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Alternative Educational Provision

Volume 638: debated on Monday 19 March 2018

I, too, congratulate Andria Zafirako on winning the global teacher prize. I have met Andria. She is an inspirational teacher who is dedicated to her pupils, and she has a love of teaching and the profession.

On 16 March, we published a policy paper setting out our approach to the reform of alternative provision. We want to ensure that the right children are placed in AP, and that they receive a higher-quality education with better outcomes than is currently the case.

The Minister will know that, at its best, alternative provision can give young people an opportunity to get back on track, but that at its worst, in some cases, it is nothing more than childminding. He will also know that because of pressure on budgets, headteachers often take the cheapest option. Will he address that problem and ensure that schools have no incentive to send young people to alternative provision that is unsuitable and of no use?

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The GCSE outcomes of children in alternative provision are significantly worse than those of children outside it. Only 4.5% of pupils in AP achieve grade 4 or better in English and maths, compared with 65% of all other pupils. We have asked Ed Timpson to conduct an exclusions review to establish which groups of young people are being excluded from schools, focusing particularly on groups who are disproportionately excluded from mainstream education.

I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

Some 56% of Bury schools that responded to my schools survey told me that they had been forced to cut special educational needs and disability provision because of school budget cuts. Does the Minister acknowledge that a bigger number does not mean more money per student, and will he commit himself to a real-terms per-pupil fair funding formula that encourages the inclusion of SEND pupils in mainstream schools?

We have increased high-needs funding from £5 billion in 2013-14 to £6 billion in 2018-19. It is up £130 million in 2017-18 compared with the previous year, and overall we are spending £1.3 billion more on school funding compared with under the 2015 spending review.