School teaching and funding overhaul planned in England

Michael Gove: "The government has a duty to intervene when schools are failing"

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Plans to overhaul the way teachers are trained in England and how schools are funded will be set out later as part of the government's education White Paper.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said he wanted to restore "the prestige, the esteem, the importance of teaching".

As part of the plans, former troops will be offered sponsorship to retrain as teachers, and there will be new aptitude tests for the profession.

Labour has accused Mr Gove of creating a competitive and segregated system.

One of the proposals is to raise the threshold at which schools are considered to be "failing" to fewer than 35% of pupils achieving five GCSEs graded A* to C.

Currently, the level is 30% and, based on 2009 data, the change would affect 439 schools. However, those below the standard but "making good progress" would get leeway.

Mr Gove told the BBC it was "not right" to have schools where two-thirds of children were not getting five basic GCSEs.

"Our approach is going to be more sophisticated than the last government," he said. "If a school has a really tough intake but it's still making tremendous progress, then we won't be classifying it as under performing.

"But if a school is under performing then we need to make sure the head there gets the support he needs, so we are doubling the number of super heads, outstanding head teachers, in other schools who can come in help and raise the bar on achievement."

Soldier teachers

The education secretary has already indicated he intends to force weak schools to become academies - managed outside local authority control - and will increase the number of top head teachers helping struggling schools from 393 to 1,000 by 2014.

Start Quote

The one thing that marks out anyone who has been a leader, whether an officer or NCO in the army, is they know how to inspire and instruct young people”

End Quote Michael Gove Education Secretary

Mr Gove said ministers would work to end what he called "one of the most unequal school systems in the world".

"One of the most stunning statistics that tells us so much about our education system is the fact that out of 80,000 children eligible for free school meals last year, just 40 made it to Oxbridge," he said.

"One of the missions of this coalition government is to make opportunity more equal and to ensure that the current two-tier education system ends."

In opposition, the Conservatives talked about the merits of former soldiers in the classroom to instil order and inspire pupils.

They praised a US scheme known as Troops to Teachers which retrains soldiers with a minimum of 10 years' experience, and a degree, as fully qualified teachers.

The government is now planning to adopt a version of the scheme by paying full course costs for any former member of the armed forces to retrain as a teacher.

Andy Burnham: "He's very much prioritising academic qualifications over vocational and I think that's a big mistake"

Mr Gove told the BBC those people who had served in uniform were "among the finest young men and women we have in this country".

"The one thing that marks out anyone who has been a leader, whether an officer or NCO in the army, is they know how to inspire and instruct young people," he said.

"We know discipline is a problem in some of our schools. I cannot think of anything better than getting people who know all about self-discipline, team work and a sense of pride into our schools to compliment the already huge number of great teachers we have at the moment."

The White Paper will also set out plans to move back towards single, final GCSE exams, slim down the national curriculum and overhaul school funding.

Mr Gove said: "We need to move away from a system we've had over the last 20 years where ministers and bureaucrats dictate everything that's happening in schools and we need once more to restore the prestige, the esteem, the importance of teaching.

"And so we will reform teacher training, we will ensure the curriculum meets teachers' needs but also we will liberate teachers and schools to do what they do best."

'Quiet revolutionary'

However, shadow education secretary Andy Burnham said Mr Gove was creating a "competitive, fragmented and segregated schools system".

"There will be winners but there will also be losers. I don't think education has to be like that. I want to have all schools as good schools and I'm not convinced Michael Gove has a plan to make that a reality," he said.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said Mr Gove's plans to cancel schools building programmes, cut school sports programmes and force schools to compete with each other had attracted critics.

But he said the education secretary was proving a "quiet revolutionary", pressing ahead with "ripping up the way England's schools are funded, the way teachers are trained and the way exams are set".

"He presents his vision as little more than common sense. His opponents say it is an ideological attack on our schools system."

Other measures expected to be detailed in the White Paper are:

  • Greater powers for teachers to search for banned items and hand out no-notice detentions, while clarifying rights to restrain pupils physically
  • Anonymity for teachers being investigated for inappropriate behaviour, to protect teachers from malicious allegations
  • Scrapping rules limiting head teachers' ability to observe teachers' lessons to three hours each year
  • Reform of teacher training, including the introduction of special teaching schools modelled on existing teaching hospitals
  • More assessment of teacher training applicants, including tests of character and emotional intelligence
  • Overhaul league tables to stop schools using vocational exams to boost their GCSE-level scores
  • Rank the proportion of pupils gaining the new baccalaureate - meaning they have obtained at least grade C in maths, English, a language, one science and one humanities subject
  • A new reading test for six-year-olds

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