House of Commons
Monday 29 April 2019
The House met at half-past Two o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
School Exclusions: Timpson Review
I am very grateful to Edward Timpson for the thorough work he has been leading on exclusions. The review has gathered substantial evidence and will report shortly, and I will then respond.
The all-party parliamentary group on knife crime, which I chair, found through an extensive freedom of information request that a third of local authorities have no space left in their pupil referral units. We know that excluded children who are not offered a full-time place at a pupil referral unit are at an increased risk of being involved in crime. We were told that the Timpson review was finalised last year. We are still waiting for a publication date to be confirmed. When will the Secretary of State confirm that date, and when will the Government act?
I commend the hon. Lady for the work that she and her colleagues do on the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime, which is a terrible scourge for us all to grapple with. I am not in a position to give her a date for publication of the Timpson review. It will be soon, but we have to be careful not to draw a simple causal link between exclusions and knife crime.
According to the most recent figures collected by the Education Policy Institute, in one year nearly 55,000 children have disappeared from school rolls without explanation. The Secretary of State cannot tell us why, nor can he for those excluded officially, because his Department collects no further information on them. While we wait for Timpson to report, will the Secretary of State commit to my call—one that is supported by Ofsted, the National Education Union and many people across education—to scrap the “other” category as a reason for exclusion, which now represents 20% of exclusions in our schools on his watch?
To continue the theme of simple links that should not be drawn, it would be wrong to associate that figure of 55,000 with any one category. There are many reasons why children may be taken out of school—for example, emigration. We are concerned, of course, about exclusions. That is why I invited Edward Timpson to carry out this review. It would be wrong of me to pre-empt what he has to say, but we will report back soon.
As well as having concerns about delays to the review, I am concerned about other forms of exclusion that may fall out of scope. I am aware in my constituency of the use of isolation units in schools, where students are removed from lessons and placed in single booths to work on their own, often for several days at a time, with no therapeutic intervention, as a form of punishment for poor behaviour. Often that results in the student no longer going to school. Will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss ending the draconian use of isolation units?
I know that there was a good debate on related matters recently in the House. We support headteachers and schools in making decisions on proportionate use of behaviour management. It is important that that is proportionate, but headteachers and schools are generally in the best position to make those judgments. We also issue guidance from the centre, which we keep under review.
I am delighted when children and young people take an active interest in these incredibly important issues, and on a number of environmental topics children and young people have very much taken the lead, but my message to them is: on a Friday afternoon, the best place for you to be is in school. That is where you can learn to be a climate scientist or an engineer and solve these problems in the future. Being absent from school tends to disrupt learning for others and causes an additional workload for your teachers.
Exclusion should only be used as a last resort, but it is worth remembering the disruption that the child can cause to everybody else’s education in a class. Can my right hon. Friend tell me how the number of exclusions is going as a trend—for instance, was it higher 10 years ago?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. He is right that permanent exclusion should be a last resort, and in my experience of headteachers, it is: it is a decision that they come to after a great deal of soul searching. He is also right that as well as the effect on the individual child, we have to think about the effect on the other 27 children in the class and, indeed, the staff in the school. There has been an upward trend in the number of exclusions in the past few years, but it has not reached the highs we saw under previous Labour Governments.
Does the Secretary of State agree with me that when permanent exclusions do happen, it should not be the end of something, but the start of something new and positive to get that child’s education back on track? Will he look at whether powers are needed by the regional schools commissioners to enable them to work with local education authorities to ensure excluded children are not just left wandering the streets?
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend that exclusion must be the start of something new and positive, as well as the end of something, and that is why the quality of alternative provision is so important. I pay tribute to the brilliant staff and leaders who work in our alternative provision settings, 84% of which are rated good or outstanding. However, we know there is always more that can be done, and that is why we have our innovation fund and other initiatives.
The Secretary of State surely knows that he lost nearly 9,500 pupils on his watch last year. They went off roll, and we had no idea where they went. Following on from the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Frith), one in 12 pupils who began secondary school in 2012 and finished in 2017 were removed from school rolls. Given the scale of the problem, will the Secretary of State not tell us when the Timpson review will be published and commit to Labour’s pledge that schools should retain responsibility for the results of the pupils they exclude?
I have not ruled that out, as the hon. Gentleman will know. I am sure he will join me in welcoming the consultation we have put out on children not in school and on maintaining a register of children not in school, including the duty to make sure that extra help is provided for home educating parents, where they seek it. There have always been absences from school, as he will know. We have made great progress over the years on absence and persistent absence from school, but we need to make sure that more is done.
Creative Projects: Early Years Experience
Creative and practical subjects form a key part of the early years foundation stage statutory framework, which is mandatory for all early years providers, including of course schools.
I have some experience in this area, as the former Chair of the Select Committee on Education. Is the Minister not aware that, over several years, we have seen how the push to study for early years testing has really pushed the practical and the creative out of the classroom, and could we bring it back? Will the Minister talk to Tristram Hunt, who is the director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, which has learning hubs, practical hubs and making hubs, and learn from his experience?
