The secretary of state for education has urged people to look behind the “warm words” of Conservative leader David Cameron at the detail of his proposals to raise standards in schools.

Ed Balls, speaking on a visit to Perry Beeches Secondary School in Great Barr yesterday, said Mr Cameron and the Conservatives seemed more interested in talking down education.

The Tory leader, writing exclusively in Wednesday' Birmingham Post, spoke of his “far-reaching commitment” to improving standards through better discipline, tougher exams to replace GCSEs and making academies the norm.

But Mr Balls responded: “When you look behind the PR, they are not committed to sustaining our spending and, in fact, plan to cut £4.5billion from our school building programme. Look behind the warm words and see the reality.”

Mr Balls said the Government neither funded nor credited International GCSEs – which have been adopted by some private schools – because they did not consider them to be of a “sufficiently high standard”.

He said the English literature exam, for instance, did not have a requirement to study Shakespeare.

The education secretary welcomed the involvement of TV’s former Countdown regular Carol Vorderman to a maths task force set up by Mr Cameron, but he insisted: “England is now the highest performing country in Europe for maths and science, although I am not complacent.

“David Cameron and the Conservatives seem to want to spend the whole time talking down education.”

Mr Balls hailed the success of Perry Beeches Secondary in more than doubling its pass rate for five or more top grade GCSEs including English and maths.

He said:” This is a school that has got bigger challenges than most and was consistently getting below average results two years ago, but now shows that you can raise aspirations and you can deliver.”