The Secretary of State was asked—
West Anglia College
The Education and Skills Funding Agency has been clear that West Anglia College cannot undertake any further subcontracting until the ESFA is satisfied that all the proper procedures highlighted in the report are in place. Frequent dialogue with the college continues, and I will keep the hon. Gentleman informed. I praise him for his tenacity in highlighting this issue.
West Anglia College is avoiding me. Some £160,000-worth of taxpayers’ money, yet not a single student—all from my constituency—is fulfilling and passing the course. The college did not even know that the course was taking place 50 miles away from where it thought it was taking place. Is it not incumbent on the college now to attend a meeting and to pay back the money that has been lost by some of my constituents, in terms of facilities and expenses, because of the shambles delivered by West Anglia College?
The hon. Gentleman’s term “shambles” is not inappropriate. This has been a shocking case, and it is from such cases that we learn lessons to make sure that it does not happen again. He talks about paying the money back, and I am sure the ESFA is looking at all possible options to make sure that his constituents are well served.
Apprenticeships are now of high quality, with more off-the-job training and holistic end-point assessment. This ensures that, at the completion of an apprenticeship, the apprentice can demonstrate that they have the skills, knowledge and behaviours for their existing employer or a new employer in the future. Forty-four apprenticeships are now at the new higher-quality standard, and training is up from 540 hours to 670 hours, which is a 20% increase —well ahead of where we thought we would be on quality.[Official Report, 19 November 2018, Vol. 649, c. 6MC.]
Derwent Training Association in Malton in my constituency offers very high-quality precision engineering apprenticeships, but too often it comes up against headteachers who would rather see their students go to university. What more can we do to make sure that schools promote high-quality apprenticeships?
We have a lot more to do; there is no doubt about it. Wherever I go, I often hear from student apprentices who say that they had very little support from their school. Since January 2018 schools are required to allow technical education and apprenticeship training providers to come in to talk to pupils, and our apprenticeship support and knowledge project provides schools with resources to help them promote apprenticeships. The apprenticeship ambassador network also visits schools so that pupils can hear at first hand about the fantastic opportunities that an apprenticeship can bring.
I do not want to fluster my hon. Friend. The Department is doing a great deal to improve apprenticeships. It is important to make sure that apprenticeships offer high-quality education that rivals that of our universities, so we are doing exactly that. There is no doubt that apprenticeships are already offering such education. We have a £10 million development fund available to develop degrees at a high level, and apprenticeship starts at high levels continue to grow—up almost 30% on last year.
Many large firms in my constituency, notably Premier Foods, have great apprenticeship schemes and are using the new system very creatively to improve the quality of those apprenticeships, but it is often more difficult for small companies to do the same. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that small businesses can benefit from apprenticeships as much as large businesses do?
I congratulate Premier Foods on what it is doing in my right hon. Friend’s constituency. Levy payers can already transfer up to 10% of their funds to other employers, including SMEs, and we are increasing that to 25% from next year. SMEs have taken longer to put in place their apprenticeship programmes, although many have already grabbed the opportunity.
May I apologise to the Minister for not being able to welcome her on her visit to Huddersfield and to Kirklees College? It was a very good visit and was well received, but did she talk to the principal about what is happening up and down the country, where so many people want to get on quality apprenticeships but cannot get the GCSE in English or in maths? Surely there should be a practical maths and practical English so that these kids can get the education they deserve.
I had a wonderful visit to Kirklees College and I was impressed with all I saw there. It is important that young people have a grounding in English and maths. I know this is difficult for some young people, and we are doing a great deal to improve the teaching of maths. Where people have failed after all those years in school, we cannot just go on doing the same thing. We have the opportunity to offer functional skills, which offers those young people an alternative way of getting a good qualification in maths.
A very successful Queen’s award-winning company in my constituency provides examinations and training standards throughout the world in contemporary music, but it cannot provide these apprenticeship standards in the UK because of the Government’s rigidity in not allowing them or providing them in industries with a lot of freelance workers. Can the Minister address that problem?
Yes, I can. The right hon. Gentleman perhaps ought to know that I have continued contact with my fellow Ministers in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, because this issue is important. We are not being rigid. There are ways around this, and I had a recent meeting to discuss exactly this point. It is important for the industry to get together and talk to the Institute for Apprenticeships, because there are ways around this.