I would certainly talk to Tristram Hunt. Expressive arts and design is one of the seven areas of learning set out in the early years foundation stage statutory framework, and it involves exploring and using media and materials, and being imaginative, including through design and technology, art, music, dance, role play and stories.
Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), does the Minister not accept that the emphasis on testing only English and maths—not just in primary school, but throughout—is having a detrimental effect on experiential learning, project learning and creating people with a lust for learning, not those who can just regurgitate facts?
No teacher or school leader would disagree about the lust for learning and making learning fun, but testing is the building block that allows us to make the investment and have the focus necessary to produce the extraordinary results that we are producing for children and families up and down the country.
Good-quality music tuition builds our young people’s creativity, skills and mental wellbeing. Accessing it is a challenge in poorer communities such as my own. What assessment have Ministers made of an art pupil premium to level this imbalance?
I am grateful to the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, the hon. Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore), for visiting Space Studio West London in my constituency to see young people making robots and getting involved in other engineering projects such as sustainable energy. My mobile phone was charged wirelessly this morning by an invention of theirs.
Does the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), agree that employability comes from having practical learning? Will he join me in trying to make sure that creativity is encouraged in all our schools? Will he support my arts and makers fair, which will showcase work by young people across Hounslow?
The Minister may be aware of the recent “Sounds of Intent” report, which showed that targeted music lessons for under-fives helps close the gap, particularly in deprived areas and for children with complex needs. Can the Minister tell us whether he believes that every child should have access to music while at nursery? If so, what audit is he doing on quality? He may agree that putting a CD on at Christmas is very different from having a professional come in on a weekly basis. If he believes that quality is important, what is he doing to ensure that music has a greater role in the early years foundation stage?
We plan to spend around £3.5 billion on early education entitlements this year alone, and that targets the most disadvantaged in society. The hon. Lady rightly mentions music, which is very much part of the creative portfolio that children under five should be enjoying. Part of our funding, of course, is for making sure that we deliver all that and more in our fantastic early years provision.
Immigration Leglisation: Tertiary Education
My visit to Space Studio West London this morning was excellent; a robot even transported my ministerial pack across the room. I was incredibly impressed.
On the immigration White Paper, I should say that the Government are undertaking a period of extensive engagement on the future of our immigration system. It will consider the views of business, academic institutions and employers. That will ensure that the future immigration system works for the whole UK, including students in tertiary education.
EU nationals are an integral part of academic institutions in Scotland, accounting for 20% of total staff and playing a crucial role in the research and teaching capacities of our colleges and universities. The £30,000 salary threshold is a critical threat to that. Does the Secretary of State personally support that policy, or will he finally support scrapping it?
As the Minister responsible in a different Department for science, research and innovation, I recognise the challenges presented by the £30,000 cap recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee. I understand that there is a period of consultation on this cap at the moment. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to make his representations known to the Home Office. I have also been working with the high-level group on exiting the European Union on this issue.
The SQA—Scottish Qualifications Authority—exams started in Scotland last week and today pupils are sitting exams in German, politics, biology and Gaelic. I am sure the whole House will join me in wishing them the very best of success. Gur math a thèid leibh!
The inclusion of international students in net migration figures continues to cause deep concerns across higher education, and it now seems that EU nationals will be subject to the same harsh regime. Can the Minister confirm that from 2021 EU nationals will pay annual fees of up to £25,000 to attend university in England?
There will be an urgent question on this issue later, but it is important to reflect on the fact that the Government have already committed for the 2019-20 academic year that there will be home fee status for EU students for the 2020-21 academic year. We will be making an announcement on that very shortly. It is also important to recognise that the number of EU students has risen by 3.8% since 2017. The Government want to ensure we do our best to attract the best and the brightest internationally, which is why we recently published our international education strategy. I want to ensure we do not just attract global talent from the EU. The key point here is to ensure we do not discriminate against EU students versus international students, but that we have a system that works for all students across the globe.
The UK’s hostile immigration environment seems to know no bounds. EU nationals will now experience the same harsh conditions as other international students. It seems that the Government are happy to ignore advice from universities, business and civic society in their attempt to curb international student numbers. What impact assessment has been made of potentially losing high-calibre EU students who may well decide to study in a more welcoming country?
On the urgent question, I will not comment on specific leaks when it comes to matters of policy yet to be decided, but we have to look at this issue in the international context. The number of non-EU students is also up, by 4.9%, which is testament to the fact that we have world-leading universities. Four out of the top 10 universities are in the UK, including Edinburgh in Scotland. We need to plan to ensure we have a sustainable system that backs talent coming to this country, both in terms of research and science. We will also be announcing an international research innovation strategy. We want to ensure that students come here, but we need to make sure it is affordable for the British taxpayer.
The Minister talks about numbers, but he will know that, according to the OECD, the UK market share has fallen from 12% in 2010 to 8% in 2016. That is equivalent to £9 billion in lost export earnings. He will also know that there is strong cross-party support for an amendment to the immigration Bill, which I have tabled with the hon. Member for Orpington (Joseph Johnson), to reverse the policies that have led to that decline. Will he agree to meet us, so that together we can persuade his Government colleagues of the need to back those changes?
