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School Performance

Volume 630: debated on Monday 6 November 2017

5. What comparative assessment she has made of the educational performance of schools in the UK, with (a) Japan and (b) Germany. (901601)

Educational performance in primary schools is continuing to improve in England, with maths scores improving from 2011 to 2015, and science scores improving significantly, too. Japan is among the highest performers in international assessments. Our primary school pupils are outperforming their peers in Germany.

My right hon. Friend is correct: our spending is above that of Japan and Germany. What is clear is that spending and investment alone are insufficient. We need the right strategy. Our work on an improved curriculum, investment in teacher development and new schools not just being council-run are key measures lifting up school standards in England.

Youth unemployment in Germany has long been significantly lower than here. What lessons are the Government seeking to learn from the German system, particularly about technical and practical education?

Youth unemployment rose by nearly 50% under the last Labour Government, and one of the best ways to make sure young people have opportunities is to have a thriving economy, but as the hon. Gentleman reiterates, a strong education system, including a strong technical education system, is critical, which is why we are introducing our reforms on T-levels.

An important measure of educational performance is employability. In Germany, youth unemployment stands at 6.4% and in Japan, 5.1%; in my constituency, it stands at 1.6%, down 80% since 2010. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating schools in my constituency on getting their pupils work ready?

I pay tribute to those schools; they are clearly doing an excellent job making sure that children are not only attaining academically but getting the skills they need to be successful in the workplace. That is not the case in the rest of the UK. In Wales, where Labour is in charge, standards are now falling.

One way to improve the educational performance of UK schools would be to allow the creation of more good school places. Will the Secretary of State provide some much-needed clarity on the 50% cap on faith admissions for new free schools, which is holding up a number of school places in the pipeline?

The hon. Lady will probably be aware that we have created 735,000 new school places since 2010, and we will make announcements on the faith cap in due course, but again I have to contrast our record with the reduction of 100,000 school places in the last six years of the last Labour Government.

I have no doubt that, in any assessment of the performance of UK, German and Japanese schools, schools in Harrow West would perform particularly well. Headteachers there are telling me, however, that we need more investment in our schools, so that they do not have to cut the number of teaching assistants or replace experienced teachers with newly qualified teachers. What assurances can the Secretary of State offer the House that the Chancellor has got that point as well?

Under the new national funding formula, all schools will get a cash rise in their budgets. As much as anything, the challenge now is finally to address the regional disparities that still exist in our education system.