By 2020, there will be £2.5 billion available for apprenticeships. In fact, a lot of apprenticeship training is done by independent training providers, so I urge all further education colleges to make sure they get involved and take up the opportunity that the levy money makes available.
Surprisingly, my question is a segue to that asked by my old boss, the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir Vince Cable). Apprenticeships are a great success story for this Government, although they are being terribly undermined by the clunking fist that is the apprenticeship levy. Will the Minister look specifically at the position in the film industry, where apprenticeships do not last the standard length of time? When people are apprentices on a film production, it might last only three months. There needs to be some flexibility in order to support apprenticeships in our award-winning creative industries.
Although I often agree with my right hon. Friend, I disagree entirely with his description of the apprenticeship levy as a clunking fist. It is what has driven all the improvements and is part of the reason we have the £2.5 billion available. I am very aware of the issues in the film industry. I have had several meetings with people from the industry and we are working with it to make sure that where people are working on a contract, or are not on a permanent contract, apprenticeships may be available.
Social mobility is a top priority right across the Department, from the early years at school to supporting disadvantaged students into university and improving technical education.
I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. However, as the party of aspiration, what more are our Government doing to help our young people achieve their dreams? Specifically, what are we doing through the secondary school system, which is formative in developing their future roles?
I thank my hon. Friend for that. Of course, the attainment gap has narrowed by 10% at secondary school, but she is right to say that we need constantly to be thinking about aspiration, which is why our careers strategy and the work of the Careers & Enterprise Company are so important.
Grouped—I understand, Mr Speaker. I was slightly wrong-footed, as ever.
Irrespective of political persuasion or ideology, everyone in this House will agree that the state has a special responsibility towards vulnerable children in care. Only 6% or 7% of them get to university, and 60% of them have behavioural and mental health challenges. We must congratulate the Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation and Buttle UK on their work in providing bursaries for university. Does the Minister agree that we must look to expand work in this area?
I do agree with my hon. Friend that we need to expand work in that area, and I commend the charities that he mentioned, including for their work to inform local authorities about how to make placements in boarding schools. It is true that for the right child at the right time and at the right school, boarding can create a life-changing opportunity. Encouragement into university is also vital, of course.
A recent OECD report stated that the children of poor families are likely to take five generations to start to earn an average income, compared with two generations for families in Denmark and three in Sweden. Why has it taken the United Kingdom so long to bridge this gap?
These are big topics and, indeed, stubborn statistics that take quite some time to move. As anybody who has compared the 1970 cohort with the 1958 cohort will attest, it is a problem that goes back through multiple Governments, but we need to keep working on it. The most recent OECD statistics show a more encouraging picture than there was previously thought to be. [Interruption.]
There is an enormous amount of rather noisy chuntering from a sedentary position, principally emanating from a senior statesman in the House—namely the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman). His colleague the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) is trying to encourage him in good behaviour; I urge her to redouble her efforts, as she has some way to travel.
Given the Government’s apparent commitment to social mobility, would it not be a good idea to introduce a social mobility impact assessment for all Government policies and budget plans? That way, we might avoid stories such as the one that appears today in Nursery World, which details how across the country 27 schemes targeted at the most disadvantaged children in the early years have had to be scrapped because of changes to the early years funding formula.
We believe that any young person who has the potential to benefit from university should be able to do so, and the existing system helps to facilitate exactly that. More than £800 million is being spent on access encouragement from universities. We need to make sure that that is spent as well as it can be, to make sure that any young person from any background has an equal opportunity to benefit.
A huge block to social mobility is the Government’s policy of forcing schools to pay the first £6,000 of costs to support children with special needs. Does the Secretary of State accept that that penalises schools for taking students with additional needs, incentivises doing the wrong thing, impoverishes those schools that do the right thing and, most of all, hurts children with special needs and their families? Will he agree fully to fund education healthcare plans?
The hon. Gentleman is right to look at things such as the incentives that are inherent in the system. Of course, schools have a notional special educational needs budget, which is what the first £6,000 is supposed to be linked to, but we keep all these matters under review right across the system—in mainstream schools and special schools.
