Children, Schools and Families Bill

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 5:19 pm on 11th January 2010.

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families) 5:19 pm, 11th January 2010

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for evading the question again. We do not know where that £650 million will come from. Given that, according to the Chancellor, the Department's overall budget is to be cut, and given that the budgets for the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services and the TDA are to be cut, presumably the extra funding for the September guarantee will come from other parts of the right hon. Gentleman's own budget. [Interruption.] "Wriggling" is the word that I would use for what the right hon. Gentleman is doing. He is the person who spends his entire time boasting about-forgive me; advertising-his position on spending in a variety of newspaper interviews, and he is the person who explained in The Sunday Times that he would be funding improvements in education by sacking 3,000 head teachers. I should be interested to know whether he is still committed to that policy. Perhaps we shall find out in Committee.

I said earlier that we wanted to move away from a culture in which bureaucracy runs what happens in our schools to one in which we trust professionals more. We know that one of the reasons why professionals need more backing is the poor behaviour-the constant barracking and low-level conversation- [Laughter]-that they often face when attempting to bring enlightenment to the laggardly. One of the proposed instruments is home school agreements. We have long argued that they should be strengthened, and provisions in the Bill may open the door to some improvement in this regard. I again have concerns, however. The Secretary of State appears to want home school agreements to be drawn up as individualised contracts for every pupil in the school, for them to be drawn up every year, and in some cases for individualised contracts to be drawn up differently for each of the parents of a pupil and then redrawn every year. Is that not another potentially immense bureaucratic burden? The Association of School and College Leaders has pointed out that rewriting potentially thousands of home school contracts every year will once again take school leaders' time away from teaching and leading their institutions.

More than that, is not the whole point of a home school agreement to spell out what the school expects of every parent and pupil? Is not the whole point to assert a common ethos-a comprehensive spirit that is the mark of that school, and to which all pupils are expected to subscribe?

There is also the question of what happens if parents decline to sign the contract. I understand that under current law no parent can be forced to sign. If a parent declines to sign, they cannot be held to the obligations that they have not agreed to. Also, if parents know that they can decline to sign and can face no sanctions, why should they sign-and especially because everything they are alleged to want is guaranteed by law anyway by the Secretary of State?

One of the Secretary of State's other wheezes for involving parents is to have parental surveys. I am very keen on surveys on education. There was one in The Sunday Telegraph this weekend that pointed out that David Cameron is trusted more than Gordon Brown by some 12 percentage points to improve this country's education.

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