The Secretary of State was asked—
Science and Maths Graduates (Teaching)
There is clearly a problem with a shortage of specialist teachers, as only 47% of mathematics teachers and 58% of combined science teachers have first degrees in the subjects that they teach. We need to do more to encourage pupils to study sciences and maths, and encourage graduates to enter teaching in those subjects. Therefore, we are actively reviewing the routes into teaching and bursaries, along with other incentives offered to well qualified people who want to teach science and maths.
It is very good to see my hon. Friend at the Government Dispatch Box. Will he ensure that schools have sufficient powers and funds to offer generous retention bonuses to teachers of shortage subjects, and that schools with retention problems are fully aware of such powers?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for those comments; it has been a long time coming. We are certainly considering how schools can be further encouraged to use the existing recruitment and retention pay flexibilities which are available to address local teacher shortages in maths and other priority subjects. Head teachers already have some scope to do that, but we plan to reform the existing, rigid national pay and conditions so that schools have greater freedoms to attract top science and maths graduates, along with others as they see fit, to be teachers. Such academy-style freedoms are being debated in other place as part of the Academies Bill.
On behalf of the whole House, let me welcome my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Mr Timms) back to his rightful place.
May I warmly welcome the hon. Gentleman to his position as Under-Secretary of State? If he keeps his nose clean and pulls his socks up, he might become a Minister of State, although I think he will have to become a Liberal Democrat for that to happen. May I also welcome the rest of the ministerial team to their posts and wish them all the very best with their responsibilities?
We agree with motivating and encouraging more graduates of science and maths into teaching. On the basis of that encouraging and motivational language, will the hon. Gentleman comment on the remarks made by the Minister for Schools, who is reported to have said:
“I would rather have a physics graduate from Oxbridge without a PGCE teaching in a school than a physics graduate from one of the rubbish universities with a PGCE”?
Would the Under-Secretary like to apologise on behalf of his hon. Friend, or at least provide the House with a list of “rubbish universities”, so that graduates from those institutions need not apply for teaching posts under this new Government?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his opening comments. I will certainly keep my nose clean and pull my socks up, if that is what he thinks is required. I know the job of opposition too well: the job of opposition is to scrabble around to make trivia newsworthy, and I congratulate him, on his debut on the Opposition Benches, on doing that. I am not going to comment on that trivia, but let me be clear when I say that we have many very talented teachers in schools today. We intend to build on that and ensure that organisations outside the reach of government, such as Teach First, are given the opportunity to expand and that we support them in doing so. I am sure we can all agree that we have great universities in this country. This Government are committed to supporting those universities, as we recognise the importance of all universities, courses and degrees, which, through their rigour, increase the intellectual capability of the nation and its skills base.
Autonomy for Schools
My Department has received more than 1,100 expressions of interest from schools in relation to my offer to open up the academies programme to all primary, secondary and special schools.
I am grateful for that brief answer, but perhaps the Secretary of State will acknowledge, in these days of evidence-led policy, that there is limited evidence of schools demanding freedom from local authorities, as opposed to freedom from central Government tinkering. Also, the majority of schools targeted to become the new academies became “outstanding” schools within the local authority family. Finally, it is rather hard to become better than outstanding.
Evidence shows that academy freedoms have a key role to play in driving up standards, and that academy schools have improved their academic results at twice the rate of other schools as a result of using those freedoms. Moreover, the specific freedoms that an overwhelming number of head teachers wish to acquire will be used not only to improve the education of children in those schools, but to help other schools which desperately need freedom from local and central bureaucracy in order to drive up standards for all.
I believe that the principle of autonomy will be supported in schools throughout the country, but how would the Secretary of State balance it with the need for fairness in terms of funding and admissions? In particular, what role does he see for local authorities under the new regime?
The hon. Gentleman was a distinguished Minister for School Standards in the last Government. He will know that academies will have to abide by the admissions code, and that admissions will therefore be fair. He will also know that academies will not enjoy preferential funding, and that we are absolutely committed to ensuring that local authorities continue to play a strong strategic role. I was delighted to be able to write to the Local Government Association to affirm my commitment to working with it in order to achieve that.
I am sure the Secretary of State will know that there are some excellent schools in my constituency, but there is also a fast-growing need for more school places at both primary and secondary level. Does he agree that Toby Young’s excellent and well documented campaign for a new free academy school in Acton deserves the fullest support at all levels?
Thanks to my hon. Friend’s impassioned advocacy, I have been able to visit some of the superb schools in Ealing, and I know that they are currently led by a wonderful team of head teachers. I also know, however, that throughout west and south London there are increasing pressures on pupil numbers, and I therefore welcome expressions of interest from everyone who is dedicated to improving state education and creating new comprehensive school provision.
The gentleman whom my hon. Friend mentioned, Mr Toby Young, is one of the most fluent advocates of opening up the supply of state education. I note that the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) said that he welcomed Mr Young’s proposal, and that he hoped to be present to open the school in due course. I hope to join him then.
