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Ms Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East): I am deeply disappointed that only three of the four outstanding schools in LewishamBrindishe, St. Winifred's and New Woodlandsare in my constituency. However, another school in my constituencyLauncelotis coming out of special measures. The progress being made in my area is therefore remarkable.
Will my right hon. Friend say a little more about how outstanding schools can help others in the same borough to achieve more? Will she also say something more about the problem of truancy? She will know about Lewisham council's initiative on truancy, and the consultation that is in hand at present. What does she believe should be done to ensure that children who become disaffected with school return to education and become achievers?
Estelle Morris: I congratulate my hon. Friend on having three outstanding schools in her constituency. There must have been an awful lot of Ofsted inspections in her area this year, but I hope that she will send the schools my congratulations. I especially congratulate the school that has come out of special measures. It is tough for a school to go into special measures, and it is tough while those measures apply, but it should be an immensely joyous moment for staff when a school comes out of special measures. Today is a day of celebration for those teachers, as well as for the staff in the couple of hundred schools in the same position. I also pay tribute to the work that Lewisham has done.
It is important to remember that learning is not a one-way process. I have never known a good school help an underperforming one and not learn something of value. I hope that that will remain the case in Lewisham and elsewhere.
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): The Secretary of State said that, in their first Parliament, the Government concentrated on primary schools. Will she therefore offer a little more explanation of what appears on page 22 of the chief inspector's report? In one of his main findings, the chief inspector states:
Estelle Morris: Transforming 17,000 primary schools, with 17,000 head teachers and governing bodies and hundreds of thousands of teachers, will take some time. The mess we inherited after 20 years of Tory misrule was such thatI apologise to the Houseit will take us slightly more than four years to put everything right. However, I am immensely proud of what the Government have done and immensely proud of the progress that has been made in primary schools. Yes, we shall take on the progress that still needs to be made. Yes, we shall look at closing the gap further. Yes, we shall look at those schools that are still in special measures. Yes, we shall look at the underperformance of ethnic minority pupils. What is absolutely clear, howeverand not just because I say it, but because Ofsted and Her Majesty's chief inspector say itis that there is more progress than falling back. As Mike Tomlinson says, the report is a good one and primary schools are indeed a success story.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): The Secretary of State and the Government deserve our congratulations, as well as our thanks for the continued success of the Government's education policies, for their recognition that more needs to be done and for their commitment to do it. Is my right hon. Friend aware that Dunston Hill community primary school in my constituency has been singled out in the report as being particularly successful? Will she join me in congratulating the teachers and, in particular, the pupils on their hard work in achieving that? Does she agree that the school thoroughly deserves to be awarded beacon status?
May I also draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the hard work being done in Hadrian special school in Newcastle, which is a model of how to help and assist young people with special educational needs?
Estelle Morris: I am happy to do that. If I heard my hon. Friend rightly, that sounded like a bid for beacon status. I am sure that the school stands a good chance and that it will be considered in due course. I also hope that those schools gain recognition locally. The media in my hon. Friend's area give education good and positive
It is important to remember that some of the schools in that list serve the most challenging areas of the country. They have the most difficult jobbreaking the historical link between poverty and underachievement. That is what lies behind the words in the report. My hon. Friend's constituency includes many such areas and I am delighted to join him in his tribute.
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): I agree with the Secretary of State that there is much to celebrate as regards the success of our schools outlined in the Ofsted report. However, as a fair person, the right hon. Lady will acknowledge that the improvements in our schools did not take place over five yearsthey go further back than her period in office.
I pay particular tribute to a school in my constituency that was mentioned in dispatchesSt. John's middle school. The Secretary of State will be aware that there are many outstanding schools in my patch and we offer our congratulations to St. John's on its mention this year.
May I ask the right hon. Lady about her plans for the teaching of foreign languages? After many years of relative failure, that is a great disappointment to all of us. Does the right hon. Lady have any plans to exploit our links with the European Unionfor example, by creating teacher scholarships or initiating teacher exchangesto tap into the resources available to our partners in Europe to provide competent modern language training?
Estelle Morris: The hon. Lady's comments on foreign languages are positive. My reply is similar to the one I gave the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) about maths teachers. If we carry on in the same way, there will be no change and things will continue to get worse. I hope that the hon. Lady can be patient because in the not too distant future we shall make an announcement about the teaching of modern languages. As she suggests, we should use modern foreign language expertise wherever it may beusing our connections not only with schools in Europe, but with language departments in universities and elsewhere. We should exploit that. Imaginative and creative thinking will break the logjam. I very much hope that when we make further announcements, the hon. Lady will find much to applaud, but I accept that we have much to do in order to catch up. I feel a great sense of shame when I meet my European counterparts and they talk about the quality of English teaching in their country, given our lack of ability to teach foreign languages at all in primary schoolslet alone teach them effectively in secondary schools.
Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North): When my right hon. Friend makes her announcement on foreign languages, will she examine the way in which Endon high school is trying to improve its teaching of modern languages?
I welcome and appreciate the hard work that has gone into the report. In Stoke-on-Trent and in Staffordshire, we are starting to see real improvements on the ground. I hope that my right hon. Friend will use the report to persuade her Cabinet colleagues that we need urgently to review the standard spending assessments and the area cost adjustments.
Estelle Morris: My hon. Friend is a fearsome advocate for the schools in her constituency. The area started from a low base and has been traditionally neglected in allocating additional resources. It certainly suffers from not having the best standing in the standard spending assessment allocation table. I grant all that, but my hon. Friend will not like what I am going to say. I certainly look forward to a further application for specialist school status from the school in her constituency that she mentions, but that teaches us that being an outstanding school is not sufficient in itself to achieve specialist school status. Achieving that status is about schools working with other schools, spreading their expertise elsewhere and taking on even more demanding targets and using the extra resources to meet them, but it is clear that that school has very good foundations on which to work. I know how disappointed the school was not to be successful this time, but I hope that the report gives it the confidence to try again.