Education and Health

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 4:31 pm on 2nd June 2010.

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Education 4:31 pm, 2nd June 2010

That was a beautifully read question from the hon. Gentleman. As we know, he is a former headmaster of some distinction-indeed, he was headmaster of the school that the former Prime Minister attended-so I shall listen to what he has to say. It is crucial to ensure that we have high standards of teaching and learning. As I pointed out in a reply to my hon. Friend Mr Stuart, we are taking steps to ensure that we improve the quality of both recruitment and teacher training-that is central to our reform programme. That is why we will expand Teach First, institute a new programme called Teach Now and invest in continuous professional development to ensure that those who are currently in the classroom-they are doing a fantastic job-have the opportunity to enhance their skills and accept new responsibilities.

It is because we want to attract more talented people into the classroom that we will also remove the biggest barrier to people entering or staying in the teaching profession; we will focus relentlessly on improving school discipline. We will change the law on detentions so that teachers will no longer have to give parents 24 hours' notice before disciplining badly behaved pupils. We will change the law on the use of force and enhance teachers' search powers so that they will be able to prevent disruptive pupils from bringing items into school that are designed to disrupt learning. We will change the law to enhance teacher protection by giving teachers anonymity when they face potentially malicious allegations, and we will insist that allegations are either investigated within a tight time period or dropped. We will also change the law to ensure that heads have the powers that they need on exclusions, and we will ensure that there is improved provision for excluded pupils to get their lives back on track.

I hope that Lindsay Roy, and others who believe in protecting teachers and ensuring that we have good standards of discipline and behaviour, can support all those measures. I take it from his headshake that we have his enthusiastic assent. In addition to improving discipline, we will strengthen our exam system. We want to have fewer and better exams. We want to reverse the trend towards modularisation, reduce the role of coursework in certain subjects and ask universities to help us to design new and stretching A-levels that can compete with the best exams in the world.

Just as we plan to learn from the rest of the world in order to improve our exam system, so we will learn from the rest of the world in order to improve our school system. In America, President Barack Obama is pressing ahead with radical school reform on the model that we believe in. He is attracting more great people into teaching, demanding greater accountability for parents and welcoming new providers into state education. He has insisted on having more great charter schools-the American equivalent of our academies-to drive up attainment, especially among the poorest. He, along with other reformers, such as the Democrat Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the Democrat in charge of New York's schools, Joel Klein, and the Democrat in charge of Washington DC's schools, Michelle Rhee, wants more schools like the inspirational Knowledge is Power Programme-KIPP-schools, which are raising attainment in ghetto areas. Such schools are founded by teachers and funded by public money, but they are free from Government bureaucracy. They operate in neighbourhoods where, in the past, most children did not even make it to the end of high school. Now, thanks to these KIPP schools, a majority of these young people are going on to elite universities. These schools have a relentless focus on traditional subjects and a culture of no excuses, tough discipline and personalised pastoral care. The schools have enthusiastic staff, who are in charge of their own destiny and work hard to help every child to succeed. Such schools are amazing engines of social mobility, which is why we need more like them in this country.

That is, in turn, why we need to expand and accelerate the academies programme and why we are reforming state education to help groups of teachers, charities, philanthropists and community groups to set up new schools. It is also why I have been determined to give professionals more scope to drive improvement by inviting all schools to consider applying for academy freedoms. We have invited outstanding schools to lead the way.

I believe that heads and teachers, not politicians or bureaucrats, know best how to run schools, which is why I am passionate about extending freedom. Since I issued my invitation last week, I have been overwhelmed by the response. In less than one week, more than 1,100 schools have applied for academy freedoms, more than half of which are outstanding-626 outstanding schools, including more than 250 outstanding primaries. More than half the outstanding secondary schools in the country have applied, and more than 50 special schools have expressed an interest. That is a vote of confidence in greater professional autonomy from those driving improvement in our schools-inspirational head teachers.