Children, Schools and Families Bill

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 9:49 pm on 11th January 2010.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners) 9:49 pm, 11th January 2010

First, may I thank everyone who has spoken in this debate, most of whom have made excellent contributions?

At the beginning of the debate, Michael Gove said we should not focus too much on drawing political dividing lines, but we have just heard a classic example of that. Let me put to Mr. Gibb what he has just said, because I think he will regret it. He said that we have not seen improvements in our education system. Those words will ring around this country, in constituencies throughout the land. One of the major Opposition spokespersons has told the House of Commons there have been no improvements in our education system.

I must inform the hon. Gentleman that I have just been to a reception in Downing street. It was attended by the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and the head teachers of the 150 most improved schools in this country. Those people are a credit to this country; they work hard, and they have delivered real progress. We should start every debate by praising our head teachers, teachers and schools for the excellent work they have done and for raising standards in our country. [Interruption.] That is the context in which we should consider this matter. [Interruption.] I bet the Opposition Members who are shouting at me now do not go back to their constituencies and say to their schools that standards have fallen.

The hon. Member for Surrey Heath talked about dividing lines. There is a very clear dividing line, in that the current Secretary of State and Government consider it important for the state not to intervene in every school, but to stand away from schools and to allow them to pursue their own agendas and improvement programmes. However, when there is underperformance and underachievement and it is necessary for the state to be involved, they will not turn around to say that the state will not be involved. In those circumstances, the state has a responsibility to involve itself, and involve itself it will.

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