Skip to main content

21st Century Schools

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 30 June 2009

May I take this opportunity to welcome you, Mr. Speaker, to your position and congratulate you on your elevation?

Over the past 12 years, school standards have risen significantly in our country, and our education system has changed beyond recognition. The number of secondary schools with at least 30 per cent. of pupils failing to achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths, has fallen from over half in 1997 to just one in seven schools today. We now have more than 40,000 more teachers, backed up by more than 200,000 more support staff. We now also have 200 national leaders of education, compared with none in 1997.

Our best state schools now match the best schools in the private sector and anywhere in the world. The reason is that we have rebuilt the school system on a foundation of sustained record investment, matched by tough accountability. That is why we can now go further and transform our school system to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Our country faces an economic imperative, because every young person now needs skills and qualifications to succeed, and a moral imperative, because every child and young person has potential and can do well with the right help and support. It is to meet those twin imperatives that I am today publishing our 21st century schools White Paper, based on new guarantees for pupils and parents; a significant devolution of power and responsibility to our school leaders, matched by strengthened school accountability; and an uncompromising approach to school improvement, because we want every child to succeed and we will never give up on any child.

First, we will now legislate for our pupil guarantee, to ensure: that all young people get a broad and balanced curriculum and high-quality qualifications, whether their strengths are practical, academic or both; that every secondary pupil has a personal tutor; that all pupils get five hours of PE and sport every week and access to cultural activities; that gifted and talented pupils get written confirmation of the extra challenge and support that they will receive; that all pupils with additional needs get extra help, with 4,000 extra dyslexia teachers; and that all pupils in years 3 to 6 who are falling behind in English or maths get one-to-one tuition to help them to get back on track. We will now extend the offer of one-to-one or small-group tuition to all pupils at the start of secondary school who were behind at the end of primary school. Following the report of the expert group on assessment, we will now introduce a new progress check at the end of year 7, so that parents can be confident that their child has made up the lost ground.

Our new parents’ guarantee will ensure that all parents get regular online information about their child’s progress, behaviour and attendance. It will also ensure access to their child’s personal tutor and fair school admissions in line with the admissions code, as well as ensuring that parents’ views will be listened to and reported in the school report card, so that all parents know what other parents think when choosing a school. Where parents are unhappy with the choice of schools on offer to them, local authorities will have to listen to and respond to their concerns, based on an annual survey of parents.

Because all parents want their children to learn at an orderly school, where they are safe from bullying and lessons are not disrupted by bad behaviour, we will now legislate to strengthen home-school agreements, so that all pupils and parents will accept the school’s rules when they apply for a school place and will be expected to sign up to renew their commitment every year; schools will have stronger powers to enforce discipline through intensive support, parenting contracts and parenting orders; and parents will have the right to complain and expect action if schools fail to act to enforce the home-school agreement.

Building on the success of the literacy and numeracy hours of the national strategies, which will continue in all schools, with Ofsted continuing to inspect them as now, we will devolve power and funding to school leaders to decide, with ring-fenced funding, what support they need, school by school, to drive up standards further. We will also ensure that schools can get the support that they need from other services through children’s trust boards and encourage multi-agency teams based in schools. The new chair of our independent bureaucracy watchdog will review any unnecessary obstacles that get in the way of delivery. Building on the success of our national leaders in education and academies programmes, we will now act so that our best head teachers can run more than one school, with better pay for executive heads. We will accredit high-performing schools, colleges and universities to run chains of schools in not-for-profit accredited schools groups, with the first providers up and running by January. Already nine schools, one multi-academy sponsor, four colleges and four universities, including today Nottingham university, have come forward, and I am today setting aside funds over the next years to support their growth.

We will match this transformation in school leadership with a transformation in school accountability. School league tables are easy to read, but because they present a narrow view of performance, based solely on the attainment of the average pupil, they cannot provide the full picture that parents need. Our new school report card will include full information on school attainment, but will go beyond that. It will set out clearly for parents how the school is improving standards and how well it is helping those pupils who fall behind to catch up and stretching the most able. The school report card will also report on discipline, attendance, sport, healthy eating and partnership working, and set out what parents and pupils think of the school. We will begin pilots of our school report card this September, but although we will consult further, I am now convinced that if parents, newspapers and websites are to make fair, clear and easy-to-understand comparisons between schools, our school report card will need to include a single, overall grade.