Building Schools for the Future
My Department is currently reviewing the Building Schools for the Future programme to ensure that we can build schools more effectively and more cost-efficiently in the future.
Cancelling Building Schools for the Future would hit two schools in my constituency, Crosby and Chesterfield high schools. Does the Secretary of State agree that it would also damage the recovery by taking much-needed work away from construction workers and small businesses?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the House.
I intend to ensure that we prioritise capital spending to ensure that in areas of real need, the taxpayer and teachers are given better value for money. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that under the last Government a significant amount of the cash that was devoted to Building Schools for the Future was spent on consultancy and other costs, which did not contribute directly to raising standards or to employing a single builder or plasterer, or anyone else whom he would no doubt wish to continue to see employed. I therefore hope that he will work with me to ensure that, in Sefton and elsewhere, we do everything possible to ensure that we obtain better value for money from this programme.
The Secretary of State must be aware of the considerable anxiety in communities about the fact that their new secondary school programme remains very much in doubt. Some £5 million has been invested by Stockton borough council and partners, and they are hurtling towards appointing a preferred bidder. Will the Secretary of State please assure the people of my constituency, who have not had a new secondary school for 40 years, that children in our area can still look forward to their new and redeveloped schools?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and welcome him to his place.
I know that in Stockton there are real areas of need and deprivation, and I know that the hon. Gentleman will raise his voice on their behalf. I also know that Stockton has reached the outline business case stage of the Building Schools for the Future programme, and that a significant amount has been invested—more, perhaps, than needed to be invested, because of the additional bureaucracy. I intend to ensure in future that the costs faced either by Stockton or by any other local authority are reduced to the absolute minimum, so that we can prioritise front-line funding.
Is the Secretary of State aware that Building Schools for the Future did not provide properly for schools that perform well but have buildings in a disgraceful state, such as the Duchess’s community high school in Alnwick, and can he offer any hope to schools in that position, whose record of good results impairs their ability to get buildings they desperately need?
My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. The aim of Building Schools for the Future was to ensure that funding is prioritised for areas of need, and understandably so, but it is also the case that Building Schools for the Future amounts to less than half the total available schools capital, and there are funds available to repair schools such as the Duchess’s high school in Alnwick, which I and the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb), have visited, and which, having visited, I know are in need of repair. I will look sympathetically on the case my right hon. Friend makes, and I hope that I or one of my ministerial colleagues will have a chance to visit Alnwick soon to see for ourselves how the school is coping.
I wrote to the Secretary of State last night to request that, two weeks on from the Treasury announcement, he give this House details of the £670 million of departmental cuts and the £1.2 billion of local government cuts he has announced. Twenty minutes before questions, I received an answer. That answer gives no reassurance at all to the hundreds of schools whose new building plans appear to be in limbo—and I must say that this is no way to make announcements to the House of Commons. In that letter, the right hon. Gentleman does confirm that he is cutting free school meals in primary schools, one-to-one tuition and the gifted and talented programme, but there are no details at all of how cuts to local government budgets will affect children’s services, including services for looked-after children and disabled children, youth clubs and action to reduce teenage pregnancy. Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm whether he was advised that by agreeing to smaller central Government savings than his Department’s equal share, he has knowingly shifted the burden to bigger and more damaging cuts for essential children’s services financed by local governments: yes or no?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for avoiding the Labour leadership hustings in Southport and instead making his presence felt here today. I am afraid, however, that the points he made were, perhaps unintentionally, at variance with the facts. We are not stopping anyone who currently receives free school meals receiving free school meals. We are ensuring that funding is in place to cover the areas he mentioned. What we are specifically doing is cutting £359 million from a variety of budget areas that, in our judgment, are not priority and front-line areas. Details are in the letter I sent to the right hon. Gentleman, a copy of which will be available in the Library. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we are not cutting front-line spending on schools, but before the general election he promised to cut 3,000 head teachers or deputy head teachers. Not a single front-line job is lost as a result of the economies the current Government have made. That is the difference between us.
I showed the House the courtesy of coming to questions rather than going to a GMB conference, and I think the right hon. Gentleman should have shown the House the courtesy of making his cuts announcement in a written ministerial statement or oral statement to this House, in which he made it clear that children across the country in the pilot areas will be losing the free school meals that we announced some weeks ago.
Let me ask the right hon. Gentleman a second question, however, as we got no answer to the first. Last Wednesday, the Prime Minister told the House that the pupil premium will be additional to the education budget. In the formal post-election coalition talks, the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr Laws) and Chief Secretary told me that the Conservative party had promised the Liberal Democrats that the pupil premium would be on top of our announced spending plans not for one year but for three years, yet the Secretary of State told the House last week that his budget was protected for only one year. Who is telling the truth on education spending: the Secretary of State or the Chief Secretary to the Treasury?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for revealing what went on in those coalition talks between himself and the Liberal Democrats. Those talks were clearly a roaring success, and I am surprised that his recollection is so perfect in that area when it is hazy in so many others. Let me reassure him that funding for the pupil premium—so effectively championed by the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr Laws), and so effectively carried forward by the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Brent Central (Sarah Teather)—will come from outside existing education spending. As the Prime Minister pointed out at Prime Minister’s questions last week, we have not cut front-line spending, but the right hon. Gentleman would have. That is the difference between the Government and the Opposition.
