More tests, longer school days, more extra-curricular activities and better discipline. These are the key ambitions Education Secretary Michael Gove set out as he called on state schools to become as good as top fee-paying schools like Eton and Harrow.
In a speech today, he vowed to break down the 'Berlin Wall' between state and private schools and to open up the opportunities available in the independent sector to more pupils than ever before.
He said his ambition was to raise standards in state schools in England to the point where they are indistinguishable from their fee-paying counterparts.
Addressing the London Academy of Excellence, Mr Gove said: "My ambition for our education system is simple - when you visit a school in England standards are so high all round that you should not be able to tell whether it's in the state sector or a fee paying independent.
"We know England's private schools are the best independent schools in the world. Why shouldn't state schools be the best state schools in the world?
"I want to see state schools where the vast majority of pupils have the grades and skills to apply for university, if they want to, where a pupil being accepted to Oxbridge is not a cause for celebration, but a matter of course.
"Where it is the norm for state pupils to enjoy brilliant extra-curricular activities like sports, orchestras, cadets, choir, drama, debating, the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, and more."
The speech brought together a catalogue of measures that Mr Gove has called for over the past few weeks - and which have been drip-fed to the press - including tougher tests, longer school days, shorter holidays, more extra-curricular activities, and better discipline.
These measures, he believes, will end the perception that state education is 'bog standard' (a term once used by former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell) by emulating independent schools.
In his speech today, Mr Gove, who has made no secret of his desire to see state schools run more like independents, said the boundaries between the two sectors were already being eroded by the government's free schools and academies programmes – a process he is determined to continue.
He said: "Instead of reinforcing the Berlin Wall between state and private, as the current Labour leadership appear to want, we should break it down.
"Thanks to our reforms, private schools are opening their doors and their opportunities to more children than ever before."
He added: "When Channel Four make documentaries about great comprehensives – academies – in Essex and Yorkshire, when BBC3 make heroes out of tough young teachers, when even Tatler publishes a guide to the best state schools – you know tectonic plates have started to shift."
He said that teachers at state-schools should set their children the Common Entrance exam when they are 13. The exams are used by private schools to help decide which students they select, but Mr Gove wants the state sector to use them to help track pupils' progress.
Under the national curriculum, state school pupils are tested at the ages of 11 and 16, raising concerns that their performance 'dips and suffers' in the run up to their GCSEs or equivalent qualifications.
Mr Gove said: "I want state schools to try out Common Entrance exams - giving them a chance to check how well they and their pupils are performing against some of the top schools in the world."
He also called on teachers to give their pupils international tests, known as Pisa exam papers, so they can assess their performance against students 'in Shanghai or Singapore'.
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