Michael Gove interviews can, in patches, be almost as fun as reading his newspaper op-eds.
One particularly highlight of our interview with him yesterday was the section on grammar schools. Gove, remember, had told pro-grammar school Tories that his “foot was hovering over the pedal” of allowing an expansion of selective education.
His foot, it seems, is still hovering. Here’s an extract from the transcript:
FT: Okay. Alright. One of the other obligations on LAs at the moment is the 1998 standards act, obligations on selection. Would you approve a free school that allowed selection?
FT: Will you allow areas that don’t have selection at the moment to select?
FT: And will you allow the share of pupils within selective schools in selective education areas to increase?
FT: So you will not undo any of the 1998 provisions?
MG: It’s not my intention to.
FT: So which pedal is your foot hovering over?
MG: My pedal… my foot was… first of all, if your foot is hovering over the pedal, it hasn’t yet connected. That’s one thing. The second thing is, as we all know, if you have a local authority area in which there is selection and you have demographic growth, as there is in parts of Buckinghamshire and West Kent, then you need to allow individual selective schools to expand so that the proportion within those areas is not affected. That seems to me, local authorities haven’t yet come forward with specific proposals, but that seems to me to be a way of maintaining the balance in those areas where selection has appropriate support.
Another interesting exchange came over the definition of a new school. In opposition, Gove promised to “create the circumstances which will mean that within the first term there should be a superb new school in every community.”
Is he referring to new Free Schools? Here’s the answer:
FT: Have you raised expectations too high, and what do you want to achieve, and do you really have the resources to be able to do that? A good school in every community? You have said it and David Cameron has said it.
MG: Yes. I think that some have taken that, perhaps entirely understandably because inferences can be drawn, to mean the creation of a free school.
FT: A new school, yes.
MG: Well, a new school will be the transformation of an existing school into a high performing academy.
FT: So a school with the same teachers, the same staff, same pupils. It gets funded by the EFA rather than the LA and that’s a new school?
MG: Have you visited an academy?
FT: I have.
MG: Well, they’re new schools.
FT: They look like old schools to me.
MG: But they are new. We do believe that if you have a situation where every working day of this school term an academy has been created… So arithmetically, it’s the fastest rate of school improvement that we’ve seen; school reform, I should say. On the question of expectations, I’ve never said that we’re going to have a set number of any particular type of school.