With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the future of secondary school accountability, following our recent consultation. May I first welcome the new shadow Secretary of State for Education and express our best wishes to his predecessor, the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), with whom we always had a very constructive relationship?
Until now, secondary schools have been judged by the proportion of their pupils who are awarded five GCSEs at grade C or better, including in English and maths. Schools currently improve their league table position if pupils move over the C/D borderline. That gives schools a huge incentive to focus excessively on the small number of pupils around the five Cs borderline. In our view, that is unfair to pupils with the potential to move from E grades to D grades or from B grades to A grades. It is also, paradoxically, unfair to those on the C/D borderline because it leads schools to teach to the test. Ofqual, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Education and others have warned about those adverse incentives.
Indeed, all five of the maths organisations that responded to the consultation said that the current approach harmed the teaching of mathematics. The Association of Teachers of Mathematics said:
“Teaching to the test…results in superficial skills development which means that students are ill prepared for adult life”.
Furthermore, as Chris Paterson at CentreForum has shown, the current accountability framework discourages schools from focusing on the lowest-attaining pupils. In a recently published book, “The Tail”, the authors argue that the past 15 years have seen rises in average attainment in our schools, but not in the attainment of those at the bottom. International surveys such as the trends in international mathematics and science study confirm that position. We need a secondary school accountability system that gives more attention to pupils who are falling behind.
The current measure also permits many schools, particularly in affluent areas, to coast. Those schools find it easy to hit targets based only on five C grades. Although those schools may look successful, C grades are not a measure of success if pupils are actually capable of achieving far more. The accountability system must set challenging but fair expectations for every school, whatever its intake.
The five A* to C grades measure also encourages schools to offer a narrow curriculum. Mastery of just five subjects is not enough for most pupils at age 16. Furthermore, the use of equivalent qualifications means that some students have not been offered a rigorous academic curriculum, which would have served them well. Until this year, a school could offer English, maths and only one BTEC and still have the pupil count as having achieved five Cs or better.
We believe that the system can do much better than that, so we will require all schools to publish core information on their website in a standard format. From now on, there will be four key measures that must be published. The first is pupils’ progress across eight subjects, so a parent will see whether pupils at a school typically achieve one grade higher than expected or one grade lower. The second is the average grade that a pupil achieves in those same best eight subjects. That will show, for example, that pupils in a particular school average a high B grade or a low D grade in their GCSEs. The third is the percentage of pupils achieving a C grade in English and maths. The fourth is the proportion of pupils gaining the EBacc, which will continue in its current form. We will also look at developing a destination measure to show the percentage of pupils in any school who move on to further study or employment, including further training.
We are proposing an important change to how we measure underperformance, and to our floor targets. Rather than the five A* to C GCSEs threshold measure, we will use the new progress measure for the floor targets. That will be much fairer, because it will take into account a school’s intake. A pupil’s key stage 2 results, achieved at the end of primary school, will be used to set a reasonable expectation of what they should achieve at GCSE, and schools will get credit when pupils outperform those expectations. A child who gets an A when they were expected to get a B, or a D when they were expected to get an E, will effectively score points for their school. That approach will ensure that all pupils matter, and matter equally. It will be fairer for schools and fairer for pupils.
Coasting schools will no longer be let off the hook. Equally, head teachers will no longer feel penalised when they have actually performed well with a challenging intake. We must not deter the best head teachers and teachers from working in challenging schools.
Pupils’ progress and attainment will be assessed in eight subjects: English and maths, three further EBacc subjects and three other high-value qualifications. That final group can include further traditional academic subjects such as art, music and drama, and vocational subjects such as engineering and business. English and maths will be double-weighted to reflect their importance. That will encourage schools to offer all pupils a broad curriculum, but with a strong academic core.
We will define the new floor standard as progress half a grade lower than reasonable expectations. So if pupils at a school are expected to average a B in their eight subjects, the school will be below the floor if they average less than four Bs and four Cs. At present, there are 195 schools below the existing floor standard. Using existing figures, we estimate that about twice as many schools would be below the new floor standard. However, as schools will adjust their curriculum offer to the new framework, the actual number is likely to be significantly lower.
