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Head teachers

Volume 570: debated on Monday 11 November 2013

The welcome growth in the number of academies has provided more freedom for more head teachers to raise standards for more students, especially the poorest.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Although a formal teaching qualification may be a bonus, with Ofstedā€™s rigorous new inspection regime and performance-related pay, does he agree that it would be dogmatic in the extreme to force heads to fire 15,000 teachers, regardless of their impact in the classroom, just because they do not hold a piece of paper?

That is a characteristically acute point from my hon. Friend. The most important thing we need to do is ensure that the quality of teaching in our schools is improving. Ofsted tells us that it is, and I am delighted to report that to the House. That is a result of our reforms.

What will the Secretary of State do about Kings science academy in Bradford and the disaster that is that school? There are fines for admission policies, and it looks like criminality as well.

There are certainly questions to be answered by those responsible for Kings science academy, but I stress that all academies and free schools are more rigorously audited and held accountable than local authority schools. I also stress that for many years the quality of education in Bradford has been appalling, yet it is only when new providers come in to innovate that we hear from Opposition Members. They are prepared consistently to turn a blind eye to Labour local authorities that fail, yet whenever there is any challenge to that complacency, all they can do is talk cynically about those idealists who are trying to improve state education.

The Secretary of State will be aware from the recent Defence Committee inquiry that the education statements contained in the armed forces covenant clash with the Education Act 2011 on admissions to school. With that in mind, should head teachers of Army-focused schools have more authority over whom they admit to their schools?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. One thing that he has done consistently in his time in the House is to ensure that schools in garrison towns such as the one that he represents take appropriate account of the need of our armed forces and their children, particularly at times of movement and redeployment. I would be happy to talk to him more closely about how we can ensure not only that admissions arrangements but additional support are there for those families. We have introduced the service premium for the children of those in the armed forces. I hope that the introduction of that additional cash will help his constituents and those of every other hon. Member.

Does the Secretary of State share my expectation that head teachers, when they exercise greater autonomy, take account of the needs of the area in which they teach and operate, which we are trying to achieve in Birmingham? Will he encourage them to do so?

I absolutely would encourage them to do that. Let me pay tribute to the hon. Lady for her work in bringing teachers together in Birmingham to introduce the Birmingham baccalaureate, which is a perfect preparation both for the world of work and for further and higher education. One problem in Birmingham for many years has been a culture of underperformance in far too many schools, and that has been insufficiently challenged by the local authority. It should not have to fall to her to do the job that the council should have been doing, but if I would trust anyone to do that job instead of the council, it would be her.