BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Audio/Video: Programmes: Breakfast with Frost
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 
Programmes 

banner
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW
DAVID BLUNKETT MP EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT MINISTER OCTOBER 15TH, 2000

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST
And now joining us is the man himself, David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education. Good morning David.

DAVID BLUNKETT
What a wonderful welcome, good morning David.

DAVID FROST
Good to have you with us.

DAVID BLUNKETT
Thank you.

DAVID FROST
It looks from the papers today, is it true, that you finally won your battle over performance related pay?

DAVID BLUNKETT
Well we won't know this until the review body reports to us formally in the coming week but it is clear I think that the, the drift is in the right direction and I look forward very much in the next fortnight to be able to announce a programme of measures to get things back on track so that teachers can get the 2000 uplift so that they can access the new scales of pay for the future and that we can get that morale and motivation up which is so important.

DAVID FROST
How far back would you like to backdate it?

DAVID BLUNKETT
Well we said that we'll ensure that nobody loses out because of the delay so that people will receive the 2000 as though it had been applied from this September and that will, that will be the case whether this pushes into the new year or not. Obviously we've got to go through whatever processes the review body lays down to ensure that we don't run into any further difficulties.

DAVID FROST
But you would hope that that money is in the pay packets of the deserving teachers almost immediately it's approved in the new year?

DAVID BLUNKETT
Well if I could just mischievously say that I'm not going to spend it in the meantime so they can be assured they'll get it. I would very much like teachers to have got it by this Christmas for obvious reasons, if we can't we'll do so as quickly afterwards as we can.

DAVID FROST
But, but the money, you're not going to spend it, as David Seaman would say, it's in safe hands?

DAVID BLUNKETT
Well you could say that David, I couldn't possibly.

DAVID FROST
No, no, you, you're a Sheffield Wednesday supporter, the new manager's not doing too well at the moment?

DAVID BLUNKETT
I hoped you wouldn't mention that.

DAVID FROST
I know.

DAVID BLUNKETT
It's very unkind.

DAVID FROST
A family sadness and I apologise for mentioning something so horrific. What about the subject of truancy David, is there anything you can do on that?

DAVID BLUNKETT
Well Jack Straw and I are working together on this because we both have new powers, the police have powers to pick youngsters up, we have powers in terms of getting them to court and ensuring that they know that we're taking this seriously and later in the week we're going to put a programme together. In the end however it's about changing the attitude and the view and the culture for parents, for families because a very high proportion of those who are found truanting are condoned by their parents or family. In fact a very high proportion of them are actually with a family member so we've got a big change to bring about here. But bearing in mind that we know that persistent truants end up without exams or without any qualifications, that 75 per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds who are out of work and out of training end up in court and in trouble with the law. So we're talking about a major correlation here between crime, often associated with drugs and the, the truancy that they've experienced at secondary level.

DAVID FROST
And in terms of secondary modern schools, as they used to be called, secondary schools as we'd call them now, but in terms of those boys and girls from 11 onwards, you're planning - in order to try and lift standards there, a set of tests for 12-year-olds, for about a third of 12-year-olds?

DAVID BLUNKETT
Yes for our comprehensive schools, what we want is, is not a test for its own sake but a test of whether that lost year has been recovered, the lost year being the first year of secondary schooling where we know that over 30 per cent of youngsters actually end up after that first year further behind on key areas like English and maths than when they came up from primary. Everybody's familiar now with the programme we've put in, I hope they are anyway, with English, maths for the primary level and it is working and as a consequence this year we got 75 per cent up to the appropriate level in English and 72 in maths. What we need to do is to carry that forward and we want to test at the end of the first year of secondary those who didn't reach that level but more importantly to put in place a whole programme of measures to make it possible for teachers to get them to that level. So we're experimenting in over 200 schools this term, we intend to have that across the country from next autumn, they get the materials, they get the in-service training, they'll get the back-up to make it possible and that'll give everyone a flying start in what education's about, which is broadening their ability to be able to take in not only facts but to be able to use them effectively in being a rational, civilised and well-educated human being.

DAVID FROST
There's, there was a landmark report on the 30th September David, about the words of Estelle Morris your School Standards Minister, when she said that state schools should try and raise their sights and emulate those in the independent sector which have high expectations of all children to adopt the ethos of having aspirations for every single child. And she went on to say "so in terms of the word like, yes we do like the independent sector in the same way that we like all the other sectors". Now that's a new refrain isn't it?

