It is a pleasure to take part in a debate on such an important issue and to follow the powerful speech made by Emma Hardy.
I would like to start by praising the hard work of teachers, governors and support staff in schools in my constituency. I am deeply grateful for the work they do. As I am sure my hon. Friend Dr Offord agrees, we are very lucky in the borough of Barnet to have some of the best state schools in the country. I particularly commend Totteridge Academy, which I visited recently for its democracy day. I am always hugely impressed by the students I meet in schools in my constituency, including Totteridge Academy, which had an immensely successful democracy day, engaging students in a range of activities to encourage participation in politics.
I welcome the expansion of school places in Barnet as part of the Government’s delivery of around 800,000 more school places—the biggest expansion for well over 30 years. I very much agree that providing the best education for children and young people is a huge engine of social mobility. Great educational opportunities are essential if we are to give young people the chance to get on in life and make a success of their lives. A good education is crucial. That means that raising standards in education and improving schools are vital parts of delivering social justice and social mobility.
It is welcome that there are now so many more children—1.9 million—studying in good or outstanding schools than eight years ago, when the Conservatives returned to office. Under the last Labour Government, England slipped down the international league tables in reading, maths and science, but that trend has been reversed, as shown by a number of international benchmarks. For example, the progress in international reading literacy study shows that pupils in England are now outperforming their peers in many countries, including Canada, Australia and the United States.