There have been 102 exchanges between Nick Gibb and Department for Education
|Wed 15th July 2020||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (122 words)|
|Tue 7th July 2020||Support for Left-Behind Children||5 interactions (1,667 words)|
|Mon 22nd June 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||38 interactions (905 words)|
|Thu 18th June 2020||Education Standards: Stoke-on-Trent||3 interactions (689 words)|
|Fri 13th March 2020||Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill||15 interactions (2,327 words)|
|Tue 10th March 2020||Political Neutrality in Schools (Westminster Hall)||7 interactions (1,612 words)|
|Tue 10th March 2020||Early Years Education: Equality of Attainment (Westminster Hall)||6 interactions (1,342 words)|
|Mon 2nd March 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||24 interactions (698 words)|
|Thu 27th February 2020||School Admissions Process (Westminster Hall)||10 interactions (1,692 words)|
|Wed 26th February 2020||Secondary Education: Ellesmere Port||2 interactions (1,390 words)|
|Wed 26th February 2020||School Exclusions (Westminster Hall)||15 interactions (1,908 words)|
|Wed 12th February 2020||Education and Attainment of White Working-Class Boys (Westminster Hall)||4 interactions (1,210 words)|
|Tue 4th February 2020||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||4 interactions (168 words)|
|Mon 20th January 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||49 interactions (1,395 words)|
|Tue 5th November 2019||School Uniform Costs (Westminster Hall)||11 interactions (2,112 words)|
|Wed 25th September 2019||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||4 interactions (162 words)|
|Mon 9th September 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||69 interactions (1,697 words)|
|Wed 4th September 2019||LGBT Community and Acceptance Teaching (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (1,316 words)|
|Tue 3rd September 2019||School Funding: East Anglia (Westminster Hall)||9 interactions (2,152 words)|
|Wed 17th July 2019||Music Education in England (Westminster Hall)||5 interactions (2,032 words)|
|Wed 17th July 2019||Small and Village School Funding (Westminster Hall)||7 interactions (1,050 words)|
|Tue 16th July 2019||Relationship Education in Schools (Urgent Question)||43 interactions (3,210 words)|
|Mon 15th July 2019||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (419 words)|
|Wed 3rd July 2019||Schools in Winchester||2 interactions (2,074 words)|
|Mon 1st July 2019||Department for Education||6 interactions (2,238 words)|
|Tue 25th June 2019||Parental Involvement in Teaching: Equality Act||38 interactions (3,568 words)|
|Tue 25th June 2019||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (147 words)|
|Mon 24th June 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||55 interactions (1,432 words)|
|Thu 20th June 2019||Secondary Education: Raising Aspiration (Westminster Hall)||5 interactions (1,845 words)|
|Wed 19th June 2019||Free Schools (Westminster Hall)||7 interactions (2,366 words)|
|Tue 18th June 2019||History Curriculum: Migration (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (1,944 words)|
|Mon 10th June 2019||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (174 words)|
|Wed 5th June 2019||Authorised Absence from School (Westminster Hall)||4 interactions (1,533 words)|
|Tue 4th June 2019||Education Funding (Westminster Hall)||8 interactions (1,585 words)|
|Tue 7th May 2019||Ivybridge Community College: Examination Pressure (Westminster Hall)||2 interactions (1,666 words)|
|Wed 1st May 2019||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (221 words)|
|Mon 29th April 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||52 interactions (1,260 words)|
|Thu 25th April 2019||School Funding||11 interactions (1,910 words)|
|Thu 21st March 2019||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||7 interactions (659 words)|
|Wed 20th March 2019||Education||35 interactions (2,448 words)|
|Tue 19th March 2019||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||3 interactions (182 words)|
|Mon 11th March 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||37 interactions (927 words)|
|Tue 5th March 2019||Catholic Sixth-form Colleges (Westminster Hall)||7 interactions (2,034 words)|
|Mon 4th March 2019||School Funding (Westminster Hall)||17 interactions (2,261 words)|
|Thu 28th February 2019||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (73 words)|
|Mon 25th February 2019||Instrumental Music Tuition||8 interactions (1,316 words)|
|Mon 25th February 2019||Relationships and Sex Education (Westminster Hall)||15 interactions (2,293 words)|
|Tue 19th February 2019||Free Childcare: Costs and Benefits (Westminster Hall)||7 interactions (1,447 words)|
|Tue 19th February 2019||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (122 words)|
|Wed 13th February 2019||Education Funding: Cheshire (Westminster Hall)||9 interactions (1,678 words)|
|Wed 13th February 2019||Primary Schools: Nurture and Alternative Provision (Westminster Hall)||13 interactions (2,365 words)|
|Mon 11th February 2019||Secondary School Opening Hours (Westminster Hall)||5 interactions (1,714 words)|
|Mon 4th February 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||34 interactions (956 words)|
|Wed 30th January 2019||School Funding: Gloucestershire (Westminster Hall)||6 interactions (1,900 words)|
|Mon 28th January 2019||Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy (Urgent Question)||39 interactions (2,468 words)|
|Mon 28th January 2019||School Exclusions and Youth Violence||4 interactions (1,699 words)|
|Thu 10th January 2019||Europa School||2 interactions (2,005 words)|
|Mon 17th December 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||43 interactions (809 words)|
|Wed 12th December 2018||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (100 words)|
|Wed 5th December 2018||Free Schools and Academies in England (Westminster Hall)||13 interactions (2,744 words)|
|Tue 4th December 2018||Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools (Westminster Hall)||21 interactions (1,935 words)|
|Thu 29th November 2018||Improving Education Standards||32 interactions (4,022 words)|
|Thu 15th November 2018||Anti-bullying Week (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (2,011 words)|
|Thu 15th November 2018||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (163 words)|
|Tue 13th November 2018||Education Funding||12 interactions (1,168 words)|
|Mon 12th November 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||47 interactions (1,066 words)|
|Tue 6th November 2018||Plymouth Challenge for Schools (Westminster Hall)||2 interactions (1,359 words)|
|Wed 24th October 2018||School Funding (Westminster Hall)||14 interactions (1,650 words)|
|Tue 9th October 2018||Cost of School Uniforms (Westminster Hall)||9 interactions (1,272 words)|
|Mon 10th September 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||39 interactions (890 words)|
|Wed 18th July 2018||Swaminarayan School Closure (Westminster Hall)||4 interactions (1,248 words)|
|Tue 17th July 2018||Construction Industry Training Board HQ (Westminster Hall)||2 interactions (976 words)|
|Tue 3rd July 2018||Department for Education||28 interactions (1,594 words)|
|Mon 25th June 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||61 interactions (1,434 words)|
|Tue 19th June 2018||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||6 interactions (588 words)|
|Tue 22nd May 2018||National Funding Formula: Social Mobility (Westminster Hall)||37 interactions (3,156 words)|
|Tue 22nd May 2018||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||3 interactions (219 words)|
|Mon 14th May 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||36 interactions (681 words)|
|Wed 25th April 2018||School Funding||7 interactions (1,950 words)|
|Mon 26th March 2018||GCSE English Literature Exams (Westminster Hall)||9 interactions (2,366 words)|
|Mon 19th March 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||27 interactions (614 words)|
|Wed 14th March 2018||Foster Care (Westminster Hall)||13 interactions (2,015 words)|
|Mon 5th March 2018||British Sign Language: National Curriculum (Westminster Hall)||19 interactions (2,657 words)|
|Tue 27th February 2018||A-Level Provision: Knowsley Metropolitan Borough (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (1,399 words)|
|Tue 6th February 2018||Statutory PHSE Education (Westminster Hall)||7 interactions (1,791 words)|
|Mon 29th January 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||57 interactions (1,286 words)|
|Wed 10th January 2018||Primary School Academisation: Cambridge||6 interactions (1,401 words)|
|Mon 11th December 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||58 interactions (1,342 words)|
|Thu 30th November 2017||Leaving the EU: Student Exchanges||10 interactions (2,132 words)|
|Thu 23rd November 2017||Anti-bullying Week (Westminster Hall)||5 interactions (2,059 words)|
|Tue 14th November 2017||International Men’s Day (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (1,404 words)|
|Mon 6th November 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||58 interactions (1,371 words)|
|Mon 6th November 2017||Mental Health Education in Schools (Westminster Hall)||9 interactions (2,482 words)|
|Tue 31st October 2017||Education Funding: Wirral (Westminster Hall)||32 interactions (1,941 words)|
|Thu 26th October 2017||Global LGBT Rights||7 interactions (1,588 words)|
|Tue 10th October 2017||Education Funding (South Liverpool) (Westminster Hall)||8 interactions (1,924 words)|
|Wed 13th September 2017||Higher Education (England) Regulations||3 interactions (2 words)|
|Mon 11th September 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||47 interactions (978 words)|
|Mon 11th September 2017||School Funding: North Northumberland||4 interactions (1,750 words)|
|Wed 12th July 2017||Schools: Nottingham (Westminster Hall)||6 interactions (1,720 words)|
|Tue 4th July 2017||Education: Public Funding (Urgent Question)||75 interactions (3,684 words)|
|Wed 28th June 2017||School Funding Formula (London)||13 interactions (2,009 words)|
This has been a very thoughtful debate. I thank the hon. Member for Bury South (Christian Wakeford) for opening it on behalf of the Education Committee.
The Department for Education always has a special responsibility to provide opportunities for the most disadvantaged children to ensure that they enjoy secure, fulfilling and happy childhoods, to provide high-quality education to enable them to achieve their aspirations and reach their potential, and to create a route to lifelong learning that gives them skills for work and enriches their lives and wellbeing. But as many Members have noted, there is an especially significant role for the Department now, in the context of the covid crisis. Most children have been out of school since March, and this will bear most harshly on the most disadvantaged students. A senior official in the Minister’s own Department has been reported as saying that the attainment gap could widen by as much as 75% as a result of the covid impact.
That is in the context of an already troubling picture. Only 57% of children eligible for free school meals achieve a good level of school readiness, compared with 74% of their peers. Only 25% of children with special educational needs and disabilities are school ready, compared with 77% of their peers. By the time children finish primary school, only 51% of disadvantaged children reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, and at GCSE only 25% get good passes in maths and English, compared with 50% of all other students. Pupils with special educational needs and disabilities end up 14 months behind their peers at the end of their secondary education, with Gypsy and Roma children more than 34 months behind, and black Caribbean children nine and a half months behind.
I agree with the hon. Member for Stockton South (Matt Vickers) that the poorer educational outcomes achieved by the most disadvantaged children cannot be addressed by education alone. Poverty scars children’s life chances—their ability to learn and make the most of their education. Children who go hungry or who live in overcrowded housing, as the hon. Member for Keighley (Robbie Moore) noted, or whose parents cannot afford educational toys, trips or activities, face extra barriers even before they get to school.
That is why the rise in child poverty over the past 10 years is so dismaying—up from 3.5 million in 2010-11 to 4.2 million today. The hon. Member for Wantage (David Johnston) was right to draw attention to the impact that that poverty has on children’s attainment. None the less, our education system should be working to compensate for that disadvantage. Instead, as children progress through school, the gap between the most disadvantaged and other students actually widens and this, as has been noted around the House, affects the destinations of those children as they complete their schooling. They are more likely to be NEET—not in education, employment or training—and they are less likely to gain qualifications as adults. As the hon. Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley) noted, at a time when we expect the jobs market to be much more difficult as we emerge from the covid crisis, these young people face a particularly challenging future. The Institute for Public Policy Research has said that there will be a further 620,000 young people unemployed at the end of this year.
I recognise that the Government have made some announcements to try to address that—the apprenticeship guarantee; the traineeships; and the funding for careers advice—but these either remain vague, as in the case of the apprenticeship guarantee or the national skills fund, or they are not going to be adequate, as in the case of the traineeships that were trailed earlier this week. We will need much bolder commitments for these young people.
Although the scale of the challenge to come is immense, as has been noted, post-16 education funding is already in difficulty. The FE sector is expecting a £2 billion funding shortfall in 2021, and colleges have already begun to make redundancies, and had done so even before the covid crisis. This is going to make no sense if we see an increase in student numbers in September, which is quite likely if the jobs market becomes very harsh. It is also right to note that it is not clear why post-16 has been excluded from the catch-up funding, as the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) and others rightly pointed out.
The Government need to take a life course approach to tackling the gap in attainment. It begins to open up from the early years. Last year saw a £600 million gap in early years funding and no coherent early years strategy. Giving up on Labour’s Sure Start programme was a serious mistake. Childcare funding is over-complex and shuts out the children who could benefit from the most structured provision. The Government’s own Social Mobility Commission has pointed to the limited reach of the 30-hour offer and suggested its expansion. Ministers have rejected those proposals.
Meanwhile, the impact of the pandemic on the viability of the nursery sector has been devastating. The Early Years Alliance says that one in four may not be open in 12 months—it is one in three in the most disadvantaged areas. Yesterday, the House of Commons Petitions Committee called for an urgent review of funding for the childcare sector and I hope the Minister will follow that up.
