Labour would take us back to square one and undo all the great achievements delivered by our school reforms since 2010
The Labour Party are pandering to the most extreme elements of the teacher unions at the expense of ensuring high academic standards in our schools, writes Nick Gibb MP
Amongst all the attention paid last week to the Supreme Court you may have missed the fact that the Governing Board of PISA was meeting in London. PISA is the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, which measures the educational attainment of 15-year-olds in about 80 countries. These international comparisons revealed the uncomfortable fact that for too long our education system was failing to improve even while GCSE grades rose year on year. In other words, by the time the last Labour Government left office, it was clear that grade inflation was masking stagnation in our school system.
It was this was country’s poor performance in those international surveys that drove the Conservative Party’s education reform programme from 2010 onwards - ending grade inflation in our public exams; improving academic standards in schools; ensuring children leave primary school able to read and fluent in basic arithmetic; restoring knowledge to the curriculum and tackling poor pupil behaviour and the scourge of bullying.
The teaching of reading in our primary schools has been transformed with a proper focus on the building blocks of Phonics. When we introduced the Phonics Check in 2012, we found that just 58% of 6-year-olds reached the expected standard - that has now risen to 82%.
Despite introducing a more challenging primary school curriculum in 2014, more and more children are achieving at least the expected standard in the combination of reading, writing and maths in the SATs taken at the end of primary school. And because we have SATs we are able to take action to improve those schools where too few of their pupils are able to do well in those tests.
The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn intend to abolish SATs, which at a stroke would remove the key performance measure on which we hold schools to account. If Labour get into power parents will no longer have the crucial information to help them identify the quality and effectiveness of their local schools.
This would be compounded by Labour’s policy announced at their conference last week to abolish Ofsted, the schools inspectorate that not only holds schools to account for their educational standards but ensures safeguarding measures are in place, that behaviour is good and that the school is a safe place for children. Ofsted judgements are widely relied upon by parents when they come to selecting a school. Nine out of ten parents, for example, know the Ofsted rating of their child’s school.
It is clear that the Labour Party are pandering to the most extreme elements of the teacher unions at the expense of ensuring high academic standards in our schools. Labour has become the anti-standards party.
I am proud of the fact that since 2010 the attainment gap between pupils from poorer backgrounds and their more advantaged peers has closed by 13% in primary schools and by 9% in secondary schools.
We have much more to do but what is clear is that Labour would take us back to square one and undo all the great achievements delivered by our school reforms since 2010. If you believe in high standards and strong accountability in our state education system you need to fear a Labour Government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
Nick Gibb is Conservative MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton and schools minister