Building Schools for the Future (Nottinghamshire)
This Department is reviewing the Building Schools for the Future programme to ensure that when we build schools for the future, we do so in a more cost-effective and efficient fashion.
Will the Secretary of State take the opportunity at some point to visit Sherwood? There are two schools specifically affected by this programme: Dukeries college in Ollerton, and Joseph Whitaker college in Rainworth. Is the Secretary of State aware that Nottinghamshire county council has spent £5 million on this scheme without a single brick being laid? What we really want is an indication of the time scale, so those schools can make plans for their future.
I thank my hon. Friend for his question; if he continues asking great questions like that, he will very shortly be my right hon. Friend. I do sympathise with him—both Dukeries college and Joseph Whitaker college do a fantastic job for the young people in their care, and they are very fortunate to have him as an impassioned champion on their behalf. I am actively reviewing how we can ensure that the maximum amount of money goes to schools, and as he rightly points out, it is quite wrong that local authorities should have to spend so much money on bureaucracy before a single brick is laid or a single contractor is engaged. It is quite wrong that a bureaucratic system put in place under the previous Government should prevent money from going where it deserves to go—to the front line, so that all our children can be better educated.
There is a lot of concern in Nottingham about the right hon. Gentleman’s “review” of Building Schools for the Future. Can he get rid of some of that uncertainty by saying specifically by what date that review will be over, particularly of wave 5? Will it be in the next week, in two weeks, in three weeks—can he give us a date?
The hon. Gentleman is of course a former Minister, and talking of dates, I would love to have a date with him so that we can discuss exactly how poorly Nottinghamshire was being treated by the last Government, and the fact that Nottinghamshire has just reached its outline business case—[Hon. Members: “When?”] I hope to have the opportunity very soon to explain to the hon. Gentleman and others exactly when the review I am conducting is being concluded.
There are currently 203 academies open in 83 local authorities. More academies will open in September, with numbers continuing to grow each year now that the programme has been opened up to all schools. For the academies with results in 2008 and 2009, the increase in the proportion of pupils achieving at least five A* to C GCSEs including English and maths is 5 percentage points, an increase on last year’s academy improvement rate of 4.3 percentage points, which is double the national average.
Progress in opening academies under the last Government was extremely slow. Some 1,100 schools have applied for freedom from local authority interference, and freedom to set their own standards to ensure they demonstrate the highest possible quality. What comfort can the Minister give to ensure that those applications will all be honoured, and that those schools will not be dissatisfied?
May I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his post and wish him well in it? He shadowed me on a number of occasions, and now I am shadowing him. However, is not the excellent progress made by academies in the past 12 months the result of the involvement in their development of parents and teachers and, as the hon. Member for Southport (Dr Pugh) said, of local authorities? Is placing such power in the hands of the Secretary of State not therefore a huge step backwards and a hugely centralising measure? Why are local decision making on the development of academies, parent power and devolution being replaced by centralisation and the exclusion of parents, local authorities and teachers from that process?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind words; it is nice to be on the Government side of the House, instead of on the other side. However, this is not a centralising but a decentralising measure, beyond the local authority and down to the school level. This is about trusting professionals and having faith in the autonomy of schools. Our advice to schools is that it is important for them to discuss with parents and pupils their intention to convert. Existing legislation for setting up academies does not require such consultation with parents, so even when the hon. Gentleman was the Minister for Schools, there was no requirement for academies to consult parents.
I warmly welcome all the Ministers to their posts. May I ask a question both as a Member of Parliament and as the chair of governors of a Church of England primary school? Could the follow-up to the Secretary of State’s letter to outstanding schools such as ours include a letter to the chair of governors setting out the advantages and disadvantages of academy status to schools, and the advantages and disadvantages, if any, to local authorities and to diocesan boards of education?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. Of course the advantages of academy status are very clear: this is about trusting professionals to run their schools without interference from politicians and bureaucrats, either locally or nationally. I am sure that all the people he refers to will be aware of that. In the last set that we have seen—that of 2009—the results of a third of all academies showed an increase of more than 15 percentage points compared with those of the schools they replaced, so the advantages of academy status are very clear.
Special Educational Needs
We will reform the schools system so that children with special educational needs and disabilities get the best possible support. We will improve diagnostic assessment for schoolchildren, prevent the unnecessary closure of special schools and remove the bias towards inclusion to give parents more choice.
