Schools are failing to teach basic skills because they are overburdened with initiatives and forced to focus on exam results, Birmingham residents have told Gordon Brown and the Cabinet.
Concern about the state of the education system was raised behind closed doors when the Cabinet met members of the public in Birmingham last month.
Ministers met hundreds of residents for discussions about the nation, to prove they were listening to the views of people outside London.
But the meeting was held in private. Although the event was broadcast live on the Downing Street website, the sound was turned down while Ministers met ordinary voters.
The Government has published a report on the consultation which reveals residents set out a range of criticism of Government policies.
In a summary of the points made, it said: “There were too many education initiatives and the frequent changes in the education system were seen as a cause of low basic skill levels.”
It added: “The focus on five GCSEs at grades A-C needed to be addressed. It should not be seen as the only marker of performance. It gave children the wrong message with unintended consequences. The Government needed to do more to redress the balance and ensure schools were not tailoring teaching exclusively to exam preparation.”
Residents were also concerned about school discipline, the report said.
“Not enough was being done to improve discipline, particularly when it came to unruly individuals. Schools found it too costly to exclude pupils who were having a detrimental effect.”
And there were fears ethnic minorities were being left behind, although others were doing well.
“The Government should investigate why social groups struggled at school, whereas children from some non-English speaking backgrounds progressed much faster,” the report said.
The document also included the Government’s response. It said: “Passing the key tests, including English and maths, will improve a pupil’s life chances. Parents also want children to be able to show employers they have the right basic skills – they want children to get good GCSEs or equivalents, especially in English and maths.”
The Cabinet meeting at the ICC in Birmingham City Centre was the first time the Cabinet met outside London since 1921. Gordon Brown revealed the cost of the public consultation, Cabinet meeting and a meeting with business leaders was £61,920, without policing.
Conservatives accused the Prime Minister of spending taxpayers’ money on a “gimmick”.
Dan Byles, Tory prospective Parliamentary candidate for North Warwickshire, filed a Freedom of Information request asking for full cost details, including security costs, and how many officials accompanied the PM.
Labour MP Steve McCabe (Lab Hall Green) said: “One of the practical results was the creation of a forum for local ministers to meet business leaders on a regular basis.”