I have been watching David Cameron talking about education. Maybe the absence of notes is addling his brain, but he can't be allowed to get away with his crass assertions about what has and hasn't happened in education. He says 'if we don't understand why Labour has failed, we won't get it right'. Labour has certainly not failed, but if he doesn't know the facts, he won't get it right either. First, there are not 50% of pupils not getting level 4 in reading, writing or maths. That was true in 1997. It is not today. In fact, almost 80% reach the standard in English, and 76% do in Maths. I don't know how they taught maths at Eton, but that suggests 20% not 50%. Since Labour is already introducing synthetic phonics this year and remedial lessons in the 3Rs, he is not offering anything new here.
Second, on discipline, there are twice as many pupils excluded and in pupil referral units now as there were in 1997, and only 120 excluded pupils are returned to schools each year. I have great respect for heads (and some sympathy with the idea of requiring parents to sign home-school contracts) but the idea that these cases would not end up in the courts is fanciful nonsense.
Third, on diversity, Gordon Brown has actually accelerated academies - contrary to expectations, maybe - but he has done so. And the legislation already requires new schools to be open to competition from new providers - again a Labour innovation. There are a small but growing number of bodies getting involved, but there is unlikely to be an explosion of such schools. And finally, doesn't David Cameron know that far more special schools closed under the Tories than under Labour, and despite the best efforts of Tory councils - yes, those bodies who we should leave alone to spend 'their money' (not ours, I note) - Andrew Adonis has imposed an effective moratorium on their closure? Perhaps if Cameron understood these facts, he might then stop talking down our increasingly successful schools.