We also want to recognise schools in which pupils make exceptional progress. Therefore, a school in which pupils average a full grade above reasonable expectations will not be inspected by Ofsted the following year. This is the first time the accountability regime has offered schools a carrot as well as a stick. Schools have planned their current curriculum for years 10 and 11 on the basis of the existing accountability system, so for that reason, the new system will begin in 2016 for students currently in year 9. We will, however, allow schools to opt into the new system from 2015 if they wish.
The Government response to the consultation also describes how we will publish information we hold about secondary schools through a new data portal. That builds on our existing performance tables, and will allow all interested groups—governors, parents, academics and civil society more widely—to analyse aspects of school performance. Our full response to the consultation is available on the Department for Education’s website, and a copy will be placed in the Library of the House.
Through these changes, we are removing the perverse incentives for schools to act in a way that is not in the best interests of their pupils. More pupils will get the teaching they require and obtain the valuable qualifications they need. The proposals will have a major and positive effect on our education system, and we hope they will secure support from across the political spectrum.
I thank the Minister for his kind words for the shadow Secretary of State and the former shadow Secretary of State, which he gave in his usual courteous way at the beginning of his statement. I also thank him for advance sight of the statement. Labour will study closely the details of the changes he proposes, and if it transpires that they will incentivise rich, broad and balanced curricula in our schools, we will welcome them. There are, however, some important tests that the changes must pass.
Anyone watching last week’s “Educating Yorkshire” will have seen the extraordinary efforts that teachers go to—sometimes including risking their health—to help pupils pass their GCSEs. It is sad that these days that is sometimes known in Government as “gaming the system”. How will the Minister ensure that the new arrangements will allow teachers to help pupils of all abilities to achieve their best, and can he be sure that they will not throw up their own new perverse incentives?
The Labour party, backed by the CBI, is committed to ensuring that all young people continue to study maths and English to 18, although so far the Government have failed to support Labour’s plan. Will the Minister think again about that? As the participation age rises to 18, and with challenges for us all in the OECD report, does he not want all young people to continue studying maths and English to 18? We also need more detail about how the changes will impact on technical and vocational education which, once again, seems to be a bit of an afterthought. He referred to progression post-16, but why are the Government watering down the important requirement on schools to ensure that young people are ready for the world of work, through the provision of work experience and independent careers advice and guidance?
The central problem with the announcement is that parents, pupils and teachers no longer trust the Government not to tinker. When it comes to accountability measures, the Government behave a little like the badgers, moving the goalposts halfway through the school year. Will the Minister guarantee that the proposal will not be subject to the mood swings of the Secretary of State and his infamous friend Dominic Cummings? Parents, pupils, teachers and head teachers are livid about the latest knee-jerk announcement via the press, when pupils are already preparing for exams and only days away from the deadline for exam entry, that only first entry into GCSE can be counted in the school accountability measure. If the badgers are moving the goalposts, Ministers are changing the rules in the middle of the match. Will the Minister promise to meet with heads to discuss their concerns about this change being implemented in such a way?
Will this change to the accountability system make any real difference to children if their schools are vulnerable to—I quote the Secretary of State’s special adviser— “disastrous teaching” and “fraudulent activity”? That is the view of Dominic Cummings, who says that it is inevitable, because of the lack of grip the Secretary of State has on his free schools policy, that some will fail for those reasons. That is what he said.
We are already seeing the fruit of that failure in the scandal at Al-Madinah school in Derby, which left 400 children without schooling for an entire week and whose approach to women staff and female students has caused such controversy. What will the right hon. Gentleman do to ensure that school accountability extends beyond today’s measure and includes ensuring that all taxpayer-funded schools have qualified teaching staff, are monitored for financial fraud, have proper child protection measures in place and are adhering to basic British values of tolerance and respect for all, regardless of gender, sexuality or religious belief?
I think I welcome the shadow Minister’s response to our statement. By the end of it, it was difficult to know whether he was supporting the statement or not. We will come to that in a moment. I think I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s relatively cautious approach because, from him, I take that as a sign of support, whereas from other people it might qualify as anything other than that.
