In the past fortnight, we have seen the most unstable period of government since the Maastricht rebellion of the early 1990s. Unlike that debacle, however, this Government cannot rely on their own MPs, or even Unionist MPs, to make up the numbers. Indeed, many of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister’s colleagues have aired open mutiny directly to the Prime Minister in this Chamber; it is a piteous sight. So I was surprised to hear the Leader of the House announce last Thursday that there would be a general debate on improving education standards today. Thursday is normally reserved for Back-Bench business, but the Government do not want to hear any Back-Bench business at present.
This is an astonishing act of hubris: the Government have chosen to debate a subject for which they have shown nothing to show but failure over the past eight years. The right hon. Gentleman’s colleague the Secretary of State for Education must know that the Government have failed in their duty to improve educational standards, because in July the Secretary of State conceded that too many teachers were overwhelmed by excessive workload and then pledged to do more to support teachers and said he was trying to squeeze more funding out of No. 11. What did teachers get in last month’s Budget? The primary way of improving standards is to improve the quality of our teaching workforce and the relationship they have with their pupils, but there was no increase in school funding last month. Instead, budgets are set to fall again in the year ahead, and teachers did not see a proper pay rise. In fact, the majority of teachers will face another real-terms pay cut this year.