Nick Gibb debates with Department for Education

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)

Education

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Wednesday 15th July 2020

(3 weeks, 6 days ago)

Ministerial Corrections
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb -

As we announced last year, we are increasing core schools funding by £2.6 billion this academic year and by £4.8 billion and £7.1 billion by 2021-22 and 2022-23 respectively, compared to 2019-20, including additional funding for children with special needs and disabilities.

[Official Report, 7 July 2020, Vol. 678, c. 894.]

Letter of correction from the Minister for School Standards:

An error has been identified in the response I gave to the debate on Support for Left-Behind Children.

The correct response should have been:

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

As we announced last year, we are increasing core schools funding by £2.6 billion this financial year and by £4.8 billion and £7.1 billion by 2021-22 and 2022-23 respectively, compared to 2019-20, including additional funding for children with special needs and disabilities.

Support for Left-Behind Children

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab) - Hansard
7 Jul 2020, 3:51 p.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
7 Jul 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon), the Committee Chair, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury South (Christian Wakeford) on opening this debate during these unprecedented times. I echo my hon. Friend’s thanks to all teachers and educational staff for their commitment during the crisis, going that extra mile for their communities, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey). That sentiment was shared by other Members during this debate, including my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Robbie Moore). I welcome the shadow Education Secretary, the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green), to her place—it is nice to see her in that role.

When we presented the estimates to the House a year ago, we talked about creating a world-class education system that offers opportunity to everyone, irrespective of their circumstances or where they live. We talked about greater, fairer investment in our education system and our success in raising standards since 2010 that has seen the proportion of pupils in good or outstanding schools increase from 66% in 2010 to 86% in 2019. But we could scarcely have imagined how life would change in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. I share the sense of urgency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury South in respect of the extraordinary measures that we shall need to recover from the effects of school closure, but I am confident that we are providing the tools and resources for schools to succeed.

Let me set out the overall funding picture. In 2020-21, the Department for Education resource budget is around £72 billion—an increase of £3.5 billion since last year. Of that £72 billion, £57.1 billion is for early years and schools; £14.1 billion is primarily for post-16 and skills; and £400 million is for social care, mobility and disadvantage.

This debate is on closing the disadvantage gap and support for left-behind children. Closing the attainment gap has been the driving force behind all our education reforms since 2010, and since then we have been determined to drive out the dreary culture of low expectations that hold back the ambitions of too many children from poorer backgrounds. That point was reflected in the excellent contributions made by my hon. Friends the Members for Stockton South (Matt Vickers) and for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis).

We are unapologetic about our commitment to teaching all children to read fluently at the very latest by the time they leave primary school. The Government’s championing of synthetic phonics has improved performance, such that in 2019 some 82% of pupils met the expected standard in the phonics screening check, compared with just 58% when the check was introduced in 2012. During that period—an “ambitious decade”, in the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), one of the contributors to that ambition—school standards have risen, and between 2011 and 2019 the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers narrowed by 13% at age 11 and by 9% at age 16, as measured by the gap index. Indeed, most disadvantaged pupils now attend good or outstanding schools and the attainment gap has narrowed at every stage from the early years to 16.

Even before the pandemic, we recognised that there was more to do, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson) rightly said. Academies continue to embody our belief that autonomy, combined with strong accountability, is the most effective approach to raising standards. The success of leading multi-academy trusts such as Dixons, Star, Ark and Harris show that geography and background need be no barrier to success and high academic standards.

In 2014, we introduced a more knowledge-rich curriculum across England’s schools, alongside reforms to GCSEs to make them more rigorous. The changes were driven by a desire to ensure that all children should benefit from the same curriculum and high expectations that are common to the best state schools in the country. We saw the proportions of pupils taking the EBacc—English baccalaureate—combination of subjects increase to 40% in 2019. The proportion of pupils entered for at least two science GCSEs has risen from 63% in 2010% to 95.6% today. The proportion taking a foreign language has risen from 40% to 46.7%.

Nevertheless, no one should underestimate the scale of the challenge following the closure of schools in March to all but a small number of pupils. Education recovery lies at the heart of our national mission as we emerge from the disruption caused by the coronavirus epidemic. No child should see their life chances damaged by their being out of school for so long.

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con) - Hansard

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
7 Jul 2020, 12:01 a.m.

As my hon. Friend will know, sixth-form colleges are not included in the catch-up premium. We are continuing to work with sixth-form colleges and other post-16 institutions to establish the best way to make up the disruption due to covid-19. On free school meals over the summer, we will provide further details for FE colleges in due course. During term time, FE colleges should continue to provide support to students eligible for free school meals.

We have secured significant additional resources from the Treasury so that every school will have extra funding to respond to this unique challenge. On 19 June, we announced a £1 billion covid catch-up package to directly tackle the impact of lost teaching time, including £650 million directly to schools over the 2020-21 academic year. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bury South intimated, the Education Endowment Foundation will provide evidence-based advice on the most effective approaches to helping children catch up, but the discretion lies at school level, with the teachers and headteachers.

The catch-up package also includes a national tutoring programme worth £350 million to increase access to high-quality tuition for the most disadvantaged young people. This £1 billion package is on top of the three-year £14.4 billion funding increase announced last year and the £2.4 billion pupil premium. We have also committed more than £100 million to supporting remote education. By the end of June, over 202,000 laptops and tablets and over 47,000 4G wireless routers had been delivered or dispatched to academy trusts and local authorities for pupils without the means to access remote education. It was a huge logistical exercise in a demanding global market for these pieces of equipment. To support pupils at home, 40 top teachers came together to create our new virtual school, the Oak National Academy, which offers 180 online lessons a week for all pupils. In response to the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse), I should add that £205 million has been redeemed in food vouchers by families and schools.

As we announced last year, we are increasing core schools funding by £2.6 billion this academic year and by £4.8 billion and £7.1 billion by 2021-22 and 2022-23 respectively, compared to 2019-20, including additional funding for children with special needs and disabilities. On top of that, we are providing £1.5 billion per year to fund additional pension costs for teachers. Overall, this will bring the schools budget to £52.2 billion by 2022-23.[Official Report, 15 July 2020, Vol. 678, c. 9MC.]

Our commitment to helping every child to reach their potential applies just as strongly to children with special educational needs and disabilities as to any other child. We know that schools share that commitment, but we recognise concerns raised about the cost of high-needs provision. We have increased overall funding allocations to local authorities year on year, and high-needs funding will be £7.2 billion this year—up from £5 billion in 2013. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds) was also right to highlight the £1.7 billion of accumulated surpluses in local authority schools.

Creating more school places is a key part of the Government’s plan to ensure that every child has the opportunity of a place at a good school, whatever their background. We have committed £7 billion for school places between 2015 and 2021, on top of the free schools programme. This money means we are on track to have created 1 million school places this decade—the largest increase in school capacity for at least two generations.

Alongside new school places, we have allocated more than £7.4 billion since 2015 to maintain and improve school buildings. On 29 June, the Prime Minister announced over £1 billion to fund the first 50 projects of a new 10-year school rebuilding programme as part of radical plans that will invest in our school and college buildings to help deliver the world-class education and training needed to bring prosperity to our country.

I thank all those who work in the early years sector, who dedicate their time, effort and skills to provide high-quality childcare. Our ambition is to provide equality of opportunity for every child and to support parents and carers. Disadvantaged two-year-olds are entitled to at least 15 hours of free early education each week, and over 1 million children have benefited from this since we introduced the programme in September 2013. In addition, in 2017 we introduced the 30-hours entitlement for working parents of three and four-year-olds, and in January 2020 some 345,000 three and four-year-olds benefited from a 30-hours place—an increase on the previous year.

This has been a good debate, and today’s estimates are a reflection of the country’s commitment to education and the key priority that it is for this Government. Since 2010, most children are now attending good or outstanding schools. The attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has narrowed at all stages. A record proportion of disadvantaged students are going to university, and we have a world-class curriculum and ambitions for world-class technical education.

The effects of the current epidemic will be felt across society for a considerable time. It was right that we moved rapidly to secure a massive one-off investment in our schools to tackle lost time in education and to foster a greater focus on proven approaches so that all pupils can receive the education that they have a right to expect.

Christian Wakeford Portrait Christian Wakeford - Hansard
7 Jul 2020, 12:01 a.m.

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

Oral Answers to Questions

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Monday 22nd June 2020

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab) - Hansard

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. [903531]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard

Since 1 June, we have taken positive steps in welcoming children back to school. Teachers and heads have done an excellent job in opening schools to more pupils, and our latest attendance figures show that approximately 92% of education institutions are open with thousands more children back in classrooms, where they can learn best, reunited with their teachers and friends. SAGE papers are being published in tranches, including those of the Children’s Task and Finish Working Group.

Mrs Maria Miller Portrait Mrs Miller - Hansard
22 Jun 2020, 12:09 a.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

We are working towards bringing all children and young people back to school in September. The Government’s ambition is that all organisations running holiday clubs and activities for children over the summer holiday will be able to open if, of course, the science allows. The time anticipated for holiday clubs to open is no earlier than 4 July as part of step three of the Government’s recovery strategy.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

Over to the happy Ian Mearns with his supplementary.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns [V] - Hansard

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about disadvantaged children. Schools have been open to vulnerable children and the children of critical workers since schools closed, and we have encouraged more and more of those children to be in school where it is best for them. The scientific advice indicates that a phased return that limits the number of children in education settings and how much they mix with each other will help to reduce the risk of transmission. We are led by the science but our ambition is that all schools will return in September, but that will, of course, be subject to the science.

Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con) - Hansard

What steps his Department is taking to protect children and young people online during the covid-19 outbreak. [903514]

Break in Debate

Sir Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con) - Hansard

What steps he is taking to attract new recruits to the teaching profession in England. [903520]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard

Our recruitment and retention strategy sets out our plans to attract high-quality recruits to the profession. The “Get into teaching” marketing campaign provides information to trainees, including on the availability of tax-free bursaries and scholarships worth up to £28,000 in certain subjects. We have also set out plans to increase the minimum starting salary for teachers to £30,000 by September 2022.

Sir Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope - Hansard

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

The organisation Now Teach, which was set up by Lucy Kellaway and which we support, has seen a huge surge of interest from people like the ones my hon. Friend suggests. It helps career changers to come into teaching. We have also seen a 12% increase in applications to teacher training in the last quarter, to the end of May.

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O'Brien (Harborough) (Con) - Hansard

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. [903523]

Break in Debate

Julie Marson Portrait Julie Marson (Hertford and Stortford) (Con) - Hansard

What steps his Department is taking to support remote education during the covid-19 outbreak. [903526]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard

The Government have provided a £100 million package of advice and support to enable remote teaching. That has included delivering laptops and tablets to vulnerable and disadvantaged children and working with the new Oak National Academy, the BBC and others to ensure strong national availability of remote educational resources.

Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes - Hansard

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

We are very grateful for the hard work and dedication of our teachers during this time and have highlighted the innovative work of schools in a series of recently published case studies. I congratulate those children at Ysgol Dinas Brân on producing more than 800 visors. It is a prime example of that very innovation.

Julie Marson Portrait Julie Marson - Hansard

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

Remote teaching has been a significant challenge for teachers across the sector, and I am grateful to all those who have worked so hard to ensure their pupils’ education has continued despite the difficulties of lockdown. Some innovations will no doubt continue to be beneficial, and we are working with organisations such as the Education Endowment Foundation to take an evidence-based approach to establishing how schools can best use remote practices in future.

Jon Trickett Portrait Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) (Lab) - Hansard

What proportion of children (a) classed as vulnerable and (b) eligible for free school meals are attending school. [903529]

Break in Debate

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien (Harborough) (Con) - Hansard

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? [903577]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
22 Jun 2020, 3:23 p.m.

The Government want all schools to be fully reopened in September. We have produced guidance on protective measures that schools will take, and all staff, children and families will have access to testing if they display symptoms. We are working with local authorities and regional schools commissioners to address any particular local issues, but it is in the interests of all children to be in school with their friends and their teachers.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab) - Hansard

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? [903573]

Break in Debate

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con) - Hansard

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? [903588]

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

The Government want to ensure that all children get an active start in life and engage in daily physical activity, which is why we launched the school sport and activity action plan last year. We will confirm arrangements for the primary PE and sport premium in the 2020-21 academic year as soon as possible.

Vicky Foxcroft Portrait Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab) [V] - Hansard

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? [903578]

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

The key is to get more children walking and cycling to school, and using other forms of transport other than public transport, but we are working across Government, with the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to address the necessary transport issues in order to get children back to school in September.

Scott Benton Portrait Scott Benton (Blackpool South) (Con) - Hansard

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? [903590]

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

The Government will do whatever they can to ensure that no child falls behind as a result of the covid-19 crisis. That is why we have announced a £1 billion package of support, which includes a catch-up premium for schools and a tutoring programme for those in need, including, of course, children in Blackpool.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab) - Hansard

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? [903585]

Break in Debate

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD) - Hansard

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? [903596]

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

I have seen the hon. Member’s letter. On this anniversary of Windrush, as much on as any day, we need to understand the strong feelings on this issue. People do suffer racial prejudice, and we need to eliminate discrimination and bigotry wherever it occurs in our society. So far as the curriculum is concerned, we give schools the autonomy to decide what and how history is taught, provided it covers a wide range of periods of British and world history, but that very autonomy means that schools can and do teach about black and Asian cultures and history. The citizenship curriculum and the new relationships curriculum teach the importance of respect for other cultures and respect for difference.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

I call Mark Fletcher—final question.

Education Standards: Stoke-on-Trent

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Thursday 18th June 2020

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
18 Jun 2020, 12:04 a.m.

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”.

It is

“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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Jun 2020, 12:02 a.m.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) on securing this important debate. I know that he is particularly passionate about schools in his constituency, and he continues to feed back his views and the views of his constituents about various local education issues. The Stoke-on-Trent area is one of huge potential, as he said, and an area targeted by the Government for additional support through the opportunity area policy, which I will talk about in a moment. He also shares the Government’s ambition that every state school is a good school, providing a world-class education that helps every child and young person to reach his or her potential, regardless of background.

Since 2010, the Government have worked hard to drive up academic standards in all our schools, and we continue to provide support to the schools that require it most. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that some schools are still on a journey of improvement, and those schools continue to benefit from the Government’s commitment of support.

An example of that support was the introduction of opportunity areas in October 2016, when the then Education Secretary announced that six social mobility coldspots would become opportunity areas. These opportunity areas were expanded further in January 2017, with six additional areas, including Stoke-on-Trent. As part of this announcement, £72 million of funding was made available to those areas to support education and communities. Stoke-on-Trent and those 11 other areas are benefiting from a range of additional support, which I think will have a huge impact in the long run in Stoke-on-Trent.

I join my hon. Friend in recognising the tremendous work of headteachers and teachers in Stoke-on-Trent, which has resulted in 80% of schools being judged good or better by Ofsted. Part of the support that the Government offer to all schools nationally is through the academies programme, which my hon. Friend talked about. This programme builds on our ongoing vision to develop a world-class, school-led system, giving school leaders the freedom to run their schools as they see fit. We now have more than 9,000 open academies. This system is working. My hon. Friend will have seen improvements in Whitfield Valley Primary School, which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) also mentioned, reflecting the strength of the academies programme. The school joined the Inspirational Learning Academies Trust as a sponsored academy, and following its sponsorship, performance improved rapidly. The school was judged good in January last year, and its 2019 academic performance places it well above the national average. The trust also includes Newstead Primary Academy, located in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South.

In a bid to support academy trusts in Stoke-on-Trent and nationally, we have launched a trust capacity fund, which will help trusts to expand. As my hon. Friend knows, the statutory duty to provide sufficient school places sits with local authorities. We provide capital funding for every place that is needed, based on local authorities’ own data on pupil forecasts. They can use that funding to build new schools or expand existing schools. Stoke-on-Trent has been allocated £32.7 million to provide new schools and new school places between 2011 and 2022.

Building on the need for more school places nationally, the Government have delivered a hugely ambitious free schools programme, through which we have funded thousands of good school places and opened hundreds of new schools across the country. That happens in waves, and we are now on wave 14. My hon. Friend mentioned Florence MacWilliams Academy. There have been 89 applications received for wave 14 of free schools, two of which came from Stoke-on-Trent. One application has been withdrawn. Florence MacWilliams Academy is a free school proposal submitted by the newly formed trust, Educo Academies. The application seeks to establish a co-educational 11-to-16 school in the south of the city of Stoke-on-Trent. We will make an announcement on the successful bidders to that scheme in due course.