As a world-class schools system needs a world-class work force, we are making teaching a masters-level profession, and we will now introduce a new licence to teach, similar to that used by other high-status professionals such as doctors and lawyers. Teachers will need to keep their practice up to date to renew their licence, and they will be given a new entitlement for continued professional development. We will start with newly qualified teachers beginning their training this September, those returning to teaching from September 2010 and all supply teachers shortly afterwards. We will make governing bodies slimmer and more highly skilled, and require all chairs to undergo specific training.

The primary responsibility for school improvement lies with head teachers and governing bodies, including their chairs, but where progress is too slow and performance does not improve, local authorities have a responsibility to act. Since we set out our national challenge and our coasting schools challenge, local authorities have drawn up improvement plans and we have already announced 55 new academies and 27 national challenge trusts. Today, I am giving the go-ahead to two new academies, in Halton and in Redcar and Cleveland, and confirming funding agreements for two further academies in Nottingham and Hertfordshire—all replacing national challenge schools.

Some argue that where underperformance is entrenched, where locally led change is not working and where excuses are being made, the right approach is to stand back, to let schools wither and slowly decline, and to allow the children and young people in those schools to pay the price. I disagree. I believe that the Government have a responsibility to step in and demand improvement. I will not shirk that responsibility.

Following Ofsted’s December 2008 assessment of Milton Keynes, which found children’s services there to be inadequate, with serious weaknesses in secondary school attainment and improvement, we commissioned an independent performance review. The review concluded that, despite some progress, urgent improvement was still required. The Children’s Minister has today written to the council in Milton Keynes, directing it under section 497A of the Education Act 1996 immediately to appoint Mr. Peter Kemp to chair an independent improvement board that will report directly to Ministers, and to submit and agree an improvement plan.

The Schools Minister and I are concerned about the rate of progress in Leicester, where we issued an improvement notice last June. So I am today asking Sir Mike Tomlinson, the chair of our national challenge expert advisers, to provide us with a progress report in September. On the basis of his report on Leicester and of this summer’s results, we will consider whether further action is needed.

I am also asking our expert advisers today to work with Blackpool and Gloucestershire—areas that need to make more progress—to identify what more needs to be done to deliver the national challenge and to report back to me on progress in September. If this year’s exam results reveal serious weaknesses in those areas, or in any other area of the country, I will do whatever it takes to secure the progress of children and young people.

With this White Paper, we match continued investment with reform and higher expectations, so that we can meet the economic imperative by ensuring that every young person gets the qualifications they need, and so that we can meet our moral imperative by ensuring that every child can succeed, whatever barriers they face. I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. This is high summer, the season when the BBC’s screens are filled with repeats. It has nothing original to offer, so it serves up old material that flopped on first appearance simply to fill the airwaves. As it is with the BBC, so it is with the Secretary of State. No wonder this document is printed on recycled paper. Indeed, the White Paper is about as original, fresh and innovative as the Secretary of State’s performances on the BBC’s “Today” programme.

May I ask the Secretary of State why he is today offering one-to-one catch-up tuition, personal tutors for all pupils, and tuition groups for those in secondary schools as though those proposals were new and exciting, when in June 2007, the Prime Minister promised one-to-one catch-up tuition, personal tutors for all pupils, and tuition groups for those in secondary schools? And he has still failed to deliver. I know that the Secretary of State relishes his role as the Government’s attack puppy, and his special vocation as the Prime Minister’s “mini-me”, but when will he realise that simply repeating the same old nonsense over and over again ad nauseam has not exactly helped the Prime Minister to new heights of popularity, and it will not help him?

In the White Paper, the Secretary of State pledges to guarantee a whole series of high-falutin’ promises on better discipline and higher standards, and says that he will legislate to ensure that every school delivers its legal obligation. Is it not the case, however, that every time this Government have introduced a law saying that something wonderful must be delivered, it is only because they have demonstrably failed to deliver that goal in the last 12 years? We have a new law saying that child poverty must be abolished by 2020, because the Government have failed to hit their target of halving child poverty by 2010. We also have a new law compelling public bodies to promote equality, because this Government have presided over a catastrophic drop in social mobility and a widening gap has opened up between the poorest and the rest.

Now we have new laws to guarantee to every child better discipline, even though school discipline is running out of control, with 425,000 pupils suspended last year, 200,000 of them for violence, and with 100,000 teachers having left the profession in disgust. We also have new laws to guarantee every child higher standards, even though we are falling down the PISA—programme for international student assessment— international league tables for achievement and the gap between independent and state schools is widening.

Is it not the case that we do not need new laws, new entitlements and new guarantees? We need a new Government. All the good ideas in this White Paper are Tory ideas. Let us take enforceable home-school contracts. When the idea was put forward, the Secretary of State said:

“I do not think a commitment to helping children to read and behave well should be put in a contract”.

