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Michael Gove - Conservative Shadow Schools and Families Minister - live on Mumsnet this Thursday 29th, 1-2pm

(271 Posts)
JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 26-Apr-10 12:50:50

Michael Gove is the shadow secretary of state for children, schools and families and a key part of David Cameron's Shadow Cabinet team, responsible for Conservative policy on education and child protection. He is the Tory candidate in Surrey Heath.

One of the centrepiece's of the Conservatives election manifesto is allowing parents and other providers to set up schools with state funding, about which there's been lots of discussion on Mumsnet. Other pledges include 10,000 extra university places, allowing state schools to offer the International Baccalaureate and a moratorium on the closure of special schools.

Born in Edinburgh in 1967 and brought up in Aberdeen. He's married to Times writer Sarah Vine and they have a son and a daughter, both of primary school age.

Please post advance questions for Michael here (and do please read our webchat guidelines if you're not already aware of them).

Many thanks.

SuSylvester Mon 26-Apr-10 22:22:53

ooh and LOOK at all the new conservative supporting peeps on this thread
welcome to mn wink

seimum Mon 26-Apr-10 22:25:53

Will your 'Community schools' plan allow parents to keep existing schools open when the local authority wants to close them?

e.g in Slough, the council want to close a successful grammar school, merge it with another school and reopen as an academy - despite most existing parents desparately wanting it to stay as it is.

Will we be able to keep our grammar?

NoseyNooNoo Mon 26-Apr-10 22:47:13

SuSylvester - who are 'all the new conservative (sic) supporting peeps on this thread'?

I can only see one new name and I wasn't aware that you could only ask a question if you do not support the Conservatives. Did I misread the OP?

Have you checked whether any new labour supporting peeps are on the Yvette Cooper thread?

Maiakins Tue 27-Apr-10 09:48:48

Hello Michael,

I don't think I will be voting Conservative, as I don't agree with the idea of parent-run schools. I've been on the committees of toddler groups, pre-schools and primary schools, and while they do a wonderful job of raising money, it is really hard to get away from the mentality that parents often make decisions for the benefit of their own children rather than the school as a whole, and particularly hard for parents to think in terms of future children (if they don't have younger children who will be attending the school in the future). I can see it might work in Sweden or other countries which are instinctively more community-minded or concerned about society as a whole, but I cannot see it working here in practice. A nice idea, but unrealistic (and possibly dangerous for future education) to many people who have ever been involved in helping run a school.

(I'm not saying that PTAs do a bad job by the way - but you get good years and bad years, selfish parents and very active parents, parents who work well with teachers and the school and others who obstruct everything - it's this lack of continuity which is a potential problem).

Do you really think parent-run schools could work in the UK and do you really think parents would want to spend the amount of time necessary to properly run a school?

And what do you think will happen to other local schools - can you guarantee it won't affect other schools' budgets?

LilyBolero Tue 27-Apr-10 10:08:41

Michael, welcome to MN.

As a parent of 3 (soon to be 4), with 2 in primary school, 1 to start in September, I have SERIOUS concerns about your education policy. Specifically;

i) The 'return to traditional values' you cite, including 'sitting in rows, learning dates by rote' and 'rewriting the National Curriculum from Day 1'. Surely teachers should be allowed to adopt the methods MOST SUITED to the class AT THE TIME rather than having some edict from Whitehall, constructed on the whim of some 'return to traditional teaching'. For what it's worth, my children (Year 4 and Year 2) spend a good amount of time learning tables/facts etc, but are also INSPIRED by creative and imaginative teaching and cross-curricular work, which would be impossible under your scheme.

ii) The use of so-called 'celebrities' to advise - Carol Vorderman for example is not 'one of the greatest minds of our generation' and I fail to see how she is qualified to advise on the education of our children. It feels like sensationalist headline grabbing, and I would be VERY concerned if this was to happen.

iii) The idea of parents setting up their own schools. Firstly, WHERE are these schools supposed to be? In our area there is a chronic shortage of primary school places, but no sites suitable to set up a school. Also, it would inevitably lead to parents setting up schools specifically aimed at THEIR children, and would not help the neediest in society - as the TOday programme put it, it would help 'middle class parents with the sharpest elbows'.

Could you comment on these 3 concerns please?

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 27-Apr-10 10:33:40

Just so you know we've blocked new registrations since Monday evening - so people can just join to post on these threads.

loungelizard Tue 27-Apr-10 10:39:16

This is a very simplistic question but, whilst I accept that your intentions are good and fair for the education system, can you tell me how an education system which allows parents to 'buy' results(and thus places at 'top' universities etc etc) by using the private sector can ever be seen as fair??

