If Ministers do not think it a problem that teachers are suspended from work for a long period and then acquitted, with inevitable damage to their professional career, I feel sorry for them, because that is a serious crisis, which many teachers recognise.
The Government cannot hide from the fact that standards in maths for 11-year-olds slipped this year. If the Secretary of State is willing to take the credit when exam standards rise, she cannot evade responsibility when they fall. Her predecessor famously said that he would resign if the targets were not met by 2002, and I understand that as 2002 approaches, the right hon. Lady is prudently withdrawing from that commitment. However, parents cannot withdraw, and they want to know what is happening and what the Government are doing about it.
Parents also want to know why popular schools are too often prevented from expanding. I have received a copy of a letter sent to a woman in the west midlands whose experience is typical of parents throughout the country. The letter suggests that as she is unlikely to get her first choice of school for her children, she should put down three choices, but it then says that she is unlikely to get any of the other choices. The problems experienced by parents in exercising the choice that all parties want them to have is another crisis that the Government need to address.