Equal Opportunities in Britain
Mr Malcolm Wicks (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Employment; Croydon North, Labour)
Unit funding for university education declined dramatically under the Conservative Government. We have rectified that because we will have no trade-off between quantity, with the increasing number of people in higher education, and quality. The hon. Gentleman is committed to further education, as I am, and knows that spending on it is at record levels. At long last we have a Government taking further education seriously, as it deserves.
Lifelong learning has to start with the early years. Some of the best preparation for our people will take place at a tender age. That is why our national child care strategy—with the development of nursery education, guaranteeing places for all four-year-olds, and the innovative sure start programme, tackling a range of issues, involving parents, and considering health, education and the family as a whole—is so important.
It is also why, despite some opposition from some forces of conservatism, our national literacy and numeracy strategy has played such an important role in our education system. Some thought that it was not necessary, but we believe that it was absolutely right and proper that the three Rs should be emphasised in our primary schools. The results show a great improvement.
In the Budget, all schools—primary and secondary—received a major boost. There is now an average extra direct grant of £40,000 for secondary schools and £9,000 for primary schools. That goes directly to the school, and that is how money should be spent.