Gove warns of school 'underclass'
Thousands of children are joining an "educational underclass" each year, becoming the "lost souls" of England's school system, Michael Gove has warned.
Radical action is needed to stop these youngsters being recruited by gangs, ending up as young offenders, or facing prison, the Education Secretary said.
In a speech at Durand Academy in south London, Mr Gove said it was time to "challenge the culture of low expectations".
"For all the advances we have made, and are making in education, we still every year allow thousands more children to join an educational underclass - they are the lost souls our school system has failed. It is from that underclass that gangs draw their recruits, young offenders institutions find their inmates and prisons replenish their cells.
"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 insisted that the Government is taking action to combat bad behaviour and boost standards, saying: "We need, restlessly and relentlessly, to challenge, everywhere and always, the culture of low expectations that condemns so many young people to a lifetime incarcerated in a prison house of ignorance."
The minister said he had been told by teachers that "growing numbers" of children start school unable to write the letters of the alphabet or hold a pencil.
"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."
Mr Gove said reforms are being introduced to boost the numbers of health visitors and overhaul the adoption process, and called for tougher action on "inadequate parents".
The minister warned that the level of illiteracy in England's schools is "shocking", adding that children who fail to learn to read properly disrupt their classmates' learning and "fatally endanger their own futures". He added: "There is an ironclad link between illiteracy, disruption, truancy, exclusion and crime which we need to break."