Cameron: Only we can raise school standards

Only the Conservatives can improve standards in Britain’s schools, David Cameron has declared.

Despite record funding for education under Labour, the Tory leader warned that the “ladder of opportunity has been kicked away from far too many children for far too long”.

Launching his party’s interim report on school standards, he warned that competence among nursery age children and at age 11 was flatlining, pupil enjoyment was falling and more than a quarter of five-year-olds still do not know how to hold a pencil properly.

“So no more excuses for falling standards, no more messing about – it’s time to sort out standards in our schools, and it needs a Conservative government to do it,” Mr Cameron said.

“I will be the voice of every parent in Britain, demanding change and improvement and commitment until every state school is good enough for everyone’s children.”

However, a Department for Education and Skills (DfES) insisted Labour had an excellent record on education, saying improved teaching, record levels of investment and radical reform had led to increase standards and record exam results.

He added: “Through our recent Education Act, we are helping schools move to the next level, building on these achievements and enabling every school to raise standards even further and help every child reach their full potential.”

A new report from education watchdog Ofsted also finds today that targeted efforts to improve London schools are having a significant effect. Standards are rising faster in inner London than nationally, while many schools were praised for their leadership.

Tony Blair has staked much of his reputation on improving schools in England and Wales, ever since his famous speech ten years ago when he promised “education, education, education” would be his three top priorities in power.

But he has faced widespread opposition to many of his reforms, including the latest plans to develop self-governing trust schools, and today Mr Cameron published report highlighting how far the government had to go.

The Tory leader warned that pupils were constrained by an inflexible curriculum, truancy was rife in secondary schools, and there was an increase in the number of people not in education, employment or training (Neets).

He acknowledged education was not just about “elementary facts” but warned that basic skills were vital, and called for the wider use of synthetic phonics to teach reading in primary schools.

He is also calling for a greater use of setting by ability within classes, and for more exam options after the age of 14, such as the IGCSE and the international baccalaureate.

“The ladder of opportunity has been kicked away from far too many children for far too long. Our job will not be done until we have guaranteed that ladder of opportunity to every single child in this country,” Mr Cameron said.