If the hon. Members for Ipswich (Sandy Martin) and for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami) were listening to what the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) had to say, they will have observed that references to SEN are perfectly orderly in the context of this question. That is a hint; whether they take the hint is up to them, but the Speaker is trying to be helpful to Back Benchers, which is what I have spent nine and a half years doing.
An independent review of higher education funding is under way. Does the Secretary of State agree that any proposals in that review that are regressive in nature, that would reintroduce a student number cap or that would act in effect as a brake on social mobility are not recommendations that this Government should accept?
It goes without saying that my right hon. Friend has very considerable expertise in this area and I take what she says extremely seriously. The review that she mentions is informed by an independent panel. That independent panel has not yet completed its work and the Government have not yet considered what recommendations may come forward, but, of course, social mobility must be at the heart.
Nursery schools play a crucial role in promoting social mobility, and that includes the outstanding Ellergreen and East Prescot Road nursery schools in my constituency. The Secretary of State will know that there is widespread concern about the long-term funding for nursery schools. Will he announce today that we will shortly hear about long-term sustainable funding for nursery schools?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. The funding for high needs has been going up, and will reach just under £6 billion. In Hertfordshire, it has risen by 4.3% this year. Our reforms from 2014 were the most significant reforms in this area for a generation, but obviously we need to continue to strive more.
I know that local authorities work with each other to share best practice and to look at what happens. A whole range of things needs to be considered from, of course, training provision for teachers in mainstream schools, to the availability of places in special schools and so on. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman’s local authority will look at all those areas as well.
Hastings is one of the opportunity areas supported and funded by the Government, which will be the biggest driver of social mobility for those of us in it in a generation. Although we celebrate the success and work closely with the Department for Education to make sure that it delivers on those changes, such is the success that we are now concerned about the end of the opportunity area funding. May I urge the Secretary of State to think carefully about how that end might be smoothed so that areas such as Hastings, which will get such extraordinary change from the opportunity area, do not suddenly find themselves cut off?
I am thinking carefully about that. It was always the intention that it would be a three-year programme and that we would then take learnings from the opportunity areas both to continue that programme in those areas, and also to look at what could work elsewhere, and we continue to look at that. May I commend my right hon. Friend for her personal leadership in the Hastings opportunity area, which I had the chance to visit recently?
Successive Conservative Education Secretaries of State have rightly identified sixth-form colleges as engines of social mobility, yet the rate for 16-to-18 funding has not changed for many, many years under this and the predecessor Government. Is it not time to raise the rate?
It is. As someone who has a long passion for and personal professional experience in the sixth-form sector, the hon. Gentleman is right to identify that 16-to-18 funding is tight. That is, of course, something that we need to keep under review and have in mind as we come up to the spending review. There are, of course, things such as the maths premium. For some colleges, the T-levels funding will also be relevant.
The Minister knows that key to closing the social mobility gap is access to high-quality early years education for those who need it most. Therefore, he will be as concerned as I was to see a report by PACEY—the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years—released today, finding a downward trend in qualification levels for childminders while the number of nursery workers in training is dropping too. His own Department’s figures show that only one in four families earning under £20,000 is accessing 30 hours of free childcare a week, which might be because the same report shows that more than half of private nurseries have put up their fees in the past 12 months. Can he tell us how less well-off families unable to access more expensive childcare with less qualified staff closes the social mobility gap?
The hon. Lady is right to identify the centrality of the hundreds of thousands of dedicated people who work in nurseries and early years settings. She mentioned the 30-hours offer and the differences in different income groups. A lone parent has to earn just over £6,500 to be able to access the 30-hours offer. That is one of five extensions of early years and childcare support that have been made available by our Governments since 2010. Overall, by the end of the decade, we will be investing an extra £1 billion, rising to £6 billion in total, on early years in childhood.
Relationships and Sex Education
We want all schools to deliver high-quality teaching and curriculums in this important area, as many schools already do. The public consultation on the content of relationships and sex education closed last week, and we will use those findings to develop the right support package to complement the content set out in the draft guidance.
The Government’s impact assessment of the roll-out of relationships and sex education suggests that there will be no need for funding support from the second year onwards—that the investment at the beginning will last for ever. This, of course, ignores changes in teachers and the need to change the curriculum in future years. Will Ministers commit today that when they do come up with the final policy, they will accept the need for annual support?
