Department for Education and Skills

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:40 pm on 16th October 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Phil Willis Phil Willis Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 4:40 pm, 16th October 2002

Chris Grayling, who usually makes intelligent interventions, may regret those comments. If he does not believe that there is a crisis of confidence in our examination system, he must have been elsewhere for the past two months. We are all united about the need for a new curriculum for 14 to 19-year-olds. [Interruption]. The Liberal Democrats and the principal Opposition are certainly united.

If we are to introduce much more realistic vocational options, we must have an examination system that meets that aim. The Association of Colleges produced an interesting proposal for an overarching certificate. The Government have introduced the idea of a graduate certificate. We should examine the whole process to ensure the confidence of employers and the education world.

The debate has been interesting. Doubtless Members of all parties will ask questions about the competence of the Department for Education and Skills. However, what matters is what works for young people, adult learners, the community, and industry and commerce. A discredited system and a Department in which people have no confidence do none of us credit.

Let us consider higher education policy. Even before the review is published in November, the Minister is going around saying that we should have a market-led higher education system, that universities can go to the wall and merge without any discussion in the House. That discredits the Department and gives us the impression that the Secretary of State is not mistress in her house. The Minister for School Standards is looking for her job and the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education reports to the No. 10 policy unit. Unless we ask Mystic Meg for advice, we are clearly in a mess.