Given that one in five children in this country has identified special educational needs, what measures will the new Government take to ensure that they are able to access the same level of funding and services for the provision of their teaching that they enjoyed under the previous Administration? How will any such measure fit into the new free school model that the Government propose, given the role currently played by local authorities in providing those services?
Nothing has actually changed in the relationship between local authorities, academies and free schools with regard to special educational needs. Schools will continue to get the funding that they need, and local authorities will continue to have a very important co-ordinating role. We will work very closely with the Local Government Association to ensure that these proposals are implemented in a way that ensures that schools get the funding they need.
The copy of the coalition agreement, which enjoys pride of place on my bedside table, does indeed say exactly what the Minister said in her reply about ending the bias towards inclusion and preventing the unnecessary closure of special schools. Will she explain to the House in a little more detail how the Government propose to fulfil those praiseworthy pledges?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks about the pride of place in which the coalition document is held, but I suggest that he should get better material to read before he goes to bed. [Hon. Members: “Ooh!”] It is a very good read, but it is not necessarily the most riveting. A number of important reviews have taken place in this area, for example, the Lamb and Balchin reviews. Ofsted is also about to produce a review of special educational needs, and I shall take great note of all those as we consider the way forward.
I welcome the hon. Lady to her new position, wish her well and compliment her on wearing her new team’s colours today.
Mr Speaker, you will recall that earlier this year, at Clarence house and in the presence of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the Labour Government announced the provision of £500,000 towards the establishment of a stammering centre in the north of England to complement the excellent work of the Michael Palin centre in London. Will the hon. Lady reassure the House that the money for this important work for children with speech and language difficulties in the north of England will still be provided—yes or no?
There are currently 203 academies open in 83 local authorities. Academies with results in 2008 and 2009 showed an increase in the proportion of pupils achieving at least five A to C GCSEs, including English and maths, at 5 percentage points—an increase on last year’s academy improvement rate of 4.3 percentage points. That was, of course, double the national increase. Interest from schools in joining the academies programme has been excellent: as I mentioned earlier, more than 1,100 schools have already registered interest with my Department.
I know that the Secretary of State is aware that in Hastings we have two new academies scheduled for next year. We are very pleased to have two very important sponsors—Brighton university and BT. May I ask what plans he has, and what steps can be taken, to encourage a high quality of sponsors to participate in the academies?
I thank my hon. Friend for her impassioned advocacy for improving educational opportunities for children in her constituency. I had a chance to see just how dedicated she is to supporting them when I visited her constituency during the general election campaign.
Those who wish to sponsor academies have repeatedly said to me, in opposition and in government, that the bureaucratic burdens laid on them by the previous Government acted as an impediment to their doing the work they wanted to do to help children in disadvantaged areas. The Independent Academies Association, under Mike Butler, wrote to a Minister of State in the previous Government and pointed out that the work he was trying to do to help disadvantaged children was directly impeded by the bureaucratic burden imposed on him by the then Secretary of State. I am confident that an increasing number of sponsors, philanthropists, charities and others who want to help our poorest children will find that the changes we are bringing about enable them to do a fantastic job, not just in Hastings but across the country.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on his plans to revitalise the academies scheme. A great number of schools are looking forward to embracing the academies freedoms that will come with it, including the European school in Culham in my constituency, which is seeking to use its specialist multi-language curriculum for the benefit of the state sector. What plans does he have to make sure that more children have such excellent language education?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for those words. I am also much in accord with him in believing that this Government should have a place at the heart of Europe. That is why I was so disappointed to read in The Observer yesterday that the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) wanted to rewrite the treaty of Lisbon and the treaty of Rome.
Order. Let me just say to the Secretary of State that I know he is enjoying himself, and I am delighted to see him enjoying himself, but he must not enjoy himself at the expense of people lower down the Order Paper who want to get in and whom I want to accommodate.
I know that the Secretary of State will want to be known as a Minister who keeps his word and who is consistent in his policy. Will he therefore confirm that the brand new academy linked to MediaCity in Salford, which is included in the £135 million Building Schools for the Future programme, will go ahead? Those programmes have got to financial close, and if he were not to proceed with that world-class academy it would give the lie to his party’s commitment to progress on the whole of the academies programme across the country.
Under the Academies Bill, the sole arbiter of applications for academies is the governing body. Will the Secretary of State ensure that the wider community has an interest in this matter? Not only the governing body should be included, but parents, local authorities and the wider community so that it understands the needs of the many and not just the few.
It is because I am committed to the needs of the many and not just the few that I want to see this programme, which has done so much to raise attainment for disadvantaged children, move forward. I would like to see governors and head teachers working with other schools and other groups within the community to drive up attainment. That is why those who currently lead our schools will, I know, have those conversations. I prefer to give them the freedom to do so rather than to patronise and to busybody by insisting that they do so.
May I ask the Secretary of State whether the academies programme will continue to provide an alternative route to accessing funds for new school buildings? I am thinking in particular of Withernsea high school in my constituency. I wonder whether he or the Minister with responsibility for schools might be able to visit Withernsea, see the school and see how it might benefit from joining the academies programme in future.
