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Michael Gove: It's time for modern compassionate Conservative education policy

Speaking today at Conservative Party conference in Blackpool today, Shadow Children's Secretary Michael Gove will say:

"Can I first of all say what a pleasure it is to speak after Grant?

He is a superb campaigner - utterly dedicated to giving a new generation of young people the chance to own their own home.

In the eighties our country was improved immeasurably for the better by Margaret Thatcher. She spread home ownership and opportunity more widely than ever before. And Grant's passion in that cause is a reminder that her legacy is safest in the hands of those who believe in it - heart and soul - the Conservative Party.

It's opportunity I want to talk about today - specifically the way in which we can transform education in Britain to make opportunity a reality for everyone.


For some politicians education is a passion. For others it's a priority.

For me it's my life story.

I come from a family where no-one had ever gone on to higher education. Both my parents left school early. My mum worked in a jewellers' shop, my dad joined his father and brothers in the Aberdeen fish trade.

But thanks to their hard work, and sacrifices, I was given the support and encouragement to read, to discover, to dream.

Brilliant teachers, whose names and lessons I still remember, gave me one of the most precious gifts of all - knowledge - and with it the chance to shape my own future.

I was able to go to university - to enjoy opportunities my parents had only dreamt of, and their parents could never have conceived of.

And those experiences have left me with an abiding belief in the power of learning to transform lives, and our world, for the better.

Education is the process which turns childhood dreams into glittering prizes, schools the places where we give our children the chance to write their own life stories - nothing is more important.

And no-one is more deserving of our support than the dedicated teams who serve in our schools - the heads, teachers, classroom assistants, the governors and support staff - their vocation is our mission - a better future for every child in a world where learning has never been more crucial.


The world in which my children are growing up is a place of dizzying change - where the quality of education will be decisive.

We are living through an exhilarating age of discovery and exploration - even more exciting than the age of Drake and Raleigh or the time of Scott and Shackleton. They ventured to the hidden corners of the globe, but now we are travelling further - penetrating the mysteries of creation itself.

The mapping of the human genome creates the potential for advances which could eliminate suffering and misery for millions . We are on the brink of breakthroughs in particle physics which could lay bare the secrets of the universe. Scientific innovation is driving improvements in every sphere of our existence.

The human brain is accomplishing amazing things - and the new world being created is one in which brainpower dictates our destiny - which is why it is our responsibility to give young minds the best possible training.

In the ever more competitive world which globalisation has created we dare not waste talent. If our society is to prosper, be secure and continue to offer opportunity we have to stay ahead of the competition.

Two billion people in Asia are developing the institutions that made Britain great - the rule of law, independent courts, property rights - and investing massively in education and science, as we did in the 19th Century.

The next generation of British workers will face the most competitive economic environment in world history. If we do not modernise our schools and universities, British workers will lose their livelihood and high quality jobs will start leaving.

I believe the organizations which will shape the future - the Googles, the Intels and Microsofts of the next century - can be British - but only if we take action now.

In recent years, however, we have been falling behind.

In Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Norway, the United States and even Poland the number of young people going to university is far higher than the proportion who go here

Currently nearly half of our children leave primary school - at the age of eleven - unable to read, write or add up properly.

Last year half of sixteen year olds failed to get five good GCSE passes including Maths and English - the basic level of accomplishment required to get on in life - tragically not met.

We simply cannot afford to go on like this. Our society will be on a downward path to decline, poorer materially, and culturally, unless we change course now - and give our children the education they deserve.


And for me that mission is not just imperative because of the way the world is changing - its also crucial for reasons of social justice.

Over a hundred years ago the great Conservative statesman Benjamin Disraeli wrote a novel called Sybil - or The Two Nations.

In that book he wrote of -

Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones or inhabitants of different planets;


Disraeli's writing was driven by moral fervour and he shaped a politics designed to overcome that division between rich and poor - to bring society together. His politics - the Tory politics of One Nation are mine. And I believe they've never been more needed.

Because there is a growing divide in our nation, between the rich and poor, which should be healed by education - but which is being made worse by our education system.

The gap in academic achievement between those pupils from poorer homes and the rest widens as children go through school. By the time they sit their GCSEs, children from the poorest homes will have fallen further and further behind their contemporaries.

We cannot afford to allow the scandal of a system which deepens division to go on.

In the world being shaped by globalisation those with degrees and skills can prosper, those without face losing even what little opportunity they have today.

Instead of two nations, instead of the educationally rich and the knowledge poor, sheep and goats, the fortunate and the forgotten,

We should have an education system which overcomes disadvantage, unlocks talent and unites our country. That is my vision and it should be our mission.


So the modern world makes education reform imperative and the human spirit of compassion means that opportunity must be spread more widely.

But how can we improve our schools?

I believe we can do it best by trusting our core British principles of enterprise, fair play and putting families first.

We know, I certainly know, that no-one cares more about a child's education than parents. So we will make the changes necessary to give parents meaningful choice, and more control, over where and how their children are taught.

