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  • When I stood in Downing Street as Prime Minister for the first time this summer, I set out

  • my mission to build a country that works for everyone.

  • Today I want to talk a little more about what that means and lay out my vision for a truly

  • meritocratic Britain that puts the interests of ordinary, working class people first.

  • We are facing a moment of great change as a nation.

  • As we leave the European Union, we must define an ambitious new role for ourselves in the

  • world.

  • That involves asking ourselves what kind of country we want to be: a confident, global

  • trading nation that continues to play its full part on the world stage.

  • But at the same time, I believe we have a precious opportunity to step back and ask

  • some searching questions about what kind of country we want to be here at home too.

  • In fact, it's not just an opportunity, but a duty.

  • Because one thing is clear.

  • When the British people voted in the referendum, they did not just choose to leave the European

  • Union.

  • They were also expressing a far more profound sense of frustration about aspects of life

  • in Britain and the way in which politics and politicians have failed to respond to their

  • concerns.

  • Some voted for the first time in more than 30 years.

  • Some for the first time ever.

  • And they were inspired to do so because they saw a chance to reject the politics of 'business

  • as usual' and to demand real, profound change.

  • Fed up with being ignored or told that their priorities were somehow invalid, based on

  • ignorance and misunderstanding, or even on occasion that they were simply wrong to voice

  • the concerns that they did, they took their opportunity to send a very clear message:

  • they will not be ignored anymore.

  • They want to take back control of the things that matter in their lives.

  • They want a government that listens, understands and is on their side.

  • They want change.

  • And this government is going to deliver it.

  • Everything we do will be driven, not by the interests of the privileged few.

  • Not by those with the loudest voices, the special interests, the greatest wealth or

  • the access to influence.

  • This government's priorities are those of ordinary, working class people.

  • People for whom life sometimes can be a struggle, but who get on with things without complaint.

  • They get on with their jobssometimes 2 or even 3 of thembecause they have

  • families to feed and support, bills to pay and because to work for a fair reward is the

  • right thing to do.

  • They get on with their lives quietly, going about their business, going out to work, raising

  • families, helping neighbours, making their communities what they are.

  • They don't ask for much, but they want to know that the people that make the big decisions

  • are on their side, working for them.

  • They want to believe that everyone plays by the same rules and things are fair.

  • And above all they want to believe that if they uphold their end of the dealthey

  • do the right thing, they work hard, they pay their taxesthen tomorrow will be better

  • than today and their children will have a fair chance in life, the chance to go as far

  • as their talents will take them.

  • These are not outrageous demands or ridiculous desires, but for too many of these people

  • today life does not seem fair.

  • They are the people who made real sacrifices after the financial crash in 2008, though

  • they were in no way responsible.

  • They wonder if otherssome of whom really do bear responsibility for the crashdid

  • the same.

  • More than anything else, they worrytruly worrythat the changing world around them

  • means that their children and grandchildren won't have the same opportunities they have

  • enjoyed in life.

  • They deserve a better deal.

  • And to give them that, we should take this opportunity to step back and pose a fundamental

  • question: what kind of countrywhat kind of society - do we want to be?

  • I am clear about the answer.

  • I want Britain to be the world's great meritocracy – a country where everyone has a fair chance

  • to go as far as their talent and their hard work will allow.

  • I want us to be a country where everyone plays by the same rules; where ordinary, working

  • class people have more control over their lives and the chance to share fairly in the

  • prosperity of the nation.

  • And I want Britain to be a place where advantage is based on merit not privilege; where it's

  • your talent and hard work that matter, not where you were born, who your parents are

  • or what your accent sounds like.

  • Let us not underestimate what it will take to create that great meritocracy.

  • It means taking on some big challenges, tackling some vested interests.

  • Overcoming barriers that have been constructed over many years.

  • It means not being afraid to think differently about what disadvantage means, who we want

  • to help and how we can help them.

  • Because where once we reached for simple ways of labelling people disadvantaged and were

  • quick to pose simpleand often fairly bluntsolutions, in these modern times

  • disadvantage is much more complex.

  • It's often hidden and less easy to identify.

  • It's caused by factors that are more indirect and tougher to tackle than ever before.