The Scottish Parliament has recently decided to embed in the school curriculum LGBT issues so that LGBT children can integrate well and, more importantly, that other children treat them well. What thought has my right hon. Friend given to doing the same in England?
We have certainly given this a great deal of thought in the context of relationships and sex education. We believe that all schools should ensure that young people, whatever their developing sexuality or identity, feel that relationships education and RSE is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs. The purpose of the new provisions includes ensuring that young people learn that there are different types of relationships in modern Britain. Schools should therefore ensure that RSE is inclusive and meets the needs of all young people.
As I am sure we are all aware from our experiences of this House, the issues that surround relationships and sex education at any age can be incredibly sensitive. My question is therefore about training. At this moment in time, how much training will the Government provide? Will the Minister ensure that every teacher who is going to teach this will be able to “get it”?
Of course, it is the responsibility of schools to provide the relevant training for their teachers in all curriculum subjects. We are looking at the response to the consultation—which, as I said, closed last week—to determine what support and resources schools will need to be able to deliver this far-reaching reform of the curriculum in our schools.
Tuition Fees: Social Mobility
The proportion of 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds entering full-time higher education is up from 13.6% in 2009 to 20.4% in 2017, so disadvantaged 18-year-olds were 50% more likely to enter HE than in 2009. That is a record that this Government can be proud of.
A recent study by Universities UK and the CBI showed that about 60% of respondents were put off applying for part-time study courses because of the cost of tuition fees. Does the Minister have any plans to reduce tuition fee costs, or, even better, will he follow the example of the Scottish Government in scrapping them altogether?
The example of the Scottish Government is not one that is worth copying. We know that in Scotland, because tuition is free, resource per student is lower, and therefore disadvantaged students in Scotland have to wait for English students ahead of them in clearing because they pay more money. That is not an example we will be copying.
Given the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths subjects for the future of higher education and the economy and given the importance of social mobility in those subjects, will the Minister rule out, as a result of the Augar review, a future where STEM fees are higher than fees for arts and humanities courses, because that is apparently under consideration?
The hon. Gentleman is asking me to comment on leaks, and it will be no surprise to him that I will not comment on any leaks about an independent review. However, I will say that ensuring there is opportunity for everyone and creating opportunities that satisfy the skills our country needs is at the heart of the review. It is in the terms of reference, and that is what I will be looking for in the recommendations.
The latest report by the Education Committee suggests that some students are not getting value for money from their university courses. Does the Minister agree that only degrees that enhance employability and earning potential by more than the cost of the course can possibly improve social mobility, and what more can the Government do to make sure that young people make the right decisions about which course to go on?
I take slight issue with the point my hon. Friend makes in the sense that there are degrees that do not lead to higher earnings but are of incredible value—for example, for people who go into social work or nursing—but we need to ensure that every degree is of the right quality and gives students the best opportunity. That is why the new regulator, the Office for Students, which has the interests of students at its heart, is looking at value for money for students, and it is why we have introduced the teaching and excellence framework to focus on the quality of teaching. We are also backing the launch of new information to empower students to make the right choices.
Higher Education: Overseas Collaboration
I have had conversations with the Home Secretary about the Migration Advisory Committee review and its implications for the higher education sector. We of course want to ensure that academics and researchers can come to the UK and collaborate with the brightest and the best.
Large-scale collaborative research projects take up to about two years to plan, so universities already need to be thinking beyond 2020. What assurance can the Minister give them today about funding levels after this date, and where will such funding come from?
I assume the hon. Gentleman is referring to the Horizon 2020 research programme. The UK has made it very clear that we want to fully associate with the successor programme to Horizon 2020—Horizon Europe—to ensure that our researchers can continue to collaborate with the brightest and the best in Europe.
Despite spending nearly £2,000 on visa fees, Dr Mohamed Alnor, a professor from the Sudan International University, was denied entry to the UK to attend a conference in Glasgow last month. This is becoming a common situation for academics from the middle east, Africa and India. What assurances can the Minister give our academic community that this issue will be addressed immediately?
