Christmas and the New Year are perfect for families coming together as well as for taking stock of the year just passed. A lot has happened across the span of 2017, whether in Lincolnshire, Westminster, across England, or around the world.
England has now risen to joint eighth place in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, up from joint tenth in 2011. This is thanks to the decision to abandon decades of leftist educational theory and to teach reading through phonics instead. The results have been impressive, especially for pupils from poorer and less advantaged backgrounds. Reading is the most fundamental tool in life and is the key to advancement in most other fields of study. It just goes to show what impact a sound policy well implemented can have.
There are now 1.9 million more children attending good and outstanding schools compared with the year Conservatives returned to government in 2010. That’s 87 per cent of English children today compared to 66 per cent in 2010.
In terms of poverty, England is succeeding as well. The number of individuals in absolute poverty has fallen from 9.9 million in 2009/10 to 9.3 million in 2015/16. That means we’ve still got a long way to go, but the trend is in the right direction.
Good honest paid work is the best route out of poverty, and so I am very pleased to report that unemployment is currently at its lowest in over forty years. One Guardian columnist claimed the Conservative economic policies were based on pie-in-the-sky fantasy and that we’d need to create three million jobs in order for them to make any sense. Since 2010, we have seen just over three million jobs created, with 325,000 more jobs this year. Current vacancies were at a record high 798,000 in the three months leading up to November 2017.
The number of children growing up in a workless household is still far too high, but again it has fallen by 41,000 in the past year. We are looking to do more to look after children’s mental health as well. Around 850,000 children have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, be it anxiety, depression, eating disorders or the like. The Government has a new £300 million plan to help address these problems especially through schools.
Almost every extended family has had someone affected by cancer, and the NHS is making steady progress both in diagnosing and in treating cancer. Survival rates here are now at a record high, and we are determined to make sure people are diagnosed as quickly as possible and given access to the most up-to-date treatments.
So, despite the glum headlines and the uncertainty over the future, there is progress being made and there are many reasons to be of good cheer. Not least among these is the birth of Christ our Saviour that we celebrate, and the opportunity to come together as families and communities and join our praises in with those of the angels.