On the Politics Show, Sunday 02 March 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed Michael Gove MP
BBC One's Politics Show interview with Michael Gove MP on school admissions and the 'I Want A Referendum' campaign results.
The Politics Show interviewed the Shadow Children's Minister, Michael Gove as hundreds of thousands of parents wait to hear if they have got their child into the secondary school of their choice..
He confirmed the Conservative Party would rule out ballots to decide which child gets into which school.
On the vote on the Lisbon Treaty next week, Mr Gove was asked if the Conservatives would pledge to hold a referendum on it - even after Parliament had ratified it.
He said "I sincerely hope that we win... If we fail, then we won't let matters stand".
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.
JON SOPEL: In the next couple of days, hundreds of thousands of parents in England find out if they've got their child into the secondary school of their choice.
It's a process that causes a huge amount of heart-ache for those involved. Last year, on average, 82% got their first choice.
Although in some areas - most notably in the inner cities - that percentage was much, much lower. The Shadow Children's minister is Michael Gove, and he's with us now.
MICHAEL GOVE: Good afternoon.
JON SOPEL: 82% getting their first choice. That's a pretty good record isn't it.
MICHAEL GOVE: It's not nearly enough. We've actually got a hundred thousand parents last year, finding that they've been denied the choice of school that they wanted for their child.
And as you quite rightly point out, if you look at some areas of real deprivation and disadvantage, if you look at areas like Southwark or Lewisham in London, you'll find that as many of half of parents aren't getting their children in to the school that they want and that's because we simply don't have enough good school places and it's particularly acute as a problem in areas as I say of poverty, deprivation and disadvantage.
JON SOPEL: And one of the solutions that a place like Brighton is trying to sort out for this is to have a lottery, whereby it's not just how close you live to the playground that gets you in to the good school, it's a lottery within a given certain area. You're opposed to that. Why?
MICHAEL GOVE: Completely opposed to lotteries because lotteries aren't a way of solving this problem. With a lottery all you're basically trying to do is come up with an ingenious scheme to allocate a small number of good school places and rather than trying to devote intellectual energy, to basically cutting up a small cake, trying to allocate that limited number of good school places, what we argue is that you need to increase the quality of education across that particular area.
We need to welcome new people in, who are willing to provide superior education and we also need to ensure that in the existing schools, proper policies are implemented which ensure that parents get the sort of school that they want for the children.
JON SOPEL: So you'd ban lottery?
MICHAEL GOVE: Yes.
JON SOPEL: Even though, it is at the moment, the most obvious way to get a mix of people from different background across a certain education authority area.
MICHAEL GOVE: They're completely inequitable and unfair lotteries. You could have a situation ┐ (interjection)
JON SOPEL: Aren't they, aren't they totally fair and equitable because it's a random thing about whether you get in, not whether you bought a very expensive house because it's right next to a certain school, where you will get your child in to?
MICHAEL GOVE: Would you like the fate of your children to be decided by the spin of the roulette wheel or the roll of the dice. No, and neither would I. I think that one of the key problems with lotteries is that they reduce almost one of the most important decisions that any parent is going to make for their child, in to a matter of chance.
My own view is that education should be about involving parents more in what happens in schools, not reducing their involvement to simply waiting to see if they get the right ticket. And there's a real unfairness as well in lotteries, in that you can have a child who lives just five yards away from a school, frog marched to a different school, miles away and then a child who's five thousand yards from that school, taking their place. There's no certainty and no fairness in that system.
JON SOPEL: This isn't the Tory party defending those parents who've paid a hundred thousand pound premium or whatever it is on their house, so that they are within the catchment area of the nice middle class state school, while all the poor kids go to the sink schools, somewhere else in the borough?
MICHAEL GOVE: I challenge the assumption behind that question, which is that it's ┐
JON SOPEL: What, you don't think people pay premiums on houses to be near good schools?
MICHAEL GOVE: What I do think is that you're wrong to say that deprivation automatically dictates what will happen in a particular school and it's not just me who disagrees with you, as it happens, Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary also disagrees.
