School Standards

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th June 1996.

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Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink , Castle Point 12:00 am, 17th June 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what progress has been made in raising standards at general certificate of secondary education level in Welsh schools. [31656]

Photo of Jonathan Evans Jonathan Evans Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

Progress has been heartening. The percentage of 15-year-olds gaining five or more A to C-grade GCSEs increased by 8 per cent. between 1992 and 1995. It is important to build on those achievements. Our "Bright Future" programme shows the way forward. I join parents in Wales whose children have been taking GCSE examinations in the past two weeks in welcoming that progress.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink , Castle Point

I am delighted with, and welcome, that answer. Does my hon. Friend believe, like me, that the Government's policies of promoting parental choice, of more diversity in schools, of testing children, and of publishing the results—especially league tables—have driven up standards? Does he think that Labour should be ashamed of its opposition to our sound education policies?

Photo of Jonathan Evans Jonathan Evans Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

My first plaudits would be to pupils and parents and to their teachers for their achievements. My hon. Friend is absolutely right: a framework must be set in place, too. We must constantly set ourselves higher targets. I am pleased that, from now on, every secondary school in Wales will set targets to ensure that each year it beats its previous best. If we are to build the economy that Wales needs for the future, we must ensure that the Principality's children are educated to the best standard possible. As my hon. Friend said, we must do so against the background of the Opposition's vehement opposition to testing and the national curriculum. Interestingly, they have eventually come round to recognising the value of our achievements.