Two or three times a week in the Commons, the government will deliver a statement on an area of policy or a response to an event that has happened. Once the Minister has given the statement, other MPs can stand and ask questions about it.
MPs can also force a statement by asking the Speaker to grant an Urgent Question, or UQ. Statements are also used to announce a big government decision or a change in policy.
In the last week we have had both an Urgent Question and then a statement on education. The government has announced it wants to bring back selection in secondary education, by reintroducing grammar schools.
We are fortunate in Chester that all of our secondary schools are doing pretty well, even if their head teachers know that there is always room for improvement. Speaking to our schools I know they are working hard to drive standards up.
So I was disappointed to hear that Prime Minister Theresa May wants to bring back selection, because it focusses on the few and not the many. One constituent wrote to me this week to tell me of his experiences, where he passed the 11 Plus exam and went to a grammar school, but a sibling did not. The sibling went to a secondary modern school, their self-esteem suffered and they never achieved their full potential.
It feels wrong to me to sort children on academic ability at the young age of 11, when some develop at different speeds. It seems that Chief Inspector of Schools Michael Wilshaw, and even former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan agree with me.
And the unspoken but inevitable consequence of bringing back grammar schools is that we also bring back secondary moderns, but nobody ever calls for a return of secondary moderns do they?
In this week’s statement I asked the Education Secretary about another point: at the moment parents can choose the secondary school that is best for their child. Parental choice is an important part of our school system. If you introduce selection, choice disappears: either the school selects or the parents choose, but you can’t have both.
There is no magic bullet to continue our drive to improve school standards. Well-motivated, well qualified teachers (not the unqualified teachers that the government wants to introduce); parental involvement. Great facilities – such as the new Blacon High School building that opened this week. And above all, big ambition and aspiration that every child matters and every child can succeed at something given the right support. I want an excellent school system for the many, not just for the few.