HC Deb 21 February 1995 vol 255 cc148-9
11. Mr. Brandreth

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what recent representations she has received concerning standards of spoken and written English; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

I regularly receive letters from parents and others concerned about standards of English. I share their concern.

Mr. Brandreth

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that English is the richest and the most versatile of all the living languages, and increasingly the world language of business and commerce? Does she further recognise that employers in my constituency are concerned that young people are coming onto the job market without a sufficient command of written and spoken English? Does she believe that that issue must be addressed not simply in schools and colleges, but by the media and by the employers themselves?

Mrs. Shephard

People are judged by whether they can express themselves clearly and employer organisations constantly say that good communication skills are important for all areas of employment. We must ensure that all pupils are equipped with the skills that they need, and the combination of the revised national curriculum with testing and regular inspection will ensure that that happens.

Ms Glenda Jackson

If the Secretary of State is concerned that the standards of spoken and written English should improve and genuinely believes that individuals are judged on their ability to use the English language well, why has she not waged a stronger defence to prevent the cutting of section 11 funding—a comparatively small amount of the overall education budget—which has shown quite extraordinary returns, particularly in inner urban areas, where children who do not have English as a first language have improved their use of our language?

Mrs. Shephard

I certainly agree with the hon. Lady that the use of section 11 funding for the teaching of English—especially when it is a second language—has been extremely effective, particularly in many of our inner cities. That is why I am delighted that the Government announced the doubling of section 11 funding in November.

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