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

It is relevant to the debate about whether standards are rising or falling, but I am happy to return to the matter at another time. I have been waiting for the hon. Gentleman to call an Opposition day debate on education for the past two years, and since the first three months, when we had two, we have not had a single one. It is frustrating that I almost never get a chance to ask him any of these questions in the House.

I conclude by considering statements that have been made about education visions in recent years. There is a debate about whether we should drive school standards up and tackle underperforming schools by stepping in with extra support and extra powers in the national challenge programme, as we are, or whether we should stand back and have what is called the Swedish model. That allows a more market-based approach, and the Opposition advocate it. It is important that we debate those different approaches in considering the Bill.

We were told two years ago that, according to the shadow Secretary of State:

"If we had Swedish-style reforms there is every reason to believe that we would have up to 3,000 new schools".

Two weeks later he went further, saying that up to 5,000 new private schools would be funded by the taxpayer under his plans. However, last June The Sunday Times reported that senior Opposition figures thought the policy was unworkable and that the shadow Secretary of State's claim of 3,000 new schools was "totally unrealistic". In fact, in the- [Interruption.]

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