For the vast majority of parents (not me personally I may add), scrimping and saving, not having foreign holidays/flat screen tv/drinking/smoking (all the usual suspects) will NOT enable them to pay for a private education and all the advantages that such an education will (wrongly, in my opinion) confer on them.

(Disclaimer I have two older children at top universities and one younger at top state grammar school so have no personal axe to grind)

Also, if one has a voucher scheme, I may be hugely missing the point here, but what happens if everyone wants to go to one school and no-one wants to go to another, as will so surely happen (i.e everyone wanting to go to the nice middle class 'best' school and no-one wants to go to the one with undesirables 'second best').

I do quite like your idea of going back to traditional learning systems though and please could you STOP the dumbing down of exams (as, e.g, my son managed to get an A in Physics which is a bit of a joke really). Make them all harder then only the truly really bright will get the top grades, and it will also have the added effect of stopping those averagely bright children at private schools coming out with strings of As who are no brighter than those at the local comp who don't come out with the same grades. The private sector has got the current exam system down to a tee, and I absolutely refuse to believe that a child whose parent's can pay is somehow naturally more intelligent than those whose parents can't afford to pay (i.e the VAST majority of normal, working people). I am sure you would agree with me as you seem quite a nice chap

furrycat Tue 27-Apr-10 13:08:29

Why on earth do you think it's a good idea for parents to be able to set up their own schools? It's just abdicating responsibility - saying we don't know how to do it, so you have a go!

How do you expect people to find the time?

PinkoLiberal Tue 27-Apr-10 13:26:34

PLease answer Jon's question.

But mine is:

DC has made it very clear he knows how it is to have a child with very severe SN and I appreciate his experience, but there are a great many of us with children in a limbo between Mainstream and Special Ed. I am hoping for my eldest to get access to a specialist Asperger's base in 2011, can you guarantee continued support for those children and that funding will not be diverted away from them to save money whilst ensuring provision only for the most severe % (I also have a more severely autistic child so appreciate what is needed for them- not writing that off at all)? My ds1 has a friend with the same condition thriving in MS, yet ds1 is a danger to others at breaktimes etc and without proper specialist help is likely to become a statistic (he's already under care of eating disorder team and was referred to a team for children at risk of crime (due to aggression levels) but was not accepted- or even contacted.

herbietea Tue 27-Apr-10 15:41:46

Message withdrawn

herbietea Tue 27-Apr-10 15:42:53

Message withdrawn

herbietea Tue 27-Apr-10 15:44:03

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NoseyNooNoo Tue 27-Apr-10 17:41:15

I live within 1 mile of 3 good primary schools and yet it is unlikely that my daughter will get a place in Sept 2011. What will the Conservatives do to prevent children having to be driven past decent schools to attend a not so good one some journey away?

Where does the idea of parental choice come in if I cannot choose from my nearest 3 schools?

GoingPostal Tue 27-Apr-10 18:46:12

I could have written NoseyNooNoo's question myself and I live in a Conservative run borough (which you recently visited re new secondary school!) so would welcome a response that acknowledges that this is not a problem necessarily caused by a local Labour or LibDem govt.

SuSylvester Tue 27-Apr-10 18:47:08

ooh i am not at work that day Mikey boy.
will peek in

jonicomelately Tue 27-Apr-10 20:31:21

CaptainNancy. Let Michael answer the question please hmm

amothersplaceisinthewrong Tue 27-Apr-10 22:44:34

We don't need more choice, we need less. I would like to see EVERY school a good school so that children could go to their local school. Offering parental choice is actually a cop out for improving all schools. And as for parents running schools - well just how will that work.

Pronoia Tue 27-Apr-10 23:14:47

Most parents would NOT like to see their children sitting in rows learning archaic irrelevant factoids. most parents would like their children to have an education that will prepare them for the life they are actually going to lead, and for 99% of children, that is not a life where they will be required to know jingoistic rubbish about the head of the church and her predecessors.

Furthermore, taking children out of the 'sitting in rows' format was probably the best idea anyone has ever had.

this is not 1950, and nobody who isn't a middle aged, middle class white man wants it to be.

edy35 Wed 28-Apr-10 08:26:33

Every ten days in England and Wales, on average, one child is killed at the hands of their parent. An average of 35 a year over the past five years.

