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Transcript of Prime Minister's broadcast on education - 17 November 2000

How well our children do at school is vital, of course, to the youngsters themselves and their families.

A good start at school, a good education, makes a huge difference to children's chances in later life.

But the quality of education our children receive also matters to the country as a whole - because our future economic success and prosperity depends on it.

In this new century, more than ever before, the raw material that counts is the talent and skills of our people.

So to succeed, we need to make sure that everyone gets the chance to make the most of that potential.

It's for these reasons that we made education our number one priority. And we have backed that pledge with record and sustained investment.

It is investment which can only be afforded now and in future years because of the tough decisions taken to bring long-term stability to our economy.

The importance of education to our children and our country is why I was so pleased this week to hear of the steady progress taking place in our secondary schools.

The latest performance tables highlight the continued and welcome improvements in overall standards.

It's particularly good news that we have seen better than average improvements in secondary schools in some of our inner-city areas.

Many inner city schools now have programmes for bright children, extra staff to cope with those with problems and more backing to improve discipline.

And they show how the policies that David Blunkett has targeted at those communities with some of the greatest problems, are paying off.

But while I'm pleased that Government policies are playing their part in these improvements, the real hard work has been done by the pupils, parents and, of course, teachers.

It's the thousands of dedicated teachers, day in day out in classrooms up and down the country, who are making the difference.

And these results show just what can be achieved by committed teachers and their pupils, supported by effective national strategies and investment.

The results also build on the dramatic improvements we have already seen in our primary schools.

Here the introduction of the numeracy and literacy hours have helped teachers ensure their pupils have a better grip on the basics.

So successful have these dedicated lessons proved - and so popular have they proved with teachers - that we are now extending them to the early years in secondary schools.

They will particularly help those children who leave primary school without reaching the standards in reading, writing and maths expected for their age.

£82 million more has been allocated by David Blunkett, whose leadership has played such a vital role in improving standards, to give secondary teachers the support and the tools they need to adapt the literacy and numeracy strategies for their pupils.

Our secondary schools then can improve just like our primary schools. So, pupils, parents and teachers have real reason for pride.

But there's no room for complacency. We need to keep improving standards.

We need to keep working so that the standards in our best comprehensive schools - like Thomas Telford School in Shropshire where every pupil achieved five or more A* to C grades in their GCSE exams last year - become the norm.

We've already greatly expanded specialist schools like this. Within four years, nearly 30 per cent of all secondaries will have a specialism in technology, languages, arts and sports.

We need to keep working so that the progress witnessed in these schools - whose results are improving at 50 per cent more than the average level - then help drive up standards across all secondaries.

Pupils can't bring about these improvements on their own. Nor can teachers, parents or the Government.

It needs us all to continue working together to deliver the results we want. It's important we succeed - for the future of our children and for our country.

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