Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I want to start by recognising the enormous success, despite the financial constraints, of the post-16 sector in the last Parliament—2.4 million apprenticeship starts and more young people than ever going to university; 97% of young people now studying English and maths at 16 to 19 who did not achieve good passes at the age of 16; new gold-standard qualifications such as tech levels, rather than thousands of worthless courses such as marzipan modelling and balloon artistry. That is the legacy of the last five years of this Government’s approach to growth and skills, and it is a record I am proud to defend. Ensuring that our young people have the skills they need to succeed in an increasingly globalised labour market is vital to driving up national productivity.
Our plans for 16-to-19 education lie at the heart of our productivity drive. The plan published at the start of this Parliament by my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills enshrine the role of an improved 16-plus skills system in driving up our nation’s productivity. With rapid technological progress and greater global competition, the skills we give the next generation are fundamental to the UK’s future growth.