The Prime Minister made it clear in her Jodrell Bank speech earlier this year that we welcome all international researchers. In fact, at least 30% of the researchers in the UK are from abroad. On the new immigration system that is being considered, we will make sure that we facilitate the brightest and the best being able to come here, work here and collaborate with our researchers.
But the Glasgow conference is not unique. In Liverpool last month, 10 delegates were refused entry, including one from India whose research has been sponsored by the UK Government. Professor McKee from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has said:
“Academic collaboration is yet another consequence of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, denying visas to those working on the ground to improve the health of some of the poorest people in the world”.
How will the Minister ensure that the UK continues to be open for international collaborations and conferences?
The hon. Lady is referring to a specific case, and I cannot comment in detail about it. Needless to say, we are open and welcoming. Just in July, the Government introduced the new tier 5 visa regime to allow academics to come here on short-term visas to collaborate with researchers here. We are genuinely open to sectoral research and sectoral collaboration. If there is a specific instance where someone was disappointed, I would be happy to look at it.
Teacher Recruitment and Retention
The number of teachers remains high, with more than 450,000 in schools across the country—that is over 10,000 more than in 2010. With a strong economy and the lowest unemployment for over 40 years, competition with other professions, industry and commerce for the best graduates is fierce. That is why we have generous tax-free bursaries of up to £26,000 in certain subjects to attract high-performing graduates into teacher training and into the profession.
I thank the Minister for that answer, but teachers are leaving the profession in droves. In the north-east, over 500 teachers left last year. In real terms, teachers are thousands of pounds worse off than in 2010. Why is the Minister still imposing a real-terms pay cut on the majority of teachers?
We agreed the School Teachers Review Body recommendations for a 3.5% rise in the pay ranges for the main scale of teachers, a 2% rise in the upper pay scale and a 1.5% rise for the leadership range. We are funding that to schools through a teachers’ pay grant over and above the 1% they will already have budgeted. Earlier this year, we announced the new recruitment and retention strategy, building on existing work to boost marketing and support to applicants. The strategy seeks to increase retention rates by streamlining accountability and stripping away unnecessary workload, which the evidence suggests does not improve children’s outcomes.
What action is my right hon. Friend taking to cut down the time teachers spend doing unnecessary data-driven tasks, to help recruitment and retention?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right: dealing with workload has been a key objective of this Government. In July, we published the workload reduction toolkit, which provides material, practical advice and case studies that headteachers and other staff can use to address workload issues in their schools.
Obviously, the pay award that will go to teachers will also go to teachers in sixth-form colleges, but the Government are not funding that pay rise, so what assessment has the Minister made of the impact of the teachers’ pay award on college budgets?
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, we acknowledge that funding in the 16-to-18 sector has not been protected in the same way that we have protected school funding since 2010, because since 2010 our priority has been to ensure that basic education between the ages of five and 16 is given the priority it needs.
Further Education Funding
We are working closely with the Treasury, as finance has been challenging for further education colleges, and this work will continue in preparation for the spending review. We are also undertaking a look at the resilience of the sector to make sure that the regulatory structures and funding give us the high-quality provision that we want to see. I have mentioned the £2.5 billion that will be available by 2020 for apprenticeship training. When T-levels are fully rolled out in 2020, there will be an additional £500 million a year.
I thank the Minister for that response. As we approach the spending review, may I emphasise, particularly from North Cornwall, the passion and drive that we need to make sure that this money does go into further education? In the post-Brexit world we will be living in, it is more important than ever that our young people have the skills to benefit, so can we make sure that we push the Treasury hard on this?
My hon. Friend is a doughty champion for those in his constituency. Education is crucial, and we need to help young people to acquire the skills to thrive in life and work. For many, further education offers a second, third or even fourth chance, so it is important that we make sure they have the resources they need. Sadly, further education often gets squashed between the discussion about schools and that about university. I know my hon. Friend will be making his own representations to the Treasury.
We have had an interesting half hour. We are being told that funding in this sector is tight and not protected. We have just been told that this is the second, third or fourth chance for people in this sector. Given that young people have to stay on until 18, what assessment has been made of the impact of the reduction in income to the further education sector on their outcomes under this Government?
