12. What steps her Department is taking to improve schools in parts of the country where there has been persistent underperformance. 
Our strategy for what we are calling “achieving excellence areas” will tackle entrenched underperformance in areas where low school standards are reinforced by a lack of capacity to deliver and sustain improvement. We want to eradicate pockets of underperformance in our school system, and we will do so by targeting leadership and other school improvement programmes in areas of greatest need. We look forward to working with the first areas from this autumn.
I thank the Minister for his reply. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, has called on the Welsh Assembly Government to introduce academies in Wales, saying that they improve performance. Does the Minister agree with me that raising standards is vital to helping the economy, and that it is important that political boundaries do not get in the way of business growth in my own area of north-east Wales?
How wise Sir Michael is, on this and on so much else! Raising standards is key to helping the economy grow and to improving productivity. Officials at the Department will be more than happy to hold discussions with their counterparts in the Welsh Government on how academies are raising standards. We would also be happy to discuss our education reforms over the past six years, which are raising standards and expectations in reading, writing, maths and the whole curriculum, in sharp contrast to what is happening in Wales under a Labour Administration.