I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept that we have taken time to get this right. Nobody can accuse us of rushing into the proposals. After all, we announced a consultation in this area in February. We have taken a great deal of time to get our proposals right. We have listened very carefully, including to the Chairman of the Select Committee, to a lot of the mathematics, to organisations that made representations, and to hon. Members on both sides of the House. As a consequence, the Secretary of State and I have changed the proposals that we first made. We have moved away from a threshold measure to a greater extent than was originally planned, precisely because of the perverse incentive effects that the hon. Gentleman talked about, and we think we have now got the balance right between having a proper accountability system and ensuring that that system embeds the right incentives. By having a number of key measures, we will ensure that it is not possible to game one of those and ignore all the other things that matter.
The hon. Gentleman is right that we need to encourage young people who have not mastered maths and English at 16 to go on studying those subjects, and we have announced a new core maths qualification beyond the age of 16 to ensure that young people have the opportunity to do that. We have also, through our 16-to-19 accountability consultation, paid a great deal of attention to the incentives that educational institutions will have to keep young people on course after the age of 16 and to create the right incentives. The destination measure that I have talked about today will give all educational institutions an interest in the qualifications that young people secure not only at age 16, but beyond that.
On the issue of early entries for GCSEs, I do understand that this has been controversial, but the hon. Gentleman will understand that we must pay attention to the serious warnings that we have received from Ofsted and others about the scale of increase of early entry. This summer almost a quarter of maths entries—170,000 entries —were from young people who were not at the end of key stage 4 study. Ofsted said that it found no evidence that such approaches on their own served the best interests of students in the long term. Indeed, Sir Michael Wilshaw has said that he thinks early entry hurts the chances of some children, who are not able to go on to get the best grades that they are capable of.
On future uncertainty about these frameworks, we hope very much indeed that we will be able to secure support from across the House for the proposals that we have made today, and I take the hon. Gentleman’s comments as a modest step in that direction. However, in terms of getting certainty about the degree of cross-party co-operation, it would be helpful if he could clarify some of divisions that there are now on his own side about some of the key issues. For example, one of the measures that we have said we would publish is the EBacc, and we believe we should continue to do so. The former education spokesman for the Labour party opposed the EBacc and said that it was at best an irrelevance and in some cases distorted young people’s choices. The new spokesman for the Labour party said that he supports the English baccalaureate. We want to hear from the Opposition some clarity about Labour’s position on these issues; otherwise, that will be a source of confusion.
This announcement is extremely welcome, as the best eight measure will be an educational breakthrough in improving the accountability of secondary schools by, as the Minister rightly said, ensuring a focus on improving the education of the lowest-achieving, as well as stretching those at the top. It is to the credit of the Secretary of State and the Minister for Schools that they have listened to the submissions, that they have been prepared to take their time and that they have got this right. How will the floor target work? It is rightly based on progression, but how will it ensure that progression is fairly measured between those who serve the more able and typically prosperous parts of the population and those in the most deprived areas?
I am grateful to the Chair of the Select Committee for his kind comments about the proposals we have announced today. I am happy to pay tribute to him for the role he has played in ensuring the improvement of the proposals between the original announcement and consultation in February and today, when the final proposals were made. He is right that the new progress measure will ensure that the attention and focus is not only, as it was in the past, on the schools with the lowest levels of attainment, but on schools that appear to have high levels of attainment but where levels of progress are extremely low. Schools have been able to coast over the past decade because their overall levels of attainment look all right, when they have actually been failing young people by not getting much better results from them.
This is probably the best statement I have heard from a Minister since 2010, when the Government were formed. It is not all perfect, but the Government have listened and have modified the proposals. They should be congratulated on that. If they listened to last week’s debate on adult literacy and numeracy, will they take the lesson that the one area in which we still underachieve is the failure of at least 25% of our young people coming through education to get almost any qualification at 16? That is where the concentration must be and we need action soon.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, the former Chair of the Select Committee, for his kind comments. He is absolutely right that one of the big challenges we must address in education is the very large number of young people who are not getting through GCSEs with decent qualifications in English and maths. Shockingly, at the moment the overwhelming majority of those young people continue to fail beyond the age of 16. Many do not even attempt to retake those subjects to get that basic level of literacy and numeracy, and we must address that.
I warmly welcome the Minister’s statement. It is clear that the Government are absolutely committed to tackling underachievement among children from poorer backgrounds. Will he undertake not to lose sight of the importance of English as an additional language as a factor in educational attainment? Will he look at the subject in the round when going forward with these welcome education reforms?