His junior said:

“The Home School Agreement should not be a contract forced on parents”.

But today we have enforceable home-school contracts with penalties for recalcitrant parents—Tory ideas winning the argument.

I very much regret that we have not had more influence on the Secretary of State. We have been calling for less bureaucracy for teachers, for example, but in this document there are just four brief paragraphs on cutting red tape, with just two suggestions—a new cross-disciplinary review and a new quango. I ask why, on parental choice, the Secretary of State has nothing worth while to say. When parents are denied a good choice of school, he proposes a survey, then an opinion poll, then a consultation, then a plan and then further consultation. By the time all that happens, the children denied a good choice of school will be drawing their pension. This Secretary of State has never seen a bureaucracy he did not want to protect and entrench in its complacency.

I hope that there is one other area on which the Government will U-turn—their proposals for school report cards. We have outlined plans for sharper accountability, with tests for which one cannot cram and proper robust and reliable league tables. Today, however, the Government propose abolishing league tables altogether and replacing them with fuzzy measurements of perception, well-being and partnership working. Parents will be left in the dark about which schools are failing.

Is it not the case that this Secretary of State has run out of ideas, run out of money and run out of time? Should he not make way for a party ready to reform, act on discipline, back parental choice and focus remorselessly, at last, on higher standards for all?

I was waiting to hear the alternative policy programme from the shadow Education Secretary, but there was nothing on offer—just the normal well- rehearsed speech, well written in advance; I guess that if one is charging £1,250 an hour, the script has to be well written. The fact is that we have set out one-to-one commitments and we are now delivering 300,000 more places next year. It is this Government who are taking forward the commitment to one-to-one teaching.

As for discipline, we introduced parenting contracts and parenting orders; we have had more than 50,000 parenting contracts and more than 8,000 parenting orders to enforce discipline—and because it has worked, we are now going to extend it and make it more effective, so we can deliver what parents want. They want their children’s lessons not to be disrupted by bad discipline so that children can get on and learn and teachers can get on and teach. That is exactly what we are going to do.

We are making it very clear that we are going to reduce bureaucracy where it gets in the way, while at the same time we are going to extend parental choice and allow a greater parental voice. As for the school report card and the idea that we are taking information away, the people who want to reduce accountability and the reliability of information, and who are proposing or pretending to abolish key stage 2 tests, are the Conservatives, not the Labour party.

I looked at other representations regarding the White Paper. I considered whether we should hold back for a further year in primary school children who failed to make the grade, but I decided that that would be a bad idea, and I therefore rejected it. I considered whether pupils who failed the year 7 test should be sent back to primary school, as proposed by the Conservative party, but I rejected that idea. I considered whether we should abolish key stage 2 tests, and decided that we should not, because it would be a bad idea.

Most of all, I considered the Swedish model and the idea that the way to deliver school improvement is to try, by diverting £4.5 billion from school building budgets, to open one new school a day for the next 10 years—the proposal from the Conservative party. I have to say that I looked at that with interest, but at the weekend, I read in The Sunday Times that according to “insiders” in the Conservative party, the policy was “in disarray”, and that a senior Conservative had said:

“I have not met anyone who understands the policy and don’t understand how we have a hope of explaining it on the doorstep”.

The Conservative party is hoping that no one understands it, because if people did understand it they would understand the chaos and the cuts that would ensue.

The last time the hon. Gentleman and I faced each other across the Dispatch Box, it was my job that was supposedly in doubt. I have to say that I think it is his job that is in doubt now. His colleagues are whispering behind him, and his policy is in disarray. It is our party that will deliver for every child and every school in our country, and that is why ours is the party that is leading the charge for higher standards in the future.

I welcome you to your new responsibilities, Mr. Speaker. I also thank the Secretary of State for allowing me advance sight of the statement and the White Paper.

We welcome the licence to teach and the principle of the school report card—provided that it is not diluted by a fuzzy focus on issues of partnership, which I think would detract from its ability to hold schools more effectively to account—but I want to ask the Secretary of State about the two issues that give us the greatest cause for concern. I refer to the issue of how all the proposals are to be funded, and the issue of what I thought was supposed to be the Prime Minister’s big idea yesterday: the idea of moving from a system of targets to one of entitlements.

We saw this morning how the White Paper had been spun by the Government across the media. The BBC website, for instance, speaks of

“legally enforceable rights to schemes such as one-to-one tuition”.

