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

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. More broadly, I should point out that the Secretary of State's own children's plan makes it clear that it is families that bring up children, not the state. The rights of families should be respected, and I am not convinced that they are being respected by the proposals being introduced.

There are parts of the Bill to which the Conservatives have no objections. Such areas include the powers to intervene when youth offending teams fail and the ability of school governing bodies to establish academies-indeed, I thought that the Secretary of State made a superb case when outlining the importance of academies becoming exempt charities. I also think it is right that schools should be able to use delegated funds to provide community facilities, and the proposals to improve information sharing for local children's safeguarding boards seem sensible. We also share the Government's aspirations to ensure that children have all the skills and knowledge that the best personal, social and health education is supposed to impart, but we want to see more about precisely what is proposed. We differ from the Government in one respect: we believe that the right of parents to withdraw their children should not be eroded. We agree with Sir Alasdair Macdonald in that respect. [Interruption.] Exactly, we agree with his recommendation in that respect.

There are other areas, such as the primary curriculum, about which we have profound concerns about the direction the Government are taking, and we have advertised those elsewhere. At its heart, our objection to this legislation lies in our basic view that we should regulate less, trust professionals more and build on the excellence and diversity already on display in the schools system. Our philosophy for schools is simple:

"It is about schools feeling ownership of their own future, the power and the responsibility that comes from being free to chart their own course, experiment, innovate, doing things differently: the decision-makers in their own destiny not the recipients of a pre-destined formula laid down by Government."

That was the case made by Tony Blair to the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust in 2006. It is a principled vision that I entirely endorse, and I am sorry only that the Secretary of State's Bill departs from it so profoundly.

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