In the final seconds left, I again pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his commitment to education in general and to the schools in his constituency in particular.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing) - Hansard

What a race! The Minister managed to get it all in with hardly any time.

Question put and agreed to.

Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Friday 13th March 2020

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Angela Rayner Portrait Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) (Lab) - Hansard
13 Mar 2020, 11:39 a.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
13 Mar 2020, 11:46 a.m.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mike Amesbury) on his success in the private Member’s Bill ballot and thank him for choosing the cost of school uniform as the subject of his Bill. School uniform has so many positive benefits for pupils and schools alike, and I, along with many of the House today, greatly value its contribution to school life. I am pleased that the Government are able to support his Bill and, indeed, to be working with him, so that families are financially reassured, not burdened, at back-to-school time.

As the hon. Gentleman stated, this Bill is not anti-school uniform—“far from it,” he said—because he remembers his time at a school without a school uniform in that fashion golden age of the late 1970s and early 1980s. He pointed out that a lack of school uniform highlights the difference between

“the haves and the have-nots”.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) cited pupils from William Harding School and St Edward’s Catholic Junior School in his constituency, who said that school uniforms stop children being judged on what they wear. He also went to a school that did not have a school uniform at the time and where the result was close to a “catwalk competition” that he claimed he never won, which frankly surprises me—[Laughter.] My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) raised the cost implications of dress-up day, which was an issue of particular concern at his old school: Hogwarts—[Laughter.]

We debated this issue just a few months ago in a Westminster Hall debate secured by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy). Then, as now, our position is that school uniforms should be affordable and good value for families. I am particularly grateful to the hon. Member for Weaver Vale for choosing this topic, as it is a subject that crosses party lines and the Bill will positively improve the lives of families across this country. I support the way that the hon. Member constructed the Bill as a straightforward mechanism to put the non-statutory guidance on school uniform costs on to a statutory footing. I hope that that approach means it will progress quickly through the House.

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien - Hansard
13 Mar 2020, 11:50 a.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
13 Mar 2020, 11:50 a.m.

My hon. Friend raises an important point. Those issues are important and are all covered in the non-statutory guidance. The Bill does not seek to put those items on to a statutory basis; they will remain in the non-statutory guidance. The Bill seeks to put the cost elements—just the items relating to the costs of school uniform—into statutory guidance.

A school uniform is important. It helps to create a school’s identity. It fosters belonging and, with that, a sense of community. It can make background and family income less transparent, working instead to highlight commonality among pupils. It is a “social leveller”, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton South (Andrew Lewer). For many pupils, wearing their uniform gives a sense of pride. As the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi) emphasised, that is a key objective of a school uniform. When pupils represent their school at events or competitions, their uniform plays an important part in creating a team spirit.

The Government encourage schools to have a school uniform because of how it can contribute to the ethos of a school and help them set an appropriate tone, supporting good behaviour and discipline. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South (Scott Benton) cited a school in his constituency that saw a marked improvement in academic standards following the introduction of a zero-tolerance policy on school uniform. That is why affordable uniforms are so important. School uniforms are also important in teaching children how to dress professionally, as pointed out in the tour de force of my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts). For many schools, a school uniform can be a reflection of the school’s history or the history of the local area, and it is right that schools are able to continue to honour tradition in that way and preserve their long-standing identity.

The Government also believe that it is right for the responsibility for setting school uniform policy to rest with the governing body of a school, or the academy trust in the case of academies. It is for schools to decide whether there should be a school uniform and, if so, what it should be and how it should be sourced. The Bill upholds and protects schools’ decision making in those areas. It upholds all the freedoms that are so important to the Government and to my hon. Friends the Members for Witney and for Harborough (Neil O’Brien).

In an increasingly autonomous school system, it is right for schools to make those decisions, but in doing so, it is essential that they consider value for money for parents. Issuing statutory guidance will enable schools to take decisions within a sensible framework that prioritises the issue of costs for families.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler - Hansard
13 Mar 2020, 11:53 a.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
13 Mar 2020, 11:53 a.m.

My hon. Friend raises an important point. No matter how much we try to have uniform swap exchanges, as I will come to, or, indeed, hand-me-downs, when there are different schools with different uniforms, inevitably parents will need to buy a new uniform, and in those circumstances we want to make sure that the costs are affordable for those families.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra - Hansard

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
13 Mar 2020, 11:54 a.m.

If the hon. Lady turns her eyes to the civil service Box, she will see that six out of seven members are women, reflecting the gender balance that is prevalent in the Department for Education. She raises an important point about the statutory guidance, and we will be talking to schools, suppliers of uniforms and all the stakeholders about making statutory the guidance that has already been drafted.

We can all appreciate the positive impact that a school uniform can have on the sense of cohesion and community, but equally, we understand the financial burden that it can present, particularly for lower-income families. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) said, a school uniform can often be less expensive than not wearing school uniform. In 2015, the Department commissioned the cost of school uniform survey, which showed that the average cost of a school uniform was £213 and that the average cost of most uniform items decreased between 2007 and 2015, once adjusted for inflation—a point referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake). More recently, the Schoolwear Association undertook a survey that found that the average cost of branded items for a child starting secondary school was £101 for both uniform and sportswear, and that the average annual spend per parent on branded items was between £35 and £45.

The Children’s Society has today released a report which found that parents said they spent on average around £315 on primary and £337 on secondary school uniforms per child. These reports may not all present the same picture of the cost of school uniforms for parents and will depend, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (David Johnston) pointed out, on what is included in the survey. How many pairs of trousers, for example, are included in what parents buy for their children? However, I think we can all agree that the cost can have an impact, particularly on lower-income families, and that it is therefore crucial that school uniform costs are affordable. That is why this Bill is so important and why statutory guidance is needed.

Many schools have, in fact, already made efforts to support vulnerable families with the cost of school uniforms, whether through pupil premium grants or through second-hand uniform schemes such as the school uniform exchange in Barnsley, as pointed out by the hon. Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock). I would like to see every school finding a way to make second-hand uniforms available. My younger brother, who you know, Mr Speaker, had the advantage of wearing my hand-me-downs on occasion, and it did not do him any harm.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Daly) is right that schools should be able to help the poorest families with the costs of school uniform. This Bill sends a clear signal to schools that the costs of the school uniform must not be a barrier to parents choosing a particular school for their child or for a child attending a particular school. School uniforms must not be unreasonably priced, and schools must not disregard the importance of achieving value for money for parents. We will be producing statutory guidance on the cost aspects of school uniforms that makes it clear to both parents and schools that uniforms must be affordable and value for money. We will be engaging, as I have said, with key stakeholders to understand their views as statutory guidance on uniform costs is drafted.

Sam Tarry Portrait Sam Tarry - Hansard

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
13 Mar 2020, noon

The non-statutory guidance says that branded items should be kept to a minimum, and we support that view. On issues such as hairbands, I would ask the hon. Gentleman to visit the Thomas Jones school in Saint Mark’s road in west London, which has very strict guidance for pupils on issues such as hairbands and other things—small things, such as not having dangly keyrings hanging from their school bags. The consequence is that pupils there are very smart, despite the fact that many of them come from disadvantaged backgrounds. It does create a sense of community, a sense of work ethic and a sense of equality among children from different financial backgrounds. Issues such as hairbands can, sometimes, be more important than the hon. Gentleman might think.

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge - Hansard
13 Mar 2020, noon

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
13 Mar 2020, 12:02 p.m.

I bow to my hon. Friend’s experience of fashion as to whether they look good or not. He is right that just requiring a certain colour of sock, or indeed a hairband, does not necessarily add to the costs for the parents, but it does send a clear message that the school has very high standards of dress and appearance, and that can have an impact on academic standards and the work ethic of a school.

A number of hon. Members have raised issues that relate to the contents of the statutory guidance, and the starting point for that guidance will, as I have said, be the existing non-statutory guidance on school uniforms, but there are two particular issues that I wish to address. The first is branded items. Of course, it is understandable that schools will often want to have branded items of uniform that are specific to their schools, such as a branded blazer or a particular tie, and, at present, the Department’s guidance advises schools to keep such branded items of uniform to a minimum, because multiple branded items can significantly increase costs. Although the Government believe that that is the right approach, we do not want to ban branded items altogether. Branded items such as a blazer of a particular colour or style may well be part and parcel of a school’s history or ethos and may not be available, for example, from a supermarket.

The second issue is single suppliers. The Department’s guidance already recommends that schools avoid exclusive single-supply contracts unless a regular competitive tendering process is run to secure best value for parents. Again, the Government believe that this approach provides the right balance to secure open and transparent arrangements and good value for money. Competition is key to keeping costs down, as pointed out in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton.

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O'Brien - Hansard
13 Mar 2020, 12:03 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
13 Mar 2020, 12:03 p.m.

I take on board my hon. Friend’s important point.

For the supply of certain bespoke items, which form part of a school’s uniform, single-supplier contracts can have value. It ensures year-round supply; it allows the supplier to provide a full range of sizes, not just the popular sizes; and it secures economies of scale, so I do not believe that we should ban those arrangements. None the less, we want them to be transparent and competitive.

My hon. Friends the Members for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) and for Northampton South, as well as the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra), raised the issue of the quality and availability of school uniform, which is something that a single supplier from a specialist school uniform retailer will be able to deliver.

We trust headteachers to take the right decisions on these issues, and once the statutory guidance is issued, to abide by it. Where that does not happen and parents have a legitimate grievance, however, there must be an enforcement mechanism. As now, if parents have concerns that their school’s uniform is too expensive, they should raise that with the school and, where issues cannot be resolved locally at the school level, parents may raise it with the Department for Education. Were a school to be considered to be acting unreasonably on the cost of its school uniform, the Bill would enable the Department to act. In extreme cases, the Secretary of State could issue a direction to a maintained school under sections 496 and 497 of the Education Act 1996 to comply with the guidance.

In the case of academies, a provision in the funding agreement states that an

“Academy Trust must comply with…any legislation or legal requirement that applies to academies”.

That means that the duty to have regard to statutory guidance can be enforced using the Department’s enforcement powers under the funding agreement.

School uniforms play a vital role in school communities and are deeply valued by parents and pupils alike. We want uniforms to continue to be held in positive esteem by families, so that the benefits outweigh the costs for families. The Bill ensures that families will not have to worry about an excessively priced school blazer or forgo sending their child to a school for fear of an expensive PE kit. Fundamentally, we want to secure the best value for families and to do so by introducing statutory guidance. The Government support the Bill, and I urge Members of the House to support its Second Reading.

Mike Amesbury Portrait Mike Amesbury - Hansard
13 Mar 2020, 12:06 p.m.

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).

Political Neutrality in Schools

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Tuesday 10th March 2020

(5 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Mr Marcus Fysh Portrait Mr Fysh - Hansard
10 Mar 2020, 11:10 a.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
10 Mar 2020, 11:11 a.m.

It is a pleasure to debate yet again under your careful and, if I may say so, unbiased stewardship, Mr Gray. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr Fysh) for raising this important issue and the excellent way in which he opened the debate. He is right to warn about the coarsening of political debate in the country, which concerns many of us in this House. He is also right that young people should be encouraged to be passionate but not coercive in political debate and how they engage in it.

One of the most important principles that we want to uphold in education is political neutrality, in relation to both the knowledge taught through the school curriculum and the professional conduct of teachers in how they support pupils in and out of the classroom. Political education is an important part of a broad and balanced education that prepares young people for adult life, and we want young people to be informed and engaged citizens. To ensure that they receive such an education in an unbiased way, all state-funded schools must meet duties regarding impartiality and balanced treatment of political issues in the classroom.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) correctly said, that is provided for in legislation. Section 406 of the Education Act 1996 requires teachers to provide a balanced political view in relation to the direct teaching of pupils by forbidding

“the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject”.

Teachers may express their personal views, which can sometimes be useful in prompting debate and discussion within the classroom, but in doing so they must have regard to the teacher standards governing professional competence and conduct to ensure that they show tolerance of and respect for the rights and views of others.

Dr Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis - Hansard
10 Mar 2020, 11:12 a.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
10 Mar 2020, 11:13 a.m.

My right hon. Friend is right, and I try to do the same thing. One piece of advice in the legislation is that, when teachers teach about political issues, they do not express their views in a way that would exploit pupils’ vulnerability or undermine fundamental British values. When I speak to young people, I always bear that in mind and point out that although I am a passionate supporter of the free market, which I think creates and helps spread wealth in the most effective way across society, there are others who believe that a planned economy and more regulation is a fairer and better way of running an economy. I try to make those points before saying that my personal view is the former. I am delighted to hear that he takes a similar approach.

Section 407 of the 1996 Act requires that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils, they are offered

“a balanced presentation of opposing views.”

Balanced in that context means fair and dispassionate. The law does not require teaching staff to adopt a position of neutrality between views that accord with the great majority of scientific opinion and those that do not. Therefore, if a particular theory represents mainstream opinion, there is nothing to prevent a school indicating a strong preference for that theory while making minimal but dispassionate reference to the minority view. However, many of the issues to which my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend refer are not in that category but those where large sections of society take opposing views.

My hon. Friend raised the reporting of Stormzy’s visit to a primary school. Schools remain responsible for what is taught and we expect them to have in place robust safeguarding policies that should set out clear protocols ensuring that visiting speakers are suitably supervised. The school should have a clear understanding of why the speaker was chosen and make guests aware of the school’s expectations, such as: abiding by its equality commitments; there must be no statements that might cause offence to others or otherwise undermine tolerance of other faiths or beliefs; and there must be no extremist material.

I agree with my hon. Friend that we need to do more to equip children to question and evaluate the information they are presented with, whether that is in newspapers, on television or online. Apart from how teachers present political or any sensitive or controversial subject, the content of the curriculum they teach is vital. Schools have a role to play in teaching children to be savvy consumers of media and information. The best way to do that is by providing them with the fundamental knowledge they need to be able to make informed decisions and critical judgments. That is why we reformed the curriculum to provide the core knowledge that children need to understand the world.

Daniel Willingham, the American academic, author of “Why Don’t Students Like School?”—I highly recommend that book to anyone interested in the education debate—and proponent of the use of scientific knowledge in the classroom, says that processes of thinking are intertwined with the content of thought—that is, domain or subject knowledge. Therefore, if a student is reminded to look at an issue from multiple perspectives often enough, he or she will learn that they ought to do so, but if they do not know much about an issue, they cannot think about it from multiple perspectives. We can teach students maxims about how they ought to think, but without background knowledge and practice they will probably not be able to implement the advice they have been asked to memorise. Therefore, just as it makes no sense to try to teach students factual content without giving them opportunities to practise using it, it also makes no sense to try to teach critical thinking devoid of factual content.

The national curriculum we inherited in 2010 had been stripped of too much knowledge, with a heavier focus on the skills of learning. The Government therefore embarked on significant reforms to the national curriculum with the aim of restoring the importance of subject knowledge in all its complexity and fascination. In 2014 the new, more ambitious and knowledge-rich national curriculum came into force in England, and from 2015 we introduced more rigorous GCSEs. That is the most efficacious approach to helping young people to be more discerning and challenging of the views expressed online and in wider society.

The reformed national curriculum sets out a core body of knowledge that should form part of a school’s curriculum, giving schools the autonomy to decide how to teach it to maximise pupil understanding and address their misconceptions. The 12 national curriculum programmes of study not only avoid political bias by focusing on core subject knowledge, but enable teachers to consider how pupils can better evaluate and challenge fake news or misleading information, which can often be presented to them in social media as facts.

My right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend referred to guidance. We issued amended guidance in summer 2018 to remind schools of their responsibilities. The online staffing and employment advice for all schools was updated to say:

“All staff have a responsibility to ensure that they act appropriately in terms of their behaviour, the views they express (in particular political views) and the use of school resources at all times, and should not use school resources for party political purposes.”

I hope that provides my hon. Friend with some reassurance that we take these issues extremely seriously.

Dr Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis - Hansard

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
10 Mar 2020, 9:15 a.m.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. That legislation is still in force. Being from the same era as him, I too recall the debates that took place at that time.