Yesterday we heard about the right of exit to the private health sector that would be given to people who were not seen rapidly as NHS patients. However, I am not sure what has happened to that idea of entitlements. The Secretary of State’s statement made no mention of parental entitlements, and as for the paper that the Prime Minister issued yesterday, not only has it nothing to say about people’s rights to leave the NHS and obtain private treatment if their entitlements are not being delivered, but on the issue of enforcement of entitlements to one-to-one tuition, it states that

“we will not legislate”


“redress… through the courts.”

That appears directly to contradict the spin that we were given this morning.

Perhaps the Secretary of State can explain—in the context of education and, if he wishes, in wider contexts as well—whether the idea of entitlement is meaningful and will give extra power to consumers of public services, or whether it is a bit of spin. If it is not a bit of spin, how will parents denied access to one-to-one tuition for their children exercise their right to ensure that it is received?

Our other major concern is, of course, the extent to which the Secretary of State’s proposals can be funded. He has promised one-to-one tuition for what could turn out to be 20 per cent. of the seven to 11-year-old cohort—the youngsters who are falling below national standards. Is the money really there to deliver that? The Government promised a year ago that they would deliver one-to-one tuition, and they promised 30,000 places, but we now know that they delivered only 3,500.

The Secretary of State has been notably active—more active, perhaps, than the Chancellor of the Exchequer over the last couple of weeks—in talking about the Government’s public expenditure plans. However, he has apparently been unwilling to accept that his own budget’s real level of expenditure will decline between this year and next year, or that, despite his efforts generously to give away part of his capital budget for home building, the Building Schools for the Future programme will be entirely undeliverable in its existing form against a background of 50 per cent. cuts in capital expenditure across all areas of Government. If we are really expected to believe that some of the aspirations in the White Paper will be fulfilled, will the Secretary of State tell us how on earth they will be funded in the light of the cuts that would have to be made on the basis of existing public expenditure plans?

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s interest in these matters and for the more serious way in which he has addressed the statement and the White Paper. I welcome his support for the idea of the report card, and I hope he agrees with me that it will strengthen accountability and provide more information that parents actually want in order for them to understand the progress of every child in the school.

On partnership, it is important that this issue does not make the report card fuzzy, but we also know that it is only by schools working together that we can deliver good behaviour and strong discipline. Also, as I have announced today, it is schools working together in federations that is driving up standards. I think that when the hon. Gentleman looks at the detail, he will be reassured on this matter.

On targets and entitlements, we have announced that on the basis of this White Paper in the next Session we will legislate to make the pupil and parent guarantee statutory. That means that it will be set out in law. The analogy is the admissions code. We will make sure that in the first instance the parental right to complain is to the school through the governing body. There will then be an independent appeals mechanism, in most cases to the local government ombudsman, but in some cases to the school adjudicator. If they find against a school, the Secretary of State has power to intervene. This is a legal entitlement, so judicial review is, of course, available as a backstop, but we are not seeking to make this legalistic. We want to make sure that the existing complaints procedures that we are putting in place will work effectively. I think we can make this work for both the pupil and the parent guarantee.

On funding, in the financial year 2010-11 we will spend more than £300 million on delivering one-to-one or small group tuition for 300,000 children, and we are currently training 100,000 teachers to teach that one-to-one tuition. The funding is there.

We have also set out a September guarantee. That will mean that this September every young person leaving school will be guaranteed a place in school or college, or an apprenticeship. I can now make that September guarantee only because I have made some difficult choices to shift £650 million from parts of my budgets and individual agencies to fund the 55,000 places that I need to meet it. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman supports that guarantee, but I hope that he and his party can make it clear that they do. What I do know is that other parties in this House will not match that September guarantee. The reason why is that if they make efficiency savings, the first call on resources is not young people getting school, college and apprenticeship places; it is an inheritance tax cut that will go to the 3,000 richest estates and cost billions and billions of pounds.

That is the choice in politics; that is the funding issue. I hope the hon. Gentleman will support me. Tough choices are needed to invest in the future of our country, our children and our young people, not simply to give tax cuts to a small number of millionaires. That is the choice in values, that is the choice in policy, and that is the choice for the future of our country.

Order. Twenty-nine Members are seeking to catch my eye and I am keen to accommodate as many of them as possible, but I am looking to each hon. Member to ask one brief supplementary question and to the Secretary of State to offer the House a pithy reply.

I welcome the Secretary of State’s reaffirmation of the central role of the literacy and numeracy strategy. In reaffirming that, and in devolving the substantial funding for support and advice, will he agree to kite-mark or accredit those organisations or bodies that will be providing support, in order not to drift back into the complete mess that we had before 1997?