There are superb schools which manage to educate children from backgrounds of deprivation and disadvantage and get the best results in the country. Mossborne Academy in Hackney takes a disproportionate number of children who are on free school meals and who have special educational needs, and yet last week we saw that it came top in the country, when it comes to the Key Stage 3 results.
So its fourteen year olds are better educated than in any other school. Why? Not because of its intake, not because it has a set number of middle class or working class kids. But because its ethos is right. It teaches in a traditional way. Proper school uniforms, setting by ability, appropriate discipline and an academic curriculum, and what Mossborne Academy can do in Hackney, we can do elsewhere, if only we ensure that schools have the power to innovate in the way that Mossborne has.
JON SOPEL: What about faith schools where it seems that they're also creaming off the middle class kids and we heard David Cameron, not exactly condemning those parents who lie about their faith to get their kids in to one of these faith schools.
MICHAEL GOVE: Well, I don't think he was condemning parents, and I don't think he should condemn parents because we want to have parents, wanting the best for their children┐. (interjection)
JON SOPEL: So it's okay to lie about your faith to get your ┐┐ (interjection)
MICHAEL GOVE: No, it's never okay to lie about, about anything. But the key thing is, what I object to and what David Cameron objects to is making parents the villain of the piece. What is wrong with wanting the best for your child's education. What's wrong with doing everything possible to get them in to a good school and having an involvement with that school.
The other thing is, we have to ask why faith schools do well instead of punishing parents, why don't we ask some tough questions about why it is that faith schools succeed. What is it about their ethos and their independence that we can learn from and apply elsewhere.
JON SOPEL: Okay. What about what a school adjudicator has said about closing schools where over 50% of children are receiving free school meals because that is a sign that that school has just got too much of a concentration of poor people in it. Would you support that?
MICHAEL GOVE: No, I wouldn't. I think that the school adjudicator's got that wrong. It's absolutely the case that when you have concentrations of deprivation, that you need additional help and that's why we propose a pupil premium.
More money, specifically for those pupils who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, so that schools can do more to educate them, provide for example, breakfast clubs, wrap around hours, Saturday morning schooling to help stretch them, but I completely reject the assumption behind the school adjudicator's comments which seem to say that essentially, if kids come, children come from a poor background they can't do well academically. I think that's what an American president called the "soft bigotry of low expectations".
JON SOPEL: I want to briefly ask you about one other subject which is the issue of Europe which we've just been discussing.
MICHAEL GOVE: Yes.
JON SOPEL: Seems that there's a very strong appetite for this referendum. Why doesn't David Cameron come out today and say, next Conservative government, we'll offer that referendum, irrespective of whether the government gets its legislation through this week or not?
MICHAEL GOVE: Well, you're asking the Labour Party question, which is an attempt to divert attention from the fact ┐
JON SOPEL: I'm just asking a question that if there is a big desire, why not say there will be one?
MICHAEL GOVE: Well, it's a question that Gordon Brown asks at Prime Minister's Question time when he fails to answer the more important question which is, why can't we have a referendum now. There's a ┐ (interjection) ┐
JON SOPEL: And I was asking Bill Rammell that question ┐
MICHAEL GOVE: Yeah.
JON SOPEL: ┐ so let me ask you that question again ┐
MICHAEL GOVE: Yeah,- and he didn't give you a proper answer did he.
JON SOPEL: Well ┐. But I ┐
MICHAEL GOVE: And we know what the country wants ┐
JON SOPEL: So you're not going to give me a proper answer.
MICHAEL GOVE: Yeah. I, I'll tell you. I stood at the last election on the basis that we should have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. We got an opportunity, I'll be voting in the House of Commons on Wednesday, in order to have a referendum. The real question is, why won't the government give us what they offered. Now, we'll see what happens in that vote. I sincerely hope that we win. As Derek Scott pointed out, there are enough Liberals who are prepared ┐, (interjection) ┐
JON SOPEL: And what ┐
MICHAEL GOVE: ┐ to honour their promise and there are Labour MPs who are prepared to honour their promise as well. If we fail, then we won't let matters stand.
JON SOPEL: We will see what that means over the coming months. Michael Gove, thank you very much indeed.
MICHAEL GOVE: Thank you.
Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.
NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.
Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.
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The Politics Show Sunday 02 March 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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