I agree with my hon. Friend and there will still, of course, be an incentive through the EBacc system to encourage modern languages. The funding system for schools will still make finance available to help schools with those challenges.
Many schools in and around Sheffield no longer offer three separate science subjects at GCSE, which is blocking young people from being able to go on to careers in engineering and other related subjects. Given the changes that have been announced, how does the Minister see things developing? In particular, will he support the development of separate sciences so that young people go into such areas, where we have skills shortages?
The hon. Lady makes a good point. Sadly, over the past decade or so there was a movement by students away from taking serious single-science subjects towards broader subjects that sometimes had an unrealistic equivalence. I am pleased to say that since the changes made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in that area, we have seen a big increase in students taking some of those subjects at GCSE and A-level. We need to ensure that the number goes up even further in the future.
What discussions has the Minister had with the private sector? Is there not a danger that in moving to a progress measure we are moving from absolute standards to relative standards because we are taking account of where people come from as opposed to where they are? Parents want a measure of how good a school is now and the rigid academic standards it is achieving, and nothing else.
We have had a broad welcome for the proposals in the consultation and the statement, including from many employer organisations, but my hon. Friend is right to highlight that, ultimately, results and attainment are crucial to any young person doing well in future. I believe that, through the best eight measure—an average we will publish as part of the new accountability framework —we will send out the clearest signal ever about how a school is performing in a large range of subjects and for every single student in the school. I believe that that will improve the focus on attainment in every school in the country.
I congratulate the Minister on his announcement. I particularly welcome the destinations measure, which I argued for as a Minister —I was not successful in persuading the Department to do it. How will it affect schools that go up to age 16, as opposed to schools that go up to age 18, which often place a greater emphasis on universities, including Russell group universities?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. We would expect such a measure to apply both to schools that go up to age 16 and to those that go up to age 18. Looking at what happens to people afterwards is relevant in giving both a powerful incentive. Clearly, the pathway in each situation would, for many students, be slightly different, but we believe that taking an interest in what students go on to do beyond age 16 makes sense in giving a powerful incentive to the many schools in the country that go up to age 16.
I very much welcome the proposals on increasing the reward for schools that add attainment for all pupils, irrespective of their backgrounds, and the proposals on adding value and support for schools that seek to boost attainment for all pupils, and not just those on the key dividing lines between specific grade boundaries. I am also happy to hear the Minister’s reference to having more carrots than sticks. In that sense, could we offer more carrots than sticks to the teaching profession with reference to Ofsted? Few Ofsted inspectors are currently teachers. Could Ofsted become more supportive and developmental rather than, say, threatening and limiting?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. He is right that we need to guarantee confidence in the schools system about the job Ofsted does. I believe that, on the whole, it does an excellent job. He will be interested to know that, since the new chief inspector took over at Ofsted a couple of years ago, he has very significantly increased not only the number of former head teachers who work for it, but the number of existing senior school staff who act as Ofsted inspectors. I would be happy to write to my hon. Friend to update him on that information, because there has been a radical change in a short period.
I wish the Minister well in developing his destination measures, particularly on employment. If he wants to know how schools can prepare, I invite him to come to Birmingham to see how the Birmingham baccalaureate brings the world of work and schools together. That might give him a pathway to copy elsewhere.
I would be delighted to come to Birmingham.
Following that same point, in warmly welcoming the Minister’s statement, I urge him to accelerate the inclusion of a destination measure as an assessment criterion. What really matters is how a school prepares its pupils to succeed either in further education or in finding a job.
I agree with my hon. Friend that the destination measure is extremely important. I assure him that we will act swiftly to seek to introduce the measure. Getting the data to the standard at which they are accurate and useful, which is crucial because we want an accountability measure that is taken seriously by schools, is important as the first step. However, as soon as we do it, we will move towards publishing the measure.
Brookfield school in Chesterfield recently wrote to all parents to let them know that year 11 pupils whom the school believes might not get a C will not do maths until May or June, whereas previously they would have done it in November. Alongside schools accountability, is the Minister concerned that one impact could be that children on the borderline might not have the same chance that children higher up have, because the children who are higher up have the chance to do it in November and do it again in May if they are not happy with their original result? Is there a danger that schools will change the way in which they operate to the disadvantage of some pupils?