On schools, I join a number of colleagues, including the hon. Member for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey) and the right hon. Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), in thanking school staff who have been working flat out to support children’s learning during the crisis and are now working on preparations for a return to school in September. The catch-up funding is welcome for children in school, but I agree with the hon. Member for Bury South that we need more details about it: how much will schools receive; will it be per pupil or grant based; which pupils will be eligible for the national tutoring fund; and how much support will it provide to disadvantaged children?
I agree with the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) that the turnaround on extending the voucher system over the summer holidays for those entitled to free school meals is welcome, but, although the Government have allocated £9 million of funding for it, the picture of holiday activity provision over the summer looks pretty patchy. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) and I agree about the opportunity that could be taken to invest in holiday clubs. Unfortunately, there has been confusion about social distancing guidance among some providers, and a sense of a lack of drive or ownership in Government, with different Departments passing the buck. Given the impact that the long summer holiday has on the attainment gap, even in normal times, this is concerning and with just a couple of weeks to go until schools break up, I urge the Minister to take stock of what provision will be in place and act to plug gaps as a matter of urgency.
Even before covid, schools were facing funding pressure. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has pointed out that 83% of schools are worse off in real terms than they were in 2015, and that has been played out in, among other ways, a significant increase in class sizes, with 13.4% of children now in classes of more than 31 children and the highest proportion of secondary children in 40 years, and that bears very harshly on disadvantaged children.
The hon. Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds) was right to talk about how funding is distributed across different schools, and this is going to become especially important in schools with the most disadvantaged children, as we will see need increase in the aftermath of the covid crisis. There will be more demand to meet mental health needs and those of children with special educational needs and disabilities, children from ethnic minorities and disadvantaged pupils. For poor children, the cost of school, uniform, books, trips, activities and so on, if parents cannot afford it, will often also have to be borne by schools. As more children are on free school meals, as more parents are out of work, there will be more who attract the pupil premium. It would be helpful to hear from the Minister how the Department envisages that additional pupil premium cost being met.
I agree with the Secretary of State that we want a broad curriculum, and the resources must be provided to deliver school sport, arts, music, languages and so on. They are important in their own right and help with attainment in core subjects, too. I agree with the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) about strategies to support the recruitment and retention of teachers to work, especially, with the most disadvantaged children. I wonder whether the Minister can say something about plans to recruit newly qualifying PGCE graduates into the classroom after the summer. Can he also tell us when he will respond to the School Teachers’ Review Body recommendations?
More than 390,000 children now have an education, health and care plan. That is a 65% increase since 2014—far more than anyone anticipated—and many are not receiving the education that they deserve. There has been a significant rise in the number of pupils with education, health and care plans in pupil referral units, and over 1,200 children of compulsory school age are not in education at all. That is a terrible betrayal of those children, and yet, parents continue to report difficulty in getting EHCPs. I understand the reason for the pause during the crisis, but we need to know when the SEND review will be completed. I have been told that some schools have used risk assessments to prevent children from attending school during covid. How on earth was that allowed to happen? I am very pleased that the legal relaxations on SEND provision will not be extended beyond September. Will the Minister say whether he is confident that there will not be a backlog of actions to catch up on and that he can guarantee that all children with special needs will have their needs met in full?
On exclusion, there is clearly a worrying picture of children from certain ethnic minority backgrounds being much more likely to be excluded and the fact that the Government will not have a full picture of black and ethnic minority students in pupil referral units, in particular, because many of those are in the unregistered independent sector and are not subject to Ofsted inspection. Labour’s Education and Skills Act 2008 provided for the registration and inspection by Ofsted of alternative provision in the independent sector, and plans were in place for that to commence in 2012 until they were put on hold by the coalition Government. Will the Minister say whether the Government will now bring forward and fully implement that legislation?
In conclusion, the emergency funding that has been put in place so far has been welcome, but much more is going to be needed as we reach a crisis point for a generation of disadvantaged children. Underlying structural problems remain unresolved and must be addressed. For the most disadvantaged children, their future wellbeing, prosperity and ability to achieve their aspirations and fulfil their potential are dependent on those programmes and that funding being in place.
On this topic, I have two quick questions as co-chair of the all-party group on sixth-form education. Will 16-to-18 providers be included in the covid catch-up package? Will sixth-form colleges and other colleges be able to access free school meals for their students throughout the summer?
I thank all Members from both sides of the House for their contributions. I find myself in a very unusual position in that I am actually in agreement with the Lib Dems—in particular, with the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) on free school meals. I, too, supported Marcus Rashford’s campaign, and I refer her to my opinion piece in The House magazine. I also fully agree with the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) on SEND funding. There needs to be a greater focus on that; we cannot go back to business as usual. In my opinion, 26 weeks for an EHCP is far too long, and we need to look at refocusing so that the child and family are truly at the centre of the process.
I completely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds) that we all need to work together—Government Members, Opposition Members, local authorities, teachers and unions—to ensure that all schools can go back in September and that we focus on educating our children once again.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley) made a valuable point about skills for life, which he has championed for a long time in this place. I look forward to working with him on that. He has also focused on another disadvantaged group—working-class boys, who far too often slip through the cracks. We need to tackle that issue.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (Matt Vickers) mentioned DIY teaching. Once again, I put on record my thanks to all the parents out there who have taken on the role of DIY teachers. My own experience so far has included being headbutted by my daughter in the middle of a conference call. She also unplugged my router during the Education Committee to the point that I could not get back into the Committee. It has been a very trying time, so I thank all parents out there.
My hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) and for Wantage (David Johnston) are doing great work on social mobility in the Committee, and I look forward to working with them further in this regard. I will come to a close very quickly, Mr Speaker.
We have talked about targeted intervention. If I had one ask from the Minister, it would be truly to target that intervention at the early years, because if we get a young child’s education correct early on, we set up their educational career for the rest of their childhood. If we get it right early, we get it right in its entirety.
Question deferred until Thursday 9 July at Five o’clock (Standing Order No. 54).
HM Revenue and Customs
If he will publish the scientific advice underpinning the announcement by the Prime Minister on 24 May 2020 that primary schools would reopen for reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils on 1 June 2020. 
Let me take this opportunity to associate myself with the comments made earlier about the terror attack in Reading, a near neighbour to my Basingstoke constituency. Our thoughts are with the residents of that town.
There is no substitute for face-to-face learning and thanks must go to the school staff across my own constituency in Basingstoke and, indeed, across Hampshire, who are all working so hard to help ensure that as many eligible children as possible can safely return to school. Parents want to know when all children can be back in school. What advice can my right hon. Friend give to my constituents, who are approaching me on that and who are also asking what organisations are being told to provide summer childcare support for working parents so that we can also support parents to get back to work?
As the Minister has pointed out, as of 12 days ago, 92% of school settings were open, but only about 9% of children were actually attending. Many parents remain understandably reticent. We all want children to return to full-time education. May I ask the Secretary of State what considerations have influenced the Government’s thinking regarding the full reopening of schools, specifically in relation to the potential for child-to-child and child-to-adult transmission of the virus? Most school staff are not as concerned for themselves as they are for the potential implications that could be of particular seriousness for families of black, Asian and minority ethnic children, children living in extended families, or children living in overcrowded conditions or even in poverty. What considerations have been given to that in order to put parents’ minds at rest?
What steps his Department is taking to protect children and young people online during the covid-19 outbreak. 
Break in Debate
What steps he is taking to attract new recruits to the teaching profession in England. 
Sadly, many people are losing their jobs or are threatened with redundancy, and we know there is a mass shortage of teachers of physics and maths in particular. Will my right hon. Friend enable schools to second people from industry to fill the vacancies, so that people with talent can fill the vacuum?
What steps he is taking in response to the findings of the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ report entitled, “The impact of undergraduate degrees on lifetime earnings”, published in February 2020. 
Break in Debate
What steps his Department is taking to support remote education during the covid-19 outbreak. 
Does the Minister agree that schools have not only provided imaginative remote online learning during the crisis, as he has just stated, but played a vital role in supporting the frontline though education hubs and related projects, such as the production of personal protective equipment by students at Ysgol Dinas Brân in my constituency?
I pay tribute to the huge efforts that schools and their staff across Hertford and Stortford have made in supporting the children of key workers and are now making to get more pupils back to school. Does my right hon. Friend agree that schools have an opportunity to continue some of the innovations they have made, such as remote learning?
What proportion of children (a) classed as vulnerable and (b) eligible for free school meals are attending school. 
Break in Debate
Across Harborough, Oadby and Wigston, teachers have done a wonderful job of looking after children during lockdown. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to get our schools fully reopened in a way that is safe for both pupils and teachers? 
My question was to the Minister for Universities, the hon. Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan), but in her absence perhaps I could ask the Secretary of State whether he shares my concern about the recent spate of redundancies in the sector. I have been contacted by many constituents over the past week who are being asked by their employer, Lancaster University, to donate part of their salary back to their employer. Will the Department’s structural transformation fund guarantee that no university will fail? Would he like to comment on the appropriateness of higher education institutions asking employees to donate salaries back to their employer? 
Break in Debate
On the same theme, recent data from Sport England suggests that one in three children have been less physically active during lockdown, with one in 10 doing no physical exercise at all. Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity today, during National School Sport Week, to confirm that the instrumental PE and sport premium for primary schools, which is worth £320 million a year and was introduced by the coalition Government in 2013, will have its funding guaranteed for the next academic year, 2020-21? 
As a condition of its funding support for Transport for London, the Government are requiring TfL to withdraw free school travel for under-18s. That will make it even harder to get children and young people back into education, 60% of whom, in London, are from black and minority ethnic communities. Why are the Government so intent on making life harder for my constituents? 
Last week’s announcement of an extra £1 billion will make a real difference by providing additional support to those children who have fallen behind while out of school. It is imperative that this funding is targeted so that it can have the maximum possible impact. Will this additional money be disbursed in a way in which communities with acute educational challenges, such as Blackpool, can benefit the most? 
The covid pandemic has revealed how shockingly dependent this country has become on other countries to train our medical workforce and the previous neglect of training. Will the Minister now prioritise a rapid and substantial increase in training places in our universities and colleges, and capital funding for things such as virtual reality training for doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, not only to staff our NHS, but to provide career opportunities for our youngsters? 
Break in Debate
Today is Windrush Day, and I hope the Secretary of State will join me in paying tribute to all those from BAME backgrounds who teach in our schools and are staff in our schools. Has he read the letter I sent him, signed by Members from across this House, asking for a review of the curriculum in the light of the Black Lives Matter movement, so that it better represents all communities across the whole of our country? 
Of course, my top priority is one for the south of the city, but we do need good and outstanding places across the whole of our city.
As recently as 2008, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, under Building Schools for the Future, pursued a policy of school closures and mergers due to falling student numbers. Thank goodness that Trentham Academy, which was also threatened with closure, was saved thanks to a hard-fought campaign led by the community in Hanford and Trentham. If we had lost that school too, the situation would now be a whole lot worse, so it is fantastic that instead, Trentham Academy’s results have been turned around and it is now performing very well. However, it is much in need of investment, given that it did not benefit from the BSF programme. Trentham Academy has probably had the least spent on it of any secondary school in the city in recent times. Serious consideration should be given to such investment, especially for improving sports and wider facilities in schools.
One of the schools to go altogether was Longton High School. Other than the section that is now used by Abbey Hill special school, much of the brownfield site remains empty. The motto of Longton High School was “Renascor”, or “I am born again”. Indeed, Longton High School was born again on the site in the 1950s, but its roots went right back to 1760, when the endowment founded what was called none other than the Longton Free School.
Much has changed since the closure programme of 2008, not least the political leadership and representation of the city of Stoke-on-Trent, and I am pleased to say that today’s Conservative-led city council has supported the application by Educo to take the Florence MacWilliams Academy forward. I am also pleased that the school has attracted support from a number of key partners of both local and national significance, with a number of influential figures making up the governing body.
Florence MacWilliams herself was an exceptional mathematician. She is renowned for contributing the MacWilliams identities to coding theory. I am afraid that my coding theory is a little rusty, but I do know my local history, and I can tell the House that Florence MacWilliams was born in Stoke-on-Trent during the first world war and was commonly known by her middle name, Jessie. At a time when it was still extremely rare for women to get the opportunity to go to university, she embarked on an education that culminated in a Cambridge MA and a Harvard PhD. She is a superb local role model in a city where life chances and social mobility continue to need close attention and where ambition and aspiration need to be pursued higher.
I particularly welcome Educo’s promise that there will be an intense programme of study for those pupils who fall behind and struggle, to help them master a strong core of knowledge and skills. A mathematics excellence partnership will be developed to support a maths hub, and literacy, including the spoken word, will be the key focus. It is expected that some 22% of pupils will come from households where English is not the first language.
