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Disadvantaged Children: Attainment Gap

Volume 654: debated on Monday 4 February 2019

I am pleased to say that the attainment gap is down by 13% and 9% respectively at ages 11 and 16. This year, almost £30 million in pupil premium is allocated to schools in Norfolk, and schools, of course, have the work of the Education Endowment Foundation on which to draw.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer. Chapel Green School in Norfolk is one of the country’s finest institutions for the teaching of those with the most severe educational needs. I am grateful that I can put on record the thanks of the school and all its governors for the major funding from the Government to move from its cramped facilities to its state-of-the-art facilities. The school has reported that one problem is that, because of a lack of skilled staff in the mainstream sector, it is massively oversubscribed. I invite the Secretary of State and our former Minister, Mr Timpson, who I know are working on this, to come to Norfolk, meet the team and discuss that wider problem.

My hon. Friend has touched on a really important and wide-ranging issue. First, I am grateful to him for mentioning Chapel Green School and the excellent work that it does, and also our investment in its new facilities, but he is also right that, in thinking about high needs and special needs, we also need to think about how teachers and others in mainstream schools are equipped. That is one reason we are looking at what happens in initial teacher training and with the specialist qualification, and also the key role of educational psychologists in that regard.

Figures released last week show that only 15% of school leavers in the Furness area go on to higher education. That is the lowest in the country. Will the Secretary of State or the Universities Minister meet me to see how we can address that gap? We are really proud of our apprenticeship scheme, but a generation of talent is being lost to the country because of this.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question and he is absolutely right that we all need a blend in our local areas—apprenticeships, further education and higher education. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore) or I would be delighted to meet him. I will just mention, though, that universities these days have very large sums of money available for access and participation plans, and they should be reaching out into all communities, including in Furness, to make sure that all children have the opportunity to make the most of those if they can.