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House of Commons Hansard
11 May 2018
Volume 640
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The Government are committed to creating more good school places through a diverse education system, to ensure that parents have choice and children of all backgrounds have access to the best education. The range of actions we are setting out today helps us to deliver this; extending the opportunity for children, no matter what their background, to access the best education and encouraging cross-sector collaboration in order to raise standards and aspiration for all pupils. This action includes supporting the establishment of new schools and the creation of more good school places, as well as complementary measures in response to the Schools that Work for Everyone consultation. It is intended to incentivise high-performing schools and institutions across the sector to widen their offer to more pupils, and to encourage the sector as a whole to collaborate in order to help all children achieve their potential. I want to see universities, independent schools and state schools working in partnerships that deliver sustainable impact, including by establishing or joining multi-academy trusts where it is beneficial to do so.

The consultation sought views on removing the legislation that inhibit the creation of new selective schools and on lifting the restrictions on the establishment of new faith free schools, and it asked how we could harness the resources and expertise of those in our independent schools and the higher education sector to work in partnership with the state sector. We received several thousand responses, and I was encouraged by the number of those which identified the positive role that selective schools, universities and independent schools do, and could, play in improving educational outcomes across the wider education system. I am building on this through the measures we are setting out today.

The free schools programme is an essential part of delivering good school places where they are needed, and today we are launching Wave 13 for mainstream free schools applications. We are targeting this wave at areas with the lowest educational performance to put free schools in the places most in need of good school places. Free schools have, as do all schools, a role to play in supporting our objectives for integration and community cohesion, and it is important that our free schools programme establishes schools that are inclusive of children of all faith and none. We are retaining the 50% cap on faith-based admissions in free schools.

As previously announced to the House, we will not be enabling the new creation of selective schools, but selective schools play an important role in ensuring our children have access to a good education and have a real impact in helping young people, regardless of their background, fulfil their potential.

To enable existing selective schools to expand and provide more school places where there is local demand, we have today launched the selective schools expansion fund, backed by £50 million in 2018-19. We have also today published a memorandum of understanding with the Grammar School Heads’ Association, which sets out a commitment from the sector to widen access for disadvantaged pupils and to work in partnership with local non-selective schools to improve pupil outcomes locally. I look forward to seeing the action taken by this part of the sector to deliver these commitments.

The whole sector, not just parts of it, has a role to play in supporting the delivery of good school places and in providing the opportunity for all children to raise their aspiration and to achieve their potential. I recognise the role that universities and independent schools can, and in many cases already do, have in this, and I want to see this engagement deepened through greater partnership with the state sector, including working in collaboration in multi-academy trusts, to improve outcomes for pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. I am keen that universities and independent schools with capacity come forward to be involved in school sponsorship and founding free schools, including maths schools. I welcome the joint understanding between the Independent Schools Council and my Department, published today, which sets out how independent schools will look to support these objectives, including how they can help those from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as looked-after children. I will continue to encourage the higher education sector to support these ambitions; to widen access to its institutions for students from under-represented groups and to provide meaningful support to the state sector, and I welcome the action taken to date, including the guidance published in February by the Office for Students on preparing 2019-20 access and participation plans.

I also recognise the role that faith providers play in delivering high-performing schools with excellent standards, and that some schools feel unable to establish new schools through the free schools programme as a result of the restrictions on admissions. As mentioned, we are retaining the 50% faith cap, but we are also developing a capital scheme to support the establishment of new voluntary-aided schools for faith and other providers. This route has always been available but has been little used in recent years. Schools created through this scheme will have the same freedoms as existing voluntary- aided schools, including over their admissions.

In addition to ensuring that we create the places that are needed, we also want to improve our understanding of how the education system is serving children from disadvantaged backgrounds. As part of the consultation, we also sought views on how best we can identify pupils from modest and low incomes in order to improve our understanding of how the education system is serving these children. The findings were fed into the technical consultation Analysing Family Circumstances and Education. The Government response to this technical consultation will be published in due course

This package of reforms will help to ensure we are delivering on our ambition to ensure that there is a good school place for every child, whatever their background, and I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders across the education sector over this Parliament, as we take forward this commitment.

I will place a copy of the documents published today in the House Libraries.