As the hon. Lady will have heard, we are looking at the resilience of the sector. I mentioned the £2.5 billion by 2020 and the £500 million for T-levels. There is a lot of work going on to ensure the sector has the resources it needs. Colleges are delivering extraordinarily high-quality training and education—three-quarters of colleges are good or outstanding—and they have high-quality financial management. We put a huge amount of money into restructuring, with exceptional financial support for this sector. A number of pots of money are now being made available to increase the number of teachers in further education.
The Minister says she has been working very closely with the Treasury, but it seems as though they are close encounters of the failed kind. FE’s financial woes are now at crisis. She knows that the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that spending is down by £3.3 billion since 2011. She knows that a stream of departing principals highlight the problem: 37 colleges on notice to improve their financial health. Now, Ofsted’s chief inspector says funding cuts are affecting FE’s sustainability. Before the Budget, the Minister urged everybody in FE to speak up for funding. They did with one voice through the brilliant Love our Colleges campaign, but the Chancellor ignored them. How is she going to address the crisis now that the Treasury has cold-shouldered FE?
I will not attempt to compete with the hon. Gentleman’s jokes about close encounters. I do not agree that we have been given the cold shoulder. We are looking at the resilience of the sector. I made it quite clear that I am fully aware of the challenges that FE faces. We have been putting in a lot of money, but I know that in the longer term we have to ensure that the core funding allows FE to deliver the high quality education that young people and, indeed, older people need.
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.
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.
Asbestos Management Assurance Process
The results of the asbestos management assurance process will be published in spring next year. Seventy-seven per cent. of schools have responded so far, but we expect all state-funded schools and academies to participate, so we have reopened the assurance process from today until February 2019 to give them a further opportunity to do so.
The problem with publishing this long-awaited information in the spring is that that is likely to be too late to properly influence the spending review. Given that 85% of schools have asbestos and the risks are getting greater as those buildings age, will the Minister make a serious commitment to providing the funding to schools to tackle that asbestos? Otherwise, there is no real incentive for them to come up with a plan, given the pinch on their budgets.
So far, 17,000 state-funded schools have responded to the survey; of those, 68% were assured by the appropriate responsible body. Since 2015, we have allocated £5.6 billion to those responsible for school building for essential maintenance, including removing or encapsulating asbestos when that is the safest course of action. In addition, through the £4.4 billion priority school building programme, we are rebuilding or refurbishing buildings in the worst condition, and asbestos is a factor in choosing which schools to rebuild.
In the Budget, the Government invested more than £1 billion of new funding for the Department for Education, including £695 million to improve the number and quality of apprenticeships, £400 million capital for schools, £100 million for the national retraining scheme and £84 million to improve children’s social care.
The Secretary of State makes reference to all sorts of streams except revenue funding, so will he confirm that the Budget offered no additional revenue funding for schools and that means that, in real terms, per pupil funding will fall yet again next year, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found?
Yes, my hon. Friend is right. Through the national funding formula—the fairer formula—we are taking on something that successive Governments have dodged to make sure that funding is based on need and the characteristics of pupils, rather than accidents of history.
No wonder the Secretary of State has been slapped down by his own stats watchdog four times since he took office. The IFS found that per pupil funding is hundreds of pounds lower in real terms than it was in 2015 and is set to fall again next year without new funding, so I ask him again: will he be asking the Chancellor to reverse all his cuts in full and in real terms?
I have not been slapped down four times by anybody, to the best of my recollection. I appreciate the difficulties in managing school budgets, and I appreciate that those budgets are tight, but it is also true that we spend a great deal more on schools than we used to and that, by international standards, on multiple measures, we spend a relatively high amount on state education in this country.
I am really pleased that the Secretary of State has since clarified that the Chancellor’s “little extras” should in fact be called “small additional capital projects”. Perhaps he can also clarify that school capital spending has already been cut by nearly £4 billion a year. So the Budget offered very little and no extra. Now that the Prime Minister has promised austerity is over, will the Secretary of State ask the Chancellor to fully restore the education capital budget in real terms?
Maintained Nursery School Funding
Thank you, Mr Speaker—I will clear my throat. Maintained nursery schools support some of our most disadvantaged children, and they do experience higher costs than other providers. We will therefore be providing local authorities with supplementary funding of about £60 million a year up to 2020.
