I said in Opposition that education would be our Number One priority, the passion of my Government. Words that are easy enough in Opposition. But I believe we are turning those words into action that will revolutionise standards at every level.
We have been in office less than four months. Yet already we have taken major steps forward. Cuts in class sizes on the way, thanks to our Bill to abolish the Assisted Places Scheme. A White Paper, widely welcomed, detailing our measures to raise school standards. Tough action on failing schools. And a ??2.3 billion cash injection in the Budget to support the standards crusade.
The focus upon education is not something that we plan for one term, one year, one Parliament. It is there for good.
For there is no greater task as we face the challenges of a new global economy and a new Millennium. The countries that invest in their young people are the countries that will succeed. And if there is one issue on which I wish to be judged above all, it is this one.
But Governments cannot do it alone. I have come to your school today to draw attention to the extraordinary success story that you have become in an area with considerable social and economic problems.
Three years ago, 11 per cent of your GCSE pupils gained five A-C passes or more. Now it is 39 per cent. A few years ago, perhaps one or two GCSE pupils might go on to university at the end of their education. Twenty or thirty of this years intake will do so.
That is real progress and in very large part you have an inspiring and dedicated head teacher to thank, as well as his staff. The head teacher is the single most important part of a school, which is why we have committed ourselves to a national qualification for all aspiring head teachers, and a fast-track to headship for the best classroom teachers.
In many schools, sadly, children think that it is clever not to work too hard. Im told that used to be the case here. But it has been turned around. Those who want to work hard are setting the tone, rather than the reverse. You are motivated, and there is no greater thing for a child than to be motivated, curious, anxious to learn more and more.
We need to encourage more schools to do what you have done here with the use of supplementary teaching outside school hours. You are also setting a great example with the more elaborate weekend and longer study trips funded through your very successful business partnership with Bankers Trust. This has included weekend residential courses at English universities, and even tips to New York paid for by the Bank.
Business needs our schools and universities to be successful, which is why I have been keen to involve them more and more in developing our thinking - and in providing resources.
We had the backing of News International, for example, to the tune of ??25,000 to help us set up the first summer literacy schools this year, which have helped children with reading and writing difficulties. 50 schools have participated in our scheme, and 1,500 youngsters have been given the extra help they need. The evidence is of great enthusiasm from pupils and teachers alike - and great strides forward in raising standards too.
Its a good start. But next year I want to do more - then times more, to spread the scheme to more than 500 schools. We are in discussion with a number of companies and industrialists with the aim of raising ??1m from the private sector for next summer, which we will more than match with ??4m from Government.
These are small sums by Government standards. But that will help more than 16,000 young children, and give them the foundation of good reading to take them into secondary schools.
I know that many young people are disillusioned with politics. I see it as part of my job to try to restore some faith in politics.
The important thing is to know why you are in politics. I am in politics because I believe passionately in Britain, and I believe passionately in education as the key to the success of an individual and of a nation.
Schools like this deserve real support, and they will get it. Pupils like you deserve real support, and you will get it.