The Education Secretary Michael Gove has claimed poor schooling is to blame for high youth unemployment in Birmingham.
In an interview with the Birmingham Post, Michael Gove claimed some city schools were “not good enough” and that “determined action” was needed to improve education.
He also said that creating new schools could hold the key to better qualifications.
Birmingham has 16,245 young people aged 18 to 24 claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance – more than one in ten of all people in that age group.
When youngsters aged 16 and 17 are included, the total cost to the Treasury is £62 million a year, according to research by the House of Commons.
Mr Gove, who was in the city for the opening of the new £10 million performing arts centre at King Edward’s School, Edgbaston, said Birmingham needed “more schools, more choice and higher standards”.
He said: “Everyone recognises that in the past Birmingham has had all sorts of challenges educationally.
"We now sense that there is goodwill across almost all the political parties for the sorts of reforms that we want to put in place to help improve education in Birmingham. Birmingham is one of the fastest growing and certainly one of the youngest cities in Europe.
“A third of those between the ages of 18-24 are unemployed. Why? Well, economic circumstances play a part, but also there aren’t enough people with good enough qualifications. One of the reasons for that is that schools haven’t been good enough in Birmingham for years now.
“We need more outstanding schools in Birmingham and we need determined action to drive up the quality of education here.”
Mr Gove also criticised staff at Montgomery Primary School in Sparkbrook, who have twice taken strike action against moves to convert the school into an academy.
Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), NASUWT and GMB unions took part in the walkouts, which happened in December and January.
The school has now been put into special measures following an Ofsted inspection in March, where the watchdog found the school was “failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education”.
“It’s wrong for teachers to go out on strike when people are offering them support for their school,” said Mr Gove.
“We have to ask the question why they are going out on strike and one of the reasons of course is that that school has been under performing for years now.
“My primary concern is the children. The children haven’t had a good enough education and action needs to be taken. These schools have to improve, and if members of the NUT are more interested in their terms and conditions than on children’s futures then that is a poor commentary on them.”
Around a quarter of Birmingham secondary schools are now academies, with a growing number of primary schools converting to academy status.
They include Tindal Junior and Infant School, in Balsall Heath, and Primrose Hill School, in Kings Norton, which will both re-open as academies in September under the guidance of national academy chain ARK.
While some Birmingham schools, including Montgomery and Bournville School, have seen opposition from parents over academy conversions, Mr Gove denied there was much anti-academy feeling in the city, insisting parents “voted with their feet”.
He said: “There are some people in some political parties who are opposed to academies for ideological reasons, and there are those people in the NUT and one or two of the other unions are opposed.
“But the truth is that when parents have the chance to vote with their feet when it comes to choosing schools, they overwhelming choose academies. New academies are oversubscribed and that’s not a surprise.
“Once a school has been converted to academy status all the evidence is that it is on a journey of improvement.
“No school is being threatened with academy status. Schools are being promised the benefits that come from being an academy.”
But Mohammed Ashraf, from the Parents at Montgomery School, claimed Mr Gove was “out of touch”. Mr Ashraf said: “If he thinks some parents are not against academy conversion, then it shows just how disconnected politicians are to the public.
“Like parents at other schools in Birmingham, we want a dialogue about where the future of schools in this city.”
Risking the future of a generation: Page 28