With the two-year transitional funding ending soon and the comprehensive spending review not expected until the summer, maintained nursery schools in my constituency are desperately struggling to plan and budget for the future. Until secure and sustainable funding arrangements are put in place, will the Minister at least commit to further additional transitional funding to protect maintained nurseries across England?
The early years national funding formula for Greenwich has increased from £4.86 in 2016-17 to a provisional £6.17 in 2018-19. On top of this, in 2018-19, Greenwich will receive about £690,000 for its three maintained nurseries. My message to all local authorities is: do not do anything premature but wait for the spending review.
We have made excellent progress and recently reached a significant milestone when we launched the procurement for the development of the first three T-levels for 2020. We are working closely with the selected providers that will deliver them from 2020, including several in the midlands, to make sure they have the right support in place.
Over time, we are committing hundreds of millions of pounds in additional resourcing for T-levels. My hon. Friend is right to identify facilities and equipment, which is why we have committed £38 million in the first tranche of capital funding to support the initial roll-out.
Ofsted: Inspection of Outstanding Schools
We are considering the Public Account Committee’s recent recommendation that we review the exemption and will respond formally in December. Ofsted assesses the risks in all schools, including outstanding schools, and has the power to inspect any school if it has concerns.
Ofsted assesses the triggers that will cause an inspection to happen even where a school is judged as outstanding and exempt from inspection—for example, if a school’s results fall, complaints are received from parents or there are safeguarding concerns. All those are triggers that will cause an inspection to happen even in an outstanding school. The hon. Gentleman can be confident, therefore, that a school that is judged good or outstanding is good or outstanding.
My Department continues its work to ensure that young people get the best start in life whatever their background. We are widening opportunity with our school reforms, reinforced through new programmes such as Opportunity North East; in the latest Budget, funding was provided for T-levels and apprenticeships to improve the quality of our technical education, so that we can rival productivity leaders such as Germany; and last week, our consultation on relationships, sex and health education closed with over 11,000 responses. These new subjects can help young people growing up in an ever more complex world.
I was pleased to see the Secretary of State arguing in the media recently for education funding to be a special case. Perhaps it was a shame that that came a week after the Budget rather than before it but, given that the Secretary of State recognises the very tight constraints on school budgets, does he share my regret, and the regret of many other people, about the phraseology used by the Chancellor when he talked of “little extras”?
The law is clear: only children who are suffering, or at risk of suffering, significant harm receive child protection interventions. When it comes to support for children and families with wider needs, the statutory safeguarding guidance is also clear: local authorities should make a range of services available, including early help.
Looked-after children in secure accommodation have been subjected to more than 30,000 hours in solitary confinement over the past five years, in some cases for up to 23 hours a day. Leading medical experts have called for the Government to cease the practice immediately. Will the new secure academy schools be adopting it, and why is the Minister allowing such a contravention of children’s human rights to continue apace?
The hon. Lady has raised an important issue, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has also sought to address, and of which there has been some media coverage. Looked-after children are our responsibility: we are, ultimately, their parents. This is wrong, and should not be happening.
The hon. Gentleman has raised very important points about a subject in which he has considerable expertise. This is one of the reasons that we asked Edward Timpson to conduct a thorough review of exclusions policy. It is done better in some places than others, and it is important for us to learn from that. It is also important that, when children are excluded, alternative provision should be the start of something positive and new, rather than the end of positive education.
My hon. Friend has raised an important point. In 2017, approximately 91 state-maintained schools entered students for Chinese GCSE. There were 3,654 GCSE entries in that year, and 2,800 A-level entries in 2018. Maintained secondary schools must teach a foreign language at key stage 3, and we fund 64 schools for the Mandarin excellence programme, which is intended to put 5,000 students on track towards becoming fluent in Mandarin.
Matters relating to our university lecturers and staff and how they are paid are matters for universities, as they are autonomous institutions. As for the new pension arrangements and their potential impact on universities, there will be a consultation to which they can contribute.
My hon. Friend is right to point out that we made a decisive and historic move towards fairer funding by introducing the national funding formula—something avoided by previous Governments. That was backed by an extra £1.3 billion, in addition to the money allocated at the 2015 spending review. Staffordshire will gain 3.2% per pupil for its schools by 2019-20, compared with 2017-18 funding levels.
