You only get one education and we need to do everything we can to make sure that it is right for the individual child concerned. Over the last two years I have visited every secondary school and virtually every primary school in this area and I have seen some really good work going on and some really inspirational teachers.
I have always thought that a good education is the single most important thing that can increase social mobility and help the next generation to get on in life. We must constantly strive to strengthen primary education, bring greater rigour to both secondary education and the exams system and also support those who want to go on to university or take on an apprenticeship.
This week, Michael Gove announced changes to the exams system so that there will be a new “English Baccalaureate” to replace the old GCSE which will put greater emphasis on final exams and will create a new gold standard qualification at the age of 16. I think this is a positive move. There is evidence that the current emphasis on course work and modules gives children from middle class backgrounds an unfair advantage over other children and the growth of the internet means that it has become ever harder to ensure that course work done at home is genuine. If we are to compete with the best in the world then we need qualifications that are highly regarded throughout the world and this week represented a step forwards.
The government is also opening new schools, following the success of a similar policy in Sweden. Last week I visited the new St Michael’s Free School which has just opened in Camborne. This is a small, catholic school which is free and open to all children. In the old days, only wealthy parents with money could choose which school their child went to, but that is now changing. While it is likely that most children in the Camborne and Redruth area will continue to choose from the excellent, larger secondary schools in the area, for some, a small school like St Michael's will be the right option to nurture their talents and, in my view, we should not deny parents that choice.
Finally, we need to help young people who want to go to university or enter an apprenticeship. The government has created some 300,000 new apprenticeships where young people can learn a skill while earning an income. Meanwhile, Cornwall Council has announced a ground breaking new policy to introduce bursaries that will be made available to help young people from Cornwall attend university. Cornwall Council gets its fair share of criticism, but this is a really thoughtful policy aimed at helping the next generation get ahead and the Council deserves credit for bringing it forward.
George Eustice can be contacted at email@example.com or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.