As the Secretary of State for Education knows from the number of letters I have sent him and times I have spoken to him about this, the new school is for both improving standards and helping to address pressures on secondary places. The Minister will know that I recently went to see the Secretary of State with other local MPs, including my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis), and the leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council to ensure that officials in Whitehall understand exactly why we need this new school and how it will improve outcomes in the opportunity area.
It is certainly important that we realise every bit of value possible from the opportunity area work. There have already been successes. Our opportunity area is focusing on four areas identified as key priorities locally: early years education; English, maths and science outcomes; pupil engagement; and the choices young people make from 16. The opportunity area does much to leverage partnership funding, volunteering and expertise from both national organisations and local stakeholders. It embeds national policy in particular local contexts or, seen the other way, it embeds particular local priorities into contexts of national policy.
The opportunity area enables workstreams locally that will be of national benefit by further raising the skills and productivity of a city on the up, with a ceramics industry and a wider creative and advanced manufacturing economy undergoing a real resurgence. Like many towns and cities outside London, we need not only to improve our rates of educational attainment, but to retain educated graduates and skilled workers who are too often lured to the metropolitan honey pots and the wider south-east.
We need to see more of our young people undertaking higher education, including university. As a graduate of one of our local universities, Keele, I would strongly advocate that our young people give this their consideration. Perhaps by studying locally, people would be more likely to embed their roots and be retained locally in Stoke-on-Trent, as I have been.
Of course, educational pathways to advancement need to be broad and to lead to sectors, not particular specialisms. Alongside academic excellence, the Government are right about the need to make a success of sectoral T-levels and apprenticeships, including for lifelong learning and retraining, by investing in their success and by ensuring their prestige. Nothing promotes ambition like a clear route to employment and advancement, with a tangible career path that is not covered in doubts and the roadblocks that disadvantage can bring. I am delighted that Stoke on Trent College is one of the very first colleges to offer T-level qualifications.
Staffordshire University will be massively expanding the provision of degree apprenticeship education in the city, in partnership with local industries and employers. Sadly, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) cannot be here tonight due to self-isolation, but she is a key champion of apprenticeships in the city, including at Staffordshire University’s £40 million Catalyst centre, which has been developed in her constituency.
Local partnerships between academia and industry have an undoubted role in economic success. Despite the sheer hard work of my constituents to improve local levels of productivity—and productivity locally is indeed up—gross value added in Stoke-on-Trent is still comparatively low against the rest of the country. Part of the effort to level up the productivity gap between the UK and our international competitors must be to close the gap between sub-regions such as Stoke-on-Trent and the rest of the country. GVA per head is about a fifth lower in Stoke-on-Trent than the national average.
It can be tempting to say that this is all a function of trends in economic geography, yet we have shown in recent years that we can indeed increase our local rates of productivity through advanced manufacturing. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Stoke-on-Trent benefited from one of the fastest growing economies of any city nationally. It has been rated as one of the best places to start a new business and for business retention. Fortunes are changing for the better after decades of decline, and our huge untapped potential in the Potteries is starting to be unlocked.
Just as there is an internationally important Cheshire life sciences corridor to the north of Stoke-on-Trent, with schools and colleges in the area gearing themselves towards skilling pupils for the science industry, so there can be an advanced design and manufacturing cluster in Stoke-on-Trent itself. The UK ceramics industry is hugely ambitious. It is seeking to secure significantly increased year-on-year growth and to increase our international market share. We are getting clay back into the classroom, and there is a plan for an advanced ceramics campus in an international centre for research excellence to provide the highly skilled jobs for our young people to progress to in the future. My colleagues and I from the Potteries constituencies are lobbying to get the research centre in place as soon as possible.
The teachers at all our local schools do a fantastic job not only in teaching our children the curriculum, but in inspiring them to work hard for their futures. Our headteachers are working hard to overcome the immediate crisis and get our schools open again. We have seen improving standards across the board, and we must now go further so that every child in the city is learning in a good or outstanding school. Our longer-term challenge is to continue to continue to push up standards, especially at 16. Although we have historical challenges locally, stemming from the sorry decline of the mass-manufacturing ceramics industry, these can no longer be used as excuses for poor standards, nor should they be a barrier to unlocking our potential.
There are many fantastic examples of excellent schools defying the odds throughout the city. In fact, the resurgence in local industries, especially with the advanced manufacturing-based ceramics industry, means that it is imperative that we raise local school standards so that we can keep that industry in the Potteries, the world capital of ceramics, as a key employer offering high-skilled, high-reward and high-satisfaction jobs to local people.
As it says in the Department for Education’s delivery plans for the Stoke-on-Trent opportunity area:
“Stoke-on-Trent is leading the way in innovative practice”.
“a city with so much to offer, but too many children and young people leave school on the back foot, and do not have the skills and tools required to access the opportunities on their doorstep.”
This needs to change, and I will not rest until every child in our city is able to benefit from the best possible start in life. We need more choice, more places, greater rigour and purposeful opportunities. In that way, we can deliver higher standards of education in Stoke-on-Trent.
I start by wishing my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame Morris) a happy birthday—[Hon. Members: “Hooray!”] I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale (Mike Amesbury) on introducing this important Bill and thank all hon. Members from across the House who have spoken in today’s debate. He is not just an hon. Friend, but an actual friend, and not just mine, because it seems that the hon. Member for Bury North (James Daly) and other Members have taken to him as well. I do not think that that is down to his good fashion sense—[Laughter.] As he pointed out, school uniforms can hide some of the disastrous fashion mistakes that many of us have made. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford South (Sam Tarry) mentioned his school uniform fashion, his trainers in particular, and many Members will know that I have an obsession with shoes, and I have put my own little twist on things with the ones I am wearing today.
I join my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale in paying tribute to the former Member for Peterborough, Lisa Forbes, who introduced a similar Bill in the previous Parliament and did so much to bring the issue to the nation’s attention. My hon. Friend’s Bill is important because there are no binding rules on school uniforms in England. I hope the Minister’s response will answer my hon. Friend’s points about limiting branded items and breaking down the monopolies of single suppliers, and many Members quite rightly mentioned the quality of school uniforms.
I reiterate that this Bill is not anti-school uniform, as my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) outlined in her valuable contribution. We also heard from the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) and the new hon. Member for Blackpool South (Scott Benton), who continues the legacy of the previous Member for his constituency with his passion for education and his personal experience, from which I am sure the House will benefit. I also acknowledge the expertise of the hon. Member for Wantage (David Johnston) shown in his contribution. The hon. Member for Witney (Robert Courts) made a pithy speech—[Laughter.] There was so much of value in it that there is not enough time for me to go through it all, but he clearly has a talent that will be used many times in the House in the coming months and years.
I am pleased that there is a consensus across the House today on this Bill. It was in November 2015 that then Tory Chancellor promised to legislate on such issues, but we are now four years and four Education Secretaries on. I have responded to three Conservative Queen’s Speeches and still nothing has happened. It has fallen on Labour Members to step in, introducing two Bills in six months. My hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale, with the help of Back Benchers from across the House, including the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), has had to do the Government’s job for them, and I hope they will now offer him their full support.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale mentioned in his opening speech, school uniform costs blight working families in England, and many Members have spoken about examples from their constituencies. Although I am in a privileged position now, I remember all too well just how expensive it was to put my first son through school. It is a problem that still affects my constituents today, as well as the friends I grew up with. My hon. Friends the Members for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi), for St Helens South and Whiston (Ms Rimmer), for Liverpool, Wavertree (Paula Barker), for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson), for Putney (Fleur Anderson) and for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) all expressed that point eloquently in their passionate contributions today. Their complaints echo the concerns of the mums who gave evidence to the Select Committees on Education and on Work and Pensions last summer and spoke of the strain of school uniform costs and the huge pressures put on their budgets in the school holidays. The Minister will know that the previous Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee warned the Government that school uniform costs reinforced the financial difficulties that many parents face during the summer holidays. I pay tribute to the organisations and MPs who assist with the swap of school uniforms to help those parents.
Many Members mentioned the figures from the Children’s Society that were released today, showing that parents are spending over £300 on uniforms and that hundreds of thousands of children across England are going to school wearing incorrect or ill-fitting uniforms. I know that some Members question that research, but many families watching this debate know the reality, and I welcome the work of the Children’s Society that has contributed to today’s debate. Parents have reported that they have had to cut back on essentials like food to cover the cost of school uniforms, and children have been sent home and denied their education, but this Bill will change that. The hon. Member for Northampton South (Andrew Lewer) and others made important points about pragmatic considerations, and it is right that we consider them, but it is also right that I share that I also have a love for “The Simpsons” and that I am about to hit a milestone which means that I am old enough to remember the Bartman—[Laughter.]
The Bill will ensure that hard-pressed parents will not suffer the indignity of their children being sent home because they are wearing the wrong uniform. It will free up money for parents to spend on activities for their kids during the summer holidays. Above all, it will ensure that no child is priced out of school, because our fundamental belief is that education should be free, and under my national education service it would be free and lifelong at the point of need as well. This Bill takes us one step towards that ideal. I am proud to endorse it today, and I urge all Members to support it.
As we move from non-statutory to statutory guidance, is the Minister conscious that some of the issues touched upon in the current non-statutory guidance, such as religious freedom, cultural differences, parent voice and the governor’s responsibility to take into account reasonable requests for change, could become very politically contentious? They could drive a large number of cases on to his and his fellow Ministers’ desks. Is he sympathetic to my thought that we should be clear in new statutory guidance about the kinds of things that will still be the subject of local school freedom and local choice and not the decision of the man in Whitehall?
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Bill will also help those parents who have children in different schools and therefore do not benefit from the possibility of handing down a uniform from one sibling to another? The affordability that would result from the Bill would help those particular parents.
I thank the Minister for his sympathy with the values of the Bill. Will he make a few remarks about how he will engage across the country as the Bill and the statutory guidance move forward? Will he reassure the House that teams in Whitehall will be gender-balanced? We have had three references to men in Whitehall today, but I think we all acknowledge that there are women involved in the work of Whitehall as well, and it is particularly important to give that message in the month of International Women’s Day.
One school in Ilford South has written to me of their concerns about items that are not strictly part of the school uniform—for example, hairbands that have to be black or the overcoats that the girls wear to school. I wonder whether the guidance that is being prepared could include some flexibility, so that schools cannot specify things that are not school uniform and therefore increase the financial burden on parents.
I endorse the point my hon. Friend is making. When I was at secondary school, we were not allowed to wear white socks. Obviously, I am not talking about games. I am talking about the socks that children wear with their school uniform and school shoes. Aside from the fact that they look terrible, does he agree that there is no financial implication of requiring children to wear socks of a certain colour? It just looks smarter and more in keeping with the style of the school.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving so much of his time. Does he agree that statute often casts a long shadow as people overreact to things? For example, I struggled greatly to sign up to my village newsletter because of people totally overinterpreting the general data protection regulation. Is the Minister sympathetic to my plea for a non-exhaustive list of things that definitely are allowed? Many schools will think, “Oh, gosh, what does this guidance mean? We had better not do this and not do that, because the guidance might say this.” People can be very panicky. Will he please lengthen the non-exhaustive list of things that are definitely allowed?
With the leave of the House, I thank everyone who has attended and spoken today, some at more considerable length than others.
I thank the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler), my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra), the hon. Member for Northampton South (Andrew Lewer), my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi), the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green), my hon. Friend the Member for St Helens South and Whiston (Ms Rimmer), the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Scott Benton), my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Paula Barker), the hon. Member for Wantage (David Johnston) —an excellent speech by the way—my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson), the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson), my new found friend the hon. Member for Bury North (James Daly), my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) and the hon. Member for Witney (Robert Courts). A number of Members have also made powerful interventions.
I thank my good friend and former boss, the shadow Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), who again made a powerful speech and, very importantly, has been a long-standing champion of this issue. I also thank the Secretary of State, the Minister and the formidable team behind the Ministers who are predominantly women—we should note that—as well as the 20 or so organisations that have been champions of the Bill for some time. Other significant people include the sponsors of the Bill. I will not go through individual names—they know who they are. I thank them for their fantastic and powerful contributions.
Finally, and very importantly, I thank the children involved with the Children’s Society who shaped and contributed to some of the original guidance in 2013. They paved the way for the Bill. As well as consulting with manufacturers and retailers—there are some great ones out there—the Bill, with fair, transparent and competitive tendering, will open up opportunities for them. The shadow Leader of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), wrote to me only yesterday about a manufacturer that is a little concerned about aspects of the Bill. That manufacturer is an absolute bargain basement and it offers quality, so the provisions of the Bill should offer it opportunities.
I again thank the Children’s Society, which has been a key supporter of the Bill. I look forward to contributing to its passage through the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time, to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).
The hon. Lady makes a good point. I do not argue that activism should not be allowed; I just want people to be able to understand, on the basis of facts and statistics, why they might want to be activists.
