Children, Schools and Families Bill

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 4:18 pm on 11th January 2010.

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families 4:18 pm, 11th January 2010

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Children, Schools and Families Bill is vital to meet what I believe is our moral imperative to help every child and young person to make the most of their talents and to ensure that no barrier is allowed to hold them back. But, as well as that moral imperative, we face an economic imperative to ensure that all our young people get the skills that they need and that businesses are demanding, so that our country can thrive and succeed in the 21st century global economy.

As we debate the Bill today, 750 education experts and more than 70 Education Ministers representing 1 billion children in 80 countries around the world are meeting here in London on the other side of Parliament square, at the learning and technology world forum-the largest education and technology event of its kind in the world. They are here both because the UK is a world leader in technology for education and because our Government and every Government around the world face these twin moral and economic imperatives.

As a result of our sustained record of investment and reform over the past 12 years, we have gone from below average to well above average in the world, but our ambition is to get to a world-class education system, in which every child, and not just some, gets all the help and support they need to make good progress, and every parent, and not just some, has the choice of a good local school. That is why the Bill sets out the next steps that we will take to achieve our ambition by providing a guaranteed route to a good qualification for every young person, a promise of guaranteed extra catch-up support for every child who falls behind, more power for parents, a boost to the status of the teaching profession and further backing for local leaders to ensure that every school is a good school with stronger back-stop powers for the Government to step in as a last resort if schools are not being turned round.

Those measures are essential for a strong economy and a fair society. They are now possible only because of our sustained investment and reform over the last decade and they are also all actively opposed by the Opposition parties, particularly by the Conservative party, which is proposing instead a costly and unfair free-market free-for-all that will be paid for only by huge cuts to existing schools.

Before I move on to the details of those measures, I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to my hon. Friend the former Member for North-West Leicestershire who sadly died on Boxing day and whose hugely well attended funeral took place on Saturday. He was a strong campaigner on behalf of children in this country and regularly made significant contributions to our education debates. He will be sorely missed in this House.

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