We were concerned by what was happening in increasing numbers in some schools before the announcement was made. I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention back to the massive expansion in the last couple of years in the number of students doing multiple GSCE entries—170,000 in summer 2013. Almost a quarter of maths entries were multiple entries from students who had not reached the end of key stage 4. Several bodies have expressed concern that some of the youngsters might get a C when they could go on to get a B, an A or an A*, and they are potentially being let down. It also means that teaching in those subjects ends at a much earlier stage than it should, with a year only of preparation in the subject rather than the full two years. It is crucial that we have a school system that acts in the best interests of the students, not simply of the schools.
Employers will tell the Minister that it did not need an OECD report to show that England has—shockingly—some of the least literate students, because they only have to look at job applications to see that. Will he ensure that his system will have widespread effect, especially on literacy and numeracy, as opposed to focusing on a few?
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The new system will reduce the amount of gaming behaviour across the C/D borderline and the amount of teaching for the test, which often distorts our appreciation of educational standards, and all of the changes go hand in glove with the further changes to GCSEs that were announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State earlier this year, which will try to ensure that GSCEs in English, maths and other subjects are fit for purpose and will ensure that young people in this country are as well prepared as those in other top education countries.
The Minister’s announcement on early entry—made to the media, it has to be said, not to the House—has created huge anger and great disruption to pupils and schools in my constituency. Did he talk to head teachers about why they do early entry, and will he commit to giving longer notice periods and to stop announcing changes that have immediate detrimental effects on pupils in the middle of their courses and exam preparation?
I do not think we can be accused of leaping too rapidly to conclusions when we have just completed an eight-month consultation process on the changes that we are discussing today. It would be negligent of us to stand back and ignore the recommendations being made by Ofsted and others, and the dramatic figures that we have seen in the past year or so, which suggest that a vast amount of money is being sunk into exam fees rather than into teaching—behaviour that is not potentially in the best interests of some of the most disadvantaged youngsters. We have spoken to many head teachers and head teachers’ bodies about this. The timing has been controversial, but many head teachers have told us that there were problems and abuses in this area and that these changes are sensible,
The Minister visited Hexham schools this summer, for which I am grateful. He will know that they are outstanding and that they will welcome these accountability reforms, including the destination measures that he outlined. Could he give the House a little more explanation of how, through over-achievement, a school can avoid the next year’s Ofsted inspection?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for arranging the visit to his constituency some months ago. I very much enjoyed visiting a couple of schools in his part of the country. Those schools that achieve a particularly high level of progress—one grade more than expected—will have that exemption from Ofsted inspection, and that will send out a clear signal to those schools that we are rewarding the extraordinary progress that they are making.
I am sure the Minister is an avid reader of ConservativeHome, so he will have seen the blog post by the hon. Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore) in August in which he talked about
“a new social divide in subject choices.”
He said that pupils from state schools, in particular pupils on free school meals, often went for the softer options. Will the Minister confirm what I think he said in his statement: that arts and vocational subjects are considered high value, and that performance and attainment in those subjects will be rewarded?
Yes, I certainly can. In the best eight measure there will be three spaces reserved for subjects that can include arts, music, and vocational and other subjects. One of the great benefits of today’s announcement is that there will not be the pressure on schools, which was there in the past, to focus only on five GCSE subjects. For many students that created far too narrow a curriculum at the age of 16.
I welcome the Minister’s statement, which will help parents to make an informed judgment when exercising choice for their children’s education. A great deal of emphasis has been placed on the progress from the outcomes of key stage 2 to expectations at key stage 3. What consideration has he given to consistency across different educational institutions?
We want to see consistency right across educational institutions. The changes we have announced today will create much better consistency in accountability measures, and will not focus only on those institutions with lower attainment and lower prior achievement. This will be a fairer way of judging every single educational institution in the country.
The issue of multiple exam entries—in particular in maths—has been raised with me by a number of constituents. In September, pupils were told that they would be entered for an exam in November. A few days later, as a result of the Government’s announcement, schools had to make the decision that that would not be right because of the impact it would have on league tables. Would it not be better to consider the impact on students—given the very high numbers involved, which the Minister has mentioned a couple of times—rather than timing the announcement for party conference season?
