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Improving Educational Outcomes

Volume 618: debated on Monday 19 December 2016

Great teachers are critical to improving educational outcomes. Teaching is a profession, and we support the professional development of teachers, including through the new £74.2 million teaching and leadership innovation fund and the new charter college of teaching. We are also investing in improving curriculum expertise and specialism, particularly in maths, which I saw for myself first hand on a recent visit to Shanghai, China.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. In “Education Excellence Everywhere”, a paper produced in March 2016, there was a good proposal for a free national teacher vacancy website to ensure that the costs of recruitment were kept down for schools. What progress is the Secretary of State making on that proposal?

My hon. and learned Friend mentions the commitment we made in the March White Paper to a website offering a free route for schools to advertise teacher vacancies and, in doing so, providing teachers with easier access to information about job opportunities. We have worked closely with schools and teachers, and we are testing out different approaches to how to deliver that website most effectively, so we can make sure that it will be of maximum value to all schools.

Whenever I meet young people in my constituency, they tell me that the thing that could most affect their educational outcomes is a curriculum for life and compulsory personal, social and health education in all schools. The curriculum is inadequate, having been last updated before Facebook was even invented, and teachers go unsupported and untrained. If yesterday’s briefings to the newspapers are to be believed, the Government are considering bringing in compulsory PSHE. Is this true and, if so, when will it happen? It is urgent.

I was very clear in my first Education Committee appearance that I felt this was an area that we needed actively to look at, which is what we are doing. It is not just a question of updating the guidance; it is about the schools where it is taught—and, I would say, the quality of the teaching that happens as well.

14. As someone who did pure maths and applied maths, as well as physics and English at A-level, I am very keen on mathematics teaching, and I was just wondering what is the Secretary of State’s assessment of the recent mathematics teacher exchange between the United Kingdom and China. (907956)

I think it has worked fantastically well so far. Over the last two years, we have seen 131 teachers from England visiting Shanghai and 127 teachers from Shanghai visiting English schools, and through that exchange our teachers have observed Shanghai teaching methods. In the 48 schools participating in the study, the teachers have implemented changes, which have led to increased enthusiasm for mathematics—hopefully as strong as my hon. Friend’s was at school—deeper engagement, increased confidence and, critically, higher attainment.

One of the best ways to support teachers in improving educational outcomes, particularly for children with special needs, is through the pupil premium. Will the Secretary of State therefore explain why the level of the pupil premium has been frozen at current levels through this Parliament?

The pupil premium was introduced by the previous coalition Government and it is continuing to be supported throughout this Parliament precisely to make sure that funding gets to those children who need it most. Last week, I announced the national funding formula, which also prioritises resources going towards disadvantaged children.

The Secretary of State will know how traumatic it is for students and teachers to get children through GCSE maths and English resits, which can often blight their post-GCSE studies. Can we have a curriculum that is vocationally based for numeracy and literacy, which would give people the skills they need for work—without having to go through this traumatic and often wasteful experience?

It is important that all children leave our education system with something to show for their names, particularly in maths and English—ideally at a level congruent with their potential. We brought in the GCSE resit policy, because we think that students who achieved a D grade and were therefore pretty close to the better standard should have another go at doing so. However, the functional skills qualifications have been well received by employers and we want to look at how they can also play a role in enabling all our young people to show their accomplishments.

Grammar schools represent the Prime Minister’s flagship policy for improving outcomes, but according to today’s edition of The Independent, officials in the Department have said that there is no chance of a new selective school before 2020. Will the Secretary of State tell us how many selective schools will be built during the current Parliament?

The consultation finished last week, and we will now look at the responses. However, I think we should recognise that we need an education system that provides more good school places, especially for children living in parts of the country that do not have access to them. I hope that, rather than carping without making any suggestions, we can have a good debate following the consultation, and also provide those additional grammar school places.