All schools need to be safe and disciplined environments in which pupils feel happy and able to fulfil their potential. We continue to work with the Home Office to consider how best to get the message of its serious violence strategy into schools, and we have ensured that its #knifefree anti-knife campaign has been disseminated to all schools in England.
The second Bercow report, “Ten Years On”, highlights that there is a very strong correlation between poor speech, language and communication skills, and children who are excluded from schools. Tackling this issue early on can make an enormous difference to children’s life chances. Does my right hon. Friend agree that focusing on this area in the early years is more important than ever, and can he assure us that we can still deliver these services given the pressures on many local authorities that provide these services?
I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of early language and literacy. I have set an ambition that we halve, from 28% to 14%, the percentage of children who reach the end of reception year without the level that they require to get the most out of primary school. This is one of the reasons that we are investing so much in the early years, including the two-year-old offer, which was not available under any previous Government, but we need to go further and we will have more to say in due course.
Every year, we rightly celebrate the achievement of students getting their A-level results. Will the Secretary of State set out a plan to bring forward a similar celebration for young people and their achievements in vocational qualifications as well?
I thank my right hon. Friend for that question. She is absolutely right that a lot of coverage is given to A-level and GCSE results, and that very little is given to all the other vocational qualifications. We must ensure that we do everything to encourage the media to do more to highlight those achievements as well.
I echo the Secretary of State’s words; he has put on the record that every school should be a special educational needs and disability school. Investment in SEND has risen by £1 billion since 2013 to £6 billion. We have opened 34 new special free schools and 55 special free schools are due to open. In July, we gave local authorities the opportunity to bid for new special alternative provision schools in their areas.
There was not a single penny in the Budget for further education—a sector that has lost a quarter of its funding since 2010. What does the Minister say to Greenhead College, which serves my constituency and has written to me to say that it fears it will not be able to provide the education that our young people deserve if cuts continue?
We have protected the base rate of funding for FE colleges. I have said before that we are looking at the resilience of the sector. I would be happy for the college to contact me, so that we can discuss what steps might be taken. The strategic college improvement fund and a number of other funds are available to help colleges to improve.
We have excellent academy schools in Bromley, but we have been badly let down by the failings, unveiled by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, in the Education for the 21st Century trust. Will my right hon. Friend meet me urgently to discuss the findings of the ESFA report, and in particular the extraordinary circumstances where the chief executive who presided over and profited from these failures has been allowed to remain in post as headteacher of one of the largest schools?
Where there are issues and where problems emerge, we must act on them quickly. I should say that the vast majority of academies and multi-academy trusts have been a great force for good in our education, but of course I would be happy, as always, to meet my hon. Friend.
Can the Secretary of State explain why York has the worst funded schools in the country, why Westfield Primary Community School and Tang Hall Primary School have had the greatest cuts and yet are in the most economically and socially deprived areas of my constituency, and why York therefore has the highest attainment gap in the country?
The national funding formula introduces a fairer system, so that every pupil in every part of the country is funded on the same basis. A child in York with special educational needs, with low prior attainment or from a disadvantaged background will receive precisely the same amount of money as a similar pupil elsewhere in the country.
Was the Minister as concerned as I was when Warwickshire County Council recently brought forward a strategy document stating that dyslexia would not constitute a special educational need? Is he as pleased as I am that that document has now been withdrawn?
Does the Secretary of State share my concern and that of Members across the House that The Observer identified a £195 million overspend by councils on high needs in the last year? Will he actually respond to my request that he agreed to in the summer to meet me to discuss special educational needs and problems in Derbyshire?
We recognise that local authorities are facing cost pressures on high needs, and I assure the hon. Lady that we are monitoring the impact of our high needs national funding formula on local authority spending decisions. We are also keeping our overall level of funding under review in the context of the next spending review.
Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating our schools, rather than running them down, on the excellent work they did around Remembrance Day parades this weekend? Across the country, schools did fantastic exhibitions. I do not know about other Members, but I saw more children on Remembrance Day parades this year than I have ever seen before, and I am sure that that has a lot to do with the schools.
I concur entirely with my right hon. Friend. Many schools have used the centenary as an opportunity for learning across a whole range of aspects connected to the first world war, but particularly Remembrance Sunday. The powerful and evocative commemorations that many schools have taken part in is a great example to us all.