The Government have actively supported teachers in developing their school curriculums beyond the national curriculum. Most relevant to this debate is the Government’s educate against hate website, which hosts resources for schools to support the promotion of democracy, including those on media literacy. Between September and November 2019, the website was visited over 80,000 times.

Schools do many other things across the curriculum to ensure that pupils are equipped to question and challenge what they read, watch and listen to. An online piece written by the headteacher of Passmores Academy in Harlow on the topic of fake news comments on how vital it is to teach young people to check their own facts. The head of English at that school organised activities including students learning the truth behind the scaling of maps in geography, how propaganda has been used throughout history, diet myths, the manipulation of statistics, and the role of computer-generated imagery in the creation of fake news. Additionally, media bias was debated, leading to extended pieces of writing being produced on the subject.

Online safety is an important component of the new relationships, sex and health education. From September 2020 it will be mandatory for schools to teach those subjects. They are about empowering pupils with the knowledge that will support their current and future relationships and health, enabling them to become active and positive members of society. Pupils will be taught about online relationships, the implications of sharing private or personal data online, harmful content and contact, cyber-bullying and where to get help and support.

In Ofsted’s new inspection framework, the personal development judgment focuses on the development of pupils’ character, their confidence, resilience, independence and knowledge. It includes matters such as pupils’ ability to recognise and respond to online and offline risks to their wellbeing.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil for securing this debate. He has raised important concerns, shared by other hon. Members, as we have heard. I hope that he is reassured that there is legislation and support for schools in place, to mitigate the threat of political bias in our school system and to help young people be resilient to the concept of fake news.

James Gray Portrait James Gray (in the Chair) - Hansard

Would Mr Fysh like to reply?

Early Years Education: Equality of Attainment

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Tuesday 10th March 2020

(5 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris - Hansard
10 Mar 2020, 4:40 p.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
10 Mar 2020, 4:40 p.m.

It is a pleasure to debate under your chairmanship again, Sir Charles.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris) on securing this debate and on a powerful opening speech. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley) for participating and making important contributions.

Continuously improving this country’s education system starts with the early years. High-quality early education can have a huge impact on children’s development, not just when they are in the education system but throughout their life. Our ambition is to provide equality of opportunity for every child, regardless of background or where they live, and to improve access to high-quality early education across the country.

This Government are therefore prioritising investment in free early education support to parents and carers. Disadvantaged two-year olds can access at least 15 hours of early education each week, and since we introduced the programme in September 2013, more than 850,000 children have benefited from it. In addition, in 2017, we introduced the 30 hours’ entitlement for working parents of three and four-year-olds, which benefited about 600,000 children in the first two years. The 30 hours’ entitlement makes childcare more accessible for parents and carers, saving up to £5,000 per child per year and giving them the ability to balance work and family life.

We are continuing that investment. We plan to spend more than £3.6 billion on early education entitlements in the next financial year. In April, all local authorities will see an increase to the hourly funding rates for two-year-olds and an increase in the vast majority of areas for three and four-year-olds.

Ben Bradley Portrait Ben Bradley - Hansard
10 Mar 2020, 4:19 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
10 Mar 2020, 4:43 p.m.

Those are issues always debated in debates such as this, but what is important is that we introduced the concept of free early years education for disadvantaged two-year-olds. We always want to do more, of course.

In addition, we offer financial support for childcare costs through universal credit and tax-free childcare. The issue, however, is not only about parents and carers of young children being able to work, safe in the knowledge that their children are in good hands. Evidence from longitudinal studies, including the effective pre-school, primary and secondary education project, EPPSE, and the study of early education and development, SEED, suggests that the duration in months and years is more important for child outcomes than the average hours per week. Education and childcare from an early age can make a huge difference.

For example, both EPPSE and SEED found that an earlier start in childcare from the age of two has benefits for the 40% most disadvantaged children. The recent SEED report on age five found that, for the 40% most disadvantaged children, starting in childcare from age two, combined with using the 15 to 20 hours per week, had benefits for those children’s verbal development in year 1 and on their overall achievement in the early years foundation stage profile in reception. The international evidence base is also consistent, finding that the quality of childcare affects child outcomes: higher quality provision improves children’s outcomes in the short and the long term.

The early years workforce plays a key role in the delivery of high-quality early education and childcare. It is testament to them that 96% of childcare settings are now rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, which is an increase from the 74% so rated in 2012. The latest early years foundation stage profile results show that the proportion of all children achieving a good level of development is improving year on year, with 71.8% of children having achieved it in 2019, compared with 51.7% in 2013.

That progress is welcome, but too many children still fall behind. I take on board all the points made by the hon. Member for Nottingham North. The gap between children eligible for free school meals and their peers has narrowed overall since 2013, but still too many finish their reception year without the early communication and literacy skills that they need to do well. Early years education, including in the reception year, presents a key opportunity to close the gaps referred to by the hon. Gentleman in his speech.

We have piloted and consulted on an important package of reforms to the early years foundation stage statutory framework which sets the standards for education, development and care for children from birth to five. Revisions to the early learning goals and education programmes will see greater focus on language and vocabulary development, which is key to tackling the word gap between disadvantaged children and their peers. Our proposed reforms are intended to reduce workload and to free up teachers to spend more time teaching, interacting with and supporting children—disadvantaged children in particular—to ensure that they are developing the rich vocabulary, skills and behaviours that they need to succeed when they start school. Our consultation on those reforms closed on 31 January, and we plan to publish a response in the spring.Alongside that, we are revising the early years curriculum guidance from birth to reception, to ensure that teachers and practitioners have the right information to support children and to give them rich activities and experiences on a daily basis. We have also invited schools to opt in voluntarily to implement the reforms from this September, a year ahead of the full roll-out planned for September 2021.

Alongside changes to the curriculum, we are committed to supporting the early years workforce to develop the appropriate skills and experience to improve outcomes. That includes an investment of £26 million to set up a network of English hubs, to strengthen the teaching of phonics and early language in schools around the country. We continue to support graduates joining the early years sector through the early years initial teacher training, including with fees, bursaries and employer incentives.

Since the publication of the early years workforce strategy in 2017, the Department has worked closely with the early years sector to deliver our commitments to support employers to attract, retain and develop early years practitioners, including more robust levels 2 and 3 qualifications, and a new early years T-level qualification that will be available this year. There is growing evidence that investing in professional development is key to improving those skills, which is why we are investing £20 million through our early years professional development programme to provide early language, literacy and maths training for the pre-reception workforce in disadvantaged areas.

As I said earlier, what happens in a child’s home is hugely important. What happens before they start school can have a huge influence on later outcomes, and the quality of the home learning environment is a key predictor of a child’s early language ability and future success—that was referred to by all hon. Members participating in this debate. We cannot consider improving early education in isolation. Unfortunately, children from some low-income homes are more likely to arrive at school with below-average language skills, leaving them at an educational disadvantage from the start.

We have therefore launched Hungry Little Minds, a three-year campaign to encourage parents to engage in activities that support their child’s early development and set them up for school and beyond. The campaign, working with partners from across the public, voluntary and private sectors, promotes simple everyday things that every parent can do.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) (Lab) - Hansard
10 Mar 2020, 4:50 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
10 Mar 2020, 4:50 p.m.

We have already announced a £66 million increase in funding for early years—I referred to that when I made the point that there will be increases in the hourly rates to local authorities up and down the country.

I want to conclude the debate by re-emphasising the importance we attach to the early years sector to improving outcomes, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. That is why we introduced the entitlements to free childcare; it is also why we are reforming the early years foundation stage profile and the guidance on the curriculum. A Better Start, the programme raised by the hon. Member for Nottingham North, is hugely exciting—in central Government we look to it as an innovative approach, building on the evidence base, and we look forward hugely to the evidence that it produces, which we can learn from right across the country.

Question put and agreed to.

Oral Answers to Questions

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Monday 2nd March 2020

(5 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) (Lab) - Hansard

4. What steps he is taking to tackle the increase in school exclusions. [901009]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
2 Mar 2020, 2:53 p.m.

The Government back headteachers to create calm and safe schools by giving teachers the powers they need to enforce discipline and good behaviour. We are taking forward an ambitious programme of action on behaviour, exclusion and alternative provision, which will back headteachers to use exclusion, enable schools to support children at risk of exclusion and ensure that excluded children continue to receive a good education.

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones - Hansard
2 Mar 2020, 2:53 p.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
2 Mar 2020, 2:54 p.m.

I am very happy to host a meeting, and I would enjoy discussing these issues in greater detail. The hon. Lady will know, of course, that permanent exclusion, at 0.1%, is extremely low, and is actually lower than it was in 2006-07. The research on the link between exclusion and knife crime shows it is more complicated than simply a correlation because, for example, 83% of 16-year-old knife-possession offenders in 2013 had been persistently absent from education at some point during their school career. It is absence from school that is the key factor, which is why this Government so emphasise the importance of children attending school.

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab) - Hansard
2 Mar 2020, 2:55 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
2 Mar 2020, 2:56 p.m.

As I said in answer to the question from the hon. Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones), the rate of exclusions today is lower than under the last Labour Government in 2006-07. We take the issues referred to in the Timpson report, such as off-rolling, very seriously. Off-rolling is unacceptable in any form, which is why we continue to work with Ofsted to define and tackle it. Ofsted already looks at the records of children taken off roll. Its new inspection framework, which came into force this September, has a strength and focus on off-rolling that we support.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con) - Hansard
2 Mar 2020, 2:56 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
2 Mar 2020, 2:57 p.m.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his review of school exclusions. Both he and I support our headteachers in the use of exclusion, where appropriate, to ensure that they have good discipline in their schools. My hon. Friend is correct that it is possible for children to be excluded from school for 45 days in an academic year, though it is actually rare for children to reach that limit. In 2017-18, just 94 pupils were excluded from schools in England for 45 days in a single year. The Government are considering these arrangements and we will make a further announcement about our plans in due course.

Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con) - Hansard
2 Mar 2020, 2:57 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

My right hon. Friend is right. We know that we have to give headteachers the tools to ensure that we have safe, calm environments in our schools. No headteacher excludes without giving the matter very careful consideration, with permanent exclusions used only as a very last resort. What is key is that exclusion from school must not mean exclusion from education, so timely access to high-quality alternative provision plays a critical role in improving excluded children’s outcomes. Our objective is to improve the quality and capacity of alternative provision.

Naz Shah Portrait Naz Shah (Bradford West) (Lab) - Hansard

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. [901010]

Break in Debate

Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab) - Hansard

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? [901039]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard

I would be delighted to meet the hon. Lady and her team. The Government regard music education as hugely important. We are allocating £75 million a year to music hubs up and down the country, and hundreds of thousands of children are being introduced to musical instruments through that programme. I would be delighted to have further discussions on this subject.

Mr Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con) - Hansard

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? [901036]

Break in Debate

Sam Tarry Portrait Sam Tarry (Ilford South) (Lab) - Hansard
2 Mar 2020, 3:23 p.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

Academisation takes place when a school is put into special measures by Ofsted. We want high standards throughout our school system. The academies programme has resulted in standards improving in schools. When we came into office in 2010, 68% of schools were graded good or outstanding. Today that figure is 86%—in part, due to the very successful academisation programme.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con) - Hansard

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? [901037]

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
2 Mar 2020, 3:24 p.m.

I know that my hon. Friend feels very strongly about this issue. The curriculum gives teachers and schools the freedom to use specific examples from history to teach pupils about the history of Britain and the wider world, and this does mean that there are opportunities to teach pupils about the Commonwealth and Britain’s overseas territories.

Steve McCabe Portrait Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab) - Hansard
2 Mar 2020, 3:25 p.m.

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

Adam Afriyie Portrait Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con) - Hansard

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
2 Mar 2020, 3:30 p.m.

Our tech strategy seeks to support teachers to make the right choices about technology that meet the needs of their school and the challenges they face. It was this Government who replaced the ICT curriculum with a computer science curriculum, so that we can lead the world in creating the next generation of computer programmers.

School Admissions Process

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Thursday 27th February 2020

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab) - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 1:41 p.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 1:47 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck. I congratulate the hon. Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor) on securing the debate and on her excellent opening speech.

I listened carefully to what she had to say, and she said that there are not enough high-quality school places in our system. I have to say to her that we have raised the proportion of schools graded by Ofsted as good or outstanding from just 68% in 2010 to 86% today, and in the period between May 2010 and May 2018 we created 920,000 more places in our school system. We have also changed the admissions code to allow schools to prioritise in their admissions arrangements, their over-subscription criteria, children who are eligible for free school meals, those who qualify for the pupil premium, so there are incentives on schools to actively seek children from disadvantaged backgrounds. That is particularly the case with the pupil premium. It pays £935 per pupil in a secondary school and £1,320 per pupil in a primary school. And of course in the national funding formula we allocated significant sums to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In relation to the school admissions system, only about 1% of schools are referred to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, which administers the school admissions system to ensure that they are fair. Anyone can object, if they think the admissions arrangements are unfair, but only 1% of schools are referred to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator. In her annual report, Shan Scott, the chief schools adjudicator, said that it was

“an admissions system that as a whole works effectively in the normal admissions rounds and that in those rounds the needs of vulnerable children and those with particular educational or social needs are generally well met.”

We are concerned about children in need who are known to social workers and seek their support. That is what our review of children in need was about. Our forthcoming changes to the school admissions code focus on in-year admissions and the fair access protocols, to ensure that they work better for the most vulnerable children, including children who have been excluded.

Our system is producing more good school places, which has been the thrust of everything that we have done with our school reforms since 2010. The academies programme has been at the heart of this Government’s reforms. Today, over 50% of pupils in state-funded education study in academies, the number of which has grown from 203 in 2010 to over 9,000 today. Our vision is for a world-class school-led system, which gives headteachers the freedom to run their schools in the way they know best. We believe that the academies programme can provide opportunities for that through its key principles: autonomy, accountability and collaboration. Therefore, we do not agree with Labour’s policy to bring academies under political control or with its hostility to the free schools programme.

Some 75% of sponsored primary and secondary academies that have been inspected are now good or outstanding. Those are sponsored academies, which are schools that have underperformed for years. Only one in 10 of those schools were judged good or outstanding before they became sponsored academies. Pupils at those schools are getting a significantly better quality of education thanks to that academies programme.

Through the free schools programme, this Government have funded thousands of good new school places and opened schools across the country, and we are committed to delivering choice, innovation and higher standards for parents. We want it to challenge the status quo and drive wider improvement, injecting fresh, evidence-based approaches into our education systems. Free schools are created to meet the need for pupil places in areas that need them and to address the concern about low- quality provision.

Kate Osamor Portrait Kate Osamor - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 1:49 p.m.

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%?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 1:49 p.m.

We are also concerned about the increase in the number of children in elective home education. That is why we issued a call for evidence on home education and we are looking at it carefully. We have consulted on the proposal to create a register of children not in school. A range of factors have led to the increase, but in my judgment, it is not due to a shortage of high-quality school places in our school system.

As of 1 February, 508 free schools are open, providing 275,000 school places. In 2019, the top seven of the top 15 progress 8 scores for state-funded schools in England were achieved by free schools, and three of those schools were in the top five: Eden Boys’ School in Birmingham, Eden Girls’ School in Coventry and the Michaela Community School. Each of those successful schools teaches a stretching knowledge-rich curriculum, has a strong approach to behaviour management and is committed to high academic standards.

This morning I visited West London Free School, for the second or third time. It has an excellent quality of education and superb behaviour. I was hugely impressed by what I saw. There were very high quality lessons in music and arts. Over 80% of pupils there enter the EBacc combination of GCSEs. Eden Boys’ School and Eden Girls’ School were opened by Star Academies, which has grown through the free schools programme from running a single school in the north-west to running 28 schools across the country. Ark John Keats Academy is an outstanding open free school. In 2019 its progress 8 score was well above average at 0.76 and 82% of students entered the EBacc.

At Michaela Community School, 84% of pupils were entered for the EBacc, and in its first set of GCSE results, the school reported that more than half of all grades awarded were level 7 and above, which is equivalent to A and A*. That school serves a very disadvantaged community. The London Academy of Excellence is a free school sixth form in east London that was set up in collaboration with seven independent schools. In 2019, the school had an average A-level progress score well above average. It recently reported that 37 students received offers to study at Oxford and Cambridge. King’s College London Mathematics School is a specialist maths free school. In 2019, 100% of its pupils achieved an A or A*.

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 1:49 p.m.

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.