  • But tackle it we must if we are to give ordinary, working class people the better deal they

  • deserve.

  • It means marking a significant shift in the way that government works in Britain too.

  • Because government and politicians have for years talked the language of social justice

  • where we help the very poorestand social mobilitywhere we help the brightest

  • among the poor.

  • But to make Britain a great meritocracy, we must move beyond this agenda and deliver real

  • social reform across every layer of society so that those whom the system would currently

  • missthose just above the threshold for help today yet those who are by no means rich

  • or well offare given the help they need.

  • It means putting government firmly on the side of not only the poorest in our society,

  • important though that is and will remain, but also of those in Britain who are working

  • hard but just about managing.

  • It means helping to make their lives a little easier; giving them greater control over the

  • issues they care about the most.

  • This is the change we need.

  • It will mean changing some of the philosophy underpinning how government thinks and acts.

  • It will mean recalibrating how we approach policy development to ensure that everything

  • we do as government helps to give a fair chance to those who are just getting bywhile

  • still helping those who are even more disadvantaged.

  • I don't pretend this change will be easychange rarely isbut this is the change

  • we need if we are to make Britain the great meritocracy I want it to be.

  • Over the coming weeks and months the government will set out an ambitious programme of economic

  • and social reform that will help us make this change and build a true meritocracy in our

  • country.

  • But there is no more important place to start than education.

  • Because if the central concern ordinary working class people have is that their children will

  • not enjoy the same opportunities they have had in life, we need to ensure that there

  • is a good school place for every child, and education provision that caters to the individual

  • needs and abilities of every pupil.

  • Schools that work for everyone We start from a position of strength.

  • This government has a proud record of school reform.

  • We have opened up the system, introducing a real diversity of provision.

  • We have schools where teachers and headteachers are free to make the decisions that are best

  • for them.

  • And through successful policies such as a renewed focus on learning the basics of reading

  • in primary schools, and initiatives to help young people pursue a strong academic core

  • of subjects at secondary level, we are ensuring that every child has the opportunity to develop

  • the core knowledge that underpins everything else.

  • We have put control in the hands of parents and headteachers, and encouraged people from

  • all walks of life who are passionate about education to bring their best ideas and innovations

  • to our school system.

  • The Academies and Free Schools movement overseen by pioneers such as Andrew Adonis and Michael

  • Gove has been a huge success and begun to build an education system fit for the future.

  • As a result, there are more good or outstanding schools today than ever before in our country.

  • And there are now more than 1.4 million more pupils in schools rated good or outstanding

  • than in 2010.

  • Our curriculum reforms mean that the proportion of pupils taking core academic subjects at

  • GCSE is up by almost 4-fifths.

  • We are driving up school standards to match the best international comparisons, with a

  • record number of pupils securing a place at one of our world-class universities this summer.

  • We can be proud of these achievements but there is still a long way to go.

  • Because for too many children, a good school remains out of reach.

  • There are still 1.25 million attending primary and secondary schools in England which are

  • rated by Ofsted as requiring improvement or inadequate.

  • If schools across the north and Midlands had the same average standards as those in the

  • south, nearly 200,000 more children would be attending good schools.

  • Let's be honest about what these statistics mean.

  • They mean that for far too many children in Britain, the chance they have in life is determined

  • by where they live or how much money their parents have.

  • And they mean that for far too many ordinary working class people, no matter how hard they

  • work, how many hours they put in or how many sacrifices they make, they cannot be confident

  • that their children will get the chances they deserve.

  • For when you are working 2 jobs and struggling to make ends meet, it is no good being told

  • that you can choose a better school for your children if you move to a different area or

  • pay to go private.

  • Those aren't choices that you can make.

  • And they are not choices that you should have to make.

  • So we need to go further, building on and extending our reforms so that we can truly

  • say that there will be a good school place for every child, and one that caters to their

  • individual needs.

  • But as we do it, we also need to change our philosophy and approach, because at the moment

  • the school system works if you're well off and can buy your way into the school you want,

  • and it provides extra help and support if you're from a disadvantaged family.

  • If you're eligible for free school meals, and your parents earn less than £16,000 a

  • year, then there is extra help on offer.