This announcement was not timed for the party conference season; it was timed on the basis of the evidence available to us. If schools believe that young people should be entered in November, they are perfectly at liberty to do that—we have done nothing to stop them. Indeed, if they are confident that students will be able to secure their best grades at that time, they should put the students in for the exam. If, however, the students will achieve only a C grade when they could have achieved a B or an A later, schools should think twice.
I warmly welcome the Minister’s statement. As the father of three children in a state school, I have always been frustrated by the smoke and mirrors used by some state schools. Does the Minister agree with exposing coasting schools, rather than rewarding them like the previous Labour Government did?
This information will expose coasting schools. It will also expose any school that has been focusing its curriculum offer in a narrow way and not delivering the breadth that young people need. The data based on the new accountability measures will shine an interesting light both on schools that are perhaps not as good as they thought they were, and on schools that looked like they were at the bottom of the table but are actually achieving good results given the prior attainment of their students.
The Public Accounts Committee has been calling for greater financial accountability of schools and it is not clear from the Minister’s statement whether the new data portal will include that, or how open the data will be. Will he come to Shoreditch and allow some of our tech businesses to work with him and the Department on that data so that we have a telephone app that tells parents about the quality of the schools they are choosing?
I am happy to pursue the issue further with the hon. Lady. I have already promised a visit to Birmingham, so I am not at this stage ready to promise a visit to Shoreditch. I would, however, certainly like to engage with her on this topic. [Interruption.]
I am grateful for the sedentary chuntering. It has to be said that the place the hon. Lady has in mind is nowhere near Birmingham, but I am sure that the Minister, who is a man of prodigious brainpower, will be fully conscious of that fact.
As a former pupil of St Helena secondary modern school for boys, I thank the Minister for taking the first step in 50 years to address the educational imbalance between academic and non-academic subjects. The Minister mentioned vocational subjects, one of which was engineering, but he was silent on building trade skills and motor mechanic skills. Will he give an assurance that they will form part of the vocational subjects, and with the holistic approach of “schools for life”, does he agree that first aid should be part of the curriculum?
I welcome my hon. Friend’s welcome for these announcements, but I fear that on the issue of first aid, I will be unable to give him a different answer from the one given on previous occasions by the Secretary of State. On my hon. Friend’s wider point, it is important for all serious, high-value vocational qualifications to be accessible through this route. He will know that we have taken a close look at the whole suite of vocational qualifications to make sure that there are serious equivalents because of some of the problems that arose under the last Government. If he is concerned about particular qualifications, he should write to me and I will respond in detail.
I am honoured to be mentioned by my constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy). I absolutely welcome the progress measure, but on its detail, will the key stage floor target be taken at the end of year 6 or the beginning of year 7, given the overwhelming evidence and research showing that achievement at key stage 2 drops over the summer before they arrive at secondary school?
My hon. Friend raises a very good point. We will use the end of key stage 2 data. As an expert on these matters, he may want to probe annexe B of our consultation response, which sets out in some detail how this aspect will work. We will also make sure that proper credibility pertains to all the key stage 2 data. Because it will be used to measure secondary schools’ achievement, it is even more important than it is now for this data to be fully credible and properly stress-tested.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, at a time of declining social mobility, it is important to tackle coasting schools to make sure that they do not fail the brightest pupils from the most modest backgrounds and that all schools have a responsibility to have a programme for talented children, which should not be just an optional extra?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. One of the deficiencies of the existing accountability regime is that it is too easy for schools in comfortable catchment areas to coast and to fail to deliver for many of their pupils. They are not in the spotlight at present; they will be in the future.
Of all this Government’s school reforms, is this perhaps the most significant in terms of its breadth of impact right across education, ensuring that teachers’ efforts on behalf of all pupils are fully recognised? Does the Minister anticipate a warm welcome from teachers, who will be able to do what they entered this noble profession to do: to deliver a broad education free from the artificial constraints of the C/D borderline?
I agree with my hon. Friend. I believe that today’s announcement has so far been warmly welcomed by teachers’ organisations and others. It will allow a good measure of accountability—an intelligent accountability that drives the right results and the right behaviours at all schools.