Ms Karen Buck Portrait Ms Karen Buck (in the Chair) - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 1:49 p.m.

Please stay on the topic of debate.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 1:56 p.m.

Thank you, Ms Buck. I was addressing the concern raised at the start that there are not enough high-quality school places, whereas we have been focused on creating more good school places, because that is a key part of our education reforms. However, I will adhere to your strictures, Ms Buck, and address the statutory duty to provide enough school places, which sits with local government. The Government provide basic need funding for every place that is needed based on the statistics supplied by the local authority. The local council of the hon. Member for Edmonton, the London Borough of Enfield, has been allocated £122.7 million to provide new school places between 2011 and 2021.

We have an effective admissions system to ensure that schools and parents are supported when school places are allocated. All mainstream state-funded schools, including academy schools, are required to comply with the school admissions code, which is designed to ensure that the practices and criteria used to decide the allocation of school places are clear, fair and objective. The code is clear that admissions authorities must ensure that their arrangements will not unfairly disadvantage, either directly or indirectly, a child from a particular social or racial group, or a child with a disability or special educational needs. It is for a school’s admission authority to set its own admission arrangements, provided that they are lawful. For community and voluntary control schools, the admission authority is the local authority; for foundation and voluntary-aided schools, it is the governing body; and for academies, it is the academy trust.

For normal admissions rounds, parents can apply to the local authority in which they live for places at their preferred schools. Parents can express a preference for at least three schools. If a school is undersubscribed, any parent who applies must be offered a place. When oversubscribed, a school’s admissions authority must rank applications in order against its published over-subscription criteria. Parents then receive a single offer of a place at the highest preference school that is able to offer their child a place. If a local authority is unable to offer a place at any of the parents’ preferred schools, it will offer a place at a suitable school. The latest report from the offers of the schools adjudicator, published on Monday, states that we do have an admissions system that works effectively in those normal rounds, as I have said earlier.

The latest preference data confirms that the admissions system is working well for most families. In 2019, 97.5% of applicants were offered one of their top three preferred primary schools and 93% of applicants were offered one of their top three preferred secondary schools. In the London Borough of Enfield, the hon. Lady’s local authority, 95.8% of applicants were offered one of their top three preferred primary schools and 85.5% were offered one of their top three preferred secondary schools in 2019.

We understand that where demand is high, parents cannot always secure a place at their preferred choice of school, but parents refused a place at a school for which they have applied have a right of appeal to an independent appeal panel. The schools admission authority is responsible for establishing that appeal panel, but the panel itself is an independent body. The admission authority has no control over its decisions. The appeal panel must come to its own conclusions.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Edmonton for introducing the debate. It is timely, because next Monday will be national offer day, when thousands of parents up and down the country will hear what school their child will go to in September. We want all children to have fair access to a good school place, regardless of their background. Academies and free schools create a healthy choice for parents, while raising standards in education. The school admissions system, underpinned by the statutory school admissions code, supports the system effectively, providing the tools that schools need to allocate places in a fair and objective way.

Kate Osamor Portrait Kate Osamor - Hansard

The Minister did not answer all my questions. Is he prepared to receive a letter from me?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 2 p.m.

Or we could meet.

Kate Osamor Portrait Kate Osamor - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 2 p.m.

I appreciate that. It is a very important issue to my constituents. I am sure that I will speak to the Minister about admissions again.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered the effectiveness of the school admissions process.

Secondary Education: Ellesmere Port

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Wednesday 26th February 2020

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 7:34 p.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 7:44 p.m.

I should like to start by congratulating the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) on securing this important debate. I know that he is particularly passionate about supporting schools in his constituency, and he has raised these concerns with the previous Secretary of State and with the Department in the past. I also know that he shares the Government’s ambition that every state school should be a good school, providing a world-class education that helps every child and young person to reach his or her potential, regardless of background. Since 2010, the Government have worked hard to drive up academic standards in all our schools, and we continue to provide support to those schools that require it most. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that some schools are still on a journey of improvement. Those schools continue to benefit from the Government’s commitment of support and they are the focus of the Government’s school improvement objective.

We have introduced the English baccalaureate school performance measure, consisting of GCSEs in English, maths, at least two sciences, history or geography and a language. These subjects form part of the compulsory curriculum in many of the highest-performing countries internationally, at least at the age of 15 or 16, and they ensure that young people keep open the widest opportunities for the next stage of their education. Since the EBacc performance measure was first introduced in 2010, the proportion of pupils entering it has increased from 22% in 2010 to 40% in 2019, but in Cheshire West and Chester, the hon. Gentleman’s local authority, 48% of pupils entered the EBacc. The Government’s ambition is that 75% of year 10 pupils will start to study GCSEs in the EBacc combination by 2022, and that 90% will by 2025.

High standards have been a key focus of our reforms since 2010, but we recognise that there is still work to be done and we remain committed to ensuring a sustained improvement in standards in our schools. While the proportion of secondary school pupils eligible for free school meals in Ellesmere Port is similar to the national average, rates vary among schools in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. He raised the issue of Ellesmere Port Catholic High School. As he knows, it was inspected in March 2019 under the old Ofsted inspection framework, and it was found to be inadequate. When a local authority-maintained school is judged inadequate by Ofsted, the Secretary of State has a legal duty to issue an academy order to convert the school into a sponsored academy. Each school is assessed on a case-by-case basis, and we work with trusts, sponsors, local authorities and dioceses to find the best plan for the school and give it a fresh start with a strong trust as soon as possible.

Although it is a priority to improve standards as quickly as possible, it is also important that time is taken to ensure that the right solution is found for the school and its pupils, parents and community. In the case of Ellesmere Port Catholic High School, we are continuing to work with the diocese of Shrewsbury and the local authority to identify a strong sponsor. As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, in the case of voluntary-aided schools, the diocese has an essential role to play, in line with the memorandum of understanding on Church schools. In the interim, school improvement support from Loreto Grammar School is being funded by the Department. Whitby High School is a local authority-maintained school that was inspected in February 2019, again under the old inspection framework. It was found to require improvement, and it is now receiving school improvement support.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of Ofsted. Of course we always continue to keep these issues under review, but as the independent inspectorate, Ofsted plays a vital role in providing a rounded assessment of school and college performance. That role has helped to raise standards in our schools. Ofsted is directly accountable to Parliament, and the vast majority of inspections go without incident. Ofsted has, as he said, a quality assurance process and a complaints procedure to deal with those rare instances when things do not go according to plan. As it is an independent organisation, I always say to hon. Members on both sides of the House who have concerns that they should raise them directly with Ofsted, as he and the school have done.

I want to touch on the Government’s support programme. When a school is put into “requires improvement”, we offer it a whole raft of school improvement measures to help to address the concerns raised by Ofsted. The Government have launched a number of programmes. For example, we fund 37 maths hubs to spread evidence-based approaches to maths teaching, including the new Cheshire and Wirral Maths Hub, led by Our Lady of Pity RC Primary School and Alsager School. Part of the maths hubs’ work nationally includes delivering our £76 million teaching for mastery programme, which aims to reach 11,000 primary and secondary schools by 2023. The programme focuses on building a deep understanding of mathematics throughout primary school and into key stage 3.

The Government’s commitment to supporting young people across the entire curriculum is recognised by other funding. For example, we have put nearly half a billion pounds into funding a range of music and cultural programmes, including music and education hubs. We also launched a four-year computing programme supported by £84 million of Government funding. Through a National Centre for Computing and a national network of 34 computing hubs, we are supporting schools to deliver the reformed, knowledge-rich curriculum.

The hon. Gentleman rightly focused on secondary education, but I want to take the opportunity to recognise the performance of primary schools in his constituency, which is reflected by Ofsted’s judging the majority to be good or outstanding. In England, phonics performance has significantly improved since we introduced the phonics screening check in 2012. At that time, just 58% of six-year-olds correctly read at least 32 of the 40 words in the check. In 2019, that percentage increased to 82%. One of the Government’s top priorities is giving all young people the best start in life—even before they begin school. It is why we are committed to improving access to early years education and supporting parents to improve their child’s life outcomes.

Five academy trusts operate in Ellesmere Port and Neston, and only seven primary and secondary schools are academies within the five trusts. That equates to just 20% of schools in the constituency. At secondary level specifically, there are only two academy trusts: the Frank Field Education Trust and Neston High School, which is a single academy trust. It is clear that schools’ appetite nationally to convert to academy status remains, with the number of academies growing from 200 in 2010 to over 9,000, including more than 500 new free schools. Today, more than 50% of pupils in state-funded schools study in academies. As the hon. Gentleman will know, where an academy is underperforming, the Department will move to intervene and assess the trust’s capacity to improve standards.

We have a range of school improvement offers, including a programme offering support to schools meeting certain criteria involving their Ofsted judgment and key stage 2 or key stage 4 outcomes. Such schools receive free advice from a national leader of education to help them identify and access school improvement resources, and the hon. Gentleman’s constituency contains both providers and recipients of that support. The offer is supplemented by emergency improvement funding, which supports schools facing unexpected challenges. The emergency school improvement fund has directly funded support for two schools in the Ellesmere Port and Neston area, benefiting both Ellesmere Port Church of England College and Ellesmere Port Catholic High School. In total, funding activity worth over £155,000 has been provided by local effective school leaders.

In conclusion, I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s support for this issue. He has raised some important concerns, which have been raised with Ofsted, and I hope he accepts that we have heard them and we take them seriously. I hope he also understands that, when a school requires improvement, a raft of support, including funding and advice from local experts and experienced headteachers, is available to help that school secure a good or outstanding rating at the next Ofsted inspection.

Question put and agreed to.

School Exclusions

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Wednesday 26th February 2020

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab) - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 10:40 a.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 10:45 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones) on securing the debate. In her excellent opening speech, she rightly said that we all agree on one thing—that every child in this country should have the benefit of a world-class education that prepares them for adult life and helps them to fulfil their potential, including children who have been excluded at some point during their school career.

The Government are committed to ensuring that all teachers are equipped to tackle the low-level disruption and the serious behavioural issues that compromise the safety and wellbeing of pupils and school staff. Ensuring that schools are safe and disciplined environments benefits all students. In 2018, the Department for Education’s school snapshot survey of teacher opinion found that 76% felt that behaviour was good or very good in their school. According to recent data from Ofsted, behaviour is good or outstanding in 85% of primary and 68% of secondary schools. Although behaviour in schools is broadly good, those figures show that there is still more to do to tackle the casual disruption that deprives children of up to 38 school days a year, according to Ofsted’s estimates, as well as the challenging behaviour that can result in permanent exclusion. Behaviour cultures are set from the top, and the Government are determined to support headteachers to build and maintain a culture of good behaviour in their schools. For example, we are investing £10 million in behaviour hubs, so that schools with a track record of effectively managing pupils’ behaviour can share that best practice with other schools. That programme will launch in September 2020 under the supervision of a team of expert advisors on behaviour management led by Tom Bennett.

Alongside that, we are reforming teacher training as part of the early career framework, and we have bolstered the behaviour management element in the core content for initial teacher training, so that all new teachers will be taught how to manage behaviour effectively on entry to the profession.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 10:47 a.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 10:47 a.m.

I will come to headteachers having to take into account the circumstances of pupils before they make a decision about exclusions, and to ensure that support is available for children who have special educational needs. I point out to Opposition Members that for the coming financial year we have increased spending on high needs education by 12%—an extra £780 million—which demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that special needs education is properly funded.

Visiting outstanding schools has shown me that a strong behaviour culture can help children who might otherwise struggle to engage in their education to succeed. Michaela Community School, a free school in Wembley to which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) referred, is unapologetically strict in its standards of behaviour. The whole institution emits a sense of positivity and purpose quite unlike any other school that I have visited. In an area of significant deprivation, children are brimming with pride at the progress they are making.

At Reach Academy Feltham, behaviour is tracked on a transparent points-based system called “Payslip”, which gives rewards and privileges for good behaviour and deducts points for disruption. The school has a notably low number of fixed-term exclusions, and has not excluded a pupil permanently in the last two years.

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones - Hansard

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 10:49 a.m.

If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I will come to exclusions in just a moment. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Edward Timpson) pointed out, permanent exclusions are at 0.1% of pupil attendance in our school system.

The approach at Reach Academy Feltham indicates that when children know what is expected of them and how poor behaviour will be dealt with, they are less likely to display the persistent disruptive behaviour that is still the most common cause of exclusion. As my hon. Friend the Member reiterated, exclusion is an essential tool for headteachers to use when a pupil oversteps the bounds of what is acceptable in a school, either because of one serious incident or through persistent disruption. This Government therefore back, and will always back, headteachers who use exclusion to ensure they have good discipline in their schools, including permanent exclusion where it is used as a last resort. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North said, speaking from his eight years of experience as a secondary school teacher, it is important to protect all pupils and their teachers from disruptive or violent behaviour in schools. He is right: all teachers have the right to teach and all children have the right to be taught in a safe and disciplined environment, without danger, intimidation or distraction.

It is important to put this debate on exclusion rates into perspective. As I said in response to the intervention by the hon. Member for Croydon Central, the rate of permanent exclusions last year was 0.1%, and the longer-term trends show that the rate of permanent exclusions across all state primary, secondary and special schools has followed a downward trend. In 2006-07, the rate was 0.12%; by 2012-13, it had fallen to 0.06%. That rate has since risen, but it is still lower now than in 2006-07. That is because, as set out in the DFE’s exclusions guidance, we expect all schools to

“consider what extra support might be needed to identify and address the needs of pupils”

from groups more likely to be excluded

“in order to reduce their risk of exclusion.”

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 10:52 a.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 10:53 a.m.

The hon. Lady raises an important point. Analysis has shown that excluded children have a higher risk of being a victim or perpetrator of crime, but although there is a strong correlation between those two issues, we have to be careful to not draw a simple causal link. The evidence does not suggest that exclusion causes children to be involved in crime; what it does suggest is that engagement in education is a strong protective factor for children who might otherwise be vulnerable to involvement in crime. It is therefore vital that schools and colleges enable all children to achieve, to belong, and to remain safe in education. That is the part played by the Department for Education in a wider cross-Government approach to tackle crime and serious violence. We will continue to work closely with other Departments, including the Home Office, to ensure that young people remain safe.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North pointed out, the focus must be on attendance, which research suggests is associated with risky behaviour linked to serious youth violence. Ministry of Justice research on the educational background of young knife-possession offenders showed that 83% had been persistently absent in at least one of the previous five years; overall, school attendance has improved significantly since 2010. That is why we have put such an emphasis on ensuring that children attend school.

Headteachers are best placed to judge what extra support may be needed in their school. Ofsted’s new inspection framework continues to include consideration of the reasons for exclusions and their rates and patterns, as well as any differences between pupil groups, as referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury. Inspectors also consider evidence of off-rolling, and they are likely to judge a school to be inadequate if there is evidence that pupils have been removed from the school without a formal permanent exclusion, which my hon. Friend has also mentioned as a concern.

James Murray Portrait James Murray - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 10:54 a.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 10:39 a.m.

I am happy to meet the headteacher in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency to discuss these issues; I always learn something in those meetings, and they can be extremely helpful. However, I point out that we are increasing high-needs funding by 12% and overall school funding by 5% this year alone, with a three-year settlement, and that school funding will rise to £52 billion by the end of that three-year settlement period.

Nothing I have said detracts from the fact that for the one child in 1,000 who is permanently excluded, their exclusion is a sign that something has gone seriously wrong. Without the right support, vulnerable children and young people can be left at risk of harm, including becoming involved in serious violence. We need to offer those children a fresh start—a school that can re-engage them with their education. For many excluded pupils, that will mean alternative provision. Good alternative provision offers excluded pupils a second chance to develop those core skills and readiness for adult life.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 10:55 a.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 10:56 a.m.

I will not, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me. Although 85% of state-funded alternative provision across the country is rated good or outstanding —an increase, by the way, from 73% in 2013—it remains the case that in some areas, permanently excluded pupils are not able to secure good-quality AP quickly, increasing the risk of them becoming caught up in knife crime. The report on knife crime produced by the all-party parliamentary group chaired by the hon. Member for Croydon Central emphasised the importance of full-time education for all children, including those vulnerable to exclusion. The hon. Lady referred to the fall in the number of pupil referral units between 2014 and 2017. The facts are that in 2014, there were 371 PRUs and alternative provision academies; in 2017, there were 351; and as of June 2019, there were 354. Eight alternative provision academies are in the pipeline to open before 2023.

