Education chief hits out at basic skills of his own staff

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The Independent Online

Sir David Normington, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education and Skills, admitted too many of his recruits lacked basic skills in English and maths. He said he could understand employers' frustration with graduates and school leavers with poor literacy and numeracy skills because he suffered the same problem.

Giving evidence to the Commons Education Select Committee yesterday, Sir David said school standards in English and maths had improved in recent years but there was some way to go. "As an employer, I sometimes see the standards of English and maths are not good enough among those coming into my employment," he said. "Things have improved but I do not yet think it is good enough."

His admission was seized on by David Cameron, the Conservative education spokesman and leadership candidate. He said: "This is the biggest admission yet that the Government is still not getting the basics right. Tony Blair began his term promising education would be his top priority. Those commitments are sounding increasingly hollow."

An education department spokesman said: "The point Sir David was making is that as an employer, in some cases he has the same issues as other employers. That is why the Government expects and wants further progress."