I am always happy to meet the hon. Gentleman. I am sure he remembers that when I was a Cabinet Office I happily worked with him on an amendment he tabled to the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 regarding student registration. However, since 2017, the figures show a rise in EU and non-EU students. He mentions market share. He is absolutely right that we want to do more and that we need to do more. That is why we published our international education strategy, which has the ambition not just of raising the complete value of international education from £30 billion to £35 billion by 2030, but of putting in the figure of 600,000 students. It is not just about having a system that works around visas, but the whole student experience and ensuring the UK is the best place to study globally.
Leaving the EU: Tertiary Education
The Government remain focused on securing a deal that will ensure an orderly exit from the EU. We are considering all aspects of how exiting the EU might affect education, including the delivery of the Government guarantee, attracting international students and staff, and access to student finance.
In contrast to Scotland, the Secretary of State proposes to remove home fee status from EU students after Brexit. This has created such concern that the Norwegian higher education Minister is advising students to avoid the UK. Is the Secretary of State proud that his plans are causing European students to avoid our universities?
I recently met the Norwegian Minister the hon. Lady mentions, Iselin Nybø, to reassure her of the UK Government’s commitment to student programmes such as Erasmus and scientific programmes such as Horizon 2020. What I am not happy with is Members talking down our higher education system when the Government want to ensure that we bring more students here. We are looking at how to do that as part of our education strategy.
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Government have proposed a temporary leave that will apply to EU citizens for 36 months, allowing EU students to complete their third-level degrees here in England. However, the majority of Scottish degree courses last for 48 months, and thus EU students will face the threat of being forced to leave before finishing their education. Will the Minister advise on what steps he has taken to address and right this policy, which will harm Scottish universities?
I recognise the point that the hon. Gentleman makes and the potential impact on Scottish universities, as does the Home Secretary, whose officials have been working closely with mine on this. The Government are now considering how best to ensure that students on four-year courses are easily able to move into the student system once their European temporary leave to remain expires. If European economic area or Swiss citizens wish to stay in the UK for longer than 36 months, they will need to apply and qualify for an immigration status under the main study routes of the UK’s new skills-based immigration system. Alternatively, they will be able to apply, under tier 4 of the points-based system, for a student visa to cover the full length of their course.
Our higher education institutions—including the Open University, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month—are world class, but sadly, despite what the Minister says, the Government are letting those universities down. They are not giving clarity at the moment over access to Erasmus+, they are not guaranteeing continued access to Horizon Europe funding and there are fears over research grant collaboration with EU partners.
Now there are reports that the Government are preparing to charge EU students—[Interruption] Stop chuntering!—who currently pay UK fees, a hugely increased international rate, and to scrap their support when we leave the EU, with or without a deal. The Minister is wrong: statistics from the Russell Group show that EU student numbers are 3% down, and EU postgraduate numbers are 9% down for 2018-19. The Education Secretary is said to be pushing this forward. Does the universities Minister agree with it, and is it Government policy?
The hon. Gentleman talks about uncertainty, but it is uncertainty that he himself has created, as one of the Members who has not voted for a deal, which would have provided certainty on student mobility and student finance. The deal, if passed, will allow us to begin work on a future relationship that ensures that we can work together, with our universities sector and with our European partners. Although we are leaving the European Union, we are not leaving our European neighbours behind. We want to continue those close partnerships, which is why I have been in Brussels attending the European Competitiveness Council—I hope to do so again on 28 May—to ensure that we can associate into Horizon Europe. I want to continue to work on the possibilities for student exchanges. It is important that we maintain our university system not just as a European one but as an international one as well.
It was Labour’s decision in 2004 to make languages at key stage 4 non-compulsory that led to the dramatic drop in the numbers taking GCSE foreign languages. Thanks to our introduction of the EBacc, the percentage of pupils in state-funded schools taking a language GCSE has increased, from 40% in 2010 to 46% now. Our target is 75% studying a foreign language GCSE by 2022 and 90% by 2025.
Given that catastrophic mistake by the Labour party, I commend my right hon. Friend and his colleagues for the proportion of pupils taking a language GCSE increasing from 40% to 47% since 2010. Does he agree that, given the—so far, unicorn—desire to develop a really global Britain project, it will become more and more important that our students are properly equipped for a fully global world, in which Britain will have to make a new way for itself?
I agree with my right hon. Friend completely. As we enter a new global economy, we want to be able to trade with our European partners and need to speak European languages, as well as languages throughout the world, which is why we believe in the EBacc. I wish the Labour party would support our ambition to have 75% of students taking the EBacc combination of GCSEs by 2022.
The provision of languages post-16 has shrunk since 2010. This is largely due—or partly due at least—to the continually growing 16-to-18 funding gap on the Government’s watch. Is it not time to raise the rates so that, among other things, languages can prosper again post-16?
Actually, that is not the reason. The numbers taking A-level maths and further maths are at all-time highs. Languages have suffered because of the decision in 2004 on GCSEs. It is difficult for someone to take an A-level in a language if they have not studied it at GCSE.