Our focus must be on improving the availability of good-quality AP, so that when a child is excluded from school, that does not mean exclusion from good-quality education. Those children must have timely access to the support and education they need to help reduce risk, promote resilience, and enable them to re-engage with education and make good progress. We know that is possible, because there is excellent and innovative practice out there.

One great example is the parent and carer curriculum taught at the Pears Family School in Islington, which is an AP free school that opened its doors in 2014 and was found to be outstanding three years later. What is unusual about that school is that parents attend with their children several times a week, and in those sessions parents help pupils to make progress with their reading and are taught how best to support their children in their education. As a result, a high proportion of pupils are successfully re-integrated into mainstream school after a short placement. That model is currently being trialled by the Pears Family School and the Anna Freud Centre in three other AP settings across England. That is just one of the nine projects supported by our £4 million AP innovation fund, which we established to test the effectiveness of innovative approaches to improving alternative provision, an approach that I know my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury supports.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Croydon Central and to other hon. Members for having raised their concerns about this issue. I assure the hon. Lady and other Members that we take this issue very seriously and are addressing it, including by improving school behaviour and providing the right support to those at risk of exclusion.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 10:59 a.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
26 Feb 2020, 10:59 a.m.

I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend. He has raised the issue of accountability measures: expectations for pupils in AP have not been high enough in the past, and as part of our drive to improve quality across the AP sector, we will consider how we can better assess performance and strengthen accountability for pupils in AP. We will have more to say on that in due course.

Mr Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (in the Chair) - Hansard

I call Sarah Jones to wind up.

Education and Attainment of White Working-Class Boys

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Wednesday 12th February 2020

(6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Karl McCartney Portrait Karl MᶜCartney (Lincoln) (Con) - Hansard
12 Feb 2020, 11:16 a.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
12 Feb 2020, 11:20 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir George. I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Mansfield (Ben Bradley) and for Lincoln (Karl MᶜCartney) for their passionate commitment to wanting to improve the education and life chances of the most disadvantaged pupils in general and, in this particular debate, white disadvantaged boys. The statistics cited by my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield at the start of his speech have driven the Government’s education policies since 2010. Closing the attainment gap between those from disadvantaged backgrounds and their more advantaged peers has driven our obsession with ensuring that children are taught to read effectively at the age of four or five, and that every six-year-old can decode words using phonics. It has driven our desire for children to develop a love of reading and our desire to help them develop a wider vocabulary. It has driven our determination to adopt the practice of the best performing countries in the world in the teaching of mathematics in primary schools, and to improve the cultural literacy of all children, regardless of their background or gender, ensuring they have the vocabulary that will not only help their reading, but will mean they have the knowledge required for academic progress.

As Harold Stevenson and James Stigler wrote in their book “The Learning Gap”, the error is,

“the assumption that it is the diversity in children’s social and cultural background that poses the greatest problem for teaching.”

In fact, a far greater problem is variability in children’s educational background and thus in their levels of preparation for learning the academic curriculum.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra - Hansard
12 Feb 2020, 11:21 a.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
12 Feb 2020, 11:21 a.m.

I am sorry; I will not give way because of the time.

There is a philosophy behind the Government’s drive to close the word gap and the attainment gap, and to level up opportunity, ensuring every child, regardless of background or gender, can fulfil their potential. The philosophy lies behind successful multi-academy trusts, such as the Star multi-academy trust cited by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln. It has driven our curriculum reforms, our GCSE reforms, and our determination to move this country’s education system away from a so-called competence-based curriculum to a knowledge-rich curriculum.

E D Hirsch, the great American educationist, wrote about the example of France in his most recent book, “Why Knowledge Matters”. He looked at the history of France’s curriculum reforms and the effect of the move away from a knowledge-based curriculum towards a competence or skills-based curriculum in the late 1980s. Comparing standards in 1987 and 2007, all socioeconomic groups saw a decline in standards, with a decline of a third of a standard deviation on average. Strikingly, children from disadvantaged backgrounds saw the greatest fall in standards, with a decline of two thirds of a standard deviation. That is one piece of evidence, but it is part of a pattern of international evidence that competence-based curricula are most disadvantageous to the pupils we are most keen to help.

After 10 years in office, the Government’s education reforms are beginning to show results. Standards are rising and the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils is beginning to close: by 13% in primary and 9% in secondary since 2011. Thanks to our reforms, more pupils are taking core academic GCSEs, more children are reading fluently, and more are attending good and outstanding schools, but, as my hon. Friend so clearly set out, too many pupils still leave school without the qualifications that they need.

We know that synthetic phonics is the most effective way of teaching reading to all children, so we have embedded it in the key stage one curriculum. Following a greater focus on reading in the primary curriculum, England achieved its highest ever score in the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study. The result was largely attributable to increases in the average performance of boys and lower performing pupils. As Her Majesty’s chief inspector said recently,

“In the schools that teach reading really well, really systematically using phonics, the gap narrows or is even eliminated.”

That is the essence of ensuring that our schools adopt teaching methods and curricula that the evidence suggests narrow or eliminate the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils and between girls and boys.

All children, particularly pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, including white working-class boys, need a knowledge-rich curriculum that introduces all pupils to the powerful knowledge that best prepares pupils for their futures. We see it in schools such as Michaela Community School in Wembley, where the school regards knowledge about the world as essential. Its academically rigorous curriculum has enabled pupils to achieve exceptionally well. In 2019, Michaela’s results ranked among the best in the country, with all pupils, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, making well above average progress. Some 41% of pupils at that school were eligible for free school meals at some point in the past six years, but its progress 8 score of 1.53 is one of the highest in the country, and its EBacc entry was 84%.

It is a similar story at Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford with its unrelenting focus on improving the life chances of its pupils. The academy offers a rigorous knowledge-rich and evidence-based curriculum, which has seen it right at the top of the league tables over the past few years. Similarly, we can look at the work of leading multi-academy trusts such as Outwood Grange Academies Trust, which time after time radically improves schools that have had a long history of entrenched failure. That MAT provides long neglected communities in this country with the transformational education that they need.

My hon. Friend noted in his speech that the standard of education suffers when schools lose their grip on behaviour. I absolutely agree, which is why we have bolstered the powers of teachers and headteachers to deal with unruly pupils. I also agree with my hon. Friend that it is vital that this country has a world-class technical route for pupils to pursue technical and vocational training. Our reform of apprenticeships puts technical and vocational education on a par with academic study for the first time, in tandem with T-levels.

Apprenticeships ensure that people can gain the training and qualifications that they need to enter the job market and ensure that employers can access the skills that they need to make the country globally competitive. T-levels are at the centre of our plans for world class technical education, preparing students for entry into skilled employment or higher levels of technical education in areas such as engineering, manufacturing, health, science, construction, and digital. They will ensure that all post-16 students can make an informed choice between high-quality options that support progression, whatever their attainment or aspirations. We have made real progress since 2011, particularly in improving the education of disadvantaged children and those of lower attaining pupils as well.

In conclusion, I share my hon. Friend’s deeply held belief in the power of education to transform the life chances of pupils, particularly those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Although I know there is more to do, the Government’s school reforms and plans to improve technical education through T-levels and the proposed £3 billion national skills fund are the right ones for every pupil and student in our education system, including the most disadvantaged pupils.

Question put and agreed to.

Education

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Tuesday 4th February 2020

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Ministerial Corrections
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) -

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb -

My hon. Friend raises a good point. Veterans make attractive members of staff in our schools, they inspire young people and help to improve behaviour. Our Troops to Teachers scheme was slow to begin with, but it is now proving successful in recruiting Army leavers.

[Official Report, 20 January 2020, Vol. 670, c. 6.]

Letter of correction from the Minister for School Standards, the right hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Nick Gibb):

An error has been identified in the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone).

The correct answer should have been:

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

My hon. Friend raises a good point. Veterans make attractive members of staff in our schools, they inspire young people and help to improve behaviour. Our Troops to Teachers scheme was slow to begin with, but its successor, the Troops to Teachers initial teacher training bursary, is now proving successful in recruiting Army leavers.

Further Education

The following is an extract from Questions to the Secretary of State for Education on 20 January 2020.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab) - Hansard

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?

Oral Answers to Questions

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Monday 20th January 2020

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab) - Hansard

3. What assessment he has made of trends in the level of teacher (a) recruitment and (b) retention. [900240]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:43 p.m.

There are over 453,000 teachers in our schools, 12,000 more than in 2010. Postgraduate recruitment to teacher training is at its highest level since 2010-11, and just under two thirds of teachers who started teaching six years ago are still teaching today.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:43 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

Since we conducted the workload challenge survey in 2014, we have worked hard to reduce the unnecessary demands on teachers’ time, whether that is cumbersome marking practices or excessive data collection. Since 2016, teachers’ working hours have fallen by five hours per week, according to the second teacher workload survey, which measures teachers’ own reporting of their working hours. There is still more to do—the hon. Gentleman is right—but this success so far demonstrates the seriousness with which we take excessive workload and the effectiveness of our early initiatives.

Damian Hinds Portrait Damian Hinds (East Hampshire) (Con) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:44 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:44 p.m.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend and pay tribute to him for his work in his years as Secretary of State for Education. It was a pleasure to work with him during that period. He is right—the School Teachers’ Review Body has recommended a 2.75% pay rise for teachers across the board, and we are also proposing a £30,000 starting salary for teachers from 2022. In addition to the £26,000 tax-free bursary, teachers of maths, physics, chemistry and languages who start their training this September will receive early career payments of £2,000 in each of their second, third and fourth years of teaching. So this is a good time to start training as a teacher. It is a worthwhile profession and I encourage all graduates to consider teaching as a career.

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:46 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:47 p.m.

I do not agree. We are living in a very strong economy, with the lowest level of unemployment for more than 40 years and demand for graduates is strong. We are responding to those pressures. As I said earlier, we have recruited the largest number of graduates into teacher training. I have announced the salaries for teachers when they finish their training and start teaching; 2022 is the right date for that salary increase. The average pay of a headteacher is £70,100 a year, and it is £36,200 a year for a classroom teacher. This is a good time to join the teaching profession and I urge Opposition Members to talk up the attractiveness of that profession and not continually to talk it down.

Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:47 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

My hon. Friend raises a good point. Veterans make attractive members of staff in our schools, they inspire young people and help to improve behaviour. Our Troops to Teachers scheme was slow to begin with, but it is now proving successful in recruiting Army leavers.[Official Report, 4 February 2020, Vol. 671, c. 3MC.]

Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

4. What assessment he has made of the educational attainment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. [900241]

Break in Debate

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab) - Hansard

6. Whether he plans to review the operation of the pupil premium. [900244]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:51 p.m.

The pupil premium ensures schools receive extra money to benefit disadvantaged pupils who need it most. Schools are helped to make effective decisions and good use of the grant by the Education Endowment Foundation’s research and guidance. The Government remain convinced of the effectiveness of the pupil premium in helping to narrow the attainment gap and are committed to this policy.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:52 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:52 p.m.

The pupil premium is for any pupil who has qualified or has been eligible for free school meals in the last six years. It is £935 for pupils in secondary schools and £1,320 for pupils in primary schools—some £2.4 billion a year. Since 2011, we have allocated more than £15 billion to schools to help to narrow that attainment gap. We have the lowest level of unemployment for over 40 years, so there will be different eligibility for free school meals, which depends on the benefits system. When there is a higher level of employment, fewer people are eligible for the benefits system.

Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:53 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

The Education Endowment Foundation has produced a very good guide for schools on how to use the pupil premium in the most effective way to narrow the attainment gap. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spelled out the fact that we have closed the attainment gap by 13% in primary schools and 9% in secondary schools. Between 2011 and 2018, there was an 18 percentage point increase in the proportion of disadvantaged young people taking the EBacc combination of core academic GCSE subjects; the subjects that provide the widest opportunities in later education, training and career choices.

Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab) - Hansard

7. What his policy is on free school meals. [900245]

Break in Debate

Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con) - Hansard

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. [900247]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard

Officials have worked with their counterparts in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on all aspects of planning policy for new schools and existing academies. New national policy and guidance sets out the positive approach that local planning authorities should take in the assessment and determination of planning applications for schools.

Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:54 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:54 p.m.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s commitment to the schools in his constituency and his support for the Gatwick School in particular. As he said, the Gatwick School opened in 2014 and is providing good school places in Crawley, with its EBacc entry level significantly above the national average, for example. Officials are engaged in the planning process to achieve permission from Crawley Borough Council, which will enable us to deliver the permanent school accommodation and facilities for pupils.

Lucy Powell Portrait Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 2:59 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 3 p.m.

The hon. Member will be aware of the review of children in need. It highlights the importance of schools being aware of those children who are known to social workers and who have particular problems so that we can make sure that they get pastoral support in school and that expectations remain as high for them as for other pupils in the school.

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman (Fareham) (Con) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 3 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

I will certainly read my hon. Friend’s report, and again I pay tribute to her for what she has achieved with Michaela Community School. The free schools programme as a whole is hugely successful and she can be assured we are committed to continuing it. In 2019, seven out of the top 15 secondary schools in terms of progress 8 scores were free schools, including three in the top five: Eden Boys’ School in Birmingham, Eden Girls’ School in Coventry and of course Michaela Community School in Brent.

Beth Winter Portrait Beth Winter (Cynon Valley) (Lab) - Hansard

10. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of funding for further education. [900248]

Break in Debate

Mark Menzies Portrait Mark Menzies (Fylde) (Con) - Hansard

14. What steps his Department is taking to increase the number of good school places in England. [900252]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 3:13 p.m.

Delivering good quality school places is a top priority for this Government. We are on track to create 1 million places between 2010 and 2020, with 920,000 already created. That is the largest increase in school capacity at least two generations. As at August 2019, 86% of schools inspected by Ofsted were rated good or outstanding, compared with 68% in 2010.

Mark Menzies Portrait Mark Menzies - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 3:13 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

We are providing funding to local authorities for every place that is needed, based on local authorities’ own data. In addition, when future housing developments are driving pupil numbers, we expect the local planning authority to negotiate significant developer contributions to help to meet the demand for new schools. In our manifesto, we committed to amending planning rules so that the infrastructure, including schools, comes before people move into new homes. I know that my hon. Friend is concerned about this issue, and I would be happy to meet him and his local authority to ensure that the right action is being taken in his area.

Zarah Sultana Portrait Zarah Sultana (Coventry South) (Lab) - Hansard

16. What assessment he has made of the effect of the student finance system on students from low-income backgrounds. [900254]

Break in Debate

Tulip Siddiq Portrait Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 3:22 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 3:23 p.m.

It is for local authorities to decide how they allocate funding to providers in their local area. I am very happy to look at the issue the hon. Lady raises. We have announced a £66 million increase in funding for early years, which is a good settlement, for the year before we come into the spending review period.

Andrew Lewer Portrait Andrew Lewer (Northampton South) (Con) - Hansard

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? [900270]

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his election as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on independent education. He is absolutely right to allude to the many unpopular and damaging proposals in Labour’s election manifesto, particularly when it comes to education. We should be working with the independent sector, not seeking to outlaw the freedom of parents to spend their money as they wish. I would be delighted to join him on 11 February to celebrate the many successful partnerships between the state and independent sectors.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab) - Hansard

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? [900265]

Break in Debate

Mary Robinson Portrait Mary Robinson (Cheadle) (Con) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 3:26 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

Yes, I am happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the standard of education in that school.

Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP) - Hansard

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? [900269]

Break in Debate

Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab) - Hansard

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. [900272]

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 3:29 p.m.

As I said, we have just announced £66 million of extra funding for the coming financial year, which means 8p an hour for early years providers in most local authorities. In addition, we have also announced a £60 million top-up for maintained nursery schools. We continue to monitor the marketplace to ensure that there is sufficient provision, and we keep that under review, but, as I said, a £66 million increase was agreed for the coming financial year.

Sara Britcliffe Portrait Sara Britcliffe (Hyndburn) (Con) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 3:30 p.m.

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?

