Via House of Commons Hansard Debates for 21 Jun 2012, remarks you would not make up:

We on the Opposition Benches believe in rigour and high standards for all, but we also believe in a broad curriculum that prepares young people for work, so we will set a series of tests to ensure that the changes meet both. First, Labour wants higher literacy and numeracy standards. The key is to raise teaching quality across the board. Is there any reason to expect these proposals to deliver that? At best, they are a distraction from the central challenges. Standards rose under Labour because we focused on literacy and numeracy. It was we who inherited a weak system for maths and English from the Tories. Only three in 10 pupils—that is 60%, because I know that the Secretary of State is not very good at maths—got a good GCSE in 1997, more than half —[ Interruption. ]


  1. Matthew Newton

    Oh come on, it was just a slip of the tongue, albeit a very embarrassing one.

  2. Matthew Newton

    Dear Mr Baker,
    Thanks for your reply. Let me say that if I had to have a Conservative MP, I would certainly like it to be you.
    I wonder if I might make a couple of comments:
    1. In the debate on EMA, you said that EMA was not a good idea since it involved ‘bribing people with their own money’. But what about the following argument:
    a. If people are better educated they possess more useful skills.
    b. If they possess more useful skills the economy can grow at a faster rate
    c. If the economy grows at a faster rate, debt repayment can be accelerated.
    d. If more debt is paid off, then it will be less of a burden on society’s shoulders. So surely then EMA and similar efforts to support education might be very good investments. Isn’t the social return to investment in education (and to increases in government spending on education) likely to be huge?
    2. Don’t you think that if libertarian ideas are put into practice some people will get to keep lots of wealth and others won’t. Isn’t this just as ‘arbitrary’, in fact more so, than state redistribution?
    Bastiat, for examples, argues that it is ‘arbitary’ for the state to take money from some and give it to others. But if this prevents money from arbitrarily accumulating in a small group of people’s hands might it not actually be a good idea, especially if it is done fairly? (Redistribution to promote equal opportunity need not entail a large state. For example, education could be done through a voucher system. But surely unless there is equal opportunity in a society surely there is need for redistribution to achieve this.)

    • “””
      Isn’t the social return to investment in education (and to increases in government spending on education) likely to be huge?

      New Labour tested that theory to destruction.

      They increased the education budget from £38 billion in 1997 to £73 billion in 2007, and hid even more spending off-balance-sheet through PFI schemes.

      The result:

      The last major international study comparing educational standards in 57 developed countries, published in 2010, found that Britain had slumped from fourth to 14th in science and seventh to 17th in English.

      We desperately need to get government out of the education business.

      • Matthew Newton

        Of course a fall in standards compared to other countries is disappointing but that could be due to an increase in performance in competing countries rather than a significant fall in the UK. UK public expenditure on education is below the OECD average, especially in the tertiary sector:
        What about this article (which mainly looks at the tertiary sector):
        (Some of that article is silly. The total number of graduates, even at PhD level, is not a reliable guide to the success of an education system. I know from experience that standards in Chinese universities for example are very low.)
        I agree that the incentives for schools are often perverse. But I don’t think Labour’s record invalidates the idea that, for example, increases in salaries for teachers would attract better teachers and then get better results. The increases could also be targeted at the most deprived local authorities for example. No doubt Labour did not spend its money very wisely.

  3. Matthew Newton

    “UK public expenditure on education is below the OECD average, especially in the tertiary sector:
    Oops, as a percentage of total public expenditure it is lower than the OECD average, but as a percentage of GDP public education spending was slightly than the OECD average in 2007: