When we took office in 2010, too many children were leaving primary school struggling with the basics of reading and arithmetic, the national curriculum was failing to ensure pupils left school with the knowledge needed to be successful and artificial grade inflation had destroyed public confidence in national examinations. Reform was badly needed.
The reforms have had a dramatic effect on England’s schools. Teachers and headteachers were given increased powers to improve their schools; rigour was re-introduced into the curriculum and examination system; and standards were raised for pupils of all ages.
Already, the fruits of our reforms are showing:
» This year, 147,000 more six-year-olds are on track to become fluent readers than in 2012 thanks to systematic synthetic phonics and the phonics screening check
» The GCSE attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their more affluent peers has shrunk by 7% since 2011, and
» There are almost 1.8 million more Good or Outstanding school places.
But there is much more to do.
Outstanding free schools, such as Michaela Community School, Bedford Free School and the West London Free School, are providing a high-quality, knowledge-rich education for their pupils, but over one million pupils still attend schools that are not yet rated as Good or Outstanding. Whilst the quality of schools has improved, Ofsted has highlighted that provision in Key Stage 3 remains weak in too many schools. And despite doubling the proportion of pupils taking the EBacc combination of academic GCSEs from one-fifth to two-fifths between 2010 and 2016, too few pupils are being given the opportunity to study English, maths, the sciences, a humanity and a language to 16.
Government must now provide support and a stable accountability framework to allow teachers and headteachers to deliver even greater results for all pupils, whatever their background and wherever they live in the country.
We must share the evidence from the best free schools and academies, so that all pupils can benefit from the effective curriculum and behaviour policies in these schools. We must continue to support teachers and headteachers in achieving the best for their pupils, as our reforms bed in. And we must maintain high expectations for all pupils, of all backgrounds, whatever their circumstances, because it is only when we do this that all pupils have the opportunity to succeed.