Primary School Places
9. How much funding he plans to allocate to (a) Slough borough council and (b) other local authorities where there are insufficient primary school places in order to increase the number of such places available in the current financial year; and if he will make a statement. (809)
School capital allocations announced in 2007 for the current spending period include £1.5 billion for new pupil places. Additionally, around £1.9 billion is allocated for primary school modernisation, some of which will fund new places. The capital support for Slough and its schools this year is some £25 million, including nearly £9 million specifically for new primary school places.
I am glad to hear that that £9 million is confirmed. It was given by the previous Government to increase the number of our primary places. We still have 60 reception and year 1 children who do not have places for next year and those funds are essential to provide them, but a note from the Library advised me that £32 million of Slough’s external finance, which includes a number of grants in relation to education, is at risk. As we have not had a detailed breakdown of what funds to local authorities have been protected by the Government, can the Minister assure me that £1 in £6 going from the Government to Slough borough council will not be cut by the coalition Government?
There are currently 23 all-age academies open that include primary provision. The Academies Bill will also open up the academies programme allowing all primary schools to apply to become academies in their own right. There has been a very high level of interest from schools with more than 250 outstanding primary schools already registering with the Department. We expect the first of those schools with an “outstanding” rating from Ofsted to open as academies from September 2010.
The Minister may recall that in the early years of grant-maintained status, secondary schools were able to opt out, but primary schools had to wait, although subsequently they found that the operation was relatively easy. Will he ensure that, this time, primary schools have the opportunity as quickly as other schools?
My hon. Friend will be pleased to see in the Academies Bill, which is receiving its Second Reading in another place, that primaries will be able to apply for academy status. Indeed, the 250 outstanding primaries that have registered an interest with the Department will be fast-tracked to that status by, I hope, this September.
I am currently reviewing the methods by which capital has been allocated to schools, to ensure that we can build schools more effectively and cost-efficiently in the future.
I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. During the period of the last Labour Government, many roofs were repaired—when the sun was shining. Can he give an absolute guarantee that schools in a constituency such as mine, which were not part of that programme but still need some catching up, will be rebuilt or properly maintained?
I know that the hon. Gentleman has a number of great schools in his constituency that have benefited from investment, not least Manchester academy, which is achieving outstanding results. Manchester is approaching the conclusion of its final business case for specific funding under the Building Schools for the Future programme. I want to make sure that before we go any further we strip out any bureaucratic costs with which either Manchester’s council tax payers or Manchester’s teachers might be saddled to ensure that we get the maximum amount of spending to the front line.
May I thank my right hon. Friend for his commitment in general to driving up education standards across the country and in particular for his commitment, I hope, to the new academy to be formed by the merger of Central Technology college and Bishops’ college in my constituency of Gloucester? As he knows the timing insisted on by his predecessor on the other side of the House was incredibly tight and caused the academy to be formed in late July and to open next term. Parents, staff and pupils are all desperate for further information on progress that I understand depends on my right hon. Friend’s Department’s confirming absolutely that the academy is going ahead. Could he confirm that his Department will help with announcements—
Will the Minister confirm as soon as possible that two schools in my constituency—President Kennedy and Woodlands, where the buildings go right back to the late 1960s and early 1970s and one of whose buildings is being held up on all four sides by scaffolding—will figure in the programme, and when can he confirm that to them?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that funding under the Building Schools for the Future programme had been allocated on the basis of deprivation, not the state or dilapidation of the building. I will consider the two schools that he mentions and write to him.
The introduction of a pupil premium will target extra funding specifically at deprived pupils to enable them to receive the support that they need to reach their potential. By targeting the funding via a pupil premium, extra funds to support disadvantaged children will be clearly identifiable. We will publish our proposals, with details on how we plan to distribute the pupil premium, in due course.
I thank the hon. Lady for that answer and wish her well in her new role. My constituency, Reading East, like those of many hon. Members, has deep pockets of deprivation. Will she therefore confirm today that all disadvantaged children will receive a fair share of funding from the pupil premium, wherever they happen to go to school?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I am aware that he has taken an interest in the pupil premium over a long period. It is an issue that I championed from the Opposition Benches, so I feel passionately about this policy and the opportunity to change young people’s lives. It seems a sad indictment of the society in which we live that parental income remains the best predictor of educational attainment. The hon. Gentleman’s point about pockets of deprivation is precisely the reason why the pupil premium represents an opportunity to change young people’s lives. At the moment, the system for distributing deprivation funding often does not get to the front line, particularly where pockets of deprivation are surrounded by an otherwise relatively wealthy area.