I welcome the statement. Pursuant to the point about key stage 2 raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore), may we use this opportunity to encourage greater integration between secondary and primary schools? All too many students go to secondary school at the age of 11 with a reading age of 7, and many of them are condemned to fail at GCSE the moment they walk through the door of their secondary school. We need to see greater linkage between secondaries and primaries, so that those secondaries are able to identify potential challenges in their future cohorts as early as possible.
I agree with my hon. Friend, who makes an extremely important point. He will know that as part of our proposals on primary accountability, we are significantly increasing the bar for what success looks like at the end of primary school. We are doing that because pupils at the end of primary school who achieve only the level of attainment set as a measure of achievement by the previous Government overwhelmingly go on to fail even the existing five good GCSE measure. We cannot possibly allow a level of success at the end of primary school that prepares students for failure rather than success in secondary school.
Effective implementation is likely to require accountability to run both ways. Head teachers who are inspired by this and other measures to tackle educational underachievement have the right to know that the Department for Education, the Education Funding Agency and Ofsted are there to help them, and that their interactions with those agencies will be courteous, open and effective. Will the Minister do his part, in respect of accountability, to ensure that those agencies support the head teachers who are in the front line when it comes to making these changes happen?
I will certainly do that. Head teachers want to feel that they are supported by all parts of the education system, including our Department, and they want an accountability system which they see as fair and which drives the right incentives. I believe that what I have announced today will give them that.
I welcome the statement, and particularly the fact that English and maths will be given double weighting in the new table. I am sure that that will lead to a greater quality, if not quantity, of teaching. Will my right hon. Friend consider publishing draft data so that parents can have the necessary information before attending open evenings and choosing secondary schools for their offspring?
My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the double weighting of English and maths, which we think sends a clear signal about the crucial role of those subjects. We will do what we can through the data portal to give parents as much information as possible about the issues, as soon as possible. We will also ensure that the key measures are published on the website of every single school so that parents can see what they often cannot see at present, namely a consistent comparison of the key performance indicators of all schools.
Any system of school or pupil assessment which results in all pupils’ being pushed to do the very best that they can must be a good thing, but can the Minister explain to parents in Kettering—without using any departmental jargon—at what stage children’s predicted GCSE results will be established, and how that measure of progress, whether it be one grade above or one grade below, will be assessed and audited?
Yes, I can. I refer the hon. Gentleman to annexe B, which we published today and which will provide him with a fair amount of detail about how we will calculate the measure. I hope that that reassures him, but I shall be happy to meet him if he wants to discuss the matter further.
My constituents cannot wait for the Secretary of State’s forthcoming visit to see the good progress that schools have made on GCSE results—particularly St Anne’s school, where there has been a remarkable 28% improvement. I especially welcome the new progress measures that the Minister has announced, and I commend his statement for its fairness. Broomfield school, which is just down the road from St Anne’s and of which I am a governor, has come out of special measures and is making good progress, but in terms of GCSE results it has to deal with a very challenging intake, not least the pupils who leave key stage 2 lacking basic numeracy and literacy skills.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I am delighted to hear that, as ever, a warm welcome awaits the Secretary of State, at that school and indeed all others in the country.
I, too, welcome the statement. I am particularly pleased to be able to add my welcome and support to those of many employment organisations. I especially welcome the focus on destination measures: true outcomes of educational attainment. Can the Minister shed more light on that? Will the destinations include apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships, and are there lessons to be learnt from other countries for the purpose of this important measure?
Obviously we will be considering educational destinations, apprenticeships, and employment destinations with training. We need to ensure that we can collect all the information properly so that when schools receive it on their websites they recognise it, regard it as fair, and regard the Government as having captured accurately data which currently we do not possess in a single place, but believe that we can bring together.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that under the leadership of Helena Mills, Burnt Mill academy in Harlow has this year achieved 76% A to C grades in maths and English at GCSE, compared with a figure of just 27% a few years ago, by carrying out many of the measures that he set out and having a relentless focus on maths and English? Will he look at such schools to see examples of good practice and how the new accountability system works?
I am delighted to hear from my hon. Friend about the success of his local school. We are always looking at what we can learn from examples of schools that do so fantastically well, and we hope that the new accountability regime will be welcomed by his local school.