It is hard to gauge the size of this problem and to compare it with previous times. The evidence tends to be anecdotal. I suspect there have always been teachers with strong views who have not held back in sharing them, although perhaps in the past those views were sublimated in interests in particular texts or topics. However, I can say that I have received complaints from constituents, and I doubt I am alone. I also know that those cases were less about the examination of political ideologies and focused more on personalities—an approach sadly reminiscent of Stormzy’s.
I sought the debate because I wanted to reflect the concerns of my constituents and to express my own views about the importance of our children’s mental health. Surely, learning that we can disagree with one other without using the language of hatred is one of the most important lessons there is. I accept that there is fault across the political spectrum, but we have only to look at Momentum’s contribution to Twitter to see how corrosive it can be when abuse becomes a normalised part of political discourse.
I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister is able to offer some reassurance that the Department is active on this issue. Parents should have a route to voice concerns in a way that does not affect their children, and teachers should have guidance that helps them to be confident in judging where the line is between passionate and coercive.
I have seen rather colourful comments on social media by teachers, who should be mindful that their pupils may be on the same platforms. Whether online or at school, teachers must inspire and equip our children to make up their own minds not just on politics but across a whole range of issues. I end by paying tribute to the overwhelming majority, who do just that.
I am grateful to the Minister for confirming that the 1986 amendment was carried forward in subsequent legislation. Does he agree that, as the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) said, it is perfectly normal for politicians to go and talk about politics in their local schools? However, when I put forward a view—I speak for myself and I hope for her and most other hon. Members—I always emphasise that there are other politicians who would put forward a contrary view. That is perfectly allowed, is it not, by the legislation?
The circumstances of 1986, which led to the legislation, were that some people were advocating the introduction of anti-imperialist studies in schools, and peace studies—anti-nuclear propaganda—was also being spread. It was those paradigm cases that led Parliament to legislate, and I am grateful to the Minister for his clear utterance that such legislation still holds good today.
I absolutely share that view. This is a stitch in time saving nine: those savings are false economies. We could save on our budget balance in the short term but, fundamentally, the cost will be much greater later in the system, whether in criminal justice or elsewhere, such as missed employment opportunities. We can do much better, and plan much better. I am interested to hear from the Minister what the vision for early years is. The challenges are well known, and that is why we have a broad political consensus. What will we do differently to break the cycle in places such as Bulwell, Bilborough, Aspley, Mansfield and Warsop? I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response, and I am grateful for the time.
The figures for children supported by free childcare are hugely welcome, and those for the increase in funding doubly so. Does my right hon. Friend recognise the scenario that I raised with him in a previous debate, in which, with the two-year-old offer in particular, parents earning more than £100,000 or a couple earning up to £200,000 a year may access the 30 hours’ free childcare, whereas a single mum on the minimum wage might not be able to. I understand the balance that has to be struck. We support families who are working—that is important—but should we not support more families, in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds, if we want to address that imbalance in earnings?
I am sure the Minister will be aware that Sure Start did exactly that. In Barnsley; we have lost 14 Sure Starts in the last decade—that is 73% of provision in my borough, which has had the worst cuts in the country. When will early years funding be back to its pre-2010 levels?
4. What steps he is taking to tackle the increase in school exclusions. 
The Minister knows that school exclusions have increased by 70% since 2012, and he knows that children have not become 70% naughtier in that time. Something is going wrong with the system, and the consequence for society and individuals is extreme. We had a debate in Westminster Hall last week that he was kind enough to attend, but we did not have enough time to discuss all the issues. Will he be kind enough to meet me and members of the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime, which has done a report on the link between crime and school exclusions? Perhaps the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Edward Timpson), who has done an excellent review of why some of these issues have occurred and what we can do about it, will also want to come.
The Minister mentions 0.1%, but the Education Policy Institute found that there were 69,000 unexplained exits from school in 2017 alone. Does the Minister really believe that our schools are getting better when there is a crisis of more and more pupils leaving the system? The Minister has yet to commit to implementing the report from the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Edward Timpson). Will he now commit to implementing all the recommendations of the Timpson review?
When they are used effectively, fixed-period exclusions can help to address the underlying causes of poor behaviour, but when they are not, they are not able to. For some children, that means up to 45 days in an academic year when they are on a succession of repeated exclusions, which is far too long to be out of school. Will my right hon. Friend agree to look at the recommendation in my review—along with the other 29—on how we can reduce that limit of 45 days at the same time as improving practice in this important area?
Whether or not the numbers have decreased since the last Government were in office, we still have around 40 children excluded from our schools every day, at a cost of some £370,000 per child. We know that 58% of young prisoners were permanently excluded from school. These excluded children are being left behind—only around 1% get five or more GCSEs, if they get any at all. What is my right hon. Friend doing? Has he seen the report from the Education Committee in the last Parliament on transparency regarding numbers of exclusions and on schools being partially accountable for the pupils whom they exclude?
5. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on the potential merits of Bradford University establishing a medical school. 
Break in Debate
T9. According to the Department’s own statistics, Sheffield Music Hub is one of the best in the country, and— alongside Sheffield Music Academy—the only one of its kind not to have a permanent home. There are ambitious plans to create a centre for inclusion and excellence in music education in Sheffield. Will the Minister agree to meet, or ideally visit, the team to see for himself how the project could transform thousands of lives and benefit our city? 
T6. Derwentside College in Consett in my constituency is rated No. 1 in the north-east for satisfaction by both students and local employers. What are the Government doing to support great technical and vocational colleges such as Derwentside to deliver more for students in the future? 
Break in Debate
Last week, one of my local schools in Ilford South had to strike against forced academisation. Will the Minister consider writing to the Catholic diocese of Brentwood and asking it to consider this unwarranted intervention, which does not have the support of the parents or the teachers at that school? Already this year there has been a mass exodus of staff from the teaching profession because of the threat of forced academisation—not just in Ilford, but across the country.
T7. The Minister will be aware that 9 March is Commonwealth day. Will he undertake to ensure that all schools across the United Kingdom celebrate the Commonwealth’s history, that assemblies and special lessons take place, and that schools are encouraged to fly the Commonwealth flag for Commonwealth week? 
When will the Department start mapping the provision of essential services for children with special needs? How else will the Minister recognise that the average spend per child for speech and language therapy is 90p in the west midlands as opposed to £7.29 in London?
Break in Debate
In the UK, we have an ample supply of creative and talented people working for our video and online gaming companies. Those companies have mastered the art of creating addictive games such as “Grand Theft Auto”, where young people are driven to the next level. Would it not be great if, in education, our children were refusing to leave their games consoles because they were driven to the next grade for their GCSEs? What is the Department doing to incentivise the industry to create addictive educational games that will help our children improve their scores?
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck. We have something in common. I was recruited to the Labour movement in the mid-1980s by someone who I think was a great mentor to both of us—Alf Morris, who was the MP for Wythenshawe between 1964 and 1997. The reason I bring that up is that 2020 is the 50th anniversary of his seminal private Member’s Bill that became the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, which was the first such legislation anywhere on the planet and has influenced legislators all over the world in recognising the rights of disabled people. I look forward later in the year to a calendar of events celebrating his great work. It is therefore a real pleasure to serve under you, Ms Buck.
I thank and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor) on securing the debate. She is an absolutely tremendous advocate for Edmonton and Enfield and she spoke with real passion and power about the situation of her constituent John. There is nothing more powerful than bringing the real-life lived experience of your constituents to the heart of democracy in Westminster, and she has done that with aplomb and passion today.
This has been an interesting-themed week. We had a very similar debate on exclusions yesterday, when a number of London MPs in particular were talking about how exclusions ruin the life chances of young people. They fall into criminal gangs and county lines behaviours and are lost to our system, for a number of reasons. It is interesting that we are back here today talking about admissions.
I have been badly impacted by the market-driven admissions system in my own constituency. Just today, the Secretary of State has backed a decision to close Newall Green High School in my constituency. I am absolutely outraged by that, having written to the Secretary of State and the Prospere Learning Trust; they together have made the decision to close the high school. I have stood shoulder to shoulder with both parents and pupils to try to maintain the viability of the school—not just recently, but over a number of years. It is short-sighted on the part of the Government. They have rejected sensible, pragmatic proposals from Manchester City Council, which wanted to keep the school open and was prepared to put substantial revenue into the project. The city council has not had the courtesy of a response from the Secretary of State. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel) talked eloquently about this issue in his intervention: why are councils so driven away from the schools process? They are responsible for spatial frameworks, responsible for admissions to a degree and responsible for the welfare of every child, but we do not seem to think that they are fit to be part of the school system. I will continue campaigning against the unjust decision in my constituency.
Schools matter. Pupils’ academic outcomes are heavily influenced by the school that they attend. Academic achievement in turn strongly influences life chances. The effectiveness of the school that a student attends can have lifelong implications. All state-funded schools in England are subject to the school admissions code. Schools and local authorities must follow the statutory guidance when carrying out duties relating to school admissions. That should mean that all school admission policies are fair and transparent, but that is often not the case, as has been pointed out today. Some schools act as their own admissions authority and so set their own criteria, subject to the code. Voluntary-aided and foundation schools have been able to do that for some time, but the rapid expansion of academies under this Government means that thousands of schools can now determine their own admissions policy.
The problems are obvious. First, there is no single body responsible for ensuring that admission policies comply with the code. Secondly, schools can engage in back-door selection. On paper the admissions policy looks compliant; in practice a school may be unlawfully selecting or rejecting certain pupils. Schools may do that because they believe that certain pupils might adversely impact on their academic results and hence their position in the school league tables, with knock-on impacts on their Ofsted results. That was a key argument yesterday when we talked about school exclusions. Tens of thousands of young people are off-rolled annually from our schools. In fact, evidence from the Education Policy Institute that I cited yesterday showed that 69,000 young people were excluded from school in 2017 alone. We do not know the reasons why. My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton makes the point that schools should be responsible, even when children are off-rolled or excluded, for their future welfare. That has been clearly stated in our party policy, but has the support of many hon. Members on both sides of the House.
Selective admissions such as those I have described result in discrimination against certain categories of pupils, including those with special educational needs and disabilities, those with English as an additional language and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Children from disadvantaged families attend schools that have a much lower proportion of children achieving the benchmark of at least good grades at GCSE. The average score for that cohort was 59%. That is 6.9 percentage points below the cohort of non-poor pupils. It is a substantial difference.
My hon. Friend referred to the research in a Sutton Trust report released today. It states that half of all secondary school headteachers say that social segregation is a problem in state schools, yet more than 40% of them do not consider the socioeconomic make-up of their communities when developing their admissions policies. When children are allocated to schools that are over-subscribed—higher performing schools—the criteria that they use often favour the wealthy. We have a system in which whoever can afford to live near the good school has a much higher chance of getting in. That results in high levels of socioeconomic segregation across our school estate.
I welcome the second report that the Sutton Trust has published, which makes several detailed and considered proposals for dealing with the injustices of our current system. It shows that there is clear support for a review of admission policy, which would be overseen most effectively by local authorities. Through that approach, a level of coherence, fairness and trust could be restored to how we provide for our young people locally in their schools.
I will finish by asking the Minister to now look again at school admissions policies and address the segregation to enable a more mixed and balanced student population in our schools and to truly level the playing field for our nations’ young people.
The Minister says that the Government are providing enough spaces for parents and their children. If there are enough spaces of high quality for all parents, why has the number of children in home schooling gone up by 13%?
We are having a debate on admissions. I think the Minister has strayed some way off his brief. Perhaps his civil servants have given him the wrong speech today. Perhaps he could get back to addressing admissions.
The Minister did not answer all my questions. Is he prepared to receive a letter from me?
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. I shall go on to speak about some of the wider implications of my schools’ experiences. I believe she is right; we are hearing similar stories throughout the country. I would like to hear what the Minister believes should be done about that.
I have sat down with the headteachers from both schools on numerous occasions to talk about these inspections and heard from them at first hand about the appalling, horrific way in which inspections have been handled. I have heard about the devastating impact that that has had on staff morale. Good teachers have felt compelled to resign as a result of the findings, prompting expensive, time-consuming recruitment processes. Their replacement may not be a better person.
I have heard how those heads, with a combined total of over half a century in education, with long-standing, impressive track records, feel that they have been traduced. When I suggested to the heads that being a headteacher had many similarities to being a football manager, they agreed. The similarities are there for us to see—chronic job insecurity, being judged by one’s results when it is not a level playing field, and a focus on one’s last performance, rather on the progress that one may have made under that leadership. As many football clubs find, replacing the manager does not necessarily mean that performance on the pitch markedly improves.