  • That is good and rightand as long as I am Prime Minister, the pupil premium for

  • the poorest children will remain.

  • But the free school meals measure only captures a relatively small number of pupils, whose

  • parents are on income-related benefits.

  • If we are going to make the change we need and build a great meritocracy in Britain,

  • we need to broaden our perspective and do more for the hidden disadvantaged: children

  • whose parents are on modest incomes, who do not qualify for such benefits but who are,

  • nevertheless, still only just getting by.

  • If you're earning 19, 20, 21 thousand pounds a year, you're not rich.

  • You're not well off.

  • And you should know you have our support too.

  • At the moment there is no way to differentiate between the school experience of children

  • from these families and those from the wealthiest 10%.

  • Policy has been skewed by the focus only on those in receipt of free school meals, when

  • the reality is that there are thousands of children from ordinary working class families

  • who are being let down by the lack of available good school places.

  • Putting this right means finding a way to identify these children and measuring their

  • attainment and progress within the school system.

  • That work is underway and is central to my vision of a school system that truly works

  • for everyone.

  • But we must also deliver a radical increase in the capacity of the school system so that

  • these families can be sure of their children getting good school places.

  • And this is really important.

  • Because I don't just want to see more school places but more good school places.

  • And I don't just want to see more new schools, but more good new schools that each in their

  • way contribute to a diversity of provision that caters to the needs and abilities of

  • each individual child, whoever they are and wherever they are from.

  • Every child should be given the opportunity to develop the crucial academic core.

  • And thanks to our reforms that is increasingly the case.

  • But people understand that every child is different too, with different talents, different

  • interests, different dreams.

  • To help them realise their potential and achieve those dreams we need a school system with

  • the capacity and capability to respond to what they need.

  • School capacity So as we radically expand the number of good

  • school places available to all familiesnot just those who can afford to buy an expensive

  • house, pay for an expensive private school, or fund the extra tuition their child needs

  • to succeed – I want to encourage more people, schools and institutions with something to

  • offer to come forward and help.

  • In the last 6 years, we have seen individuals and communities put staggering amounts of

  • time and effort into setting up good new schools.

  • Some of the best state schools, charities, universities, private schools, and businesses

  • have stepped forward to get involved.

  • And, increasingly, the best state schools are sponsoring the least good.

  • This has been a revolution in our schools system.

  • But with 1.25 million children still attending schools that are struggling, we need to do

  • much more to increase the capacity of the system so every child can get the education

  • they deserve.

  • So let's now build on the success of school reform, let's encourage others to play their

  • part, and let's remove the barriers they face so we can do more.

  • Let's sweep away those barriers and encourage more people to join us in the task of delivering

  • a good school place for every child.

  • Let's build a truly dynamic school system where schools and institutions learn from

  • one another, support one another and help one another.

  • Let's offer a diverse range of good schools that ensure the individual talents and abilities

  • of every child are catered for.

  • That is my ambition.

  • And there are 4 specific proposals I want to talk about today that I believe will help.

  • Universities Firstly, I want to build on the success we

  • have already experienced when some of our great universities have stepped in to help

  • by sponsoring or supporting a local school.

  • Universities have a huge amount to offer England's schools.

  • They have been part of the fabric of our education system since the 13th century and have had

  • a profound impact on our schools over generations.

  • Recently we have seen The University of Cambridge establish The University of Cambridge Primary

  • School and The University of Birmingham open an impressive new free school for secondary

  • school pupils and sixth formers.

  • The new specialist Sixth Form, King's College London Mathematics School, is already performing

  • impressively and the University of Brighton is involved in sponsoring more than a dozen

  • different primary and secondary schools.

  • These are the kinds of innovation I want to encourage.

  • This kind of active engagement in building the capacity of our school system is in my

  • view far more effective than spending huge sums on bursaries and other financial support

  • that tackle the symptoms but not the cause.

  • The right for a university to charge the higher level of tuition fee has always been dependent

  • on their ability to fulfil specified access requirements.

  • And this year, in fulfilling these requirements, they are expected to spend over £400 million

  • on bursaries and other forms of financial support for students.

  • Yet the evidence is clear: it is the attainment of pupils at school that is the over-riding