HC Deb 22 May 1996 vol 278 cc286-7
12. Mr. Forman

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when she last met representatives of the Office for Standards in Education to discuss standards in schools. [29104]

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

Ministers and officials regularly meet Her Majesty's chief inspector and Ofsted officials to discuss issues related to education standards in schools.

Mr. Forman

When my right hon. Friend last had a chance to meet Mr. Christopher Woodhead, the chief inspector, was she made aware of the fact that he is a distinguished alumnus of Wallington county grammar school for boys in my constituency? He recently visited that school to open an excellent new science block containing four laboratories, which will be invaluable in raising standards of science and will thus set an example to all the good schools in my constituency.

Mrs. Shephard

I was not aware that the chief inspector is a former pupil of Wallington county grammar school. He is certainly a very distinguished ex-pupil and I am delighted that the school is doing so well.

Ms Estelle Morris

Is not the real problem in educational standards that the gap between the children who achieve and those who do not is growing wider and wider? Will the Secretary of State confirm that last year the number of young people leaving our schools with no qualifications at all rose to one in 12? Will she accept that that is a result of Government policies? The Government are prepared to give opportunities and resources to the few, but ignore the needs of the rest of the students.

Mrs. Shephard

Of course there is always more to do on standards. I advise the hon. Lady to read carefully about Ofsted's work in the various reports that we have had this year. They make it absolutely clear that there is no simple correlation between resources and pupil achievement. I remind her—though not necessarily blame her, because she is a fairly new Member of Parliament— that we would not know anything about the performance of the education system had it been left to Labour Members, who opposed every measure that we put in place to measure it.

Mr. Mans

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one sure way of reducing education standards in schools is by encouraging students to leave at the age of 16? Is not that exactly what would happen if new Labour's teenage tax was introduced—that every family with children would lose at least £560 every year?

Mrs. Shephard

It is indeed extraordinary that the contribution of Labour Members to encouraging young people to stay on at school is to tax their parents.