On Friday morning I visited Aldingbourne Primary School to meet the staff and pupils on their last day before half term.

I always enjoy visiting local schools, and this was no exception.  I was given a tour by Year 6 pupils Mia and Scott and had a chat with headteacher Liz Webster, a keen rugby fan.

On the tour, I bumped into two teachers who were busy marking SATS papers.  And although they were concerned about the impact of school league tables, they reinforced my belief in the importance of rigorous but appropriate testing to ensure that standards are being maintained and children are not left behind.

If their latest Ofsted report was anything to go by, standards aren't a problem here though, the school having been judged "outstanding" across the board.  What struck me was how the headteacher was determined to do better still, that no-one would be allowed to rest on their laurels.

Of course we're fortunate to have many good schools in the South Downs.  But we are not without our problems. One is the shortage of places in some of our village schools.  It has left many parents feeling badly let down after being told that they would have to take their children to alternative schools in neighbouring villages.

It's just one of the reasons why I'm so keen to see Michael Gove's reforms implemented.  State funded education will be opened up to new providers, allowing parents and community groups to set up new schools in their area.  I'm looking forward to discussing these ideas with parents in Hurstpierpoint shortly.

We will also see an extension of the academy programme, something I strongly support.  New academies have opened in Shoreham, Littlehampton and Lancing and last year I visited Midhurst Rother College, the first rural academy in the country.  I met the Principal and was impressed with his plans to turn things around after a difficult and uncertain few years.

We need to give headteachers, staff and parents more control over the running of schools in areas like the curriculum, discipline and funding.

If we're going to raise the quality of education for our children and give schools the freedom to innovate, we need to trust our schools and free them from the shackles of Whitehall bureaucracy.

Christopher N Howarth