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New Schools

Volume 649: debated on Monday 12 November 2018

9. What steps his Department is taking to increase the number of new schools in (a) London and (b) England. (907545)

As well as those already open, we have approved a further 266 free schools and university technical college applications, including 69 in London. What we now need to know from the Opposition is what would happen to the programme in the unfortunate event of their getting into government.

My two boroughs have seen an astonishing five new secondary schools opened under this Government: the Kensington Aldridge Academy, the Chelsea Academy, the West London Free School, the Hammersmith Academy and the Fulham Boys School. The fifth one, however, needs to move to a new site as soon as possible. I thank my right hon. Friend for meeting me in the summer, when we talked about the new site. Will he give us an update on progress on moving to the new site?

First, let me thank my right hon. Friend for his personal involvement with these programmes. Of course we always endeavour to minimise the amount of time that any open free school needs to stay in temporary accommodation before moving to a permanent site. As he will know, there have been complexities in this case. I am very happy to meet him to discuss them.

Rather than spending time, energy and money on new schools in London or in England, would it not make far more sense to spend more time, energy and money on Alaw Primary School, whose children are in the Public Gallery? In fact, they have just left.

It was very short. I am sure they did not leave because of you. Do not worry—don’t be too sensitive about it.

To be fair to the hon. Gentleman, these things happen at a quarter past three. It is an occupational hazard.

Free schools are one part of our expansion. This decade will have the largest expansion in school capacity for at least two generations, with 1 million new school places added and £7 billion of investment committed over the period.

I am really pleased that the Secretary of State eagerly anticipates the next Labour Government, just like so many parents and teachers, but let me be clear: our policy is no threat to any new or existing school, unlike the Government’s cuts. His Department’s accounts show that the academies sector ran a £2 billion operating deficit last year. Their net financial position is down overall and more trusts closed last year than ever before. He admitted last week that education needs billions more, so will he be asking the Chancellor to reverse all his cuts in full and in real terms?

We are investing in the school system, both through the additional £1.3 billion we found last year and through the capital moneys, to which I just referred, to fund the large expansion in the school system. Although these are questions to the Government, I think that everybody would be keen to hear more from the hon. Lady about how no school would be under threat from Labour party policy.