Improving Education Standards

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 1:27 pm on 29th November 2018.

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Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Conservative, Harborough 1:27 pm, 29th November 2018

I thank the hon. Lady for clarifying that point. My concern is that the goal will quickly lead to a number of policies, some of which she has just alluded to, which bog down schools’ ability to act quickly on disorder and which gum up the works. I sense that that is something about which we disagree but I take her point.

One positive development in recent years has been the growth of low-stakes testing—things such as year 1 phonics screening, which enables us to spot problems early and nip them in the bud. That is one other reason that this country’s performance on primary school reading in the international tables is going up. We are bringing in those kinds of tests. Likewise, the proportion of pupils in the new and improved SATS who are achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths has gone up from 54% in 2016 to 64% now. That is a really good example of our teachers and our pupils rising to the challenge when a lot of opponents said that that would be too hard for kids to do.

Another positive development has been ending grade inflation and restoring rigour to our exams. I do not mean to make a partisan point here, but the number of pupils getting three As at A-level doubled under Labour. I do not think that anybody could credibly claim that that was all down to real improvement. There was grade inflation and a drift away from the most hard academic subjects, with the proportion of pupils doing the EBacc at GCSE falling from half in 1997 to 22% in 2010. Therefore, we had a drift away from the most difficult academic subjects and a move towards things such as the computer driving licence, which, because of comparative tables, were scoring huge numbers of points in GCSE league tables, but in fact were not valuable qualifications. I do not think that the hon. Lady would agree with that approach.