With schools ministers still behaving like they are in opposition, it is worth highlighting some of the remarkable exam results that have been released today. The GCSEs sat in 2011 were taken by students who started their exam courses two years ago, and their achievements reflect the significant reforms introduced by Labour in office, including sponsored academies and programmes like the London Challenge, as well as the floor targets that have been embraced and extended by Michael Gove.
A remarkable 58.3 per cent of pupils now gain five good GCSEs, including English and Maths. This compares with 35% in 1997. In London, which was well behind in 1997, 61% of pupils now reach this standard. What is particularly worth noting is that these results are not just about doing 'soft subjects'. The DFE's statistical release shows that the proportion of pupils gaining English and Maths GCSEs at grade C and above was 61 per cent. There has been a small increase in the numbers achieving the 'English Baccalaureate', though the numbers taking language GCSEs fell again.
Ministers have rightly highlighted the success of academies - with an average improvement around twice as fast as that of other schools. The provisional GCSE results for 2011 show that in academies the percentage of pupils achieving 5 or more GCSEs including English and maths rose from 40.6 per cent to 45.9 per cent, an increase of 5.3 percentage points whilst in all maintained schools the percentage of pupils achieving 5 or more GCSEs including English and maths rose from 55.2 per cent to 57.8 per cent, an increase of 2.6 percentage points. Their success has helped drive up the overall average significantly. Stephen Twigg has wisely started to jettison Labour's post-government ambivalence to academies: he needs to ensure that today's results are seen as firm evidence of the success of our policies in government.