What struck me most, and compelled me to act, was that both heads were relaying to me extremely similar experiences. I would go so far as to say that the similarities were concerning and striking in equal measure. The first major concern they both had was the apparent predetermination of their inspections. At Whitby, the head was informed before 9 am on the first day that the inspectors regarded the school as requiring improvement. How can judgments effectively be given before the inspection has begun or evidence has been obtained? Likewise, at the Catholic high school, the opening statement from the inspectors at 9 am on day one of the inspection was that the school results were inadequate. The first question they were asked by the inspectors was whether they were an academy. I think that is a very odd question to ask at the start of an inspection. Both heads, both very experienced people in education, feel that the inspections were predetermined, and that, at the very least, they were carried out in a manner designed to justify an already formed opinion, with much relevant evidence and information apparently being disregarded throughout the inspection. There were also disputes about what some of the staff said to the inspectors during some of the interviews. In some instances, comments that were disputed were used as evidence to justify inspectors’ judgments. Indeed, there were disputes of such importance that some staff felt their words had been misquoted or taken out of context and, as a result, they felt compelled to resign.
There were also distortions of the evidence given to the inspectors. For example, reference to a “large cohort” was in fact one student. This was pointed out in the official complaint, but the evidence was withheld from the headteachers, despite numerous freedom of information requests. There was also a serious concern raised through Ofsted’s complaints procedures about a potential conflict of interest regarding one of the inspectors. This concern was disregarded without further comment. As is normal, both inspections were led by one lead inspector, but it seemed that major decisions were being made by another inspector. Inspectors refused or were reluctant to meet relevant staff, despite being asked to by the school, and in their complaints to Ofsted the schools expressed their general concern that the inspections were carried out in a hostile and aggressive manner. Those concerns were simply dismissed.
There was also a question about why the inspection proceeded in the way it did at all, certainly at Whitby, where the pre-inspection analysis had identified that the school would receive a one-day inspection in February 2019. This fitted with its progress scores for two years being positive, with a two-year improvement. Nobody has been able to explain why this was changed to a two-day inspection and who made that decision. It displays a total lack of accountability and openness. A significant number of schools had better inspection ratings but had worse progress scores. Of course, the heads challenged this inconsistency but again have not been given a satisfactory explanation. They were right to challenge this and to say that consistency, reliability and justice should be cornerstones of the inspection regime.
I understand that an inspector from one of the inspections has been the subject of other complaints or concerns, resulting in at least one headteacher resigning, at the highly successful Bramhall High School. This was a high-profile resignation from a well-respected headteacher, who had spent some of her career in Ellesmere Port. She had successfully transformed a number of schools and this was a very sad loss to the system. We have to ask ourselves: how is forcing someone out of the profession with that track record helping the education system? Of course, I understand that heads will take poor judgments personally, but they are not alone in feeling unfairly treated. I do not normally have parents contact me after an Ofsted inspection, but I have had plenty here. They obviously feel there has been an injustice. The governors also feel the judgments are wrong, and both the diocese and the director of education at the local authority have said that these were the harshest inspections they had ever seen.
The schools know they are not perfect—no school is—but they know where improvements are needed and what is needed to deliver them. The inspection regime offers no practical help to address these issues and there is not a specific external budget they can call upon to deliver the improvements. I ask the Minister: when a school is told it is not up to the required standard, other than replacing the person at the top, what can realistically be done to drive improvements identified as being needed?
That leads me to the so-called stuck schools. In January, Ofsted published research and analysis on stuck schools—schools graded as less than good consistently for 13 years or more. As of August 2019, 210,000 pupils were in stuck schools, which means that two cohorts of children have spent all their primary and secondary education in so-called stuck schools. Ofsted acknowledged its role in this and highlighted the need for inspections to provide judgments that schools could actually use to help them to make improvements, but is it not an indictment of our system that so many children’s entire education has been blighted by the failure to drive up standards? During those 13 years, the Ofsted inspection process has failed to lead to any tangible improvements. Surely that tells us that the approach that inspectors currently have is not necessarily the right one.
Going back to the schools in my constituency, last summer, I went with the heads to meet the Ofsted regional director to raise our concerns, which we were promised would be looked into. Following this meeting, unusually, both schools were quickly revisited by different inspection teams as part of a section 8 NFD—no formal designation—inspection and monitoring visit. The resulting reports following those visits painted a very different picture of both schools. So different are the comments that it has to call into question how both schools could make such rapid improvements in a few short weeks.
Of course, the original inspection ratings remain in place. The subsequent inspections could be viewed as a sop to brush under the carpet the concerns raised about the initial process. Those concerns were at best subject to a cursory investigation by Ofsted. No member of staff was interviewed. Given that part of the complaint was about the hostile attitude displayed, there were clearly matters about which teachers should have been questioned. I think that was the minimum required. The response from the regional director of Ofsted to the complaint was anaemic and showed the problem with an organisation investigating itself.
The heads understandably remain dissatisfied with the response. After all, they would not let their own pupils mark their own homework. They asked the professional association, the Association of School and College Leaders, to arrange a meeting with the national education director of Ofsted to discuss their concerns further. His response was to decline, saying that as the association had already met the regional director, there was nothing to discuss. I know that it is possible to complain via the Independent Complaints Adjudication Service for Ofsted, but ultimately the service cannot overturn inspectors’ judgments, so the result of the inspections—which the heads consider to be flawed, predetermined, and not at all an accurate reflection of their schools—remains on the record.
It is my strong view that Ofsted’s complaints process needs to be urgently reviewed and changed. A new and more rigorous process needs to be introduced, with limited bureaucracy and an independent hearing to redress complaints that are upheld. During that process, schools’ reports should not be published.
Such is the crisis of confidence the current inspection regime is engendering, a grassroots organisation, the Headteachers’ Roundtable, has issued a call to “Pause Ofsted”, as has happened in Wales, while a review takes place to ensure that schools’ accountability systems are fit for purpose. The call has been supported by the National Education Union’s leadership council. Paul Whiteman, the General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, has said that
“significant reform of inspection is needed”,
and the NAHT’s national executive committee will be discussing the call from the Headteachers’ Roundtable at its executive meeting in March.
Headteachers are saying that the current regime fails to take into account the individual circumstances of their schools, and I am sure both heads in this case would say that their experience was an example of the systemic disadvantage faced by schools serving poorer communities. Ofsted has known about the issue for a number of years, but has failed to find a way of addressing it effectively. Knowing the effects of high-stakes accountability on retention, especially in those same schools, we must ask ourselves whether the current system is exacerbating those disadvantages, and whether such public flagellation is really the best way to improve school performance.
School leaders’ and teachers’ jobs, and sometimes their whole careers, can be ended because of Ofsted’s inspection grades, so the watchdog owes it to them to be consistent, fair and transparent when deciding its ratings. It has been said that the high-stakes nature of the inspection system is preventing schools from getting on with improving the lives of their staff and students because they must always give priority to what might be looked at in an inspection, such is Ofsted’s all-pervading influence. Some people have even called the inspection regime pernicious. That is not a word to be used lightly, and it is one that should cause us to question seriously whether the current balance is right.
What some call the pernicious impact of an unfavourable inspection can often lead to a head quietly leaving and the system losing a good school leader. How does that help the school to improve? Is the balance between accountability and capacity building wrong? We know that recruiting and retaining the best staff is a challenge at the best of times, so hearing that one of the biggest reasons for people to leave the profession is the impact of an inspection should give us cause to question whether that balance is right.
A 2017 report by the National Foundation for Educational Research on teacher retention and turnover found that the most important school-level factors associated with leaving the profession and moving school were Ofsted ratings and school types. Analysis of the percentage of teachers leaving the profession in 2010 and 2014 showed that the lower the Ofsted rating, the higher the proportion of teachers leaving the profession, and that the rate of leaving the profession was highest in schools rated by Ofsted as “inadequate”. As for the probability of teachers’ moving school, the analysis showed that lower Ofsted ratings were associated with higher proportions of teachers moving to different schools at both primary and secondary levels, with a particularly high rate for schools rated “inadequate”. Taken together, those patterns show that “inadequate” schools have much higher rates of staff turnover than other schools. Ofsted has become too all-encompassing for many of them.
The Ofsted framework has become the means by which every aspect of school life has to be considered. “What would Ofsted say?” is all too often the key question asked by those making strategic decisions in schools. As we have heard, its power is all-pervading, and its judgment is final, even when—as I believe I have set out here—there are serious questions to be asked about its methods.
It is more than 25 years since the current accountability system of Ofsted inspections and school performance tables was introduced, so this seems an appropriate moment to undertake a systematic review of the system to ensure that we have in place the best means by which to continually improve all our schools. Accountability cannot be an end in itself. It should and must lead to improving schools, particularly those serving our most disadvantaged communities. I cannot see how the inspections that my local schools had to endure have helped them to improve. They know the areas that they need to work on; what they need is support and extra capacity, not quick headlines and blame.
I know that those ratings cannot be changed. However, I urge the Minister to give serious attention to the many and widespread concerns that have been raised about Ofsted, and to consider urgently how we can introduce a system that allows legitimate concerns to be independently and transparently examined.
It is a pleasure to serve under you, Mr Bone, and to follow the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Edward Timpson), who is a fellow Manchester City fan. I am sure that he will be on the edge of his seat tonight for the quarter final of the European cup. Governments should walk the walk, not just talk the talk, and that was a clear offer to the Minister to begin implementing the Timpson review proposals on this subject.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones) on securing the debate, her work as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime, and her powerful testimony about the five-year-old who was excluded. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Ms Brown) on her work with mothers in Newham and my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova), who spoke about Jacob in particular. These are real human stories of lives that are affected day in, day out.
Our children must have access to high-quality full-time education. The vast majority of our schools want the best for their pupils. A small minority engage in poor practice in excluding and off-rolling. As we have heard, for the children such practices have a devastating, lifelong impact on their chances. I had to question my researcher yesterday when he pulled out the following statistic, and I publicly apologise to him. The Education Policy Institute found that there were 69,000 unexplained pupil exits from school in 2017 alone. When he put that fact in front of me, I had had to pull him up and say, “Are you sure?” That is nearly one in 10 of the school population. What is going on, Minister? The number has risen by 12% between 2014 and 2017.
We have a duty to protect and nurture the most vulnerable children in society, but under this Government’s regime vulnerable children, who are already at an increased risk of low educational outcomes, are systematically over-represented among those experiencing unexplained exits from school. My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea pointed out that among black and ethnic minority children the rate of exclusion is 40 times greater. The Government need to recognise the complex causes of difficult behaviour in their policies and guidance.
Schools should be supported to focus on prevention and early intervention. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) talked about the importance of teacher support. As a result of the culture that has been created and the huge funding cuts imposed, schools often struggle to focus enough resources on wrap-around care for vulnerable students, clearly resulting in an increase in exclusions. If we are to begin to address the school exclusion crisis, the Government must first reverse school cuts, which they are not doing.
The Government must also overhaul the assessment system. As the hon. Member for Eddisbury said, schools must use the exclusion mechanism consistently. The report of the APPG on knife crime, the EPI report, and my party’s manifesto all recommended that schools remain responsible for the pupils they off-roll. Schools must be accountable for the welfare and education outcomes of all pupils who attend, so that no children are lost to the system.
Schools must play an important part in turning around the growing number of exclusions, but the issue goes much wider, and cannot be solved by schools alone. Cuts in funding for local authority support, which has been mentioned, and for child mental health services are affecting the ability to support the children who are most in need. As Members of Parliament, our Friday constituency surgeries are now rammed with parents whose children are suffering in school and cannot access mental health support services. I do not think that any MP could deny that they are seeing an increase in their case load in this area. I hope that the Minister will come away from this informed and constructive debate, reprioritise, and commit to reducing the number of school exclusions in our system.
On teaching training, one of my recommendations was about trauma and attachment training, and really getting under the skin of why some children are struggling to meet the behaviour standards that we expect of all pupils within our schools. Will the Minister recommit to that recommendation, and explain how he intends to move it forward?
The Minister is giving some good examples of individual schools, but does he accept our fundamental premise that the 70% increase in school exclusions, and some of the societal indicators of whether someone is more likely to be excluded, are really significant and need to be considered at national level, not just at the level of individual schools?
In 1997, the Labour Government inherited record numbers of permanent exclusions. The level in 1996-97 was about 12,000 a year, but by the time the Labour Government left office in 2010, exclusions had more than halved to 5,700, and crime fell over that same period. Does the Minister agree that where we have seen reductions in school exclusion, all kinds of other things follow? Where there have been increases in public spending in areas such as education, there have been reductions in school exclusion and in crime. Over the past 10 years, and over the past few years in particular, we have seen increases in violent crime and in school exclusion as funding for our public services has been reduced.
The Minister has referred to the role that headteachers play in deciding what support they need to make sure exclusions are as low as possible. I reiterate my comment about Northolt High School in my constituency, where the headteacher has applied through the Excluded Initiative for charitable funding to help with some of its inclusion work. If that school is unsuccessful in its bid, would the Minister agree to meet its excellent headteacher and others who may be unsuccessful in their bids to discuss what other funding might be found to support their plans?
I realise that we are about to finish, but I reiterate my offer to my right hon. Friend the Minister. He may need some time to consider the generosity of it, but in the meantime, would he agree to meet me to discuss the implementation of my review, and to write to me in advance of that meeting to answer the questions that I put?