School Uniform Costs

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Tuesday 5th November 2019

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab) - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 3:03 p.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 3:11 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I hope it will not be for the last time, even if it is the last time during this long parliamentary Session. I echo the comments made by the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane), whose views I share. It is a worthwhile occupation to stand for election to public office in our great democracy. It is a pity that politicians are treated in the way that too many of us are. We need to do more across parties to re-establish the safety and position of politicians and how they are regarded by the public. I am sure that together we can do a lot to enhance their reputation.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) on securing this important debate and on her powerful opening speech. I am aware of the hon. Lady’s concerns, given her role as a member of the Education Committee. I also congratulate her on her work with the RE:Uniform campaign, and the hon. Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) on similar campaigns in her constituency. Such campaigns facilitate the exchange of second-hand school uniforms for many in both their constituencies. I am sure that the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East, will not be the only person stealing her ideas.

The hon. Gentleman said that school uniforms reduce bullying and that when he was a teacher he dreaded non-school uniform days, which reveal too harshly who has designer clothes and who does not. That is why I am a keen adherent and supporter of school uniform in this country. Where I disagree with him is on how we ensure that poverty is reduced to an absolute minimum. A driving objective of Conservative economic policy is to reduce poverty. We have the lowest level of unemployment since the mid-1970s. There are fewer workless households and fewer children living in workless households today as a consequence of our presiding over a strong and what I would call a stable economy, which is our objective going forward. We want to maintain a stable and strong economy, keeping unemployment low and the number of jobs at record levels. That is how we reduce poverty in this country. Opposition Members should know that no Labour Government has ever left office with unemployment lower than when they came into office. People need to take that very seriously if they are as determined as we are to reduce poverty in this country.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon - Hansard

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 3:15 p.m.

The way to reduce in-work poverty is to have a strong economy that creates the wealth that everybody can benefit from. We introduced the national living wage to ensure that people on low wages gain a bigger share of the wealth that our economy creates. Also, we have raised the personal allowance tax threshold to something nearer £11,000 or £12,000, so that people on low incomes pay significantly less tax. Millions of people have been taken out of tax altogether. That is how to tackle poverty and low income. A strong economy with very low levels of unemployment means that wages are pushed up because of market forces.

We can all agree that the cost of school uniform is an important issue for many families. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak about it in response to a debate on this topic secured by the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) last year, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss the issue again today. If schools can ensure that uniform items are available at a reasonable cost to parents, there are significant positive benefits that school uniforms can provide. The Government strongly encourage schools to have a school a uniform.

It is common for schools also to have a school dress code, and the overwhelming majority of schools require pupils to wear a uniform. A school uniform can play an important role in contributing to the ethos of a school and setting an appropriate tone. It can help foster a sense of equality and belonging for pupils and reduce pressure for pupils and parents to have to spend money on keeping up with the latest fashions or trends. It can also support discipline and motivation among pupils as part of a wider behaviour policy.

A primary purpose of a uniform is to remove differences between pupils. If everyone is dressed the same, it underlines that we are all equal. With a standard uniform in place, it is harder to tell a pupil’s background. In such ways, uniforms can play an important part in helping pupils feel safe and happy at school. Although decisions about school uniform are made by head teachers and governing bodies, and it is right that they continue to make such decisions, I encourage all schools to have uniform policies for the reasons I have outlined.

When speaking about this topic, I have consistently said that I am clear that the cost of uniform should not act as a barrier to obtaining a good school place. I want all children to be able to attend a school of their parents’ choice wherever possible. No school uniform should be so expensive as to leave pupils or their families feeling unable to apply to or attend a school of their choice. That is made very clear in the admissions code.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 3:18 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 3:18 p.m.

Certainly schools should be careful in requiring purchases of equipment that is not needed. It is a loose use of other people’s money by the school, so I share the hon. Lady’s concern about that. I am proud of the pupil premium, which the previous Conservative-led Government introduced. It is about £2.5 billion a year—nearly £1,000 for every secondary school pupil and about £1,300 for every primary school pupil on free school meals. The money can be used to pay for uniforms and equipment that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds might need to have.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy - Hansard

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 3:19 p.m.

The hon. Lady raises a good point. It is something that we will reflect on. I have often seen schools and academies, in such circumstances, provide the uniform for existing pupils, because of course it is a cost that parents will not have expected. There are many ways around the issue, but it needs to be addressed and taken seriously, as the hon. Lady says.

While school uniform can have a hugely positive impact on a school, by providing cohesion and community for the pupil population, it may present a financial burden to some—particularly to families on low incomes —as has been widely discussed in this important debate. In 2015, the Department commissioned the “Cost of school uniform” survey, which provided the most recent information that we hold on the cost of school uniform and indicated that the average cost of most items decreased between 2007 and 2015—the date of the report—when adjusted for inflation. Moreover, most parents were pleased with the overall cost and quality of their child’s uniform. More than two thirds of parents were happy with the cost of uniform and PE kit. However, in the same survey nearly one fifth of parents reported that they had suffered financial hardship as a result of purchasing their child’s school uniform. It is therefore vital that we do what we can to ensure that school uniform is accessible for all, no matter what the family’s budget.

It is for the governing body of a school, or the academy trust, in the case of academies, to decide whether there should be a school uniform policy, and if so, what it should be. It is also for the governing body to decide how the uniform should be sourced. However, we are clear that governing bodies should give cost considerations the highest priority when making decisions about school uniform. The Department published best practice guidance for school leaders on developing and implementing school uniform policy. That guidance sets out that a school should ensure that its school uniform policy is fair and reasonable for all its students. It should make certain that the uniform is affordable and does not act as a barrier to parents when choosing a school.

School uniform should be easily available for parents to purchase. In particular, the guidance specifically states that schools should seek to select items that can be purchased cheaply—for example, in a supermarket. If parents can shop around for items of uniform, that can encourage competition and enable them to buy their uniform from a retailer at a price that suits their household budget. The Department’s guidance advises schools that, in setting their school uniform policy, they should give the highest priority to cost considerations and achieving value for money for parents.

I am aware that a concern is often mentioned in this context about branded items of uniform, and how those are supplied—something that has been mentioned in the debate. We recognise that schools will often want to adopt items of uniform that are specific to that school, such as a branded blazer or tie. The Department, however, advises schools to keep such branded items of uniform to a minimum, as multiple branded items can significantly increase costs. We recommend that schools should avoid exclusive single-supplier contracts, as those could risk driving up costs. Where schools choose to enter into such contracts, which in some cases may be the best option, they should ensure that they are subject to a regular competitive tendering process to ensure the best value for money.

The hon. Member for Barnsley East raised the issue of schools that receive a financial incentive to use a specified supplier. The guidance explicitly states:

“Schools should not enter into cash back arrangements.”

It is very clear about that. If parents have concerns about the school uniform supply arrangements in relation to competition law, they can raise them with the Competition and Markets Authority. As you may be aware, Mr Pritchard, the CMA wrote an open letter to schools and school uniform suppliers, which provides more detail about its policy, and what powers it has, regarding the appointment of exclusive suppliers for school uniform.

With reference to the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell), he will be pleased to know that the Government have committed to putting our best practice guidance on school uniform on to a statutory footing. Opposition Members also made that request. The Secretary of State and the CMA recently engaged in an exchange of open letters on the matter of single-supplier contracts.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 3:24 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 3:24 p.m.

We keep those issues under review. As has been pointed out, we are running out of time in this Session, but if a Conservative Government are returned with a functioning majority, I am sure that we will give urgent priority to legislating on the matter in question.

The CMA stated its approval of our commitment to place our guidance on a statutory footing when a suitable legislative opportunity arises, as I am sure it will after the general election. In turn, the Secretary of State has reaffirmed our commitment to do so, which will send a clear signal that we expect schools to ensure that uniform costs are reasonable. I should make it clear that the Government’s stated intention to make school uniform affordable does not undermine our commitment to the principle of uniform itself. Putting our guidance on a statutory footing is directly intended to ensure that school uniforms are affordable for all.

In England, some local authorities provide discretionary grants to help with buying school uniforms. It is a matter for the local authority to decide whether to offer those grants and to set their own criteria for eligibility. Schools may offer individual clothing schemes, such as offering second-hand uniform at reduced prices, as in the uniform scheme that we have heard about today. As I have said, schools can choose to use their pupil premium funding to offer subsidies or grants for school uniforms. Again, that will be a decision for the school to make.

I am enormously grateful for the support that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle has given on this issue. She has raised some important concerns, and I hope that she is relatively happy that the Government also recognise the cost of school uniform as important. We want all children, wherever they are and whatever their background, to be able to secure a good school place, and we do not want the cost of uniform to act as a barrier. The steps that we have taken underline the importance of the cost of school uniform in helping the most disadvantaged members of our society to get access to a good education. The Government have made a commitment to legislate on the issue, which we intend to honour.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy - Hansard

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.

Resolved,

That this House has considered school uniform costs.

Education

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Wednesday 25th September 2019

(10 months, 3 weeks ago)

Ministerial Corrections
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Judith Cummins Portrait Judith Cummins - Hansard

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

Under this settlement, all schools will receive more money, at least in line with inflation, and schools with the highest proportions of children from disadvantaged backgrounds will receive the highest level of funding. Since 2011, we have closed the attainment gap by 9.5% in secondary schools and by 13% in primary schools.

[Official Report, 9 September 2019, Vol. 664, c. 489.]

Letter of correction from the Minister for School Standards.

An error has been identified in the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins).

The correct answer should have been:

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

Under this settlement, all schools will attract more money, at least in line with inflation, and schools with the highest proportions of children from disadvantaged backgrounds will receive the highest level of funding. Since 2011, we have closed the attainment gap by 9.5% in secondary schools and by 13% in primary schools.

Topical Questions

The following is an extract from Topical Questions to the Secretary of State for Education on 9 September 2019.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP) - Hansard

T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [912334]

Oral Answers to Questions

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Monday 9th September 2019

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con) - Hansard

7. What plans the Government has to increase the level of funding for schools. [912315]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard

In August, the Prime Minister announced an extra £14 billion for schools in England over the next three years. That will bring the schools budget to £52.2 billion in 2022-23. This will allow funding increases for all schools. In particular, our pledge to level up pupil funding means that every secondary school will receive a minimum of at least £5,000 per pupil next year, with every primary school getting a minimum of at least £4,000 from 2021-22. This is the largest cash boost in a generation, and that has only been possible because of our balanced approach to public finances and careful stewardship of the economy since 2010.

Mr Speaker Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:54 p.m.

The Department for Education is no doubt very illustrious, but it is not well versed in the application of the blue pencil.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:54 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:55 p.m.

What the hon. Gentleman says is not actually true. We have given extra money to fund employer pension contributions this year and to partially fund the pay grant over and above the 1%, and now the 2%, that is affordable, so we have provided schools with extra money this financial year.

Philip Davies Portrait Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:55 p.m.

rose—

Break in Debate

Philip Davies Portrait Philip Davies - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:55 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:56 p.m.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work and campaigning he has done to secure extra funding for schools in his constituency. He has been successful in ensuring we have the most generous schools settlement in a generation, and that is in part a tribute to his work, as well as that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who has heard his request for a visit to Bradford and I am sure will comply.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:56 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:57 p.m.

We take this issue as seriously as the hon. Lady does, which is why we have announced within the £14 billion a £700 million increase for special needs. That is an 11% increase. We absolutely understand the pressures that local authorities have been under and we are addressing it.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:57 p.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:57 p.m.

My hon. Friend has been a redoubtable campaigner for school funding in her constituency. Thanks to her efforts and the balanced approach we have taken to the public finances, the school funding settlement will mean that every school in her constituency will attract an increase in funding and that 75% of secondary schools there will benefit from our pledge to level up school funding to at least £5,000 per secondary school pupil.

Mr Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:57 p.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:58 p.m.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that this funding represents a large increase in per pupil spending and reverses the reductions to real-terms per pupil funding for five to 16-year-olds. The hon. Gentleman is right about MMR. It is very important that parents vaccinate their children. There is a lot of information available about the safety of the MMR vaccine from the NHS, and we would encourage parents to look at that information before making a decision.

Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:59 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:59 p.m.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. This funding will mean that we can continue our education reforms and continue to drive up standards—standards of reading and maths in our primary schools and in the whole range of the curriculum in our secondary schools.

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 2:59 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

I wish that the hon. Gentleman had cited the figures in my constituency, given that he is asking me the question although it was pre-prepared for the Secretary of State.

As I have said, the IFS has stated that this funding fully reverses cuts in funding for five-to-16-year-olds. We have only been able to deliver such a large increase in school funding because of the way in which we have managed the public finances since the banking crisis in 2008. That is why we can do this today, and why we have been able to announce the three-year spending package that all schools, including schools in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, have been seeking.

Gareth Snell (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab/Co-op) Hansard

6. If he will hold discussions with Stoke-on-Trent City Council on its plans to fund services for children with higher needs. [912314]

Break in Debate

Stephen Hammond Portrait Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Ind) - Hansard

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. [912316]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:04 p.m.

The Government remain committed to making the necessary changes to allow children to start reception at age five where this is what parents want.

Stephen Hammond Portrait Stephen Hammond - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:05 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:05 p.m.

My hon. Friend has been a formidable campaigner on this issue, and I pay tribute to him for his work in this area. He will be aware that since my letter to local authorities the evidence shows that school admission authorities are becoming more flexible when receiving requests for children to start reception at age five.

But of course this will not be right for all children; the majority will do well in reception at age four, and the Government are therefore giving careful consideration to how we will make these changes in a way that avoids unintended consequences.

Lucy Powell Portrait Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:05 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:06 p.m.

The hon. Lady will have been here last week when the spending round was announced and she will know that there is a £66 million increase in early-years funding.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:06 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

I will be very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss these issues further, but as he knows we on these Benches are responsible for the education system in England.

Mr Ranil Jayawardena Portrait Mr Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire) (Con) - Hansard

10. What recent assessment his Department has made of children's progress in specialist maths schools. [912318]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:07 p.m.

In 2019 King’s College London mathematics school reports that 100% of its students achieved a grade A or A* in A-level maths and 90% achieved an A* in A-level maths. The school also reports that more than 25% of its students in 2019 have secured Oxbridge places. This school and Exeter mathematics school are spectacular examples of the success of this Government’s free school programme, a programme that the Labour party wants to abolish.

Mr Ranil Jayawardena Portrait Mr Jayawardena - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:07 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

Given the success of the two maths schools so far, we are committed to opening more maths schools as we continue to drive up academic standards and social mobility. There are four more in the pipeline, including the Surrey mathematics school, which should benefit young people in North East Hampshire. My hon. Friend will also be pleased to know that, due to the large increase in school funding announced last week, 100% of secondary schools in his constituency will benefit from the new minimum of at least £5,000 per pupil.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD) - Hansard

11. What assessment he has made of the effect of VAT applied to college spending on the financial sustainability of those institutions. [912319]

Break in Debate

Fiona Bruce Portrait Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con) - Hansard

14. What steps he has taken to increase the level of funding allocated to schools in Congleton constituency. [912322]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:10 p.m.

The Prime Minister has announced a £14 billion increase in investment for schools in England, including for schools in Congleton. This means that by 2022-23, core schools funding will increase by £4.6 billion more than a real-terms protection, and we will be announcing further school-level details in October.

Fiona Bruce Portrait Fiona Bruce - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:10 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:10 p.m.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, because it was as a result of her intervention that we introduced minimum per-pupil funding into the national funding formula. She and her constituents will be pleased to know that, as a result of last week’s funding announcement, all seven of the secondary schools in her constituency will benefit from our pledge to level up per-pupil funding to at least £5,000 per pupil, and that 16 primary schools in her constituency will benefit from the new level of at least £3,750 per pupil.

Judith Cummins Portrait Judith Cummins (Bradford South) (Lab) - Hansard

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. [912323]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard

Minimum per pupil values benefit the historically lowest-funded schools. We recognise that schools with more disadvantaged pupils require additional resources, and the national funding formula and pupil premium allocate additional funding in relation to disadvantaged pupils, so that schools with a higher proportion of disadvantaged pupils are the highest funded.

Judith Cummins Portrait Judith Cummins - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:15 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:16 p.m.

Under this settlement, all schools will receive more money, at least in line with inflation, and schools with the highest proportions of children from disadvantaged backgrounds will receive the highest level of funding. Since 2011, we have closed the attainment gap by 9.5% in secondary schools and by 13% in primary schools.[Official Report, 25 September 2019, Vol. 664, c. 8MC.]

Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:16 p.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. It has been a pleasure working with him and other colleagues from Northamptonshire to raise standards of education in the area. I am sure that he and his constituents will be pleased about the funding settlement for schools in Northamptonshire.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

16. What plans he has to improve the provision of services for children with special educational needs and disabilities in schools. [912324]

Break in Debate

Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab) - Hansard

17. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of Ofsted. [912325]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:18 p.m.

