Over the past two years I have discussed most major national and local policy areas in my Chester Standard columns. However, one of the few topics I have not yet discussed is Education, which I think probably reflects the lack of controversy over the urgent need for our educational reforms.
In the nine years before the Coalition Government took office, the UK dropped from 7th to 25th in reading; 8th to 27th in maths; and 4th to 16th in science. We were even overtaken by countries such as Poland, Iceland and Estonia.
The Coalition Government has therefore set about a radical programme of reform with the sole intention of ensuring that every child in the UK can expect a quality standard of education.
Central to our reforms is the Academies Act, allowing schools to enjoy the freedoms and benefits of Academy status which the last Government restricted to only a few schools. Compared to just 203 in May 2010, there are now over 1500 academies open in England, including our own Christleton High School and Bishops’ Bluecoat Church of England High School.
It is inspiring to see teachers and head teachers embrace these reforms in such overwhelming numbers and I am delighted with the positive feedback from those who have already converted to Academy status. I would encourage every local school to consider the merits of Academy conversion.
But the Academies programme is not the only way we are raising standards. We have also announced that we will:
Increase the minimum expected standard for secondary schools; protect core school funding; target extra money at pupils from deprived backgrounds through the improved Pupil Premium; recognise the unique challenges facing service children by giving schools £200 for each service child on their rolls; and, for the very first time, teachers, parents and charities are now able to open new Free Schools to serve their local communities.
Additionally, the Department for Education last week allocated £2billion for essential rebuilding and renovation work. Four Chester schools, Dee Point Primary, Highfield Community Primary, J H Godwin Primary and Blacon High School, are all set to receive millions of new investment and, unlike under previous schemes, money is now going to those schools with the most pressing needs.
This Government is taking bold steps to dramatically improve education in England and we are determined to give every child an education that will enable them to fulfill their potential.