For many years, the government has assumed that tinkering with the structure of our education system leads to an almost automatic improvement in standards. Yet schools, colleges and universities are fed up of constant interference and employers tell me that we are simply not equipping our young people with the skills relevant to the modern workplace.
In my nine years as the local MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, I have regularly visited our primary schools, secondary schools and higher education establishments to talk to students. Far from the negative image of young people portrayed in the media, I am always impressed by students’ sharp and inquisitive minds. Our country is brimming with talent, yet instead of relentlessly pursuing excellence, we have tied our schools up in bureaucratic box ticking and testing that distracts teachers away from their vocation.
I have supported Westminster City Council in their drive to give schools greater autonomy while supporting parents and providing certain services that are beyond the capacity of individual schools to give. I have raised the problems of a dearth of quality, non-faith state primary schools in our constituency and pressed the former Education Minister, Lord Adonis, in a meeting I had with him on parents’ concerns over the future of Pimlico School.
I have also continually raised the skills agenda in parliament, bringing up my own concerns about the long term flexibility and quality of our work force. Most recently, I spearheaded a successful, locally-driven campaign to maintain home educators’ independence from government interference.
The Conservative Party believes improving our schools system is the most important thing we can do to make opportunity more equal and to address our declining social mobility. A Conservative government will give many more children access to the kind of education that is currently only available to the well-off: safe classrooms, talented and specialist teachers, access to the best curriculum and exams, and smaller schools run by teachers who know the children’s names.