The fact is that the reason why we have made such great progress in numeracy and literacy is the foundations that were laid by my right hon. Friend in the early years of this Government after 1997. He is right to say that the innovation of the literacy and numeracy hours were critical, and the role that the national strategies played was vital. I think we have won that argument. I think we can now make sure that schools themselves choose how to commission support, but we will still deliver that literacy and numeracy. We will deliver those hours, and I will make sure that schools are buying from quality providers that are accredited, in order that I can give my right hon. Friend the assurance he seeks.

The Education Secretary says that he is going to step in to demand improvement where schools are failing or coasting. Is it not also time that he recognised that where schools are succeeding or improving he should get out and he should intervene less, and that such schools will thrive when they are left to their own devices?

If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my statement, he would have heard me say that this White Paper devolves substantial power from the centre to individual head teachers so that they can make their own decisions on how to commission support. However, either we let the market work and children suffer when schools fail or we intervene, and I am determined to intervene because I do not agree with the philosophy that defines the Conservatives’ approach.

Will my right hon. Friend agree to come before the Select Committee at an early date to talk about this statement and the White Paper? Perhaps he will also agree to a pre-legislative inquiry before we have legislation. Will he bear in mind the fact that it does nobody any good to believe that nothing has been proved in education in this country over the past 12 years? Will he be very careful about putting too much—

Order. I apologise, but I did say very clearly that Members should ask one brief supplementary question.

If you will allow me, Mr. Speaker, I should say that this statement builds upon the fundamental reform, which was the Education and Inspections Act 2006. It was substantially improved by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) and the work of his Committee, so I believe that my Ministers and I will benefit from the scrutiny and interrogation that we will receive when we appear before his Committee in the coming weeks.

In his statement, the Secretary of State talked about gifted and talented pupils and the support that they will be given as a result of this White Paper. Can he tell us the current state of the gifted and talented programme that the Government brought in?

The answer is that 11 years ago the programme did not exist and now it is flourishing. We will ensure that every parent of every child who is gifted and talented receives written confirmation of the support that they will receive, because we want to stretch every pupil, including those with talents and gifts.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s remarks about a review of secondary education in Gloucestershire, because some of us have been calling for such a review for years. Many schools, particularly those in the comprehensive sector, have been let down because of the local obsession in Gloucestershire with purely the grammar school sector. That obsession has led to the comprehensive schools being completely ignored, to there being no trusts and no academies and to the trebling of funding for primary schools in rural areas with sparse populations rather than for schools that face challenging circumstances in areas such as my own, which have proximity to those comprehensives. Will he ensure that that is considered as part of this review?

I welcome my hon. Friend’s support. The fact is that that local authority performs well in many ways, but we need to address some worrying issues to do with the national challenge and underperforming schools. I have asked Sir Graham Badman to produce a report and to report back to me in September. We will carefully consider all the points made, and I shall ensure that the points that my hon. Friend raises are included. If we need to act to ensure that not only some schools but all schools achieve, we will ensure that the action is taken.

Mr. Speaker, do you think that the Secretary of State regrets addressing the nation this morning on the “Today” programme, because it has meant that very little was added in his statement and it went completely against your advice to Ministers?

Anyone who heard the “Today” programme interview would have found that there was not a single question on education policy and therefore not a single answer on that matter either. The interview was almost entirely about the Conservative party’s inheritance tax cuts and how it was going to pay for them. Today, I have announced proposals in respect of the expert group and the test in year 7 and on the licence to teach, and I have proposed the details of the pupil and parent guarantee, all of which are new to this House. There have been no leaks from my Department, and I have been conscious at every stage to ensure that I have conformed with Mr. Speaker’s guidance.

On accountability and the school report card, the Secretary of State recognises that measures of progress are more effective than simple raw scores in assessing a school’s achievement. Does he agree, however, that the current measure of progress—the value-added score—is still unintelligible to most parents, and could he simplify it in the new school report card?

I look forward to the scrutiny that we will receive from the Select Committee. When my hon. Friend examines the detailed prospectus of the report card that we published today, he will see that how we measure progress and, in particular, how we contextualise to take advantage of deprivation is crucial. We must get it right in the report card, and I look forward to his expertise being shone upon this.

I am sure that the Secretary of State is sincere when he says that he will now act so that our best head teachers can run more than one school. Will he or the Schools Minister visit my constituency to see the work of the inspirational Mr. Jonathan Tippett, who has transformed three schools and who runs all three of them. Unfortunately, Tory-controlled Essex county council plans to shut two of them. Will the Secretary of State visit Colchester?

