Does my hon. Friend agree that a number of children do not substantially benefit from their schooling and that this is a sad reflection on some aspects of the teaching profession? Is that not the best possible vindication of the Government's intention to introduce teacher assessment as soon as possible?
My hon. Friend's interpretation is entirely right. We are improving the training of teachers. We are seeking broad national agreement on the objectives of the curriculum. We are bringing in via pilot schemes records of achievement for all school leavers. The system of appraisal to which my hon. Friend referred is entirely right and proper at this stage.
Does my hon. Friend accept that some teachers seem to be unaware that literacy and numeracy are very important? Will my hon. Friend stress to those teachers that a youngster who cannot write a job application without spelling mistakes—he may have left school able in the studies of dance, drama and comparative religion—will not be able to obtain a job in competition with his colleagues who can?
We have always taken the view that, whatever the trends in standards in the past, we must continue to improve the position. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that a child who cannot read or write—whatever his talents or abilities—will suffer in later life. I am sure that teachers generally and those who provide education share that view.