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House of Commons Hansard
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14 November 2016
Volume 617
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6. What steps she is taking to improve the social mobility of children and young people. [907226]

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We are driving up social mobility by levelling up opportunity. That is why it is so vital to drive up standards in education, in terms of both academic routes and technical education. Opportunity areas are also in the vanguard of our approach.

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I am interested in the Secretary of State’s answer to that question. Further education, which produced lots of apprentices and highly skilled people in industry—particularly in manufacturing—has been cut by 28%. How can the Secretary of State say that she is doing a lot for highly skilled education?

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The hon. Gentleman will be aware—or perhaps he has missed it—that we are bringing the Technical and Further Education Bill before Parliament on Second Reading later today. It matches the fact that we have aspirations to drive up standards in further education in the same way as we have done in academic education routes.

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Does the Secretary of State agree that lifting the ban on selective schools can create greater opportunity for the least advantaged, and that doing so would enable more children in Telford to realise their full potential and enter top professions such as medicine and law?

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I do, and what we should not do is to allow ideology to get in the way of giving parents greater choice. The reality is that boys on free school meal provision who go to grammars have got three times more chance of getting into Russell Group universities than their other counterparts.

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Nurseries and childcare providers in Wakefield are at breaking point, and over 50 have closed their doors since 2010. Will the Secretary of State set out how she will meet her manifesto commitment to provide 30 hours of free childcare a week for three and four-year-olds, given that the average increase for childcare providers next year will be just 21p an hour?

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I am sure that the hon. Lady welcomes the Government’s ambition to double the amount of childcare from 15 to 30 hours during this Parliament, which is why we are putting in more funding. We have consulted on that, and we will respond to the consultation shortly.

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One of the social mobility issues is about encouraging teachers to get pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to apply to Russell Group universities. What are the Government doing to encourage young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to apply to the top universities?

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I met the vice-chancellor of Exeter University only last week to talk about some of the work that he and, indeed, the broader Russell Group are doing. It is important that we push this even more in the future than we have in the past. Alongside the proposals on selective education, some of the work we are doing in specific areas, such as on areas of opportunity, will make a massive difference over time.

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If the Government were serious about improving social mobility, they would have a plan to reduce child poverty. With 3.9 million children living in poverty and the Institute for Fiscal Studies projecting that poverty among children will increase by 50% during this Parliament, what is the Secretary of State doing to reduce the appalling levels of child poverty we are experiencing in our country?

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First, we should all recognise that social mobility is a long-standing generational challenge that will not be fixed overnight. It has been present in our country for many decades. In the end, the route out of poverty is to have a strong economy, coupled with strong productivity. That is why the education agenda is not just about allowing people to reach their potential, but about enabling our country and our economy to do the same.

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Parents in Dover and Deal want the choice of social mobility, with new grammar schools and new faith-based schools. They also want to thank the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills for his dogged support of higher and further education in east Kent.

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I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be very pleased to receive that compliment. I know that my hon. Friend has been a strong champion for his local community. Alongside all the other work we are doing, including in introducing the Technical and Further Education Bill later today, 3 million apprenticeships during this Parliament will be a step change in providing opportunities for young people in our country.