One of the priorities in my budget was education where, despite the financial pressures, we announced a big funding increase of £2.3 billion more for schools.
That was for two reasons. Firstly I wanted to recognise big progress in raising standards – up nine places in the international league tables for English and maths in the past seven years – and make sure that even in difficult times schools are able to continue that progress.
But secondly I believe a strong education system is essential for our economy.
I have often worried whether our school leavers have technical skills as good as they would get in Germany or Japan.
We need to make sure we are preparing young people for the very different workplace environment they will face this century.
One of the things that helps me make such decisions is regular interaction with local schools.
As well as many visits, I also meet Farnham head teachers regularly. As it happens we met last Friday morning.
Top of their minds were concerns about energy costs and the difficulties of recruiting support staff. I wanted to find out what we could do to make sure all children meet the required standard for literacy and numeracy.
We also discussed issues around SEND pupils where there have been a number of communication issues between Surrey County Council and schools and families with children who have special needs.
So separately I also met with Surrey County Council’s head of SEND provision for our area alongside some head teachers and parents where I am pleased to say real progress has been made in resolving some of the issues that have been raised with me.
The bottom line is that if we want to become a high-skill, high-wage economy, it starts with education.
Our schools have indeed done well in recent years – but countries like Finland and Singapore still do better.
As a parliamentary candidate I spent a week as a classroom assistant in South Farnham and Woolmer Hill schools – and that experience had a big impact on me personally.
It was both enlightening and occasionally terrifying.
I realised that locally we are lucky to have brilliant schools – but that is not the case everywhere and there is still much work to be done to improve our education system as a whole.
Now I am chancellor as well as MP for South West Surrey, that knowledge is more important than ever.