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Pupils from Disadvantaged Backgrounds

Volume 621: debated on Monday 6 February 2017

13. What steps the Government are taking to increase educational opportunity for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. (908598)

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told the House in December, increasing education opportunity for disadvantaged pupils underpins our commitment to make sure our country works for everyone. Through the pupil premium, worth £2.5 billion this year, we are narrowing the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. In 2016-17, over £8.8 million of this funding was allocated to schools in Swindon.

It was a great pleasure to welcome the School Standards Minister to Swindon Academy—a school with a predominantly deprived catchment area, a high proportion of children on free school meals, and, crucially, surplus places. Its decision to introduce a grammar scheme in conjunction with Marlborough College has given every student, regardless of background, an opportunity to opt into an academically rigorous curriculum. Will the Minister share this best practice?

My right hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards just reminded me of how impressed he was on that visit by the steps that that school is taking to provide its pupils with a rigorous academic curriculum. By trusting school leaders like those in Swindon, we are enabling them to use their unparalleled knowledge of their pupils to create new, tailor-made ways of ensuring that every child can academically succeed.

17. With regard to disadvantage, the Government are about to close Baverstock Academy in my constituency. They will not say what that costs or where the pupils will go, and will not explain the inaccurate travel and future demand data. The Secretary of State will not even respond to my request for a meeting, although I am told she has got time for a photo op elsewhere in Birmingham, where she will not be meeting Baverstock parents. Are you at all surprised, Mr Speaker, that when it comes to disadvantage my constituents have one word for Government education policy—betrayal? (908602)

As the hon. Gentleman will know, Baverstock Academy went into special measures in September 2014. The Department intervened swiftly to challenge the academy’s senior leadership team, and monitored attainment and progress closely. Throughout 2016, the regional schools commissioner sought a new sponsor for the school, but in November 2016 the Ofsted inspector confirmed that the school remains in special measures. The hon. Gentleman is right to continue to be worried about the schools in his constituency: so are we, and we will continue to do what we can to make sure that we turn this around.