The hon. Lady and her Liberal Democrat colleagues are clear that the pupil premium must mean rising education spending for the next three years. I confirm to the Secretary of State and the House that the old Chief Secretary and the new Chief Secretary made a commitment to me, Lord Mandelson and Lord Adonis in the coalition talks that there would be additional money, on top of rising spending this year, next year and the year after—a commitment that the Secretary of State could not make today. Does the hon. Lady agree—I will not quote her this time; I will quote the Deputy Prime Minister—that
“without money, that commitment will continue to be meaningless—more spin without substance which will yet again leave thousands of children short-changed.”?
Are the Liberal Democrats being short-changed by their Conservative colleagues?
The Prime Minister made it clear from the Dispatch Box last week that the pupil premium would involve substantial extra money from outside the education budget. Perhaps I should remind the right hon. Gentleman that one of the sticking points during the coalition talks with the Labour party was that it would not agree to the pupil premium.
Building Schools for the Future
As I mentioned earlier, we are currently reviewing the methods by which capital has been allocated.
I thank the Secretary of State for his answers on the BSF programme, but I am afraid that I am still not clear on the detail. As a former director of Lewisham’s local education partnership, I should be grateful to him if he confirmed whether the funding commitments that underpin the strategic partnering agreements between local authorities and their private sector partners will be honoured. Lewisham council would be grateful for any reassurance that he could provide.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her election, and she is fortunate to have many excellent schools in her constituency, including Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham, which I have had the great pleasure of visiting. Lewisham was one of the first local authorities to enter Building Schools for the Future. A number of schools have been built already under BSF, and because Lewisham is so far advanced, I cannot conceive of any changes to the BSF programme that would be likely to impact on the many projects that she will have shepherded towards a close.
Children’s and Youth Services
The Department for Communities and Local Government will be writing to local authorities with their revised grant allocations and details of the removal of ring-fences very shortly, including those affecting grants from the Department for Education.
The removal of those ring-fences will give local authorities greater flexibility to reshape their budgets and find the necessary savings that we expect them to make, while maintaining the quality of services to children and young people, which remain a priority of this Department.
Does the Minister agree that involving young people in determining youth service projects and the detail of spending on those projects is a good thing? Will he confirm that local authorities are to receive their full funding for this year’s youth opportunity fund and youth capital fund?
On the first point, I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady that young people’s involvement in, engagement with and ownership of youth services is vital, which is why, whenever I visit youth projects, I make a point of speaking to young people and asking them how they are involved in the project, and of promoting such things as youth mayors. In a neighbouring constituency to hers, the Bolton lads and girls club—a most fantastic facility that I have visited twice, and which the Prime Minister has visited as well—serves her constituents and does a fantastic job of engaging young people. I fully support that. It is just the sort of youth facility that we want to see more of.
We will improve standards of discipline in schools by giving heads and teachers the powers they need to deal with violent incidents and remove disruptive pupils or items from the classroom. We will introduce no-notice detentions so that poor behaviour can be dealt with immediately, give teachers wider powers of search and clarify their powers to use force. We will stop heads being overruled on exclusions and will reinforce schools’ powers to maintain good standards of behaviour through stronger home-school behaviour contracts.
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. About 70% of all allegations of physical assault and sexual assault are never proven, yet the figures released clearly show that, despite those accused being exonerated, the records are kept on file and they come up on Criminal Records Bureau checks. What are the Government going to do about that?
I thank my hon. Friend for her question. I have today placed a letter in the House of Commons Library detailing how the £670 million of spending reductions in my Department will be implemented. There will be reductions of £359 million in a variety of programmes, including the ending of “Who Do We Think We Are?” week, which started under my predecessor. Given his article in The Observer yesterday, in which he sought to win his party’s leadership by outflanking the leader of the Conservative party on both immigration and Euroscepticism—something not done since Enoch Powell was a Member of the House—I hope that those cuts will be of interest to the House.
I am also today lifting restrictions that have stopped state schools offering the international general certificate of secondary education qualification in key subjects. That means that, from September, state-funded schools will be free to teach a wide range of those respected and valued qualifications, putting them, at last, on a level playing field with independent schools.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on starting his spending cuts with abolishing the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, which I believe is partly responsible for undermining academic standards in science and maths A-levels and GCSEs. What does he plan to put in its place to ensure that pupils are properly prepared for university and for work?
I know how committed my hon. Friend is to raising standards in schools. The right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) will be aware that Ofqual recently pointed out that some of the changes to the science curriculum had downgraded the importance of rigour, and the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend will be aware that the Royal Society of Chemistry said that recent changes to the science curriculum had been a catastrophe. We will make sure that the finest minds in the country of all parties are invited to join us in reshaping the curriculum.
T4. The ContactPoint database that was championed by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Barnardo’s is to be scrapped. What assessment has been made of the impact that the removal will have on safeguarding children? (829)
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her election. Very soon she will hear further details of the demise of ContactPoint, which was not championed by a great many professionals at the front end, who knew that the bureaucracy added to safeguarding over recent years has contributed to some of the dangers to our children, so we would like to replace it with a much better system. She will hear more details shortly.