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir George. I rise to make a brief speech to welcome the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley) in securing this debate. I agree with every word he said. Three years ago, we had a similar debate in this Chamber on this subject, which I had the privilege to lead.
Secondary school league table data just published by the BBC on 6 February confirms that England’s schoolboys have had worse exam results than girls for 30 years. Another notable fact, reported by Ally Fogg on the politics.co.uk website, is that among every ethnic group, boys perform markedly worse than girls. Among the most deprived children, that effect is greatest. Across the board, a girl from a free school meals background is now 52% more likely to go to university than her male equivalent. Most worrying of all is that while there has been a welcome narrowing of the equity gap in ethnicity over the past two decades, and even the FSM gap has shrunk slightly, the gender gap has been going the other way. The difference in attainment for girls and boys is now markedly greater than that between white and black, Asian and minority ethnic students. The trend is best illustrated by the Higher Education Policy Institute in 2016, which calculated that if current trends continue, a boy born that year would be 75% less likely to attend university than a girl by the time he is 18.
The Men & Boys Coalition has done some sterling examination of this area of education and has unearthed some more stark effects for our colleagues in the Government, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Minister here today to digest. In 2019, 62.9% of males received grade 1 to 4, A* to C, GCSE grades, while 71.7% of females received the same results. Only 54.2% of 16-year-old boys achieved a grade C/4 English language GCSE, compared with 70.5% of girls. Some 59.9% of boys achieved grade C/4 in maths, as did 59.2% of girls. In the 2018 cycle, 196,105 men or boys domiciled in the UK accepted places at university, compared with 263,180 women or girls, a gap of 67,075 or 35%. The figure in 2008 was 177,780 and 226,075 respectively, a gap of 48,295 or 27%. Those figures are from UCAS.
However, I will end on a positive note. Recently, the head of three Muslim schools that came top in England for progress has vowed to help white working-class children, as analysis shows a widening gap between coastal and city schools. Government tables published recently reveal that the best three schools for progress were part of Star Academies. Although all its schools are in deprived inner cities with higher numbers of ethnic minorities, it is now focusing on deprived coastal areas with mainly white populations. It has taken on schools in Blackburn and Morecambe on the Lancashire coast.
I promoted a career academy in my first term as a Member of Parliament, in partnership with Steve Penney, then deputy head at the City School on Skellingthorpe Road in Lincoln, to assist pupils. I urge anyone with an interest to seek out the rebranded Career Ready charity, which seeks to raise the career aspirations of all pupils of whatever background in our schools, using business mentors and those who wish to offer a hand up the ladder of aspiration. Some universities have tailored approaches to widening participation for different under-represented groups. The national collaborative outreach programme is a national initiative focused on extending higher education opportunities to specifically disadvantaged wards across the country. The programme operates in Lincoln through LiNCHigher, which involves Bishop Grosseteste University and the University of Lincoln, and I encourage anyone and everyone to view their various outreach programmes.
Universities UK is also currently conducting a major review into admissions to look at how to make the application process fairer for all students. It tells me the review will be published in the spring, and I hope it will include the views that many hon. Members have expressed today and in recent debates on the subject. I thank hon. Members for their forbearance.
Those who serve in Her Majesty’s armed forces represent the very best of British. What is being done to turn troops into teachers when veterans leave the armed forces?
More than three quarters of sixth-form colleges do not believe they have the funding they need to support disadvantaged students. The FE sector, the Education Committee and the Labour party speak with one voice in supporting the Raise the Rate campaign to increase per-pupil funding to £4,760. Despite warm words from the Secretary of State, the funding needed has not appeared. He talks about it being a crucial sector, so when will he make good on his promise to work hand in glove with the FE sector by both restoring the position of FE and Skills Minister and raising the rate to £4,760?
3. What assessment he has made of trends in the level of teacher (a) recruitment and (b) retention. 
That means that one third are leaving, which is a high attrition rate. We know that pay freezes are one reason for that, but also the crushing workload. Just in Chester this morning, teachers have told me about the crushing workload that is driving teachers out. What is the Minister doing to reduce that workload, take pressure off teachers and let teachers teach?
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, with the Government’s important commitment on starting salaries, the new early career framework and finally some good news, as he mentioned, in the autumn on teachers’ workload, now there is a positive proposition to be made for people to join this the most noble of professions?
The Minister surely knows that the pay rise he mentioned will only return starting salaries to where they were in 2010. Furthermore, the prospect of a pay rise in three years’ time will do nothing to help schools that are struggling now to recruit new teachers. Does not he accept that the so-called “pay rise” is nothing more than papering over the cracks in this recruitment and retention crisis?
Those who serve in Her Majesty’s armed forces represent the very best of British. What is being done to turn troops into teachers when veterans leave the armed forces?
4. What assessment he has made of the educational attainment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. 
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6. Whether he plans to review the operation of the pupil premium. 
The House of Commons Library has confirmed to me that there has been a £220 million real-terms decrease in the total amount of spending on the pupil premium since 2015. Schools in my constituency have together lost about £1 million, with the worst-affected losing almost £40,000 a year. In its recent manifesto, the Conservative party did not repeat its previous commitment to protect the pupil premium. So can the Minister tell the House today what the Government’s policy actually is? Will they retain the pupil premium and restore it, or will it simply be left to waste away?
A recent survey by the Sutton Trust suggested that 30% of headteachers were using the pupil premium for general funding in their budgets. What studies are the Government doing to ensure that the end result of the pupil premium is good outcomes for students?
7. What his policy is on free school meals. 
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9. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on ensuring that the development of free schools and academies is not restricted by planning policy. 
Since its launch in 2014, the Gatwick School has been very successful and is looking to expand its capacity, but it is coming into difficulties—there are suspected ideological differences—with Crawley Borough Council planners. What advice can my right hon. Friend give to the school so that it can overcome that obstacle?
In those conversations with local authorities, will the Minister also talk to them about current children’s social services practice to make sure that the deep lessons of the Greater Manchester review are learned and that practice is changed so that vulnerable children never again have wrong assumptions made about them?
Free schools have been a huge success—I mention Michaela Community School, which I co-founded and chaired, and which I know the Ministers are familiar with—but too many parts of the country are without access to one. What plans do the Government have for increasing the number of free schools and has the Minister read my recent report “Fight for Free Schools”, published with the Centre for Policy Studies, which has some useful ideas for how to achieve to that?
10. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of funding for further education. 
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14. What steps his Department is taking to increase the number of good school places in England. 
A huge number of new homes are being built in my constituency, and parents are genuinely worried that the school places to accommodate them will not be built in time. What assurances can the Minister give me that that is not the case?
16. What assessment he has made of the effect of the student finance system on students from low-income backgrounds. 
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The National Day Nurseries Association published research last week showing that three quarters of local education authorities underspent their early years budget in 2018-19, with Surrey County Council having an underspend of £5 million. I am curious to know where this money is going and whether councils are using the money to plug the gap in overstretched SEN budgets. Does the Minister agree that this demonstrates there is a problem in how the dedicated schools grant is being implemented? Does he also agree that, if money has been set aside to give children the best start in life, it should not be used to plug the gap in other parts of the budget?
T7. The all-party parliamentary group on independent education will hold an event in Parliament on 11 February to celebrate the almost 11,500 partnerships between independent and state schools. What steps is the Department taking to make sure that schools have the support and the resources they need to form meaningful partnerships? 
T3. I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.A significant proportion of teaching staff in our higher education institutions are casualised. Is the Minister aware of the University and College Union report published today, which illustrates this culture of fixed-term and casual contracts? Will he join me in welcoming the changes at Lancaster University? After extensive negotiations with the UCU, Unite and Unison, a new policy has now been agreed that commits Lancaster University to using indefinite contracts, wherever possible. What is he doing to change the culture of casualisation in higher education? 
Break in Debate
Last year, Bramhall High School head Lynne Fox received a Pearson award for her success in turning around the school, which had previously requirement improvement. With some of the top results in the borough under their belt, staff and parents expected a good verdict at the subsequent inspection, just weeks later and so they were stunned when Ofsted found that the school was still requiring improvement. Apparently, this was partly based on a revised view of schools where the duration of level 4 is extended. Hundreds of parents have complained to Ofsted and the head is set to resign. Will the Minister meet me to discuss the implications of the Ofsted inspection changes, and perhaps visit the school to meet the hard-working staff and pupils?
T6. Will the Secretary of State confirm whether the recommendations of the Augar review will be taken forward, to end the prolonged uncertainty? When can universities expect a Government statement on this? 
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T9. As nursery schools in my constituency are threatened with closure, may I ask the Secretary of State what assessment he has made of the adequacy of funding for local councils to fund children’s services and nursery provision? We cannot have nurseries close like this. 
It has been proposed that pupils at Broadfield Specialist School in my constituency relocate to Hameldon Community College in Burnley. Is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State willing to work with me and others on the proposed move, to ensure that our children receive the best education and the support they need?
It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) on securing the debate on the last day of this Parliament. It is not quite the graveyard shift, as she put it. We may be competing with the House on who finishes first—I believe the valedictory speeches have just started—and I know you are anxious to get in the final word of this Parliament, Mr Pritchard. I thank my hon. Friend for her work. She is an indefatigable campaigner on education, not just as a former trade unionist in education but as a former teacher, like me. Her passion shines through.
I thank all Members who contributed to the debate. The hon. Member for Henley (John Howell) rightly said that uniforms bring a common identity. Few schools up and down the land do not have some sort of uniform. He also talked about second-hand clothes, as did my hon. Friend. I might not be forgiven for saying this, as a Mancunian MP from Cottonopolis, but we now know that cotton production is one of the greatest polluters on the planet. We must begin to think of new ways to go forward sustainably. Recycling, reuse and reduction of cotton is therefore important.
I was taken aback by the community organising project of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock), putting power into the hands of people who struggle to purchase uniform individually. Bringing people together for a school uniform exchange is a remarkably good idea. If she does not mind, I may well steal it for my own constituency.
As ever, whether in Westminster Hall debates or Adjournment debates, the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) made some strong points. Poverty is common across our islands, and it is a form of discrimination if parents have to fork out too much for uniforms.
We know that common uniform policy reduces bullying in schools, and I saw it for myself. Sometimes as a schoolteacher I would dread non-uniform days. The school where I taught was in a very mixed area. There were some rich areas from which children would come in wearing designer Nike gear, and some came in wearing supermarket gear. Even at quite a young age, they knew the difference. That is important.
I think of my constituency, which StepChange says has 3,000 families containing 5,000 children in toxic debt—the most in England, for sure—owing about £14 million to utility companies, dependent on payday lenders and pawn brokers to get to the end of the month. They are unable to pay when their white goods break down and they are really struggling to get by. I also have the highest number of social tenants who are affected by the bedroom tax—or the spare room subsidy. This is therefore a timely debate to finish off this Parliament.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle said, nine years of austerity has been unrelenting. Universal credit is failing, driving people to debt and even destitution. For many in my constituency and up and down the land, and particularly for those in faith communities, the two-child policy for child benefit is an utter disgrace. I pray for the day of a Labour Government. If one comes about in a few weeks’ time, that is one of the first things we will deal with. If we do have a Conservative Government, I pray for the day on which they will change their mind, because it is driving people to despair.
More than 4 million children are growing up in poverty. More than 1 million are forced to go to food banks, and it is predicted to get worse. My food banks coalition came to me towards the end of August—we will all have faced this—saying, “We have run out of food, Mr Kane.” I asked, “Why have you run out of food? We have churches, civil society, supermarkets and business contributing week in, week out.” They said, “It’s school uniform buying week.” They were out of food at the Wythenshawe food bank. The Government should be hanging their head in shame that those families are in that situation.
There are also signs that our increasingly fragmented schools system hampers what we can offer our parents and children. It is a system that allows free schools and academies to act as islands, independent of their communities and the needs of the children they are supposed to support. On this Government’s watch, we have seen parent governors stripped from school governing bodies up and down the land. It is a system with no means by which parents can hold a school to account, and the Government have failed entirely to act on parents’ concerns. Academies and free schools set rigid dress codes with expensive uniforms that cannot be bought on the high street, and children are sent home from school because their parents cannot afford to meet those dress codes.
The system has exacerbated sending children home, with 10,000 children off-rolled in the last year alone. We give a charter to criminals and county line gangs when we send children home and we have no idea where they are. The system is broken. What is the Minister doing to ensure that children do not lose time in school because their parents cannot meet unrealistic demands on school uniforms? When will the Minister ensure that the Government meet their pledge to make school uniform guidance legally binding? What are the Minister and the Government doing to address the ever-increasing challenge faced by parents to pay for the basics? What will they do to ensure that support is available when they have overseen the abolition by stealth of the school uniform grant?
Time after time, Labour has pressed Ministers to take action, but yet again we are well into a school year with parents paying the price for the Government’s failure to act. The Government pledged statutory guidance in 2015, yet, four years and three Prime Ministers on, they still hide behind the excuse that they could not find parliamentary time. It is clearer than ever that parents, children and teachers need a Government that will act on their behalf—a Labour Government with a national education service. Will the Minister pledge to us today to end once and for all the perverse situation whereby poverty acts as a barrier to children attending school?
