HC Deb 17 October 1995 vol 264 cc128-9
2. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what progress has been made in improving literacy and numeracy in schools. [45991]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mrs. Cheryl Gillan)

Raising standards of literacy and numeracy is at the heart of our school reforms. The chief inspector of schools has confirmed that our reforms are improving the quality of education.

Mr. Coombs

Does my hon. Friend agree that literacy and numeracy are still the keys to success in later life for young people? In that context, what steps does her Department propose to take further to improve standards of reading, writing and speaking English, and of adding and subtracting numbers?

Mrs. Gillan

My hon. Friend is right. Only last week, we set out new measures for raising standards of written and spoken English in schools and the workplace across the country. Communication skills are vital for career prospects and the Government's initiatives on spoken English qualifications emanate from discussions and consultations with a wide range of people, including business, the media, unions, voluntary bodies and educators. We are delighted that Trevor McDonald has agreed to chair the steering group and we look forward to developments in this sector.

Mr. Marek

The Minister will know that class sizes in public and preparatory schools are on average half as small as those in state schools. Will she make a connection between class sizes and achieving higher standards in numeracy and literacy?

Mrs. Gillan

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is inviting me down a route that I should not care to follow, but the House should know that Her Majesty's chief inspector of schools has confirmed that, notably, the national curriculum and testing are already helping to raise overall education standards, and we can expect a steady rise in standards as more pupils benefit from our reforms.