T2. Does the Secretary of State agree that whether or not Building Schools for the Future continues in its present form, schools such as Carshalton Girls, Carshalton Boys and Wandle Valley will still need substantial investment—about £70 million—to help them improve buildings and deal with demographic pressures? (827)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I know that in parts of south London, including those that he represents, demographic pressures are a real concern. One of the reasons that we are reviewing the allocation of school capital is to ensure that every pupil who needs it gets a school place. That was not true under the previous Government.
T8. I am sure the Secretary of State will know of the considerable success that we have had in my constituency, Wigan, in creating apprenticeships, jobs and university places for young people. Can he tell us what measures he will introduce to help young people who are not in education, employment or training? (833)
We will increase the number of apprenticeships. I am pleased to see that the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), who has responsibility for apprenticeships, is in his place. We will increase the number of apprenticeships by reallocating funding that is currently going on the Train to Gain programme, and we are increasing spending for further education colleges, which—given what happened to the Learning and Skills Council under the previous Government, when building projects were cancelled halfway through and young people who deserved to be in education and training were denied training places—will at last ensure that we give young people the chance that they deserve.
T3. I have received a number of inquiries, as I am sure other Members have, from teachers who would like to get involved in starting up free schools but are concerned about confidentiality issues. Can my right hon. Friend advise where they should go to find out more about how to go about setting up free schools without revealing too much about their personal details? (828)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for asking that question. She will be aware, as I am sure are Members on the Opposition Benches, that some of the finest schools in the world, such as the Knowledge Is Power Program schools in America, were set up by teachers, and those teachers would not have been able to set up schools anything like as good under the regime that prevailed under the previous Government. I recommend that anyone my hon. Friend knows who wants to get involved in improving state education contact the New Schools Network, a not-for-profit charity organisation dedicated to improving state schools.
T9. What provisions will the Secretary of State make in the Academies Bill to safeguard the interests of parents of children with special educational needs or hard to place and other children with specific and complex needs, such as the children currently supported by EDPIP, the East Durham positive inclusion partnership in Easington in my constituency? (834)
The interests of all children with special educational needs, particularly those who have the most acute disabilities, are at the heart of my thoughts and those of my ministerial colleagues. That is why we are reviewing the whole provision of special needs education, so that we can ensure that whether children are in academies, voluntary aided schools or other local authority schools, they have the highest possible level of support and nurture so that they can achieve everything possible.
T5. The Secretary of State will know that there are some excellent schools in Stroud. He has visited one of them, Amberley school. What provision, guidance or support will there be for schools that want to become academies which are not so good and are struggling, but see a future for themselves as academies? (830)
My hon. Friend has been a fantastic champion of both schools and further education. We will make sure that schools that are in real difficulty are teamed with an education sponsor with a track record of excellence in order to improve circumstances. We will ensure that schools that aspire to become academies but are not yet in a strong enough position are teamed with people who can help them achieve their ambitions for all their children.
T10. The safeguarding of our children and young people, which is of paramount importance, has received an unprecedented profile in recent times—but for the wrong reasons. What are the Secretary of State’s plans for supporting local authorities and social workers in that crucial work, and for ensuring that all our children and young people are protected? (835)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that very important subject, on which in opposition we did a lot of work. Despite all the well-intentioned reforms and the dedication of front-line professionals, the safeguarding of children in this country is still not working properly. That is why I should like to inform the House that, as we first announced in opposition in February, we have decided to commission Professor Eileen Munro of the London School of Economics to carry out an independent review leading to recommendations that support good-quality, child-focused front-line safeguarding practice in children’s social care; and we will strip away the bureaucracy that has grown up too much around safeguarding in recent years.
T6. The Children, Schools and Families Committee report on the national curriculum called for a five-year cycle of review and reform of the curriculum. Will the Secretary of State put in place such a cycle and ensure that the early years foundation stage, the national curriculum and the arrangements for 14 to 19-year-olds are viewed as a continuum? Will he also tell us whether he plans to implement the Rose review in the meantime? (831)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. Teachers do not welcome perpetual revolution in the curriculum; schools need some stability, and we will shortly make some announcements about the review of the curriculum. Thereafter, it will not be our intention to have five-yearly-cycle reviews.
Regarding the Rose review and the decision by the previous Government to implement a new primary curriculum from September 2011, as both parties in the coalition made clear in opposition, we do not intend to proceed with the proposed new curriculum. We believe that the Rose review’s proposed approach was too prescriptive in terms of how schools should teach and diluted the focus of what they should teach—
Does the Secretary of State agree that the CPD—continuing professional development—of teachers is absolutely essential, particularly in science and maths? Is he aware that the fine centre at the university of York, where teachers can go for CPD, and the nine other centres are being starved of visiting teachers because of the interpretation of the “Rarely Cover” work force agreement? The unions interpret it so strictly that we will not be able to maintain those centres.