As the independent inspectorate, Ofsted plays a vital role in providing a rounded assessment of school and college performance, and that role has helped to raise standards in our schools. Ofsted’s latest statement on its performance was set out in its annual report and accounts presented to Parliament in July, which reported solid operating performance across all areas of work.

Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:20 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:20 p.m.

I know the hon. Gentleman has been concerned about those inspections, and he met Ofsted’s north-west regional director. Ofsted is directly accountable to Parliament, and the vast majority of inspections go without incident. Ofsted has a quality assurance process and a complaints procedure to deal with those rare instances where it does not go according to plan.

Alberto Costa Portrait Alberto Costa (South Leicestershire) (Con) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:20 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:20 p.m.

I congratulate Mr Snelson, the head of Red Hill Field Primary School, on achieving a good grading in the Ofsted inspection, and I pay tribute to him and all the staff for the excellent education they are providing to pupils.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP) - Hansard

T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [912334]

Break in Debate

Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab) - Hansard

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? [912342]

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman will be aware, from the funding settlement, that we are increasing funding for high needs—for special needs—by £700 million. That is an 11% increase, and it is because we absolutely recognise the cost pressures that schools and local authorities have been under when it comes to special needs. We hope that the funding announcement made last week by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will go some way to addressing those concerns.

David Morris Portrait David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:28 p.m.

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

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield (Lewes) (Con) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:30 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

Decisions about school uniform are made at school level by headteachers and governing bodies. In formulating a uniform policy, a school must consider its obligations not to discriminate unlawfully. I would be very happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss her work to try to resolve the issue locally.

Mr Speaker Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:30 p.m.

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.

Thelma Walker (Colne Valley) (Lab) Hansard

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:34 p.m.

Yes. The awarding organisations have protocols in place for such issues, but I am very happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss the case that she is concerned about.

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien (Harborough) (Con) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:34 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:35 p.m.

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. It is important that we allow opportunities to be widely available to children and to young people, regardless of their special needs. Bursaries are available for particular children, and that funding can be used for transport. I would be very happy to meet him so that we can take this issue forward together.

Laura Smith (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab) Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 3:35 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard

The Department’s current guidance on school uniform does place an extra emphasis on the need for schools to give the highest priority to cost consideration. No school uniform should be so expensive as to leave pupils or their families feeling unable to apply for or to attend a school of their choice due to the cost of the school uniform. If the hon. Lady has examples of schools that are not abiding by that guidance, I would be very grateful if she let me know.

Mr Speaker Hansard

I have called a distinguished headteacher to speak, so I must call a distinguished nurse. I call Anne Milton.

LGBT Community and Acceptance Teaching

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Wednesday 4th September 2019

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane - Hansard

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
4 Sep 2019, 3:50 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. Let me start by welcoming my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) and congratulating him on a very passionate and moving speech. We are all very grateful to him for organising and securing the debate and for the way he introduced it today. We are also grateful for the very moving and powerful speeches from the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) and the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard).

My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham said that he was the first Conservative MP, the only Conservative MP, to have been born in a communist country—it was in Poland, in 1972. Let us hope that the forthcoming general election does not lead to a Corbyn-led Labour Government lest in 20 years’ time we have many more MPs who have been born in a communist country.

My hon. Friend asked about conversion therapy. He is right to point out that in the Government’s 2018 “LGBT Action Plan”, we committed to bringing forward proposals to end the unacceptable and abusive practice of conversion therapy in the UK. We are currently engaging with stakeholders and will set out further steps in due course, but my hon. Friend can rest assured that we take that issue very seriously and will be taking action.

Schools play a critical role in promoting integration and widening opportunities for all communities, including LGBT young people. Many schools already do that successfully, creating inclusive environments in which children are able to learn the values that underpin our society. Through education, we can ensure that the next generation learns about those values of fairness, tolerance and respect.

The Government are clear that every pupil, regardless of their sexuality, deserves the opportunity to progress and fulfil their potential and to do so in an environment free from prejudice and discrimination. I am personally committed and determined to stop, for example, the use of the word “gay” as a pejorative term in our schools, as that can often cause anxiety to LGBT pupils—in fact, to all pupils. The Department for Education is providing more than £2.8 million of funding, between September 2016 and March 2020, to four anti-bullying organisations to support schools to tackle bullying effectively. The Government Equalities Office is also providing £3 million, between 2016 and 2019, to help to prevent and respond to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, and has invested a further £1 million to extend that funding to March of next year.

Respect for all is fundamental to the reforms that we have made to the curriculum. We are making relationships and health education compulsory in all primary schools and relationships, sex and health education compulsory in all secondary schools. We are encouraging as many schools as possible to start teaching the new subjects from September 2019; they will be required to do so from September 2020. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Rotherham for the huge part that she played in campaigning for relationships education and in helping the Government to develop and then implement their policy so successfully.

Let us remember what these subjects actually address and why their introduction gained the overwhelming support of the House. At the heart of relationships and health education in primary schools is a focus on putting in place the key building blocks of healthy, respectful relationships, focusing on family and friendships, in all contexts, including online. At secondary level, teaching will build on the knowledge acquired at primary level and further develop pupils’ understanding of health, with an increased focus on risk areas such as drugs and alcohol, as well as introducing knowledge about intimate relationships and sex.

These subjects also represent a significant step forward in terms of equality by ensuring that young LGBT people will receive teaching relevant to their lives, preparing them for the adult world and supporting them to form positive, healthy, nurturing relationships. In the statutory guidance, we are clear that all pupils should receive during their school years teaching on LGBT relationships. Secondary schools should include LGBT content in their teaching, and primary schools are strongly encouraged and enabled, when teaching about different types of families, to include families with same-sex parents. Of course, the reality of that will be reflected at the school gates of many primary schools, with some children being dropped off and picked up by two mums or two dads. It is right that pupils understand that these families in which their classmates are growing up are characterised by love and care, just like any other family, and are equally deserving of respect.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs asked about the discretion that we have given primary schools for teaching about LGBT. We think that it is right for schools to decide their curriculum, based on the needs of their particular cohort of pupils. We have been clear that, for the majority of primary schools, teaching about LGBT people and relationships will be age-appropriate for their pupils and we strongly encourage them to do that. But we have been at pains to ensure that this groundbreaking policy carries as much support as possible and achieves a broad consensus. That has been generally achieved.

We have applied the requirement to teach RSE not only to the schools in the state sector; we have applied that requirement also to schools in the independent sector, including independent orthodox faith schools. The law applies to those schools as well, and we have managed to achieve consensus with many of the religious organisations. That is why we have had that discretion in relation to teaching.

The hon. Member for Rotherham asked about training material to enable teachers to teach RSE, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs raised the same issue. The Department is committed to supporting schools to deliver high-quality teaching of relationships education. To support schools, we are investing up to £6 million, in this financial year, for the Department to develop a programme of support for schools. The funding will not be distributed to schools; it is about preparing the materials.

Further funding, beyond the next financial year, is, of course, a matter for the spending review that has just been announced. The programme of support will focus on tools that improve schools’ practice, such as the implementation guide that my right hon. Friend referred to, easy access to high-quality resources and support for staff training. The Department is currently working with schools and teachers to develop a programme of support suited to their needs. To support that, we are also setting up a new working group, and it will provide insight into how the guidance is working in practice. That is chaired by Ian Bauckham CBE, who is our education adviser and a senior headteacher.

We are very clear that parents from all faiths and none do not want their children to feel bullied or excluded at school or to feel that their family is not equally valued. Through our call for evidence and the consultation on the content for these subjects, there was an absolute consensus that all pupils should be taught, as a minimum, about respect for themselves and for others.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham for his passionate speech. I hope we can all agree that children are never too young to learn about love, kindness, tolerance, difference, compassion and empathy, as part of creating a cohesive school community and in building a tolerant society. We need to do all we can to loosen the knot in the hearts of LGBT young people with relationships lessons and with role models, such as some of the hon. Members who have spoken in this important debate with such eloquence, passion and honesty.

Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski - Hansard
4 Sep 2019, 3:58 p.m.

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.

Resolved,

That this House has considered teaching on LGBT community and acceptance in schools.

School Funding: East Anglia

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Tuesday 3rd September 2019

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane - Hansard
3 Sep 2019, 5:25 p.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
3 Sep 2019, 5:29 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gapes. I congratulate the hon. Member for Norwich South (Clive Lewis) on securing this debate in the week that many schools are starting the new academic year and just days after the Government announced a giant cash boost for schools across all parts of the country. I add my thanks and admiration to all teachers and teaching assistants starting the new term this week.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will set out in a statement to the House just after the statement on preparations for leaving the EU, we have committed an extra £14 billion of funding to schools throughout England over the next three years. That delivers on the Prime Minister’s pledge when entering Downing Street to increase school funding by £4.6 billion over and above inflation, levelling up education funding and giving all young people the same opportunities to succeed regardless of where they grow up or go to school.

We have been able to do this because of our balanced approach to the public finances and careful stewardship of the economy, which has resulted in the lowest level of unemployment since the mid-1970s and record levels of people in employment, a state of affairs that would be wrecked by any Labour-led Government. This funding settlement means that we can continue to build a world-class education system, helping to continue to raise standards in our schools.

The funding package includes a cash increase of £2.6 billion to core schools funding next year, which increases to £4.8 billion and then £7.1 billion in 2021-22 and 2022-23. That is in addition to the £1.5 billion per year that we are injecting into the school system to cover additional pensions cost for teachers over the next three years, ensuring that employer contributions to teachers’ pensions—equivalent to 23% of gross salaries—is fully funded. That addresses the concern raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham), who asked whether that teacher pension employer contribution would be fully funded. The answer is yes and it will be in addition to the £14 billion that we have announced.

This is a three-year settlement. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) criticised it for going into a period beyond this Parliament, but schools are seeking a three-year settlement; most schools with which I discuss school funding have been asking for a three-year settlement. In total, across the country, core funding for schools and high needs will rise to £52.2 billion—my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk was right about that figure—by 2022-23. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, this funding will reverse the reductions in real-terms per-pupil funding for five to 16-year-olds since 2015. That should address the concerns raised by the hon. Member for Norwich South.

As part of this significant investment, we will also deliver on the Prime Minister’s pledge to level up funding, providing increases for our lowest funded schools. Every secondary school will be allocated at least £5,000 per pupil next year, and every primary school will be allocated at least £3,750 per pupil, putting primary schools firmly on the path to receiving at least £4,000 per pupil in the following financial year. In East Anglia this means that per-pupil funding for 46% of secondary schools in the region—160 secondary schools—will level up to at least the minimum of £5,000 next year. In addition, per-pupil funding for 30% of primary schools in the region will level up to at least the minimum of £3,750 next year—that is 594 primary schools on the path to receiving at least £4,000 per pupil. We are also allocating funding so that every school’s per-pupil funding can rise at least in line with inflation and to accelerate gains for areas of the country that have been historically underfunded, with most areas seeing significant above-inflation gains.

I challenge the hon. Member for Norwich South on his characterisation of this year’s school funding. Even before this major announcement, funding in Norfolk has increased from £460.3 million in 2017-18, to £482 million, which is a 4.7% rise and equates to a 3% per-pupil rise.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
3 Sep 2019, 5:34 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
3 Sep 2019, 5:29 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman will have to wait, because we have not made the announcement for early years funding. If he can be patient a little longer, we will be making that announcement.

We will continue to distribute this money through the national funding formula, which is our historic reform to the schools funding system that continues to ensure that funding is based on the needs and characteristics of schools and pupils, rather than on the accidents of history or geography.

Today we have reaffirmed our intention to move to what is called a hard formula, whereby all school budgets are set on the basis of a single national formula, guaranteeing equity among all schools, wherever they are in the country. Moving to this approach will mean that neighbouring schools that happen to sit on different sides of a local authority boundary will be funded on the same basis, and it will no longer be the case that different decisions made by different local authorities mean that similar schools receive different budgets. We intend to move to this hard formula as soon as possible. Of course, we recognise that this will represent a significant change and we will work closely with local authorities, schools and others to make this transition as smooth as possible.

The hon. Member for Norwich South said that he was opposed to academies. He has publicly expressed what I would regard as unwarranted hostility against the Inspiration Trust—a multi-academy trust that is doing huge work to raise school standards in his part of East Anglia. That probably explains why he failed in his speech to congratulate Jane Austen College in his constituency, a free school, which this year published its first GCSE results. Its provisional Progress 8 score places it in the top 10% of schools nationally. Some 75% of pupils achieved grades 9 to 4 in maths and English, and 30% of students at that school achieved a grade 8 or 9, which are the top grades that can be achieved in a GCSE. I offer huge congratulations to Jane Austen College and all the staff and teachers at that school.

My hon. Friends the Members for Waveney (Peter Aldous) and for North West Norfolk raised the hugely important issue of special educational needs funding. We are absolutely committed to supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities to reach their full potential, and we expect all schools to play their part. That funding increase therefore includes more than £700 million of extra funding to support children with special educational needs and disabilities to access the education that is right for them. We recognise that local authorities have pressures on these budgets for next year, and alongside that additional funding we will continue to work with local authorities and schools to ensure that this investment is working well for those children in greater need. My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney also raised the important issue of funding for 16 to 19-year-olds.

Sir Henry Bellingham Hansard
3 Sep 2019, 5:38 p.m.

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
3 Sep 2019, 5:38 p.m.

I will look at that point. Ultimately these are matters for the schools themselves. The schools have an autonomous system, but we want to ensure that they have the funding they need to employ sufficient numbers of sufficiently well-trained SENCOs and teachers who are trained in helping children with special educational needs.

Dr Poulter - Hansard
3 Sep 2019, 5:39 p.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
3 Sep 2019, 5:39 p.m.

My hon. Friend raises a very important issue. We take the issue of mental health very seriously. He will also know, given that he is in the medical profession, that very significant extra funding was announced last year for the health service, with £20.5 billion more per year by 2023—these are huge sums of money—which will help to address many of the issues he has raised.

We also take mental health issues seriously in schools. We have published the Green Paper on the mental health of children and young people, which will put a mental health lead in every school. I think that issue was also raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk. At the moment, I think—this is off the top of my head, but I think my memory is right—that about half of secondary schools have such leads. We want every school to have them, supported by a mental health support unit. That is part of the Green Paper’s proposals and it will be very significantly funded as well. We also, of course, want to reduce the waiting times for children who need more specialist help with their mental health issues through CAMHs. We have given a commitment on reducing those waiting times.

On the issue of 16-to-19 funding, in addition to the schools and high needs blocks the investment also includes an additional £400 million to provide better education in colleges and school sixth forms in 2020-21. This means a 7% uplift to overall 16-to-19 funding, in addition to funding for staff pensions. We will also protect and increase the 16-to-19 base rate with funding worth £190 million, and provide a further £120 million for colleges and school sixth forms so that they can deliver those crucial but expensive subjects, such as engineering, that are vital for our future economy. This investment will help to ensure that we are building the skills that our country needs as we prepare to leave the European Union.

Of course, there are no great schools without great teachers. That is why this settlement offers a pledge to the members of this hard-working profession to put teaching where it belongs—at the top of the graduate labour market. Subject to the School Teachers Review Body process, this latest investment will make it possible to deliver the biggest reform of teacher pay in a generation, lifting teachers’ starting salaries to at least £30,000 by 2022. I reassure the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane) that that will apply to all teachers; it will not differ by subject.

My hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk raised the issue of sparsity funding. The national funding formula includes support for small schools, especially in rural areas, and provides a lump sum of £110,000 for every school as a contribution to the costs that do not vary with pupil numbers. That gives schools certainty that they will attract a fixed amount each year in addition to the pupil-led funding. Last year, the sparsity factor in the formula allocated additional funding of £25 million specifically to schools that are both small and remote. Last year, therefore, 161 schools in East Anglia attracted a combined total of £3.2 million of sparsity funding.

With other schools in East Anglia that do not attract sparsity funding, either because they are not among the smallest schools nationally or because they are not far enough apart to meet the distance threshold, we have been clear that we want all schools to operate as efficiently as possible, and we believe that there is scope for rural schools in close proximity to work together to get the best value from their resources. However, we of course keep the formula under review and we are always prepared to change approaches to how we calculate sparsity. For example, should it be calculated based on as the crow flies, or should it be based on the actual distance travelled between schools?