The last time the hon. Gentleman raised that point was in Prime Minister’s questions, when he managed to secure a meeting with me, through the Prime Minister. I think we should have the meeting first, and we will consider visits subsequently.

Over the past 12 years, I have repeatedly raised my concerns about teaching methods. The critical difference between success and failure in schools is to do with teaching methods and classroom cultures. How will my right hon. Friend address that and, once and for all, determine how we secure the best teaching methods in all our schools?

I am going to build on the reforms that have meant that we have the best generation of teachers we have ever had. I will empower school leaders to ensure that they get the best teaching practice into their schools and I will introduce a new licence to teach, which will mean that over time every teacher will be reaccredited to ensure that they are keeping up to date with best practice. We will match that with personal development and training so that every teacher can be world-class.

If parents in my constituency find that their children’s statutory rights to one-to-one teaching are not fulfilled, can they sue and whom do they sue?

I think I answered that question a moment ago. In the first instance, the parents will complain to the school. There is then an independent complaints procedure. If the independent complaints procedure shows that the children are entitled to one-to-one support and are not getting it, the school should address that immediately. If it does not, parents can appeal to me. In the final analysis, it can go to judicial review, but I am sure that we will get it sorted out before we get to that stage.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s suggestion that local authorities have a responsibility to act. How will he assist them and make them act in Hove where we have a shortfall of more than 100 places, which means that parents have to take three buses to a local school? How will he ensure that Brighton and Hove Tory council acts with the urgency that parents and children need?

It is obviously vital that local authorities respond to those shortages of places and respond to the views of parents. It is their job to ensure that they have the right number of school places. I brought forward schools capital from 2010-11 to 2009-10 so that there was more money for local authorities to spend. It was a great disappointment to me that a large number of Conservative authorities refused to take up that offer of more spending now, and that included Brighton.

All these announcements come with a huge price tag. The last time encouraging more 16 to 18-year-olds to stay on in sixth form came with a price tag, it was not budgeted for, as I was told by the Secretary of State. Are all these innovations fully budgeted for?

The point is that the hon. Lady is right. When it became clear in March that we had a shortfall in our budget for places for 16 to 18-year-olds, I found £650 million of efficiency savings so that I could pay for 55,000 more places. Despite my seven letters to her Front Benchers, she cannot get that commitment matched by them. I am spending the money on apprenticeship places; the Opposition would spend it on inheritance tax cuts. That is the difference, and that is why she should be so concerned.

The Building Schools for the Future programme is one of the best routes to school improvement, but it relies on local authorities delivering it. My local education authority, Hammersmith and Fulham, is in chaos. I am a governor of an outstanding sixth-form college, William Morris, which has been refused permission to move to a new site, which it says has cost £70 million. Will he ask Partnerships for Schools to look at the debacle in Hammersmith and Fulham and make it improve most of its plans?

I was in my hon. Friend’s borough this morning and I saw a school that was making real progress and working with another school. I understand his concerns. Local leadership should ensure that the BSF commitments are delivered, although some authorities in this country are anticipating the £4.5 billion cut promised by the Opposition and are therefore not making plans. I will ensure that the Schools Minister meets my hon. Friend to ensure that we can move this forward as soon as possible.

I am concerned that the Secretary of State’s remarks this afternoon about Gloucestershire will have a demotivating effect on hard-working teachers up and down Gloucestershire. Will he confirm that the national challenge schools that he has mentioned this afternoon are less than a handful out of 42 schools, that Gloucestershire is the 15th lowest spending authority for education and that, in his own words this afternoon, it produces some very good results?

The difference between us is that the hon. Gentleman is willing to dismiss the handful of schools that are not succeeding, and I am not. I want every school to succeed and I will require local authorities to take the actions and use the investment to ensure that that happens. If local authorities are not making sufficient progress one can either say, “Well, the rest are doing fine,” or one can step in and intervene. I am willing to intervene, but the Opposition are not, and that is what would let children and parents down.

I welcome the Badman review of education in Gloucestershire, which is long overdue, but will my right hon. Friend ensure that Mr. Badman takes evidence from local representatives and from head teachers and chairs of governors? In that way, he will get to the bottom of what is happening in Gloucestershire, and beyond the superficiality too often found in the news that we hear.

I will make sure that Mr. Graham Badman does that. I think that I inadvertently knighted him a moment ago, but we will make sure that he talks to all the national challenge schools in the area. Of course it is true that many schools with great leadership are making real progress in the national challenge and will get through the 30 per cent. threshold, but I want to make sure that that happens for every school and every child in every area. When we have concerns, it is right that we bring them to the House and act to make sure that all local authorities take their responsibilities seriously. That is our approach to school improvement.