The people most likely to die a violent death are babies under 1 year old, who are four times more likely to be killed than the average person in England and Wales.
Michael people really care about it. Are going to do something about it? Thank you.

PinkoLiberal Wed 28-Apr-10 10:26:20

'The use of so-called 'celebrities' to advise ah yes, and whilst it's in a different ept, Brooke Kinsella is an ex Eastenders actress who is mourning the sad loss of her brother and not an expert in anything that can be generalised to the wider community.

The sitting children in rows learning- how wuld you expct children with SN to cope with that? Children (especially those with SN, particularly if they have sensory or movement challenges) learn best when they are engaged. Children learn differently and row based rote teaching would see many chidlren either failing or being shipped off to a special needs education sector that does not have the places available.

luvfamily Wed 28-Apr-10 10:39:57

My DD has been denied a place at our three local schools and instead has been given a place at a school where attainment is 'unsatisfactory' (Ofsted Feb 2010). Furthermore, my child has been earmarked at pre-school as Gifted and Talented - why would I send her to the school which is locally renowned for being rubbish? Where's my choice? Our schools do NOTHING for brighter kids and I'm talking as both a mother and a primary school teacher. So much attention is given to children with special needs and/or English as an additional language that our average/more able kids who have JUST AS MUCH RIGHT TO MAKE PROGRESS AT THEIR OWN LEVEL are often left to their own devices because the teacher is too stretched by a large class and a high proportion of kids who need lots of extra support. I'm not saying SEN and EAL children don't need the support they're getting but what would a Conservative government do to ensure that our brighter kids are given the same opportunities to fulfil THEIR potential as the rest of the kids in the classroom?

foxytocin Wed 28-Apr-10 10:58:40

Dear Mr Gove:

I really hope you respond to edy35's comment.

To expand a bit on that theme:

I've heard quite a few times Mr Cameron saying that the Conservatives would employ more health visitors.

Not lately however, though but he did mention it on MN during his chat and we notice'd lately in the news that the NHS will have to have staff reductions.

What I haven't heard is that how he would make this primary service any better. While the provision of HVs is dire in some areas, (not mine I will add) a lot of Mumsnetters feel that a lot of the staff is poorly trained, many of them recycling outdated guff from giving opinion rather than the NHS's own evidence based information, for example. so many of us feel that while health visiting is an excellent element for safeguarding children and families, increasing the number of health visitors will not in itself make it a better system.

How with the budgetary limitations which we all know is coming, is your party going to make this a better service or is this going to be a promise to get the mummy and family vote.

The 'more health visitors' promise I have heard a few times from DC has really jsut made me snort with cynicism tbh. How will your party actually make this better in especially in light of financial constraints?

Sorry if parts of my posts are garbled but I am not supposed to be on MN right now!

PinkoLiberal Wed 28-Apr-10 11:05:42

'So much attention is given to children with special need'you reckon luvfamily?

I totally agree that chidlren at the toehr end of the spectrum (not discrete BTW) need a lot more too, but as a mum of 2 ASD children full tiem campaigner to getb them anything could be an apt description.

The help isn't there for anyone outside the narrowest range full stop.

slug Wed 28-Apr-10 11:17:14

Hello Mr Gove

We were excluded from applying to five of our six closest primary schools on the basis of religion. Because we could not supply a vicar's/priest's letter of recommendation nor could we, in all honesty, sign a form that said we broadly agreed with the school ethos when the ethos of the religion that supports the school discriminates against my daughter's family members (and herself, since she is female).

In light of this, could you tell me how the Conservative Party can justify their continued support for religious and Special Interest schools? All I want for my child is a good, local, state funded school. I don't want to set my own one up. I don't want my child taught myths as truth and I don't want my child to be ghettoised on the basis of her parents lack of religion. I want her to be able to go to school with all members of the community. As it stands at the moment, she knows very few Christian children,as they have all been siphoned off by the local religious schools.

Do you think the Conservative Party have got their schools policy drastically wrong?

preggersplayspop Wed 28-Apr-10 11:35:08

I'm very concerned about the proposal that parents can set up their own schools and I haven't heard or read anything that sets out in clear detail how this will be achieved. I just don't understand how this can work and I think its a crazy idea.

Please could you explain further how funding will be allocated to these schools, how control of the schools will pass (most parents are surely only interested for the period when their children attend that school), what will be the role of profit making third parties and what the basic rationale for this concept is.

I don't really understand why the business of running schools shouldn't be left to full time education professionals?

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