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Social Mobility

Volume 621: debated on Monday 6 February 2017

We want to see an education system that works for everyone and that drives social mobility by breaking the link between a person’s background and where they get to in life. We are delivering more good school places; strengthening the teaching profession; investing in and improving careers education; transforming technical education and apprenticeships; opening up access to universities; and focusing effort on areas of the country with the greatest challenges and the fewest opportunities, through opportunity areas.

Currently, the pupil premium is a very limited measure—for instance, children who are young carers are not recognised. In addition, it stops at 16, despite some form of education being compulsory until 18. Will the Minister therefore consider a review of the pupil premium to achieve true social mobility?

The pupil premium is worth £2.5 billion this year, and it is helping to level the playing field for 2 million disadvantaged children, including many young carers and children with mental health problems. We are also looking at the Children’s Commissioner’s recent report and, indeed, our own DFE research on the lives of young carers in England, as part of the cross-Government carers strategy that is being reviewed and developed. On the point about age, the national funding formula for 16 to 19-year-olds provides extra funding for disadvantaged students—around £540 million this year.

I welcomed the Government’s “Schools that work for everyone” Green Paper—probably as much as the Secretary of State enjoyed reading my lengthy response to it. It showed the Government’s commitment to ensuring that all pupils have the best chance of accessing a good education.When will the draft be published?

I very much appreciated my hon. Friend’s submission to that consultation. We received several thousand submissions, which we are now going through. We will respond in the spring.

I noticed that the Secretary of State did not mention grammar schools in her answers to the previous questions about social mobility. Is that perhaps because in seven out of 10 grammar schools, all the free-school-meals children could fit in one classroom? Sir William Borlase’s grammar school, which I understand is set to be the first to open a new school, has just three children on free school meals. Does she think that reflects true social mobility? Are those numbers acceptable, and if not, what is she doing about it?

We have been clear that we want to see existing grammars take more free-school-meals and disadvantaged children. The right way to go about getting no progress is to have no consultation and no policy development in this area, which is apparently the Labour party’s position.

If the Department for Education is as committed to social mobility through education as it claims, will the Secretary of State explain why cuts to the early years funding formula and to local authorities have actually weakened outstanding early years education, which is the foundation of social mobility?

Record levels of funding are going into early years. We are now extending the 15 hours of free childcare to 30. It is simply wrong to characterise this Government as doing anything other than pumping record amounts of money into both early years and indeed the school system.