Speaking a language greatly increases one’s employability. According to Business Insider, the No. 1 language for getting a good job is German—going by the number of job ads and the quality and pay of the jobs—yet only 3,000 pupils sat German A-level last year. The exam could be held in Westminster Hall so few are the pupils. I appreciate that the Government have an excellent record on GCSEs. Can we do more to encourage language learning at A-level?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct. Germany is the fourth largest economy and not far away—a few hundred miles—from this country, and we need more young people studying German GCSE, which is why we have the target of having 75% taking a modern language by 2022.
To teach more foreign languages in schools we need to recruit and retain the very best teachers. What is the Minister doing to help us retain the very best modern languages teachers, who are feeling the pressure under increased workloads and increased stress?
That is why we have introduced a recruitment and retention strategy and why we have £26,000 tax-free bursaries and £28,000 tax-free scholarships for the best foreign language graduates coming into teaching. Teaching is a very worthwhile profession. I hope the hon. Gentleman will talk it up, as we do on the Conservative Benches.
School Places: Essex
One of the first decisions the Government took on coming to office in 2010 was to double the capital expenditure on creating new school places, after the previous Labour Government cut 100,000 school places. Since 2010, some 921,000 new school places have been created, including 450 new free schools. More than £12 billion has been committed since 2011 to delivering those new schools and new school places.
My constituency is growing very fast and we need more school places. We have a new all-through school opening, but many of the other schools are expanding their places and then struggling because the funding comes with a lag. Come the spending review, will my right hon. Friend and the Education team support a campaign for fairer funding for schools in areas of very high growth?
The national funding formula allocates £287 million nationally in growth funding and local authorities also have the ability to top-slice their wider schools block funding if necessary to supplement growth funding. In 2018-19, Essex has been allocated £6.8 million in growth funding through the national funding formula growth factor, but we will, as my hon. Friend requests, make a strong case at the spending review for the right education funding for all areas.
From some of the answers from Ministers today, anyone would think they had not been in government for nearly a decade.
School places are really important for parents, but often at this time of the year many of them find it is not they who choose the school their sons and daughters will go to but the school that chooses which pupils to accept. Can I remind Ministers of the pledges they made before the last general election? Parents in Essex and across the country were promised a review of school admissions in the Conservative party manifesto. Will the Minister keep to that promise?
What I will tell the hon. Lady is that last year—which is the latest for which we have figures— 97.7% of families achieved one of their top three primary school choices, 91% achieved their first choice of primary school, and 93.8% achieved one of their top three choices of secondary school. In 2010, when we came to office, just 66% of pupils attended a good or outstanding school; today the figure is 86%.
When Aspire alternative provision Academy in Harlow was taken over by the TBAP Multi-Academy Trust in 2017, it had a healthy balance and a strong business plan. Since then, it has been revealed on the BBC’s “Panorama” programme that TBAP had been in serious debt, and its public accounts were found to be inaccurate. Aspire has been dragged down with it. Does the Minister agree that it is absolutely necessary for Ofsted to inspect multi-academy trusts to prevent that situation from occurring again? How will he support Aspire, whose headteacher is here today, and which wants to be brokered to another MAT?
As my right hon. Friend will know, we issued a financial notice to improve to the TBAP trust in August 2018, long before the “Panorama” programme was broadcast, because we were concerned about poor financial management and controls. That notice will remain in place until we are satisfied that the trust has taken effective action to address our concerns. We always act swiftly in such circumstances, and our primary concern has been to preserve the education of children and limit the impact on the taxpayer.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. That is very kind. All the pain is worth it for two great causes.
Corby is the fastest growing town in the country, and it is essential for school places to keep up with that housing growth. What reassurance can the Minister give parents in my constituency that both the policy and the resources are in place to achieve exactly that?
Let me add my congratulations to my hon. Friend on his achievement in the London marathon. He will be pleased to know that in 2019-20 we have introduced a new formulaic approach to the allocation of growth funding to local authorities in the NFF. It is a fairer system, because it is based not just on what the authorities spent in the past but on the actual growth in the number of pupils. We will, of course, always keep this issue under review.
Education Funding: England
While this country is a relatively high spender on state education by comparison with other similar countries, we recognise that finances remain challenging, and we will continue to listen to professionals in the run-up to the spending review.
Like many other schools in my constituency, Fishburn Primary School is facing severe funding difficulties, to the extent that parents are holding a fundraising event to raise money for essentials. Given that a real-terms increase in funds is not coming from his Department, would the Secretary of State care to contribute a raffle prize to help to raise the money that will ensure that local children continue to receive the education that they deserve?
It is, of course, exceptionally important for schools to be properly resourced. In the Darlington local authority area, where the typical primary class size is 27, the average funding is £104,000, while in the Durham local authority area— which the hon. Gentleman mentioned—where the class size is slightly smaller at 25, the funding is a shade higher at £105,000. Of course it is right that, through the national funding formula, we ensure that schools are properly resourced for the education that they will need to deliver.
Since 2015 schools in Tower Hamlets have lost out on some £56 million—of which £7.7 million is for children with special needs—despite having the highest child poverty rate in the country. When will the Secretary of State stand up to the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, and seek the additional funding that is so much needed for our children around the country?
