In 2016, 53% of pupils at the end of key stage 4 in Northamptonshire achieved five or more A* to C grades, including English and maths GCSEs. This is an increase of 1.1 percentage points from 51.9% in 2010.
Although the figures are going in the right direction, educational attainment and performance in Northamptonshire are still below the national average. Through the Secretary of State, I thank the Schools Minister for meeting a delegation of county MPs last month and for agreeing to see us again next April. What are the main things that the Secretary of State thinks local schools need to do to get the figures to much improve over the years ahead?
As my hon. Friend recognises, as a Department we have worked very hard with his local authority to try steadily to increase and improve results. In addition to the work that is already under way, we want to see stronger school improvement via schools collaborating more effectively and by ensuring that more of the UK or England-wide programmes, such as Mathematics Mastery, are properly rolled out in his local area.
One way to improve GCSE attainment in schools in Northamptonshire is through school libraries. Is the Secretary of State as disturbed as I am by the report from the School Library Association about the collapse in the number of librarians and library facilities in our schools, and will she ask Ofsted to make school library provision one of the inspection criteria?
Of course, this Government have spent much time and resources on improving reading and literacy in our schools. We have protected the core schools budget across the course of this Parliament and it is up to schools where they want to spend that money, but we certainly want to see continued improvement in literacy and reading results across England.
Getting it right early is crucial to securing future success for our young people in Northamptonshire, so will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Woodnewton learning community on winning the Marjorie Boxall quality mark award for its brilliant nurture group and send her best wishes to Ellen Wallace, the headteacher, and her brilliant team?
Yes, I congratulate Ellen Wallace and the team at the school that my hon. Friend talks about. They have done a fantastic job in achieving that award, showing that strong leadership in a school alongside collaboration between schools is a key way for schools to improve.
The Secretary of State might have us believe that results in Northamptonshire have improved under this Government, but the fact is that the pass rate peaked immediately after the end of the previous Labour Government and has been falling since 2012. Nationally, this year saw the largest fall in GCSE results on record. If the Secretary of State had given us a breakdown of the data, it would have shown that those from disadvantaged backgrounds lost out the most. Last week, the Sutton Trust showed that people from white working class backgrounds face particular barriers at GCSE. Will the Secretary of State tell us which, if any, of the trust’s recommendations she will accept?
I do not think that the Government need to take any lessons from Labour, who in government presided over grade inflation and young people leaving our education system who were simply unable to read or write. I remind the hon. Lady that, according to the CBI, on Labour’s watch the number of employers who were dissatisfied with school and college leavers’ basic skills remained stuck at around a third. In other words, it had not shifted at all. In fact, 42 % reported that they had had to provide remedial training for school and college leavers.