While this additional funding will provide a crucial foundation on which to continue to build an excellent education for every pupil, it will also be vital to make sure that we get the very best value from every extra pound. Therefore, the Department’s support stretches much further than providing additional funding. Our announcements sit alongside our efforts to drive greater efficiency in school spending, and the Department’s school resource management strategy, which was launched last year, supports schools to make the most of every pound of their budgets. It includes deals to help schools to save money on the things they buy regularly, such as printers and photocopiers, and the roll-out of a free teacher vacancy listing website to help schools to find teachers and drive down recruitment costs.

In conclusion, I thank Members for their contributions to this debate and I am sure that many will want to know what the recent announcement means for their area and the schools in their own constituency. This information will be published early next month, once illustrative school-level allocations and provisional local authority-level allocations through the national funding formula are announced. I will end by reaffirming that this Government are committed to ensuring that all young people get the best possible start in life, and that includes ensuring the right funding for our schools. The substantial investment that we are making in our schools, the fairer distribution and levelling up of school funding, and the support to use those resources to the best effect are proof that that commitment is being delivered on in full.

Clive Lewis Portrait Clive Lewis - Hansard
3 Sep 2019, 2:39 p.m.

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.

Resolved,

That this House has considered school funding in East Anglia.

Music Education in England

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Wednesday 17th July 2019

(1 year ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Sir George Howarth Portrait Sir George Howarth (in the Chair) - Hansard

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:42 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir George. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bury North (James Frith) on securing this debate. He speaks with a passion for music, which I share. He is preaching to the choir—excuse the pun. I say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) that this funky Gibb will and does stand up for music in our schools. One of the initiatives that I am most proud of in my time as Schools Minister is the Classical 100 website, promoting classical music in primary schools, which was produced by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, Classic FM and Decca Records. Over 5,000 primary schools are already signed up to the site and I urge every primary school to do so.

The opportunity to study and explore music should not be a privilege; it is a vital part of a broad and balanced curriculum. All pupils should have access to a world-class music education. That is why music is compulsory for all pupils aged five to 14 in state-maintained schools. Academies, which do not have to follow the national curriculum, have to provide a broad and balanced curriculum. Ofsted’s new inspection framework, coming into force from September, will support that, providing a greater focus on the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum.

This Government are committed to music education. We are putting nearly half a billion pounds into arts education programmes—more money than any subject other than PE—to fund a range of cultural and music programmes between 2016 and 2020, in addition to the funding schools receive to deliver their curriculum. In November 2011, we published the national plan for music—referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage—which sets our vision for music in schools: to enable children from all backgrounds in every part of England to have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, to make music with others, to learn to sing and to have the opportunity to progress to the next level of expertise. We will refresh the national plan. We will consult widely on it and make further announcements in the coming plans.

Schools are responsible for delivering the music curriculum, but they cannot do it alone. Our network of music education hubs supports schools to provide high-quality music tuition. I pay tribute to the vital role my right hon. Friend played in the development of that policy. Between 2016 and 2020, we are providing in total over £300 million of ring-fenced funding for music education hubs, in addition to the funding that goes to schools to deliver the curriculum. Earlier this year, we announced an extra £1.3 million for those hubs. That funding supports pupils, whatever their background, family income, or special needs. No child should be excluded from music because their parents cannot afford to pay for lessons or an instrument, or because they have physical disabilities or other special needs.

Music education hubs help hundreds of thousands of young people learn to play an instrument in whole classes every year. They also ensure that clear progression routes are available and affordable. Many hubs subsidise the cost of lessons for pupils. The programme helps schools to nurture the budding seeds of musical passion that can unlock so much pleasure throughout life, as we heard from the hon. Member for Bury North. In the years to come, many adults with a passion for music will have the work of music hubs to thank for first introducing them to the joys of playing an instrument and playing in ensembles. In the provision of music education, the Government believe in excellence, as well as equity. Talented young musicians need the opportunity to make music with others of a similar standard, and access to selective ensembles and a demanding repertoire. Music education hubs provide high-quality borough or county-wide ensembles and direct the most talented towards specialist provision.

Bury North is served by the Bury music hub, which works as part of the collaborative Greater Manchester music hub. In this academic year, the Bury hub has received over £292,000 of funding from the Government. Last year the hub delivered over 3,500 individual singing and instrumental lessons, and 14,000 small group singing and instrumental lessons. A report by Birmingham City University showed that in 2016-17, hubs worked with 89% of schools on at least one core role and helped over 700,000 pupils to learn to play a musical instrument in whole-class ensemble teaching. That is an increase of 19% on 2013-14, the first year in which like-for-like figures are available, when the number was 596,000.

My hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell) spoke about singing. The Government recognise the value of singing in schools. Developing a singing strategy to ensure that every pupil sings regularly is a core role of the music education hubs. According to the last published figures, 70% of schools in England were supported by hubs with singing strategies.

I want to ensure that the music lessons young people receive are of the highest quality and that pupils leave school having experienced an excellent music education, so that those who wish to do so can take up opportunities to pursue musical careers. To ensure that, we have started work with music experts to develop a high-quality model music curriculum, which builds on the national curriculum and forms part of our plans to ensure that all pupils can benefit from knowledge-rich lessons. It is being drafted under the direction of an expert panel composed of practitioners, education leaders and music specialists, and will provide schools with a sequenced and structured template curriculum for Key Stages 1, 2 and 3. I hope that the curriculum will make it easier for teachers, including non-specialist teachers, to plan lessons and will help to reduce their workload. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Henley that folk songs are an important part of our musical heritage and I hope they will be included in that curriculum.

The hon. Member for Bury North raised concerns that careers in the arts have become the preserve of the privileged and privately educated. To ensure that that is not the case in years to come, the Government are continuing to fund more than 500 full-time places at four specialist music schools, including the Yehudi Menuhin School and the Purcell School, and a similar number of places at four specialist dance schools, including the Royal Ballet School, through the music and dance scheme. The vast majority of pupils board, and means-tested bursaries are available to ensure that entry to the schools is based on pupils’ talent, not on their parents’ ability to pay fees. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage pointed out, funding for the music and dance scheme has been maintained since we came into power. The scheme also funds places at the junior departments of six music conservatoires.

As well as supporting the music hubs, the Government are committed to a number of programmes, including the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and the National Youth Orchestra, that aim to enhance the musical opportunities of young people and ensure that the talent pipeline that is so important to this country remains open. Our funding helps to ensure that no one is turned away because their parents cannot pay. We also provide funding for In Harmony, an intensive orchestral experience focused on schools in some of the country’s most deprived communities.

The EBacc, which the hon. Member for Bury North and others raised, was introduced to give young people the same chances to succeed through education. It is key to increasing social mobility, and an important part of that is giving all children the opportunity to study the five core academic areas at GCSE: English, maths, science, humanities and a foreign language. The range of subjects that the EBacc offers provides a sound basis for enriching pupils’ studies, opening up a variety of careers beyond the age of 16 and giving a broad general knowledge that will enable pupils to participate in and contribute to society. Research published in August 2017 by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies found that studying the EBacc combination of GCSEs increases the likelihood that a pupil will stay on in full-time education.

It is not the case, however, that the EBacc has had an impact on the uptake of music GCSEs. Since 2010, the proportion of pupils entered for GCSE music has fluctuated but remained broadly stable at approximately 6% or 7% of the total GCSE cohort. People tend to cite the raw numbers, which have fallen since 2010 along with the total number of secondary school pupils, but the proportions have remained broadly stable.

Tracy Brabin Portrait Tracy Brabin - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:52 a.m.

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?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:54 a.m.

The proportions have remained broadly stable during that period. I do not have a breakdown of the free school meal figures, but there is nothing to suggest from the raw proportions that there should be any change in those figures. However, I will come back to the hon. Lady with the precise numbers, which I hope will reassure her.

The EBacc was designed to be limited in scope to allow pupils to study additional important subjects such as music. The percentage of time spent teaching the arts subjects in secondary schools remained broadly stable between 2010 and 2018, and our survey of primary schools indicates that they spend the same amount of time teaching music as they spend teaching other important subjects such as history and geography.

It should also be recognised that many pupils decide not to study the arts as academic subjects, but continue to take part in artistic activities in and out of school, such as singing in choirs, playing in orchestras and bands, and performing in school plays. The DCMS Taking Part survey in 2018 showed that 96% of children aged five to 15 had engaged with the arts in the previous 12 months. We are investing more than £70 million this year to support young people and adults to get high-quality careers provision, including careers advice on arts-related careers.

Northampton School for Boys is an example of how the EBacc does not necessarily mean a reduction in the arts. It has more than 20 ensembles and choirs, yet it also enters 70% of its pupils for the EBacc combination of GCSEs—significantly above the national average of 38%. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage cited Didcot Girls’ School in his constituency for its exemplary music provision; at 52%, its EBacc entry figures are way above the national average.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton) pointed out, the music industry is vital to this country; the hon. Member for Bury North was absolutely right to pay tribute to it. We are a nation with natural musical talent and a love for music that we all have an interest in cultivating. UK Music’s report “Securing Our Talent Pipeline” helpfully highlights the importance of the music industry to the UK economy, and I agree with its conclusion that if we want to produce the stars of the future, we must invest in talent for the future. I hope that it is clear to all hon. Members present that the Government are committed to doing precisely that.

I am enormously grateful to the hon. Member for Bury North for his securing this debate and for his passionate case for the importance of music education. He raised some important concerns, and I hope that I have reassured him that the Government share his commitment to ensuring that music can be enjoyed by every young person. The new model curriculum, the refreshed national plan for music, the ongoing support for our successful music hubs and our other music programmes will make sure that the next generation of music superstars have all the support that they need in schools, from their first exposure to the joys of music at a young age to provision for the brightest and most talented young musicians. All children deserve the chance to fulfil their musical potential. Thanks to the national network of music hubs, the music and dance scheme, and the support of organisations such as UK Music, I believe that pupils are being provided with that opportunity.

James Frith Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:56 a.m.

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.

Resolved,

That this House has considered music education in England.

Small and Village School Funding

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Wednesday 17th July 2019

(1 year ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 5:11 p.m.

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?

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 4:25 p.m.

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?

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane - Hansard

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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 5:21 p.m.

It is a pleasure to reply to this debate under your beady eye, Sir David. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Neil O'Brien) on having secured this debate, and on his excellent opening speech. The Government recognise the importance of rural schools and the need to maintain access to good local schools in rural areas, which, as hon. Members have said, are so often at the heart of their communities.

I also echo my hon. Friend’s recognition of the strong educational standards in many rural schools. Although we know those schools face special challenges, we also know that they rise to those challenges and perform well. In terms of attainment, both primary and secondary, rural schools have on average outperformed urban schools over the past three years, and 89% of rural primary schools have been rated either “good” or “outstanding”.

We want to ensure that school funding levels support an education system that offers opportunity to every child in this country. To continue to support all schools, including those in rural areas, the Government have prioritised education funding while having to take difficult decisions in other areas of public spending, as we seek to reduce the unsustainable annual budget deficit from 10% of GDP in 2010—some £150 billion a year—to under 2% now. As a result, core funding for schools and high needs has risen to £43.5 billion this year, and high needs funding has risen to £6.3 billion. However, we recognise the financial pressures that schools face, as described so well by my hon. Friends the Members for Chichester (Gillian Keegan) and for Witney (Robert Courts).

My hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas) reminded me of our visit to St Erth Community Primary School, which I enjoyed. I remember being lobbied by its school council, which was almost as compelling as my hon. Friend in making the case for capital for the school hall. Although I cannot pre-empt decisions that will be made as part of the forthcoming spending review process, we are of course looking to secure the best deal possible for our schools, both revenue funding and capital funding. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough recognises the decisive and historic move towards fair funding that this Government have made by introducing the national funding formula. The NFF is now directing money where it is most needed, based on schools’ and pupils’ needs and characteristics rather than accidents of geography or history.

Schools are already benefiting from the gains delivered by the national funding formula. It has allocated an increase for every pupil in every school, with significant per-pupil increases for the more underfunded schools, including those in rural areas. For example, as my hon. Friend mentioned, funding for schools in his local area of Leicestershire has increased by 5.5% per pupil compared to 2017-18. That is equivalent to an extra £31 million when rising pupil numbers are taken into account. As he stated, we do direct funding to provide additional support for small and remote schools, especially those in geographically challenging areas that do not have the same opportunities to find efficiencies as schools elsewhere.

The national funding formula provides a lump sum for every school as a contribution to the costs that do not vary with pupil numbers. That gives small schools certainty that they will attract a fixed amount each year, in addition to pupil-led funding. Although there is general agreement that schools face fixed costs, the evidence available suggests that there is no agreement on the scale of those costs, or that they are the same for all schools. In the previous system, local authorities awarded their schools very different lump sums, ranging from £48,480 to £175,000, and there was no obvious reason why local authorities chose those different amounts. It is important to maximise the funding available for the factors that are directly related to pupils’ characteristics, so following our extensive consultations with schools, we set the lump sum at £110,000 for each school within the national funding formula. However, the beauty of a national funding formula is that we can tweak it from year to year.

The formula also includes a sparsity factor, which allocates an additional £25 million specifically to small and remote schools. When the lump sum is coupled with that sparsity factor, it provides significant support for the small and remote schools that play such an essential role in rural communities. A small rural primary school eligible for sparsity funding can attract up to a total of £135,000 through the lump sum and the sparsity factor. Of course, we continue to look for ways in which the national funding formula can be improved; in particular, we are considering how to improve the methodology for calculating sparsity eligibility in future, and we will consider the suggestion my hon. Friend the Member for Witney made of a dedicated rural school funding stream.

Local authorities have a duty to provide sufficient school places for all pupils in their area, including reviewing provision where populations have grown or declined. Consequently, local authorities have the power to close maintained schools; that is a local decision, and neither Ministers nor the Department play a role in the process. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) will be pleased to know that given their importance, we have a presumption against the closure of rural schools. Although that cannot mean that no rural school will ever close, the case for closure must be strong and in the best interests of educational provision for pupils in the area. When a local authority proposes the closure of a rural school, it must follow a well-established statutory process that takes full account of that presumption against closure. That includes a representation period, during which all those affected by the proposals can submit their views and suggestions.

To enable my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough to respond to the debate, I will conclude. Our rural communities are part of the historic fabric of this country, and the schools that serve them are fulfilling a vital and valued service both locally and nationally. I believe that by working closely together, we can make sure we deliver on our ambition to give every child a world-class education, wherever they live.

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O'Brien - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 5:28 p.m.

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.

Resolved,

That this House has considered funding for small schools and village schools.

Relationship Education in Schools

Nick Gibb Excerpts
Tuesday 16th July 2019

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Education
Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab) - Hansard
16 Jul 2019, 12:40 p.m.

(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.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Jul 2019, 12:40 p.m.

This spring, Parliament passed the relationships, sex and health education regulations with overwhelming support. We know that many parents agree that these subjects should be taught by schools. We also know that for some parents, this raises concerns. Parents have a right to understand what we are requiring schools to teach and how their child’s school is intending to go about it. That is why we will be requiring schools to consult parents on their relationship education or RSE policy. Open and constructive dialogue can only work, however, if the facts of the situation are known to all.

We are aware that misinformation is circulating about what schools currently teach about relationships and what they will teach when the new subjects are introduced. The Department for Education has undertaken a number of activities in response. In April this year, we published frequently asked questions designed to bust myths on the subjects. They have been translated into three languages. In June, we published the final version of the relationships, sex and health education guidance, as well as guides for parents on the subjects. Alongside that, we produced infographics that can be easily shared on social media—including WhatsApp, where we know much of the misinformation is shared—setting out the facts. We also sent an email to almost 40,000 teachers, providing them with factual information and links to various documents.

The Department has also been working on the ground with Birmingham City Council, Parkfield School, parents and other interested parties to convey the facts of the policy and dispel myths, to support a resolution to the protests in that school and nearby Anderton Park School. Nationally, we have worked with the National Association of Head Teachers to understand where there might be parent concerns in other parts of the country and to offer support. We will continue those efforts to support the introduction of the new subjects, which we strongly believe are hugely important for children growing up in modern Britain.

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Jul 2019, 12:41 p.m.

Quite so.