As my right hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards said earlier, we will of course put forward a strong case for education, on which so much else depends in both our society and our economy. The hon. Lady mentioned her constituency. That is an area of relatively high school funding per pupil, and specifically on high needs. I recognise the additional pressures on the high-needs budget, but £1.4 million of the additional money that we were able to secure for high needs will go to her constituents over two years.
Of the 33 schools in the Easington constituency, 28 have had their funding cut between 2015 and 2019, three of them by more than £600,000, including my former primary school, now called Ribbon Primary School. Are we to take it that the Government’s plan is to transfer resources from hard-pressed areas in the north-east to more affluent areas in the south and south-east?
Funding has been allocated on a per-pupil basis for a large number of years now, including through the period 1997 to 2010, so a decrease in pupil numbers has an effect on funding, but through the national funding formula over two years we are allocating at least a 1% increase in respect of every child in the country, and for historically underfunded areas, up to 6%.
There is pressure on high-needs budgets. Actually, the high-needs budget has gone up from £5 billion to £6 billion over the last few years, but there are still those pressures, as my right hon. Friend rightly says. That is why it was so important to secure the additional £250 million that we announced at the end of last year.
I obviously welcome the fact that 15,200 children are now in good and outstanding schools in Somerset, as compared to 2010, but—urgently—teachers are coming to me increasingly about the funding pressures they are under, because they have more and more on their shoulders. I have just had seven schools in the Tone Valley Partnership and a raft of schools with the Redstart Trust coming to me to highlight their funding pressures, so please will the Secretary of State meet me again to understand what they are facing and to discuss it?
My hon. Friend is right to highlight the strong performance of schools in her area and the improvement in Ofsted judgments. It is also true, of course, that over the two years Somerset schools have benefited from a 5.9% increase in per-pupil funding, but I will of course be more than happy to meet her again to talk about the high-needs pressures and others that she mentioned.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight this exceptionally important issue, and it is vital that we have the right education and the right support for every child, whatever their unique personal make-up. As I say, there have been pressures on the high-needs budget, which I totally recognise. There have been multiple reasons for that, as schools up and down the country identify. I will be happy to meet her to discuss the specific issues that she mentioned and how best we can address them.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your kind words. May I take this opportunity to thank everyone across Barnsley for supporting me yesterday?
When the Government announced their new institutes of technology earlier this month, there was not a single one in South Yorkshire or West Yorkshire, and just two across the whole of the north. Will the Secretary of State review that decision and support new applicants from those areas?
The creation of institutes of technology is a very exciting development, and there will be more to come. This is a great opportunity to improve the provision of higher technical education throughout the country; as time goes on, I anticipate that there will be more of them.
I join Mr Speaker in congratulating the hon. Lady and my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove) on their great efforts in the marathon.
School Funding: North-East
Funding for schools in the north-east has increased by 2.9% per pupil compared to 2017-18, which is equivalent to an extra £77.4 million in total, when rising pupil numbers are taken into account.
The Government are continually telling us that record levels of funding are going into education, but it is about time we found out where it is going, because the average secondary school in the north-east will be £190,000 a year worse off than it was in 2015.
No; as I was saying to the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame Morris), the national funding formula allocates at least 1% over two years in respect of each pupil, and that goes up to 6% per pupil in historically underfunded areas. In a few exceptional cases, it is even more than that. It is incredibly important that we have the right resourcing in place for children’s education throughout the country, and that is another reason why we will be making a strong case on behalf of education in the spending review.
On Saturday afternoon, I heard the amazingly talented steel band from Prince Bishops Community Primary School. The Secretary of State has cut the amount per child by £600 in that school. It is in the top 10% of most deprived wards, so can he explain why this has happened?
We have not done that. As I was saying a moment ago, we have increased the allocation of funding in respect of each pupil through the national funding formula. Local authorities make the final decision on the allocation of funding between schools, according to issues such as the proportion of children with special educational needs, but I would be happy to sit down with the hon. Lady to look specifically at the numbers that she has talked about in respect of that individual school.
Apprenticeships: Careers Guidance
All schools and colleges must provide careers information, advice and guidance to 12 to 18-year-olds. Since January 2018, schools have been required, under what is commonly known as the Baker clause, to invite providers of technical education and apprenticeships to talk to pupils, in order to give them the full picture of their options. A third of technical education and apprenticeship providers say that the situation has improved since that requirement came in, but we know that there is more to do.
Employers have told me that they work in a constantly evolving environment, and that if we are to avoid falling behind the rest of the world, we need a workforce that is able to cope with digital change. What is the Minister doing to ensure that engineering apprenticeships include training in digital skills, so that no young person is left behind in the modern digital economy?
The hon. Gentleman is quite right to say that it is increasingly important for young people to have those digital skills. I refer him to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s website, where he will be able to see the 400 apprenticeship standards that have been developed, many of which involve digital skills. From 2020, we are introducing the first T-levels, the first of which will be a digital T-level.
State-funded schools in England must offer a broad and balanced curriculum, which for maintained schools includes the national curriculum. Subject to the consultation outcome, Ofsted’s new framework will place the curriculum at the heart of inspection, with an emphasis on schools providing a broad, balanced and ambitious curriculum for all pupils, together with an emphasis on the EBacc for secondary schools.