Finally, may I thank all Members who have contributed today and to the parliamentary Session? Putting one’s name on a ballot paper, from whatever political party, is a brave act: an increasingly braver act these days. I wish all Members good luck and I thank the Minister for his courtesy over the past few years. I have stood opposite him many times in many debates. I thank the House staff, the Doorkeepers and all who keep us safe and functioning in this place.
I am ever mindful of the different aspect in Northern Ireland, but I am conscious of those who are in in-work poverty. Have the Government had an opportunity to assess the extent of that? In my constituency it is enormous, but I suspect it is the same in every other hon. Member’s.
Looking back to when I went to secondary school—which I appreciate is some years ago now—I am reminded that the school provided a list of the uniform and equipment that I would need. The cost of all those things was a challenge for my family, and there were things on that list that we paid for that I never used in five years. Could we not do something very quickly and simply to prevent families from having to fund those costs without additional cost to the Government?
One of the points made by some of parents was that when a school is re-brokered as a different academy trust, all the parents then have to buy the new branded uniform for that trust. If the Minister is looking at amending or improving the guidance, could the DFE not say that, in the case of re-brokering, parents will be allowed to continue to use the uniform until the pupil has grown out of it, and can simply purchase new in the new school academy, rather than having to potentially change in September and then in January?
I believe that the Welsh Government used powers provided in the Education Act 2002 and the Education and Inspections Act 2006, which were passed under a Labour Government, to issue their statutory guidance. Why has the Minister not done the same?
I thank all Members who have taken part in this debate. There has been broad agreement on the need to have a school uniform, as it helps to disguise some of the differences in income levels between families. There is also broad agreement on where we need to go forward. Let me push the Minister a little further. He referred to statutory guidance, but I think that should also include a limit on the number of branded items that can be required, and on overall cost. Schools should be encouraged to show and share the cost of their uniforms.
I have one final little push—“If you don’t ask, you don’t get”, as I was always told—to ask whether the Minister will consider introducing grants that are available throughout England, and not linked to a local authority’s ability to pay for them. We know that local authorities have suffered cuts and cannot afford to pay for those grants, but they should be available to every child, regardless of where they live. On that slightly demanding note, I thank all hon. Members—it has been a pleasure to take part in this debate and to continue campaigning on education; and, in the words of Arnie Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back.”
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered school uniform costs.
Pupils in disadvantaged areas are significantly less likely to pass crucial GCSEs such as English and maths. School funding must reflect different needs in different places, but the Government’s recent funding announcement will do exactly the opposite and sees more money going into affluent schools in the south of England while many schools in Bradford South will continue to lose out. How can the Minister justify that disgraceful situation?
T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. 
7. What plans the Government has to increase the level of funding for schools. 
The Department for Education is no doubt very illustrious, but it is not well versed in the application of the blue pencil.
The Chancellor’s promise to increase school funding is welcome, but he has given no extra money to schools for this year. School budgets are at breaking point, so will the Minister acknowledge that he is leaving schools on the brink?
Break in Debate
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I congratulate the Minister and the Secretary of State on securing the extra funding from the Chancellor in the spending review. As the Minister knows, I have been arguing for this for some time. Can I urge him to front-load this money, because we know that school costs have been outstripping their incomes? They need this money as soon as possible. And while he’s there, as the Secretary of State is Bradford educated, will the Minister encourage him to return to Bradford district in order to visit some schools in my constituency?
Not that I would ever wish to appear ungrateful to the unmoveable Schools Minister, but he will be aware that there is a funding shortfall of £1.2 billion for children with special needs and disabilities. In Hull alone, the shortfall is £4 million. Will he please ensure that all our children can have their needs met by urgently addressing this funding shortfall?
I welcome the extra £14 billion of school funding that the Government have committed to. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that some of that money goes to schools in my constituency, some of which have been historically underfunded? They are fantastic schools but could do even better with more money.
Could I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it does not cost any money at all to save children’s lives in a measles epidemic by making every school see a certificate of MMR vaccination before they get to the school? Will he take on board another point? My schools tell me that after all these years of deprivation—since 2010—in schools it will take a long time to come back, even with the quick fix of the money he is now throwing at them.
I warmly welcome the recent education financial settlement, which is good news for all schools across our country. Does the Minister agree that such resources will help to make schools and education provision even better so that all children across the country can benefit?
They say that faith is the substance of things hoped for over the evidence of things not seen. At the time of her resignation, the right hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd) said “Judge a man by what he does, not what he says.” The Secretary of State has been part of a Government who have slashed £1.9 million from schools in his own constituency in the last four years. Codsall Community High School has lost £700,000, and Staffordshire has had to slash £60 million from its budget. The electoral promises are not worth the textbook that they are written on, are they?
6. If he will hold discussions with Stoke-on-Trent City Council on its plans to fund services for children with higher needs. 
Break in Debate
8. What progress his Department has made on further amending the School Admissions Code to ensure that summer-born and premature children can be admitted to reception at the age of five at the request of parents. 
I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. He will know that it is four years since we had an Adjournment debate on this and two years since I last asked him a question on this. I am very pleased to hear his answer, but can he commit to laying out the timetable as to when the Government might be able to publish that and potentially have a meeting with me to discuss the unintended consequences?
Does the Minister not agree with me that the best way to get all students, even those who are summer-born, ready for school is proper investment in the early years, and will he therefore pledge today that the Government will do what they said they would do a few weeks ago and ensure our maintained nursery schools get the full funding they need to continue?
Has there been any discussion with counterparts in the devolved Assemblies to bring in a UK-wide strategy? If no discussion has taken place, when will it take place with the Department of Health in Northern Ireland to ensure that this does happen?
10. What recent assessment his Department has made of children's progress in specialist maths schools. 
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and commend the Government on what they are doing to level up funding, which I understand will mean another £2.9 million per year for schools in North East Hampshire, but will he expand that excellent specialist maths schools programme so that we can do even more for every child across this country?
11. What assessment he has made of the effect of VAT applied to college spending on the financial sustainability of those institutions. 
Break in Debate
14. What steps he has taken to increase the level of funding allocated to schools in Congleton constituency. 
I welcome this announcement, but what has concerned parents and teachers in my constituency and the wider Cheshire East area has been the historical underfunding of our local schools compared with those in other areas. So, to ensure truly fairer funding, will Ministers ensure that the Government’s schools budget boost specifically targets the biggest funding increases at schools in those areas that have been historically relatively underfunded?
15. What assessment he has made of the benefit to disadvantaged schools of increasing the base unit of per pupil funding to (a) £4,000 in primary schools and (b) £5,000 in secondary schools. 
Pupils in disadvantaged areas are significantly less likely to pass crucial GCSEs such as English and maths. School funding must reflect different needs in different places, but the Government’s recent funding announcement will do exactly the opposite and sees more money going into affluent schools in the south of England while many schools in Bradford South will continue to lose out. How can the Minister justify that disgraceful situation?
I thank the Schools Minister for the particular attention he has given to raising educational attainment in Northamptonshire and welcome the increase in funding for all schools, in particular the 14 primary schools and 4 secondary schools in Kettering, which have been historically the most underfunded.
16. What plans he has to improve the provision of services for children with special educational needs and disabilities in schools. 
Break in Debate
17. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of Ofsted. 
Two secondary schools in my constituency have had recent inspections, and both headteachers, whom I respect greatly, are appalled at how those inspections have been handled. We complained to Ofsted, and we had one side of A4 on the investigation into those complaints. Can we have a system in which Ofsted does not effectively mark its own homework?
At the last Ofsted inspection, Red Hill Field Primary School was marked as good. The school is celebrating its 35-year anniversary this Friday. What message does the Minister have for that excellent school, for Mr Snelson, the headteacher, and for all the staff on their excellent work over 35 years?
T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. 
Break in Debate
T9. My constituent Bella has Down’s syndrome and started primary school last week. What was supposed to be a very special time for her was racked with anxiety because the school said it could not afford to make the adjustments necessary for her to be able to attend school. Fortunately, a compromise has been made, but the school will have to make cuts elsewhere now. May we have this money for special educational needs provision brought forward now? 
I thank the education team for giving £5.5 million for upgrades in secondary schools in my area. Recently, however, there has been a disturbing turn of events. Skerton Community High School was closed down by the Labour county council, but it is being hypocritically targeted for an erroneous campaign to reopen it by the Labour party. The school has been closed for five years. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State write to me to tell me what is going to happen to this school in the future and whether it could be used for an academy?
Break in Debate
Female students at Priory School in Lewes were excluded on Friday simply for wearing skirts, which goes against the school’s new uniform policy. They are excluded today and will continue to be excluded until they wear trousers. What support can the Minister give to the families and pupils affected?
I am sure that if I did not call a retired headteacher, I would be subject to the most condign punishment imaginable. I call Thelma Walker.
Thank you, Mr Speaker—10 out of 10.
I recently spoke on BBC Radio Leeds about the number of young people who suffer trauma and bereavement just before sitting exams and who often do not get the appropriate support and bereavement counselling. Will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss adequate counselling provision for those going through such a difficult time?
I really welcome the extra money for special educational needs. Will my right hon. Friend look closely at improving school transport for 16 to 19-year-olds with special needs so that we can further improve conditions for the most needy children?
A quarter of people in my constituency are now reported to be living in in-work poverty, so is it no wonder that I know of desperate families unable to pay for their children’s school uniforms? Will the Minister consider introducing a statutory duty for schools to prioritise cost considerations and value for money for parents when deciding uniform policy and a ban on compulsory branding if this means families incurring additional costs?
I have called a distinguished headteacher to speak, so I must call a distinguished nurse. I call Anne Milton.
Okay. I taught RSE to year 5 in primary school many years, and we had stringent policies. People withdrawing their children would be automatically put on our safeguarding alerts. We need to think about that really seriously.
There is a danger that, without a clear steer from Government, there will be big variations between schools. We need resources going into those schools. This new framework has to be adequately funded, and it is on that that we will hold the Minister’s feet to the fire, now that he has survived another regime change and is one of the longest-serving Ministers ever. I made a Bee Gees joke yesterday; I will not repeat it today.
Children must know their rights if they are to exercise them throughout their lives. Relationships and sex education is effective when it sits as part of a whole-school approach, is embedded across the curriculum and is delivered by well trained staff. The Government must now ensure that schools have the resources to deliver that.
I thank the hon. Members for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) and for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), who all spoke so eloquently and with such great passion. I must admit that my interaction with the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport has been relatively limited since he joined the House. I will certainly look forward to getting to know him better and working together in the coming years on promoting LGBT rights across our country.
We did not see as many Members as expected attending this debate because of the Brexit debate in the main Chamber, but I am sure that a lot of young people around the country have been listening to what we have had to say today and have heard how we support them being supported over LGBT issues in schools.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs mentioned that he felt that parents protesting outside schools on these sorts of issues was something that the Government ought to be looking at. I could not agree with him more. I was trying to be a little bit more circumspect in my comments, but he has given me the courage and conviction to think about this issue more and I would strongly reiterate to the Minister the sentiment that has been conveyed.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered teaching on LGBT community and acceptance in schools.
I suspect that most hon. Members’ constituency surgeries on a Friday are now full—mine certainly is, and I hear the same when I talk to colleagues across Greater Manchester—of parents trying to get special educational needs provision for their children. The hon. Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter) rightly mentions CAMHS, but again the promises are of money in the future. This is the unicorn; this is what will happen. We can only see what this Government have done to education funding since 2015.
The hon. Member for North West Norfolk also mentioned class sizes, but there are now half a million children in super-size classes. There is an unquestionable recruitment crisis in our schools. It is almost a case of one teacher in, one teacher out. And it is not just because of the money. The Government have promised £30,000. I would like to hear that that will apply to all new teachers’ starting salaries and that there will not be differentiation between subjects. The Government have missed their own recruitment targets for six years; every year on the Minister’s watch, they have missed their targets, and teachers are flooding out of the classroom. We need urgent action to retain the most experienced teachers and to recruit new staff. But even now, as we have heard the Education Secretary announce higher pay, teachers will have to wait years for the promised pay rise, and there is every chance that they will never see the fruits of this Government’s promises.
On top of that, despite the Work and Pensions Secretary’s claim that no child would lose their free school meal eligibility, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that 160,000 children who were eligible under the legacy system will not be eligible under universal credit. We regularly hear stories of teachers buying essential supplies for their classes. We heard earlier today that schools are having to shut for a day. Even schools in the Minister’s own constituency are threatening a four-day week. The curriculum is narrowing: we see schools cutting subjects such as drama, art and music, restricting our young people’s horizons.
There is a crisis in our schools, and beyond, to which this Government are turning a blind eye. In fact, there has been a concerted effort by the Government to fudge the figures and deflect attention away from the cuts. If funding per pupil had been maintained in value since 2015, school funding overall would be £5.1 billion higher than it is now. That means that 91% of schools are still facing, as we speak here today, real-terms cuts.
