Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Industry and Education

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:37 pm on 21st November 1994.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mrs Gillian Shephard Mrs Gillian Shephard Secretary of State for Education and Science 9:37 pm, 21st November 1994

I shall be happy to do so. I think the hon. Gentleman will understand that, when establishing something as new as the national curriculum--and we needed it; the French curriculum has been in place for 200 years—and asking subject specialists to contribute what they think it should contain, Ministers are bound to suffer from over-enthusiasm. That is what happened in this instance. I accept that the national curriculum was overloaded, but the Office for Standards in Education has made it clear that—even in its original form—the curriculum raised standards from the outset, and that it continues to do so.

It was right to note the overload and the concerns of teachers, however. I feel that the fact that teachers now have more freedom to exercise their judgment constitutes a vote of confidence in their professionalism, and that is how they have seen it.

Ensuring a broad and balanced curriculum for all pupils, with the emphasis on the basics of English and maths, will clearly help to continue the improvement. Moreover, the curriculum's effectiveness will be closely monitored by means of rigorous tests in English, maths and science for all pupils aged seven, 11 and 14. We shall have an annual check on schools' progress with the arrival of performance tables: as the hon. Member for Brightside said, this year's will be issued tomorrow. We shall also have regular four-yearly cycles of inspection of all schools, instituted by Ofsted. With the curriculum, test and exam results, performance tables and Ofsted reports, there will be copious information about schools for all of us—but especially for employers and parents. With that wealth of information, no school or college should be able to get away with a shoddy performance.

The hon. Member for Brightside was clearly very upset by his experiences on "Breakfast with Frost". As his right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland said, he performed a political flip-flop; he declared that he was a convert to higher education standards and performance tables. He and his hon. Friends have come late to the party. II: is a pity that, over the past 15 years, they have merely sought to obstruct our drive for higher quality in education; they have opposed the national curriculum, tests and the establishment of Ofsted and better teacher training.