I thank the Minister for that answer. Across the House this afternoon, colleagues have mentioned the importance to a broad-based curriculum of music, drama, sport, public speaking, outdoor pursuits and many other things. I am delighted to hear that Ofsted will need to look at this, but does he agree that it is vital that these activities should be offered by all schools in all areas, not just by the schools in which parents and others can provide contributions to ensure that these activities happen?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. All the areas that he has cited are vital for children in schools. Art and music are compulsory in the national curriculum up to age 14, and the Government have provided almost £500 million between 2016 and 2018 for arts education programmes. As he pointed out, Ofsted’s proposed framework increases the emphasis on schools’ provision of a broad curriculum, and inspectors will also expect to see rich extracurricular activities for pupils.
I congratulate Yeovil College on its achievement. I can tell my hon. Friend that £38 million of capital will be made available for T-level development and that an extra £500 million a year will be allocated to that sector of our education system once the courses are up and running.
Condition Improvement Fund
I congratulate all colleagues who ran the marathon. The disbursements of funding for successful projects under the condition improvement fund 2019-20 will start in June.
I must disclose an interest, in that I am now a director of the Watford UTC, and I thank Lord Agnew for all the help he has given that university technical college.
I am delighted that four schools in Watford were successful in their bids to the fund for improvements, which is known as the CIF—I know that that sounds like a disinfectant, but it is actually really important. The successful schools were Watford Grammar School for Boys, the Grove Academy, the Orchard Primary School and Parmiter’s School. This is excellent news, but will my hon. Friend give me an idea of when the schools will receive the money from this welcome funding boost?
This month we published a consultation on proposals for a register of children not in school, including a legal responsibility to register children and for authorities to provide extra support for home-educating parents. We announced the first 12 institutes of technology to boost higher technical skills in science, technology, engineering and maths, setting more young people on a clear path to a high-skilled, high-wage career.
This is the last Education questions ahead of thousands of young people starting their GCSE and A-level exams. All hon. Members will want to take this opportunity to wish those young people well, and to thank the hard-working teachers in all our constituencies who have helped them to prepare.
Can it be confirmed that if EU students studying in Scotland apply for immigration status after a three-year grace period, they will not be given any priority, and that if they are rejected by a hostile Home Office, they will be sent packing before they have completed their course?
My hon. Friend the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation set out earlier the arrangements that are in place to allow people to convert, and to ensure that young people from other countries are able to take full advantage of the excellent education available at universities in Scotland and in England. Of course, there are four-year courses in England as well as in Scotland.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on continuing to press the case for the funding that further education needs. We are reviewing the sustainability of further education ahead of the spending review. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend for her particular work on apprenticeships.
Last week, we heard that 55 staff at the University of Winchester are facing redundancy as a result of the Treasury’s pensions bill, and the University of Cumbria is considering leaving the teachers’ pension scheme altogether. Will the Minister rethink before that trickle becomes a flood?
The Department had a consultation that also looked at the teachers’ pension scheme for further education, schools and independent schools. Obviously, there is only so much money to go around. We need to ensure that organisations such as further education colleges, which have no choice but to offer the teachers’ pension scheme, are protected.
I understand that this is unwelcome news for universities that are having to face increased bills, but in terms of ensuring that universities are financially sustainable, recent reports have shown that the universities sector is in good health. We need to ensure that universities work with the Office for Students, which is clear that when it comes to universities’ registration plans, financial sustainability is key and is marked down for five years. We want to work with universities to make sure they can offer the best experience to students.
I am sure those watching will say that the Minister’s response of “unwelcome news” is just not good enough.
One of the most important things in the education sector is the early years provision. Will the Education Secretary confirm that funding for Sure Start has fallen yet again? It is down by another 12% on his watch. Now that the Prime Minister has announced and promised an end to austerity, can the Education Secretary tell us when the cuts will stop for our tots?
This Government are spending £3.5 billion on early years entitlement, and we are absolutely committed to ensuring that pupils get the best start in life as early as possible. The hon. Lady hits on the crux of the issue: to ensure that we have an education system that is sustainable and works for everyone, we need to make sure that all parts of the Department for Education are properly financed.
The hon. Lady’s commitment on the teachers’ pension scheme has to compete with other commitments within the education system. We will have an urgent question later about EU student finance, and I see in the papers that she has stated she would give free tuition fees to EU students. The point here is that money for EU students comes out of the pockets of Sure Start. The issue she has to address is where the money is coming from in the Department for Education for all her unfunded announcements. It is simply not acceptable for her to stand at the Dispatch Box and make commitments that will only disappoint people in the long term.
I agree with my hon. Friend that in many instances, it may be better to build a new primary school than to expand an existing school, and a variety of factors will need to be weighed up in making such decisions: the quality of existing provision; the impact on existing schools and the community; and the overall costs and value for money.
As we have said a number of times during this Question Time, under the national funding formula, every local authority is being funded with more money for every pupil in every school—a minimum of 1% more, and up to 6% more for schools that have been historically underfunded.
