If you had asked me last year where would I most like to work, I would not have hesitated: education. Nothing is more important than helping children to discover a love of learning and to leave school happy, well rounded and with all the qualifications they need for whatever they want to do. That is what England’s 450,000 teachers are devoted to.
I have spent my first months as education secretary visiting as many nurseries, schools, colleges and universities as possible and seeing for myself the contribution offered and challenges faced by our early years professionals, teachers and lecturers. They are the ones in the front line of our drive to improve education for every child.
My mission is for every child to have a world-class education and the chance to fulfil their potential, whatever their background. Thanks to the hard work of heads and teachers we’ve made huge progress.
Since coming into government in 2010, 1.9 million more children are being taught in good or outstanding schools - representing 86 per cent of pupils compared to 66 per cent in 2010. Since the phonics screening checks were introduced, 154,000 more six year olds are on track to become fluent readers; and we have seen the attainment gap narrow by at least ten per cent at both primary and secondary school.
We have reformed GCSEs, creating a new gold standard in qualifications, and A levels to better prepare students for university. Record numbers of disadvantaged 18 year olds are now going to university for full-time study.
These are real tangible achievements that we will build on as we continue to improve the education that every child receives.
But in providing that education, I know that the most important factor is the person at the front of the classroom. I want this to be a profession which draws the best, most gifted and committed teachers and then develops and keeps them.
However, it’s clear too many teachers are having to cope with a workload that makes huge demands of them before they even set foot inside the classroom. Working with Ofsted, we are challenging excessive and unnecessary marking and data collection, as well as reforming our accountability system to make sure good schools are not burdened by multiple inspections and multiple demands for data. This will free up teachers to do what they came into the profession to do: teach.
One of the most important ways government can improve education is to give great schools the freedom to innovate and, then, to share their ideas and best practice. I’m pleased this year’s Parliamentary Review gives a platform to some brilliant and innovative schools.
I look forward to continuing to work with this whole sector so we can make sure every child, in every classroom, can fulfil their potential.