Want to see what Labour would do with Michael Gove’s reforms? Just look at Wales, says Elizabeth Truss. At the Spectator’s schools conference this morning, the Childcare Minister used the demolished the Euston arch (pictured above) as a symbol of how Britain went wrong, and its HS2-stimulated rebirth of how this government is making amends.
Speaking after a robust lecture from Tristram Hunt, Truss explained how the changes to education in Wales have set a dangerous precedent of what a Labour government might do. She pointed out that after abandoning national testing, Wales has fallen to 40th in international league tables for maths:
‘In terms of accountability, this is one of the big issues with Wales and why they’ve fallen down so dramatically. When you remove accountability system, you can’t hold schools to account and you can’t see worse performance.’
There’s evidence to back up her claim. According to a study from Bristol University, pupils in England and Wales were performing at a similar level in 2001. But after dropping national league tables, school performance in Wales has been reduced by two GCSE grades per pupils per year on average. This chart below shows how the gap has widened between the two countries:
In lieu of any new policies, Truss instead drew some dividing lines with Labour. In response to Hunt’s criticism of free schools in areas with excess places, she argued the new institutions have ‘forced every other school to raise its game’ and this is why it’s important to ‘open schools where there isn’t satisfactory education’. Expect this to be churned over and over as a key difference between Labour and the Tories at the next election.