new homes that we need. That's why the planning performance that Eric Pickles is putting forward are so important. It's why it's so regrettable that you know there are some people who as it were can't see the wood for the trees.

ANDREW MARR:

Shire counties Tories. Anyway …

MICHAEL GOVE:

No but this is critical, critical Andrew. One of the great things about the coalition is that normally when you've got planning issues, you will have Tories and Lib-Dems seeking advantage, one on the other, saying we'll stand up for this part of this shire or we'll stand up for that part of this shire. A coalition with Tories and Liberal Democrats together is a golden opportunity to create the sort of planning reform that means not only can we have more environmentally sensitive planning, but we can have more homes and more schools.

ANDREW MARR:

Now I must ask you about one of the other big things that you've been talking about recently, which is discipline in schools, and you've said that the regime has changed, the world has changed, and that the notion that teachers could exert no kind of physical involvement with children has gone.

MICHAEL GOVE:

Totally.

ANDREW MARR:

Now what does this mean in practice? For instance, a teacher sees two children fighting. Now that teacher is able to go up and physically separate the children, I presume?

MICHAEL GOVE:

Yes.

ANDREW MARR:

What about if one of the children is kind of fighting back and is obstreperous. Is the teacher than allowed to take the child and bang and push him up against a wall to restrain him? And who decides on that kind of thing?

MICHAEL GOVE:

The critical question that you put is I presume that you can restrain them at the moment. Actually in all too many cases people don't.

ANDREW MARR:

No, no, I'm saying under the new regime, you'll be able … the teacher will be able to push the children aside.

MICHAEL GOVE:

They certainly will.

ANDREW MARR:

But what I'm asking is the exact amount of physical restraint used by the teacher is going to be something that's argued about - may end up in court, I don't know. How is that going to be resolved and how do you see that?

MICHAEL GOVE:

Well at the moment the problem is that there are far too many occasions where teachers believe that they should exercise physical restraint and they're not able to, and the natural common sense that you or I would exercise as an adult - and particularly if we were trained teachers that we would deploy in the classroom - isn't capable of being deployed. The last government was going to bring in provisions which would have meant that every time that there was any exercise of physical restraint, it had to be recorded in this immensely complicated and bureaucratic way. Now no longer. Of course you can't engage in the sort of physical abuse that would be criminal in any context, but what you can do and what you must do as a teacher …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) So common sense is what you're saying.

MICHAEL GOVE:

Total common sense …

ANDREW MARR:

And moderate.

MICHAEL GOVE:

A restoration of common sense.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright. Michael Gove, thank you very much indeed for joining us this morning.

INTERVIEW ENDS




FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit