We cannot afford to educate only a small elite

We are concerned that nearly 50,000 young people leave compulsory schooling unqualified

SITTING PUBLIC examinations is a stressful time for any young person. As a parent myself I know only too well the emotional highs and lows young people go through as they receive their results.

Our future depends on having well educated young people who can grasp the challenges of a rapidly changing world where more and more employees are expected to be highly skilled, creative and flexible. I passionately believe that everyone has the right to the good all-round education they need to achieve this.

Raising attainment at GCSE and for children at the end of primary school is part of our programme to raise standards across the board. We are setting a range of tough targets to do this. We cannot afford to educate only a small elite while the rest achieve mediocrity or worse.

By concentrating on the basics early on and pushing schools to raise standards, we are opening up new opportunities to far more people. This can mean getting a better job or being able to widen youngsters' horizons. It is wrong to see these two aspects of education as being mutually exclusive. Good schools combine teaching practical skills with a broad education.

Without a good grasp of the basics youngsters are unable to develop their own education and are left isolated from the rest of society. Today's results continue that trend. But we are concerned about evidence over recent years that nearly 50,000 young people a-year leave compulsory schooling with no qualifications at all. We raised the school leaving age this year so that youngsters stayed on to do their exams; this may have affected the small rise in the failure rate. But we intend to go further, with a more work-related curriculum for those who can benefit from it, new targets to reduce the number without qualifications, extra information in performance tables, and more money to tackle social exclusion.

I know from my own experience how badly children can be affected if they lose out. Many youngsters in my constituency face disadvantage that is passed from one generation to another. For example those children in families where parents are long-term unemployed can find it hard to feel motivated because of their feelings of alienation. Some can lose out on the chance of work and too often turn to crime.

I welcome growing success at GCSE. Young people are working harder and achieving more than ever before. In all this we must continue to ensure that we maintain the high standards the GCSE exam has set during the 10 years since it was introduced, and ensure the same rigour for the complementary vocational qualifications now on offer. An exhaustive study in 1996 by the Government's qualifications watchdog and Ofsted found no evidence that standards had fallen over time. I announced last week that a group of independent experts will continue to monitor standards to maintain public confidence.

To transform the education system we have focused on improving basic literacy and numeracy. Measures such as the introduction of a daily literacy and numeracy hour are helping to give children the skills to access other subjects.

But subjects like music and PE remain compulsory in primary schools. In music, for example, we will invest in the subject to help more children to benefit, by setting aside a dedicated pot of money to promote the subject.

Reducing class size remains one of our central commitments, and it will help us to improve standards in the basics. Our pledge that no five- six- or seven-year-old will be in a class of more than 30 will be met ahead of schedule in September 2001. We have made additional resources available to enable those LEAs that want to do so to fulfil that aim by September 2000. The number of five-to-seven-year-olds in classes over 30 will fall for the first time in a decade and 1,500 new primary teachers will be joining schools from the start of the new term.

This autumn we will be announcing our targets for attainment at GCSE. Raising standards is more important than ever before given the ever-increasing economic competition. We need to help provide industry with the skilled, flexible and well educated workforce it needs to compete internationally.

By introducing a culture of target-setting across the education system we are providing a powerful lever with which to raise standards. Setting clear literacy and numeracy targets in primary schools offers practical help to teachers to help raise standards in the classroom. I expect 80 per cent of 11-year-olds to reach the standard level for their age in literacy by 2002, and for 75 per cent of that age group to reach that standard in maths by 2002.

Attainment can be improved, given a realistic target to work to and the necessary resources. We announced in last month's comprehensive spending review that annual spending on education will be almost pounds 10bn more by 2001-02, an average increase of 5.1 per cent in real terms in each of the next three years. We want improvements to be based on offering teachers "something for something", to support them as they drive up standards.

Target-setting will clearly define what needs to be achieved at GCSE level and in other parts of the education system. We are giving schools the resources to achieve these higher standards. Our package of reform will provide the education which young people need and our country requires in the global economy of the new millennium.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent