HC Deb 25 April 1995 vol 258 c649
7. Mr. Hawkins

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what are the aims of her campaign to promote the English language. [19174]

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

Raising standards in English has been at the heart of our education reforms.

Mr. Hawkins

I welcome my right hon. Friend's answer. Does she agree that, in the interests of children, parents and employers, it is absolutely essential for children to learn to use plain, correct and effective English? Is not one of the great problems with the socialist ideas in education peddled since the 1960s that employers complain that those leaving state education after 11 years are unable to use their own language properly?

Mrs. Shephard

Indeed, it is very important that the revised national curriculum puts greater emphasis on the teaching of written and spoken standard English, on grammar, spelling, punctuation and the need for correct English across the curriculum. It is a great sadness that Opposition Members chose to vote against the national curriculum, means of testing it and independent inspections.

Mr. Tipping

Will the Secretary of State look specifically at management-speak in education, where better class sizes has come to mean more pupils and fewer teachers? Is not that a perversion of what parents want?

Mrs. Shephard

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman's use of English was entirely correct, but you, Madam Speaker, are in charge of such matters. I have already made my views on class size perfectly clear. Many variables affect how teachers perform in classes of different size, but there is no accumulated research evidence to link class size and attainment.

Mr. McLoughlin

When my right hon. Friend looks at the promotion of the English language, will she consider the video that has been released by her Department to commemorate VE day and VJ day? Is she not concerned about some of the criticism levelled at the video by a certain newspaper, or is she satisfied that it will ensure that the right message reaches all our children throughout the country?

Mrs. Shephard

The point of the videos and the packs is to help pupils understand the significance of VE and VJ commemorations. They will run alongside the national curriculum. For the sake of reassurance, I am glad to say that my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces has examined the packs in detail, was involved in monitoring them and is delighted with them. Given his relationship to Sir Winston Churchill, the House can also be reassured.

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