Hon. Members here today know all too well the impact on the ground already. Headteachers tell us every day. The Government need to stop their sticking-plaster approach to school finances and give schools what they need. Although I am pleased to hear the Government announce more money for schools, I hope that the Minister has truly removed his head from the sand and begun to hear the voices of schools, teachers and parents. I joke that I see more of the Minister than I do of my wife—because it is not just East Anglia that is the subject of Westminster Hall debates. We are here almost weekly or twice a week. We spend hours having to debate what is happening in all our regions—the exact same problems that schools up and down our country face. I have lost count of the number of debates that there have been.
With the economic uncertainty of Brexit, and especially a no-deal Brexit, which the new Prime Minister seems so keen to pursue, it defies all logic to have a Government who are failing to invest properly in education and skills—particularly, as the hon. Member for Waveney pointed out, in our coastal towns. Further education is vital to their regeneration; it will be the silver bullet for regenerating our coastal towns. We are struggling to find the teachers to go and work there.
I have said this before and will say it again. As a former primary school teacher, I know the difference that a good teacher makes. With the right support and resources, they can raise a child’s attainment and aspiration. We go into teaching because we believe in the value of education. Our schools do not want to see one-off, headline-grabbing handouts; our schools need fair funding now.
Labour’s national education service will change this situation when we come to power. The national education service will create social mobility; it will create ambition for all. Our national education service will pay teachers what they deserve. The national education service will provide the investment that our schools so desperately need.
The Minister has talked about the impact on primary schools and secondary schools. Could he say a little about the impact on maintained nursery schools?
Will the Minister look at the point about the long lead-in time in training more SENCOs? There is obviously a shortage at the moment and that could hold things up.
Despite all the positive announcements and the extra Government funding that will be passed on to local authorities to give to schools for special educational needs, there is a challenge. As we have raised previously, in many areas there is a lack of provision in the local NHS, particularly for children with moderate to severe special educational needs, and a lack of CAMHS and learning disability psychiatrists and nurses. What conversations will the Minister have to ensure a renewed focus from the Department of Health and Social Care, to ensure the recruitment of these important healthcare professionals, without whose expertise many young children will not get the extra help they need?
I thank the Minister for his response, and I thank all those who have contributed to this timely and interesting debate.
On the issue of Jane Austen College and the Inspiration Trust, I have always been supportive of the teachers and the pupils in such schools. My issue has never been with them; it has always been with the philosophy behind free schools and academies, and sometimes with their leadership. If we understand the philosophy of free schools, which is—to quote a member of the Department, although I am not sure whether they expected their words to go public—to bring the chaos of the free market to our public state school education system. That has been one of my key concerns about free schools and the academy system.
I will make a last couple of points. The question that many of us have now is about this new money. It is welcome, but we ask ourselves, “Will our constituencies actually see any of this money, or will it be used disproportionately and cynically in key Tory marginals?” The answer remains to be seen.
Labour Members have always claimed that cuts to public services have been a political choice. Having listened to the Minister today, I think it is quite clear—now that this money has been found—that the last four years of cuts to our education system have been a political choice. We are glad that the money has been found, but the past four years have been very difficult for schools and they are still struggling.
Regarding pupils with special educational needs, we need to understand that £700 million will simply not be enough. This is a problem that goes far and wide and deep. It is systemic, and far more than £700 million will be needed if it is to be tackled properly. I think the Minister understands how severe this problem is, so I hope that more money can be found for children with SEN, their families and the support that they and their schools need.
Finally, no amount of new funding can ever make up for the lost opportunities—the lost childhoods—of those pupils who have been failed by successive Conservative Governments for these past few years, after billions of pounds of cuts have led to underfunding. No new money can ever make up for that.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered school funding in East Anglia.
I am sure the Minister needs no reminding, but he needs to leave a bit of time for the encore by the mover of the motion.
The question is about the family backgrounds of those 6% or 7%. Are those children taking music because they are supported by wealthy families who can afford the instruments and the lessons?
I find myself at risk of repeating earlier arguments—like when I was the singer in a band and we were invited to do an encore but had run out of songs. I thank the Minister for his response, and I thank hon. Members for such a warm, engaging and, at times, spirited and witty debate on such an important issue. It is so good to reach consensus across the parties on a subject that we deeply love and are clearly all passionate about.
In years and years of trying to record an album and find the right sound engineer, the right producer and the right moment to capture the sound we were after, I initially took comfort in the phrase, “It’s all right—we’ll fix it in the mix.” Subsequently, however, I realised that re-recording is always the answer. EBacc is not something that we can fix in the mix; we have to re-record it. The case has been well made that music and the arts are integral and should be part of the core curriculum, protected by core curriculum time, away from the complex lives that so many children leave school to return to.
If we protect music by including it in the EBacc, we can do away with the myth of fixing in the mix. A Government who commit to an EBacc with music education as a formal part of it—that is the hit we are all after.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered music education in England.
As ever, Sir David, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Harborough (Neil O'Brien) on securing this important debate; it is very important that we talk about the funding of small and rural schools. I also congratulate him on the really powerful speech he made in the main Chamber last year about one of his favourite teachers, who had passed away. For many of us, speeches in the main Chamber do not often stand out, but that was a really memorable one. For him personally, education and standing up for his constituents is very important, and it was great to be in the main Chamber for that speech.
The Minister for School Standards and I have had this debate before. In fact, I said to him today that we should go for a drink some time, because at the moment I see more of him than I do of my wife. That is because we spend so much time either in the main Chamber or here in Westminster Hall discussing school funding cuts and budget pressures. If we are not discussing West Sussex, Cornwall, Stoke-on-Trent, Chichester, or Westmorland and Lonsdale, then it is Liverpool, Merseyside or Manchester—week after week after week.
I want to put this debate in context for Members from rural constituencies who are passionate about their schools, so I say to the hon. Member for Harborough that Leicestershire has had to take £51.9 million out of its budget since 2015. That is probably the root cause of most of the reasons why primary schools in rural or urban areas are facing problems at the moment. Many of the concerns about this issue have been really well articulated today, so well done to all Members who are standing up for schools in their constituencies. However, all the challenges for schools are amplified for small schools, as we have heard this afternoon.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) on his speech, in which he said that small schools struggle because they do not have the economies of scale that some multi-academy trusts or local education authority schools can achieve in urban areas. I think he said that small schools lacked the “wherewithal”.
The hon. Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan), which is in West Sussex, shares a local authority with the Minister. I have to say with some passion that that authority has had to take £61.3 million out of its school budget since 2015. The Minister will come back and say what the Government have done since 2017, but this is the stark reality. As the hon. Lady said, too few schools seem to receive money from the hailed sparsity formula, which was supposed to be the silver bullet to help schools in rural areas. Maybe the Minister can tell us, through his officials or in writing, how many schools in rural areas are receiving money via this fabled sparsity formula.
It was interesting that the hon. Lady spoke really passionately, as she often does, about a school—I think it was Loxwood school—that had to set up a donations web page to fund a guillotine. That is the state of school funding in our day and age on the Minister’s watch. There are parent teacher associations. Who was it who said that schools are the “beating heart” of communities? I think it was the hon. Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas). They are, particularly in rural areas. Unlike many schools in urban areas, schools in many rural areas have PTAs, or they have parishes that help out, but that is the state of school funding; it has had to come to rely upon PTAs, donation web pages and companies helping out to buy basic products. Of course, one of the other problems that rural schools have is that, being in rural areas, they do not often have huge companies around them, as schools in cities often do.
The Minister has a huge problem. I forget the exact statistic, but somewhere around 100 schools—I will check out the exact number; it has been put on the record before—containing about 70,000 pupils are not brokered. That is another problem that schools in rural areas face. The Government are struggling, through these multi-academy trusts, to get enough brokers to broker those academies. So we literally have to thank the Lord for the Church of England, because if the Church of England did not have its thousands of schools in our rural areas—I also thank the Church for its schools in our cities—this Government’s policy would be in real difficulty.
The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), which is on the other side of Sussex, also contributed to the debate; his constituency is in an area where £37 million has been lost. It is always an honour to play football with him, and recently, we played at Stamford Bridge—I think it was in a game to “Show Racism the Red Card”. It was the only football game that I have ever played in where my boots were cleaner coming off the pitch than they were when I went on. He is an excellent footballer and I congratulate him on standing up for his schools.
The hon. Member for St Ives spoke about Cornwall, where £51 million has been taken out of the schools budget since 2015. He made a hugely valid point about special educational needs practice, which is often overlooked in these debates, even though it is an issue in urban areas, too. Where there is a school with really good SEN practice, parents want to get into that school, but the school has to put the money up front and is disadvantaged because of it.
Sorry—it was the hon. Member for Witney (Robert Courts), in his excellent speech, who talked about rural schools being the “beating heart” of the community. He is right, but I have to say to him that Oxfordshire schools have lost £37 million. He did not want to hear about the cuts, but I am afraid that he has to hear about them from me, because no amount of national funding formula, no amount of sparsity funding and no amount of special funding for rural schools—even though such funding may be a good idea that the Department might wish to look at; I will let the Minister respond to that suggestion—will get away from the fact of the cuts that have happened across the whole of Oxfordshire, in addition to what he said about the pension rises and pay rises, which we still do not have certainty about, and the SEN provision.
The Minister knows that I sound like a broken record on schools funding, but it appears that no matter how many times it is raised or whoever raises it—including his colleagues on the Government Benches—this Government are not listening to the grave concerns of hon. Members, leaders and teachers about the impact of school funding cuts.
It is really interesting. I do not want to proselytise on a party political point, but the leadership candidates of the Conservative party—sorry, what is the Health Secretary’s seat?
I thank the Minister. The right hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock) pledged £15 billion of new schools money in that leadership debate. All the candidates know, from courting Conservative Members over the last few weeks, what the No.1 concern is for Conservative Members, and they have responded to those concerns in the leadership debates.
Across the country, our schools are experiencing £2.7 billion of cuts. There are concerns from teachers, including thousands of headteachers, many of whom protested right here in Parliament, and there are cuts to special educational needs and disability provision, which is an even more acute challenge for small schools, as they cannot amass economies of scale when they are buying additional support and resources.
Statistics from the Department itself show that the number of children and young people in England with SEN, or with education, health and care plans, rose by 34,200, an increase of 11% from 2018. However, research by the National Education Union has found that special needs school provision in England is down by £1.2 billion because of the shortfall in funding increases from the Government since 2015. No doubt the Minister will come back in his speech with what has happened since 2017.
The Government’s own data shows that as of January 2018, 4,050 children and young people with EHC plans or statements were awaiting provision; in other words, they were still waiting for a place in education. Over 500,000 children are now in a super-sized class, and there is an unquestionable recruitment and retention crisis in our schools, with the Government having missed their own targets five years in a row. For the second year running, more teachers are leaving the profession than joining it. That has a huge impact on rural areas, especially if we take into account the price that teachers have to pay to afford a house in those areas, not having had an effective pay rise in 10 years. That has really affected the ability to get the quality and calibre of teachers required in rural areas.
Rural areas also suffer—[Interruption.] Do I need to wind up, Sir David?
I am terribly sorry, Sir David; I was just hitting my stride. Career progression is more difficult in rural areas and for rural teachers, as cities often offer an agglomeration of impacts so that teachers can develop professionally.
Under Labour’s national education service, we will invest properly in our schools. Investment will be delivered under Labour’s fully funded and universal vision for a national education service that will cover all our schools, both rural and national, that need funding put into them—not just at the spending review, but today.
I thank all Members who have taken part in today’s debate. I know that many Members are not in the building this afternoon, so I am particularly grateful for the eloquent and thoughtful speeches we have heard. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) in strongly praising our brilliant Schools Minister, who is a relentless and hard-working champion for higher educational standards. If the next Prime Minister has any sense, he will be promoted; if he has very good sense, the Minister will be kept in place, because he is doing a good job.
I thank the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane) for his praise for my previous speech in the Chamber. I thought his own speech would have been stronger if he had acknowledged that there has been a real-terms increase in spending per pupil since 2010—an amazing achievement given that we inherited the biggest budget deficit since the second world war. Perhaps if he finds himself in a position of power in future, he can avoid dropping one of those again.
I thank all the Members who have taken part. We heard important points about capital and buildings from my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas), and important ideas about smoothing out budgets from my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts). My hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle spoke about the importance of not relying on a bus, because children miss out on after-school activities. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan) about some of the things small schools are doing to cope in an authority where there has been an even bigger drop in the lump sum.
Small schools and village schools are an important part of the fabric that makes up this country. I do not want to wax too lyrical, but I genuinely think that if we continue to lose those schools at the rate we have seen in recent decades, in my lifetime, we will be losing an important part of this country.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered funding for small schools and village schools.
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will make a statement on what steps he is taking to counter misinformation about the content of relationship education in schools.