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LABOUR CONFERENCE - 'PUBLIC SERVICES ARE THE VALUES AT THE HEART OF OUR NATION' - EDUCATION SECRETARY

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Extracts from a speech by education secretary Estelle Morris at the local government and women's conference in Card...
Extracts from a speech by education secretary Estelle Morris at the local government and women's conference in Cardiff:

'One of main reasons I came into politics is my fundamental belief that it is up to all of us to support one other in different ways and at different times of our lives. None of us is strong enough to get along in this world without support from others. Those values - of support, of understanding, of decency - are what we value so highly in our families, in our friends, in our communities. And it is those values that are embedded in our public services.

In health, it's not just about medical staff curing people, important as that is. It is about a national commitment from each one of us to provide a service that cares for each one of us when we are unwell.

In education, it's not just about teachers and lecturers working with pupils and students, but about a national commitment from each one of us to make sure that every child gets the chance to flourish and to succeed.

That's why our public services are the glue that binds the nation. Their values are how we show that there is such a thing as society.'

She argued that it was only through a strategy of investment and reform that we will succeed in raising standards in education:

'We have to make sure that our public services match up to the principles that gave them birth. That's why the case for investment and reform is so strong.

We invest to reform and we reform so that we can justify further investment.

Because what we achieved in our first term in education could not have been achieved without both.

Our Literacy and Numeracy strategies involved increased resources. But they also involved reform - new teaching methods, new training for teachers, and emphasis on the basics. At times this was unpopular. But together, they delivered higher standards in our schools.

What our first term successes showed was that the combination of investment and reform works. More children can read and write, our class sizes are smaller, the quality of our teachers is better, are schools are better equipped with ICT, more people are going to Higher Education, there's more nursery places, there's more childcare places, and more adults are catching up in basic skills.

And now we must take the same approach to raising standards in our secondary schools.'

She said that one of her key goals in Labour's second term would be to close the long-standing link between socio-economic background and educational achievement, by raising standards for all:

For generations in Britain there has been a nearly unbreakable link between socio-economic background and educational achievement. And you still see it today, at almost all levels of education. In Higher Education, over 70 percent of middle-class children go on to higher Education, against less than twenty percent of working-class children. At age 15, two-thirds of middle-class children get 5 good GCSEs as against only a third of working-classchildren. You can see the differences much earlier, at 5 when children start school and even before this.

Don't get me wrong. I support and celebrate high levels of education achievement, wherever they take place and by whoever they are achieved. But in our next phase of raising standards in schools, we have to make sure we do more to raise the standards of those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, if we are to achieve our goal of every child in this country having a chance to flourish and succeed.

We've shown it can be done. In Key Stage 2, not only have we raised standards across the board, but the standards of those who started furthest behind have progressed fastest. The most improved LEA has been Tower Hamlets. And the worst performing authorities in 2001 are performing at a higher level that the average in 1997.

We will make this progress. We will achieve our goal.'

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