Amber Rudd: We should strive to keep our schools at the top of the class

From House to Home with Amber Rudd SUS-151103-114637001
From House to Home with Amber Rudd SUS-151103-114637001

Our schools are greatly improved, but more still needs to be done

Education is the engine of our economy; it is the foundation of our culture; it holds the promise of future successes, and it’s an essential preparation for adult life.

This year, sixth forms and colleges in Hastings and Rye celebrated very high A-Level pass rates at close to 100%, the latest chapter in the story of remarkable improvements in our area’s schools which has been seen over the past five years.

In 2010, just 17% of schools in the Hastings and Rye constituency were rated as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ – the two highest grades – by Ofsted. Now, with the fantastic recent report on Rye Studio School, which received top marks in all areas, over 75% of the area’s schools are now graded in these top two bands.

Such an impressive rate of improvement is a product of the good work of many people and organisations; credit must go to the students themselves for directing their efforts towards achieving an education; to the teachers for so successfully nurturing the talent of our area’s young people; to the administrative staff of our schools for providing the right conditions for attainment; to Ofsted for encouraging schools to meet high standards; and, importantly, to parents for the guidance, encouragement and assistance they provide for their children.

The education policies of the Coalition Government must also be commended. At the same time as our schools were on this course of marked improvement, the Conservative-led Government brought challenging subject matter back to the curriculum, the highest standards back to teaching, and discipline back to schools. Across the UK over a thousand failing schools became academies and had new leadership structures brought in to ensure that the next generation would not be let down by poor school standards. Furthermore, 250 new free schools were established. These offer a local and tailored approach to education where communities identified a need for better schooling.

We can all be proud of the progress that schools in the Hastings and Rye area have made since 2010. But there are still too many which are failing to give young people a good start in life; too many children still do not receive the standard of education to which they are entitled. In this new Parliament, we will continue to support teachers to raise standards and challenge under performance.

Since the General Election, this Government has already confirmed the next steps for structural reform, setting out how, through the Education and Adoption Bill, it will support and turn around schools which are either ‘coasting’ or failing.

In particular, I know there are too many primary schools without strong leadership and which are not determined to improve and continually better the education they provide to their pupils. I welcome that this Bill will enable the Government to hold the leadership of these schools to account for their performance and to intervene to ensure that, where more can be done, more will be done.

The Department for Education has also announced this Government’s intention that 11-year-olds starting secondary school in September will be the first cohort to universally benefit from a core academic curriculum at GCSE. There can be no substitute for competency in Maths and English and, by mandating that all students will gain a qualification in these subjects, we are enabling the next generation to realise a broader range of opportunities and to compete globally.

Hastings and Rye has some great schools and many talented teachers. However, there is no reason why all schools in the area shouldn’t strive to be better, to provide the highest standards of education, and to give our students and young people the very best chances in life. We should settle for nothing less.