We will tear down the bureaucratic barriers which prevent new schools being built, and remove the administrative obstacles which currently prevent charities, churches, voluntary groups and others from providing the new schools parents want and children need.

From Sweden to New York, it's conservative politicians have ushered in an age of real school choice with hundreds of new schools coming in to the state sector to provide parents with real control over their children's future. We will make sure these schools are open to all, and can open anywhere.

And to ensure that our reforms are targeted to help those most in need, we will change the funding rules so that those schools which accept more pupils from disadvantaged background receive more money.

Increasing the number of good school places, offering real choice to parents, giving them control, has helped transform standards and extend opportunity in countries across the globe.

But we have to be honest. These changes will take time before they can bring the huge improvements we've seen elsewhere. And we can't afford to wait. For my daughter, just starting out at primary school, and all her generation, we need to secure improvements now.

Which is why we're not waiting until we get into Government to bring about the changes we need..

Today we're launching a campaign - Comprehensively Excellent - in which we identify some of the very best state schools in the country and identify the qualities which help make them a success.

As well as celebrating their success we're going to campaign for the qualities which make them successful to be adopted more widely.


The foundation of every successful school is good discipline. Unless you have proper behaviour in school, proper respect for authority, proper respect for other pupils, then teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn.

So we'll ensure heads have the power to exclude disruptive students without being second-guessed by someone outside the school.

What does it do the very principle of authority in a school when the headmaster's wishes can be over-ruled to favour troublemakers and thugs? In Manchester last year one boy, expelled for carrying a knife, was allowed by an appeals panel to return to his old school in defiance of the headmaster's wishes. What message does that send, what lesson does that teach children about respect for authority?

Under a Conservative Government that sort of nonsense would end. The balance of power in the classroom will shift back to the teacher. Instead of children carrying weapons, we'll give teachers the tools to restore order.

And one other thing. We've allowed a situation to arise where many teachers have had their careers blighted and their lives ruined by young troublemakers and thugs making false claims of abuse in order to escape the punishment they deserve. No more. We will legislate to ensure that any teacher who's the victim of allegations enjoys full anonymity until the case is settled. Once again, in the classroom, we will shift the balance of power, so its the trouble-maker who has something to fear not the teacher.


There's another way in which we'll shift the balance in our schools -

we'll make it easier once more to do proper competitive team sports, easier to go on outward bound our out of classroom trips, easier to bring adventure back into learning.

I share the fear that our children are being brought up in a world where they are so insulated from adventure, so restricted by health and safety rules, that they never learn to manage risk. Because they cannot find it in the safe environment of school, some seek risk in the dangerous environments of gang culture.

So we will make it easier for all schools to do what the best want to - bring back adventure. We will change the law to shift the balance against the health and safety bureaucrats, to dismantle the

compensation culture, to let our children enjoy the wind in their hair and the thrill of testing themselves outside their comfort zones.


We will never forget however, that it is what happens in the classroom which marks out the best schools And that's why we're campaigning now for the adoption of the teaching methods which mark out the very best.

Setting by ability so that the strongest can be stretched and the weakest given extra help.

Rigour in the curriculum so that every child has access to the best of what has been thought and written.

Freedom for good teachers to inspire and experiment, liberated from a bureaucracy which is stifling the spirit of learning.

And we will tackle that bureaucracy at its heart. Under this Government we have education bureaucrats whose approach to learning is rooted in discredited sixties ideology.

So we have five-minute lessons because children are assumed to be incapable of paying attention.

Children marking each others work because that's assumed to be more liberating.

And Churchill written out of the curriculum because he's assumed to be yesterday's man.

Who do these people think they are - playing games with our children's future and denying them knowledge of our nation's past?

Under a Conservative Government we'll have a curriculum that delivers on the basics, equips the next generation for a world of change and gives them back the chance to take pride in our country's history. Anything else would be a betrayal.


There's another crucial change we'll make - in an area we've campaigned on constantly over the last two years. We will secure a better deal for every child with special needs.

We'll put parents in the driving seat when it comes to the process of statements and assessments, end the bureaucratic nightmare which prevails at the moment and, crucially, we will put a stop to the closure of special schools.

The dogmatic policy of forced inclusion is wrong. Parents should have a choice. Every child is not the same. For those children who need the environment of a special school to help them face life's challenges and grow into happy, confident, adults a Conservative Goverment will always be there.


Each of the changes will make is driven by our vision - our belief -

modern, compassionate, conservatism

Modern - because the world has changed and so must we.

Compassionate - because our philosophy is rooted in respect for the innate worth of every individual.

Conservative - because our values are grounded in the common sense of the British people.

Modern Compassionate Conservatism

a vision of change, optimism and hope

a programme which is tough, practical and fair

a principled alternative to the failed politics of bureaucratic

conformity, central compulsion and establishment complacency

Modern Compassionate Conservatism

Right for our times

Right for our country

Doing what we know to be right in our hearts...."

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