The government is preparing plans to put pressure on parents to guarantee the good behaviour of their children in school and levy sanctions against those who do not "play their part", according to the education secretary, Michael Gove.
The proposals, which will be unveiled later this year, will place an emphasis on tackling what he says are the root causes of truancy and misbehaviour. "Unless classrooms are ordered and purposeful places, then teachers can't teach and children can't learn," he will say on Saturday at an education conference in London organised by the centre-right thinktank, Policy Exchange, of which he was a co-founder.
"One of the factors which deters otherwise gifted teachers from staying in the profession is the poor behaviour they observe in class, the backchat and disruption which impede study and the lack of support they as teachers experience from school leadership teams which are insufficiently rigorous in policing bad behaviour."
He will also set out plans that he hopes will end illiteracy within a generation.
He will say: "Critically, we need to ensure that all children leave primary school fully literate and numerate.
"It's those children who arrive at secondary school incapable of reading properly, who find they can't follow the curriculum, who cover up their ignorance with a mask of bravado, disrupting lessons, disobeying teachers, dropping out of school, drifting into gang culture and in the worst cases, ending up in the justice system."
While telling his audience that a recent tightening on attendance has led to a decrease in absence figures, Gove will say that there is more to be done: "We need to ensure that those parents who don't play their part in ensuring their children attend school, ready to learn and showing respect for their teacher, face up to their responsibilities. We will, later this year, be outlining detailed proposals to ensure parents play their full part in guaranteeing good behaviour, and outlining stronger sanctions for those who don't."
Although Gove is not expected to detail what those sanctions will involve, it is believed that they may include the withdrawal of child benefits from parents whose children persistently truant.
The education secretary will also refer to struggles faced in his childhood and by other members of his family as he hits back at critics who have rounded on him over moves such as his insistence on students studying more British literature, which has seen US literary classics dropped by a GCSE exam board.
"People do still say we're being too demanding and driving too hard," he will say. "We have university academics – indeed, the chairs of organisations like the National Association for the Teaching of English – saying that we should not introduce 15- and 16-year-old children to Charles Dickens because his work will put them off literature for life."
Gove, referring to his adoptive parents and sister, who was also adopted and was born with total hearing loss in one ear and limited hearing in the other, will insist: "Believe me, I know what real barriers to success look like. I spent the first four months of my life in care. Both my parents had to leave school at 15. My sister spent all her school career set apart from other children who were just as bright as her in a school for children with special needs. And I know what setting children up to fail looks like.
"It's sending working-class children to school without daring to think that they might be intellectually curious and capable of greatness, denying them access to anything stretching or ambitious, setting expectations so low you can never be surprised by someone's potential, giving children flimsy, photocopied worksheets instead of proper rigorous textbooks, feeding them a diet of dumbed-down courses and easy-to-acquire qualifications, lowering pass marks and inflating grades to give the illusion of progress, shying away from anything which might require grit, application, hard work and perseverance, and then sending these poor children into the adult world without the knowledge, skills, character and accomplishments they need, and deserve, to flourish. That is setting children up to fail. And that is what I will not tolerate."
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