Gove laments education's 'lost souls'

Michael Gove pledges to take action against the 'educational underclass'
Michael Gove pledges to take action against the 'educational underclass'

By Alex Stevenson

Britain is blighted by "lost souls" which the school system has failed, Michael Gove has said.

Giving a speech at the Durand academy in south London, the education secretary said an "educational underclass" had developed which thousands of children were joining every year.

"It is from that underclass that gangs draw their recruits, young offenders institutions find their inmates and prisons replenish their cells," he said.

"These are young people who, whatever the material circumstances which surround them, grow up in the direst poverty - with a poverty of ambition, a poverty of discipline, a poverty of soul."

Mr Gove said a "direct line to deprivation" existed from children whose behaviour was not "policed with proper boundaries" at primary school.

"Teachers report to me that a growing number of children cannot form letters or even hold a pencil," he continued.

"Many cannot sit and listen. Many can scarcely communicate orally, let alone frame a question. Many cannot use a knife and fork. Many cannot even go to the lavatory properly. Some express their frustration through displays of inarticulate rage."

These 'underclass' children had created an "ironclad link between illiteracy, disruption, truancy, exclusion and crime which we need to break", Mr Gove pledged.

He outlined the government's plans to improve school discipline, take steps to tackling truancy and back Graham Allen's early intervention proposals to tackle the problem.

Intensifying the rollout of his academies programme is also likely. "We have to make sure that the future for our young people is shaped by the values which make the Harris Academies such a success, not the values which ran riot on our streets this summer," Mr Gove said.

Strengthening adult authority is another of the education secretary's priorities, which he appeared to link to this summer's rioting.

"Over the years there has been a slow, and sustained, erosion of legitimate adult authority in this country," he said.

"It has been subverted by a culture of dutiless rights which empowers the violent young to ignore civilised boundaries which exist to protect the weak and vulnerable."


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