As ever, the former Select Committee Chairman makes a brilliant point. He is quite right: John Holman’s work in York is outstanding and we should do everything that we can to support it. I note the split between the enlightened voice of Opposition Back Benchers, challenging what the unions say, and the position of Opposition Front Benchers, who will do everything possible to ingratiate themselves with organisations such as Unite, including indulging in anti-immigration rhetoric.
T7. Many schools in my constituency find it necessary to implement personal security measures, paid for by parental contributions and budget delegations. How do the coalition Government intend to address the future cost of the capital and revenue for security funding in such schools? (832)
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend and congratulate him on his election. Both he and his predecessor have been impassioned champions for the interests of the Jewish community and other faith communities in the London borough of Barnet, and I am deeply concerned that parents of Jewish children have to pay out of their own pocket to ensure that their children are safe in school. It seems to me quite wrong that, simply because of the faith or community from which a child comes, their parents should have to pay extra to ensure that they are safe. That is why I have asked for talks with the Community Security Trust and the Board of Deputies of British Jews—to ensure that we can do everything possible to safeguard those children.
I think that I have discovered why the Secretary of State was so disparaging about the recipe book that the previous Government produced, which as you will recall, Mr Speaker, included recipes for proper English food, such as Lancashire hotpot and cottage pie. The right hon. Gentleman might not have heard of those, because I understand from The Times this morning that his favourite meal is something called “scaloppine with parmentier potatoes”. I am afraid that we cannot get that in Dudley, so I asked somebody more familiar than myself with the fancy foreign food available in expensive London restaurants, and apparently it is veal. Is that what the pupils of Britain can look forward to eating now that the Notting Hill elite are running the Government?
I am enormously grateful to the hon. Gentleman for paying such close attention to my wife’s column in The Times. I should point out that the issue is not about fancy London restaurants; I do not have time to eat in them. The dish is cooked by my wife, and, if he and his wife would like to come round for dinner, scaloppine will be on the menu. I shall make sure that I have some Banks’s Mild, as I know that it is his favourite tipple, and we will have an opportunity to discuss together how I can help the black country.
What plans does the Secretary of State have for the process of revising the funding formula for local authorities? I represent two local authorities, both of which are in the lowest 40 authorities for educational revenue funding.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising her concerns on behalf of the F40 local authorities. It is our intention to try to ensure, consistent with making provision for the very poorest children, that all local authorities, including those that have been most disadvantaged, have fairer funding.
Stoke-on-Trent was in phase 1 of the Building Schools for the Future programme, and my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Labour Front Bench will know full well the number of times that I have raised this issue. We were within a hair’s breadth of securing the BSF programme—there was just the issue of the 20:20 academy to be resolved. May I urge the Secretary of State to look carefully at the situation in Stoke-on-Trent and to try to give us some certainty about ensuring that we get the much-needed and much-deserved BSF programme through?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. His colleague, the newly elected hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt), recently said on Radio 4 that he wanted money available for school buildings to go to Stoke rather than to vanity projects for yummy mummies in west London. I defer to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central when it comes to knowledge about yummy mummies in west London; however, we have been, and are, looking very sympathetically at the case for specific additional spending in Stoke.
Will any attempt be made to revisit the proposed changes to the nursery grant provision system introduced by the previous Government and due to come in this September, which could have a very bad impact on private nursery provision?
We will be going ahead with extending the free child care entitlement for three and four-year-olds for 15 hours a week. However, I am aware of the concerns that the hon. Gentleman mentions, and I am listening to the views of the private voluntary sector. If he has specific concerns arising from his constituency, I would be grateful if he would write to me with the details, as that will help to inform our thinking.
The Minister of State, Department for Education, the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb), has today announced the introduction of no-notice detention. How is that compatible with good child safeguarding procedures, and how will he ensure that children who have caring responsibilities, and who often do not let their schools know that they have them, are not adversely impacted by this retrograde proposal?
This is a deregulation matter. It is not a prescriptive matter requiring schools not to give 24 hours’ notice for detentions: it merely enables them to do that if they wish. Trusting head teachers and teachers means that they will make these arrangements themselves if schools feel that they are necessary. We are trying to take out of the statute book impediments to maintaining good order and good behaviour in our schools.
I welcome my hon. Friend to his post, but may I return to the subject of special educational needs? He will be aware that in a low-spending authority such as Gloucestershire, parents, particularly disadvantaged parents, often struggle to get their children the special educational needs treatment that they need. Can he assure me that there is no place in this country for a postcode lottery for special educational needs and that every child in this country should get equal treatment for their needs?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. This is precisely why we need to consider and carefully review the whole provision of special educational needs to ensure that parents have a real choice about where they send their child—be it to a maintained school, to a specialist unit within a maintained school, or to a special school—and that the support is available to them and to parents.
I am sure that the Secretary of State would like to agree that Sure Start has been a huge success. Can he guarantee not only that the funding will be there for Sure Start but, more importantly, that he will continue to expand the programme on the number of Sure Starts in constituencies?