If a school receives a pupil after the census cut-off date, it does not receive the per-pupil funding for the rest of that financial year. This is costing schools in my Lewes constituency around £4,000 per pupil. What is the Minister going to do to look again at the issue of the census cut-off date?
Lagged funding, of course, has an advantage in providing stability for the school system. Particularly where pupil numbers fall, for example, a school will know that it will not see an immediate drop in its funding. We keep the growth factor funding issue under review for those schools that are experiencing exceptionally high increases in pupil numbers, and we also keep this factor of the national funding formula under review.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Philip Augar and his team for the very thorough piece of work they are doing, looking at post-18 education and its financing. Of course, that covers both the university route and others. It is an incredibly important piece of work. I do not have a date to give the hon. Lady today; I will avoid using the “s” word, but we will come back on this before too long. While I am on my feet, let me say that we have mentioned everybody else who ran the marathon and who has stood up today, but my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) also put in a very creditable performance.
Although I welcome the focus on phonics, recent research suggests that that method of teaching is less effective for children who have a specific learning disability, such as dyslexia. Will my right hon. Friend reassure me that resources will be allocated to provide teachers with the specialist training needed to support those pupils who find it hard to learn using phonics? Will he ensure that this research is taken into account when assessing the literacy levels of dyslexic children?
My hon. Friend is right; quality teaching with a differentiated approach ensures that pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, including dyslexia, develop key skills, such as spelling. We are funding the Whole School SEND Consortium, in order to bring together practitioners and networks, so that they can build a community of practice, identify school SEND improvements, and exchange knowledge and expertise.
The national funding formula came into effect in 2018-19, the last financial year, and it is in effect in this financial year, 2019-20. We are maintaining per-pupil spending in real terms in both those financial years. As I have said, since 2017 we have been allocating to local authorities more money for every pupil in every school.
It was an undistinguished career, Mr Speaker. May I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for visiting Romiley Primary School in my constituency with me on Friday, for very constructive discussions with the headteacher and governors? I urge him to have similarly constructive discussions with our right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on matters such as the apprenticeship levy, per-pupil funding and the high-needs budget.
I very much enjoyed and got a lot from my visit to Romiley on Friday; I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Discussions with headteachers and governing bodies are so important in learning about specific pressures on schools, and in helping us to develop our response to them.
I know the hon. Lady is passionate about the care system, having been a social worker. We are introducing reforms—both workforce reforms with the national assessment and accreditation system, and through the investment we are making in “Strengthening Families, Protecting Children”, for which £84 million was announced at the Budget. Of course, we will also put our best foot forward, working with the sector, to make sure that the financial challenges are highlighted at the spending review.
May I put an eccentric point of view to the Secretary of State? If we make a manifesto commitment, we should keep it. Two years after breaking our manifesto commitment to set up Catholic free schools, we were promised new, voluntary-aided Catholic schools. I am told by the Catholic Education Service that not a single one has yet opened, anywhere in the country. If it is a pipeline, it is a very long one. What is he doing about it?
Schools do take a while to build. My right hon. Friend is right that I made a commitment, including a personal commitment to him and others, that we would make sure that faith schools, including Catholic schools, would be able to open in areas where there was the demographic need and the demand for them. That commitment absolutely remains in place.
Yes. Our resource management advice programme is all about helping to support schools in what they do best. We expect the headteacher and the chair of governors of a small primary school to be expert at a remarkably wide array of things. It is absolutely right to offer support to schools, including on things such as financial management, but that is there to support the work that schools do in education.
I recently met David Prince and his 12-year-old daughter Holly, who is visually impaired. Holly benefits hugely from the specialist teacher advisory service provided by Hampshire County Council, but the council proposes cutting the funding for this life-changing service, which helped Holly to learn to use a cane, and trained her in mobility. Will a Minister work with me to help Holly, her father and Hampshire County Council find resources so that vulnerable children in Fareham do not have to go without a rich education?
When the Timpson review finally passes the editing process at the Department for Education, will it include an analysis of whether a lack of funding for pastoral and family-support staff is driving exclusions?
The hon. Lady will not have too long to wait for Edward’s report and our response to it. When it comes, she will find that it is a comprehensive and thorough piece of work. We have been looking carefully at all the relevant aspects to make sure that we can guarantee that, as was said earlier, when somebody is excluded, it is not only the end of something, but the start of something positive and new. We support schools’ being able to make such decisions, which remain an important part of behaviour management in schools.
I thank the Secretary of State for the support that he and his Department have given to Fowey River Academy, which is re-brokering out of the discredited Adventure Learning Academy Trust into the Leading Edge Academies Partnership this Wednesday. The re-brokering process has been complex, so will the Secretary of State look into it to see how we can minimise the disruption and uncertainty for all those involved?
Recent figures show that areas with the greatest need have seen the biggest decline in the number of apprenticeship starts in the past year, with new starts in Bradford South falling by around 50%. I thank the Minister for visiting my constituency, but I am extremely concerned that the current apprenticeship scheme may be widening rather than narrowing the gap between different parts of the country. Will the Minister outline her plans to remedy the situation?