Not all areas of the country have two-tier education systems. Some, such as Bedfordshire, have a three-tier system. Has the Secretary of State taken full account of that, especially with regard to testing at year 7?

In the small number of areas that have three tiers of education, we will make sure that the accountability system is tailored to meet their needs and that catch-up tuition is introduced in a sensible way. I know that there is a debate in Bedfordshire about whether it is sensible to move to a two-tier system. That decision should be made locally, and it is not for me to impose it or dictate it from the centre. We will make sure that our support for parents and pupils meets the needs of all, regardless of whether they are in a two-tier or a three-tier system.

Even the strongest supporter of the comprehensive education system, which is what I am, cannot deny that over the decades it has not served the gifted and talented pupils in state schools well. Further to the question from the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mr. Timpson), will the Secretary of State confirm that there will be adequate resourcing for the confirmatory statement on the challenge and support that gifted and talented students will receive? There is a good deal of evidence that we still lack a common definition of who those students are, or even common information about them.

I have said in the guarantee that all gifted and talented students will get written confirmation of the support that they need and deserve. We have the funding to ensure that children will get that support if they are gifted and talented. I can make that commitment for this side of the House, but I do not think that the Opposition can match it. They know that, were there to be a Conservative Government, the cuts would start to fall on the this Department on day two.

How does the Secretary of State reconcile what he has said about Gloucestershire in his statement and in some of his answers to questions with the fact that a few weeks ago his own Department described the local education authority’s management of the national challenge as exemplary? Indeed, in a letter today that he sent personally, the right hon. Gentleman said that the officers on the council had provided “excellent” support and development opportunities for national challenge schools.

I know the director of children’s services, Ms Jo Davidson, very well. She has done a lot of work with us on the child and adolescent mental health agencies review. The council’s officers have engaged with the national challenge very well, but that does not mean that we are not concerned about the lack of sufficient progress in schools below the threshold, or about the lack of leadership, or about the structural change that we think may be necessary. The right thing for me to do is to send in Mr. Graham Badman to give us a report. We should not be complacent: we should get the report done and then see whether we need to do more.

I warmly welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement that he has appointed Sir Mike Tomlinson to undertake a progress report on Leicester. Although considerable progress has been made there, a number of secondary schools still fall below an acceptable standard. Will my right hon. Friend encourage Sir Mike to talk not just to the local authority but to the other education professionals locally who have considerable expertise and a real commitment to a collaborative approach to raising standards in the city?

The local authority has a range of choices; it can consider academies or national challenge trusts. We will make it easier to use one of the accredited schools groups, which we are now going to support. There is a range of choices for Leicester, but one choice that is not available is not to act when it is clear that a school is not making progress and is stuck below the 30 per cent. threshold. I will make sure that my hon. Friend speaks to the school improvement experts, the head teachers and parents. What we cannot have are excuses. We want to know what the plan is to ensure that we deliver for every child in Leicester.

The Secretary of State knows a lot about private schools because he went to one, although he does not always put it on his CV. I was wondering whether he could tell us about the notable omission from his statement, which was his Prime Minister’s promise some time ago that his Government would match state school spending to the average of private school spending. Is that just another Labour failure to match their promises?

I was proud to speak at the speech day of my old school, Nottingham high school, which is an excellent school doing good things in Nottingham working with other schools in the city. It is right that we do our best to meet that pledge to see year by year the amount that we spend in state schools moving towards the private school benchmark. What we are doing with one-to-one support is all about that, but I tell the House that it will not happen if the education Department is No.1 in line for the cuts to pay for the reversal of the national insurance rise, the reversal of the top rate of tax and an inheritance tax cut that is uncosted and unpaid for and will cost billions of pounds. The idea that—

Order. I think that the Secretary of State’s message on inheritance tax has been heard loudly and clearly, and it does not benefit from repetition.

I welcome the Secretary of State’s intervention in Milton Keynes because, although educational performance has improved, it has not improved fast enough. Can he assure me that the improvement board will look particularly at the underperformance of children from minority ethnic families and working-class families and of looked-after children, who have fallen far too far behind the average in Milton Keynes?

I will do so, and I will make sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Children and my hon. Friend the Schools Minister speak to my hon. Friend. We do not take decisions to move to formal intervention lightly. We had an independent report prepared first. There was progress, but I am afraid that it was not sufficient and we decided that intervention was needed, with the board reporting directly to Ministers. The issues that my hon. Friend raises are at the centre of our concerns. Many children are not making progress, and we want to address that. That is what the improvement board will do, and we will make sure that my hon. Friend is fully consulted.