DAVID BLUNKETT
Well we want to adopt the best wherever it exists, the, the fortunate gain that private schools have is very often the aspiration and expectation passed on by parents and by the community they come from and we want to try and lift that expectation in every school which is why tomorrow I shall be announcing a whole range of new measures for inner-city schooling, not just in the big urban areas but also smaller clusters in places like Portsmouth where we can actually spread the good practice that we've found over the last two years is working. It's called Excellence in Cities, 870,000 secondary children will be subject to the support that's available, this is programmes where those offering welfare and family support, they're called mentors, are working from the secondary school with people at home. It's already working, it's working on that truancy drive that Jack and I will be talking about later this week but it's linked also to getting disruptive children out of the classroom, putting in learning support units, it's about gifted and talented children so that whichever school they go to they know their particular talent, their particular gift will be picked up, will be supported, will be helped both in school and out of school as well.

DAVID FROST
Right but David do you agree when, when Estelle Morris says there's been a huge cultural change in the party, New Labour respects the parents right to choose, no longer should party supporters feel they have to reject fee-paying schools for their children on principle, do you agree with that?

DAVID BLUNKETT
Well I spelt out over the last five years that I agree that we should go for excellence, that we should offer parents a real preference, that we should ensure in the end that anybody who chooses to go private does so because of a particular ethos, religious nature or family circumstance rather than because the school that their child would have gone to is providing an inadequate education and the drive we've put into primary and now we're transferring to secondary is designed to achieve what everyone of us would want for our own children, that's an excellent education, a disciplined ethos and environment within the school and a learning environment that takes those children forward so that they can succeed in later life. Now that's the aspiration, we're doing something about it.

DAVID FROST
Where do you stand on this current controversy over cannabis David, are you an Ann Widdecombe person, wanting everyone to be criminalised or are you a Charles Kennedy/Chief Constable's person who wants it decriminalised?

DAVID BLUNKETT
I wrote in my little light-hearted autobiography so far called "On a Clear Day" that when I was at university and doing my post-graduate teaching certificate I had enough challenges in life without getting stoned and therefore I didn't actually try it. I think that the debate will take place around the nature of, of the, the importance of getting across the message to young people. The real crisis in my constituency is with crack cocaine and heroine and it is totally disabling the lives of young people in a way which ensures the community as a whole as well as the individual is affected and disfigured for the future and that's the real challenge.

DAVID FROST
So that in fact Tony Blair in one paper says Cabinet Ministers can say whether or not he was forced to give the green light to other ministers who want to confess to their own use of the drug, but you have no confessions to make on that score this morning?

DAVID BLUNKETT
I'm terribly sorry to disappoint you.

DAVID FROST
Oh it's a terrible disappointment, a terrible disappointment. Tell me one of the things we were discussing earlier on and in fact Peter was saying when looking at the papers, all these headlines about what Geoffrey Robinson in his new book is going to say about Peter Mandelson and so on, after the trouble over the last book, the Andrew Rawnsley book, you need this new book like a hole in the wall don't you?

DAVID BLUNKETT
Well my view is that those who have benefited a great deal from politics or are in a position because of their wealth to be able to enjoy a comfortable life, whatever happens, need to bear in mind the people in the constituencies like mine who rely on a Labour government to have a job, to have a decent education, a health service to be proud of and then reflect on what self-indulgence means for those people we represent.

DAVID FROST
And is, but it's going to be pretty uncomfortable for everybody and Peter Mandelson in particular but everybody in Labour as this comes out day-by-day next week, will you read it?

DAVID BLUNKETT
Well I, I'll probably read some of the extracts, if only to be equipped to know what depths we've fallen to in terms of personality politics, in terms of who likes who and who doesn't, who's going to try and make mischief about someone else's future. Those things are totally irrelevant to the electorate, they are irrelevant to the task we have of building a Britain in which everyone has equality of opportunity and a modern Britain that will take us forward in being able to compete in the rest of the world.

DAVID FROST
David thank you very much indeed.

DAVID BLUNKETT
Thank you David.

END

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE











E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Breakfast with Frost stories