Cameron calls for more action on disruptive pupils

The private and voluntary sectors should be more involved in educating the most challenging pupils, the Conservatives argued today.

Visiting Spear, a skills and personal development charity in Hammersmith, the Conservative leader David Cameron argued that the current system of state-run Pupil Referral Units are ill-equipped for dealing with deprived or delinquent pupils.

He pointed to social enterprises such as Spear as a model for how the voluntary sector could take over remedial education and supervisor work to improve standards in urban schools.

Simply restructuring will not, however, improve school standards, Mr Cameron warned, calling instead for a cultural shift in the UK’s attitude to education.

“Britain has an anti-learning culture – a disrespect for knowledge which permeates society,” he argued.

“In other societies, learning and teaching have the highest status. That’s not something you could say about Britain today, and it’s something we must change if we’re to reverse the tragic decline in social mobility in our country. “

Low educational attainment results in a “vast army of wasted talent”, he argued, warning “and this army does not sit quietly by. It makes its presence felt – as every victim of crime or anti-social behaviour knows.”

To improve standards Mr Cameron called for a renewed focus on standards of academic rigour, as well as tackling the leadership crisis in schools and enforcing school discipline.

Outlining his proposals, Mr Cameron pointed to research showing the deprivation gap between deprived children – classed as those on free school meals – and ‘average’ children is widening.

At age five the gap is 17 per cent, increasing to 28 per cent by age 16, the Conservative leader warned.

However, the Liberal Democrats warned that Mr Cameron must offer “more than platitudes” to address underachievement.

Lib Dem education spokeswoman Sarah Teather said: “Smaller class sizes, enthusiastic expert teachers and more power over the curriculum are the tools heads need to improve their schools.”