I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement, his September guarantee and his commitment to education, which is clear to everyone. Will he step in to stop Essex county council closing one of Castle Point’s six secondary schools, given that we have waiting lists for our secondary schools, thousands more houses promised to be built—against the borough’s wishes—and the leaving age for compulsory education increased from 16 to 18?

As the hon. Gentleman—or am I allowed to call him my hon. Friend? [Interruption.] Well, he is certainly not the Opposition’s hon. Friend. As the hon. Gentleman declares, there are some causes for concern in Essex. My hon. Friend the Schools Minister has rashly decided to offer a meeting to Essex Members of Parliament to discuss these matters. Perhaps they should have the meeting first, and then we can follow up afterwards.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and congratulations.

Will my right hon. Friend comment on what impact the White Paper will have on the children in my constituency? As he knows, I have three primary schools where 95 per cent. of the children entering at four have no English whatever. There are arguments to be had about why they are in that situation, but that is how it is. What will help those children? These are not failing schools; they have buckets of value added, but we still have the problem of children really struggling because they enter school at four with no English. What will help them?

At the centre of the White Paper is the idea of schools working with schools, parents and other children’s services to break down all barriers to progress, whether those barriers are in the classroom or outside it. Our vision of schools working with children’s services, and taking an interest in the progress of pupils before they get to school by working with Sure Start and children’s centres, is vital, particularly in areas such as the one that my hon. Friend represents. Programmes such as Every Child a Talker, which are about getting children to start communicating and speaking English at the ages of two and three, are particularly important for her constituency, and I am happy to meet her to discuss that further.

Both in this Chamber and on the wireless this morning, the Secretary of State studiously avoided detailing the hard, tough choices that he has made to raise £600 million from within his Department. Will he undertake to place in the House of Commons Library as soon as possible a detailed breakdown of the internal budgets or initiatives that were cut to fund that £600 million?

I am very happy to have that debate. We announced on Budget day that we would require a 1 per cent. efficiency saving from all schools and colleges offering 16-to-18 provision in order to provide extra places. We are putting £650 million more into 16-to-18 funding, so that we can deliver that guarantee. That is matching efficiency with more resources to get more outcomes. One can do that only if one is willing to put in the resources. If parties cannot match the guarantee, they cannot deliver the places. That is the difference between the parties.

I welcome the idea of continuous improvement for teachers through the Government’s masters-level programme, and the idea of teachers keeping their practice up to date. Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the operators of Ofsted, who frequently lack insight and experience, and many of whom have not been in a classroom for 20 years or more, need a rigorous—very rigorous—period of training, so that they can understand what is happening in the classroom, in order to give a proper report to us about the classroom practices that they see?

Of course Ofsted is independent of my Department and reports directly to Parliament, so it is not really for me to provide that scrutiny; it is for Parliament to do so. However, I agree with my hon. Friend: of course inspectors must have the highest standards of integrity and training. That is a matter for the director general of Ofsted, and I am sure that she is absolutely committed to ensuring that, because it is vital to our school accountability.

The Secretary of State spoke in his statement about the moral imperative for every child to get the best possible education. How can he square that with the fact that, notwithstanding his April announcement, one of the best-performing schools in my constituency, Mascalls school, has had its sixth form frozen, despite the fact that 50 more pupils want to go there? Will he agree to meet me and the head teacher of that school to see whether the issue can be resolved before the end of term?

To be honest, I am happy to meet any hon. Member who would like to discuss their September guarantee funding. I would quite like to discuss it with the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), who refuses to make a commitment on the subject. I have written to him seven times; perhaps face-to-face meetings would be more effective, although I rather doubt it. I am happy to look at the details of the case raised by the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark). There is £650 million more, and it would surprise me if not a penny was going to his local school or sixth-form college, but if that is the case, we will look into the matter and see why that is so. I have the means to deliver more funding for more places this September, unlike the hon. Member for Surrey Heath.

How much autonomy will head teachers have to enforce parental obligations under the home-school contracts, or will they be second-guessed by local education authorities?

The responsibility rests with head teachers to deliver discipline in schools. The home-school agreement is all about clear responsibilities for the pupil, the parent and the head teacher. In the past, head teachers have often felt that parents were not properly committed to the home-school agreement, and head teachers did not have powers to enforce that agreement. In the White Paper, I am setting out how we will strengthen the powers that enable head teachers to act. They have the powers to act, but we will strengthen them further. I think that parents will expect head teachers in schools to act, so that we can tackle the issue of discipline.