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Secondary School Standards

Volume 651: debated on Monday 17 December 2018

The dedication of teachers along with our reforms has seen the proportion of good or outstanding secondary schools increase from 64% to 75%, in terms of the pupils in them, between 2010 and 2018.

Unlike the vast majority of senior schools, most of my constituency still operates a middle and upper school system. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the all-through education model is better for raising standards and preferable to pupils having to move school only five terms before they take their GCSE exams? Will he do everything in his power to assist schools in North West Leicestershire that want to transition to the 11-to-16 model?

These decisions are best made at a local level in the light of the local circumstances, but to support schools that decide to change their age range, we publish online guidance for maintained schools and academies on the process involved. I am pleased that my hon. Friend is in touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards.

During the recent Education Committee inquiry, we heard from many businesses and experts about how the current UK curriculum is taking us in the wrong direction. They said that it is about regurgitating knowledge rather than equipping young people with skills—communication skills, and the ability to do projects, science practicals and so on. Does the Secretary of State agree or disagree with those people?

If parents, employers and others heard us suggesting that there was some sort of conflict between knowledge and skills, they would despair. People need both when they come out of school. The development of skills is in many ways about knowing how to deploy knowledge. We believe that a knowledge-rich curriculum is incredibly important and helps to develop the skills that young people need for the world of work—and, indeed, for life.

Does the Secretary of State agree that, if we are to continue to raise standards in schools, it is important that schools funding is given a high priority in next year’s spending review?

Indeed. Schools, and education more broadly, are a unique case in our national life because they are all about bringing up the next generation and social mobility, and ensuring that our economy works at its full productive potential.

Ofsted has proved to be one of the most effective regulators in the country, but with cuts of almost 50%, inspections are too short and inspection teams are too small, and many schools simply do not get the inspections they need—some should require improvement or be in special measures and are not; and some good schools should be outstanding but are not. Will the Secretary of State commit to putting more resource into Ofsted so that parents can have faith that their schools are delivering for their students?

I have faith in the Ofsted system, which is an incredibly important part of our system alongside performance measures and so on. It is a vital part of what parents use to select their school. The new Ofsted framework, which is due to come in next year, is a further opportunity to develop that, but we want a proportionate system.