It was a pleasure to visit the hon. Lady’s constituency, where we saw examples of real excellence in the provision of apprenticeships. We have two specific projects, including the 5 Cities project, which is increasing diversity, and we are working in four separate areas to see whether we can make sure that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds can access high-quality apprenticeships, because they often lack the social capital that others from less disadvantaged backgrounds have.
The rationing of special needs funding means that Derbyshire County Council is asking schools not to apply for support until pupils are at least two years behind in educational terms, meaning that they often never get the support that they need. Will the Secretary of State look with me at how county councils are implementing this rationing, to ensure that pupils get the support that they need when they need it?
Will Ministers join me in congratulating Queen Emma’s Primary School in Witney on its recent Ofsted success, and will they join me in noting that it is the school’s use of phonics combined with a broad, attractive curriculum that is providing an outstanding education for the children of Witney at primary, secondary and beyond?
I was determined that no one else would answer this question, Mr Speaker. I send my congratulations to Queen Emma’s Primary School on a wonderful set of results in its Ofsted inspection. Phonics is the most effective way of teaching young children to read, and 82% are now reaching the expected standard. There is a direct link between reaching the expected standard in a phonics check and reaching the expected standard in the key stage 2 reading test: 88% of those who reach the expected standard in a phonics check go on to reach the expected standard in reading at key stage 2.
The Minister previously spoke warmly of his desire to maintain good relations with Europe after Brexit. Is he aware of the very recent comments by Guy Verhofstadt, the EU Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, that students should not be “victims of Brexit”, and that he intends to write to the Prime Minister to say that the EU will never accept the Government’s hike in tuition fees for EU students? How does the Minister think that the PM will answer?
We are about to have an urgent question on this specific issue, but I would say that this is part of negotiations on our future partnership with the EU, which we could be having now if people like the hon. Lady had voted for the deal and allowed us to get on with it.
Thank you, Mr Speaker; that is very generous. As it is highly topical, may I ask how my right hon. Friend is getting on with encouraging schools to roll out the Daily Mile initiative, particularly given that I have visited the Hazel Leys Academy in Corby to open the new running track? The school is embracing the initiative, and that is great—fantastic. Will the Minister congratulate it?
Tuition Fees: EU Students
The Government have repeatedly made it clear that we absolutely value international exchange and collaboration in education and training as part of our vision for a global Britain. We believe that the UK and European countries should continue to give young people and students the chance to benefit from each other’s world-leading universities post exit.
Over the weekend, the media reported on a leaked Cabinet document discussing Government policy on EU student access to finance products for the 2020-21 academic year and beyond. At this time, I want to tell the House that no decision has yet been made on the continued access to student finance for EU students. Discussions at Cabinet level are ongoing and should remain confidential. I will make no comment on this apparent leak, which is deeply regrettable.
Students from the EU make a vital contribution to the university sector. It is testament to the quality and reputation of our higher education system that so many students from abroad choose to come and study here. As I stated earlier, since 2017 EU student numbers are up 3.8% and non-EU student numbers are up by 4.9%. In July 2018, we announced that students from the European Union starting courses in England in the 2019-20 academic year will continue to be eligible for home fees status, which means that they will be charged the same tuition fees as UK students and have access to tuition fee loans for the duration of their studies. Applications for students studying in academic year 2020-21 open in September 2019 and the Government will provide sufficient notice for prospective EU students and the wider higher education sector on fee arrangements ahead of the 2020-21 academic year and the subsequent years, which, as I have just stated, will obviously reflect our future relationship with European Union and the negotiations on that going forward.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. We have all read in the leaked reports that the Secretary of State plans to withdraw the home fee status for EU nationals from 2020 onwards. The Minister cannot confirm the Government’s policy today, so when will universities get the certainty they need to plan for their future? Has his Department carried out any assessment of how many EU students would no longer study here as a result of this change?
At a time when the finances of universities are a matter of increasing concern, what impact will these changes have on the sustainability of our institutions? This issue should concern us all. International students make a net contribution to the public finances of tens of billions of pounds a year, so can the Minister tell us how much our public services will lose if fewer EU students come to study here, and how much education exports would fall by if EU students lost home fee status?
Only a month ago, the Secretary of State, along with the International Trade Secretary, launched an international education strategy. They said that education exports would reach £25 billion a year by 2030 and international student numbers would reach 600,000 by the same year. How can they publish this strategy one month, and then pursue a strategy that will undermine it the next? Does he still expect that 600,000 international students will come to the UK every year by 2030 if this rise in tuition fees is introduced?
Time and again, this Government have undermined our universities through their shambolic handling of Brexit. The future of Erasmus and Horizon 2020 are already in doubt, and now the very opportunities that we offer to young people from across the EU are being taken away. It is not in our interest to build walls between our world-class universities and our nearest neighbours, yet this Government are committed to doing exactly that.
I thank the hon. Lady for raising this urgent question. It is important that we all recognise that EU students and staff make a vital contribution to our universities. It is also important that those people understand that the Government are determined to ensure that, even though we are leaving the European Union, we are not leaving our academic research partnerships behind. While I sit in the Department for Education as Minister for Universities, I also—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane) is chuntering; either he wants to hear my answer or he does not. When it comes to setting out a position, it is important that this House does not go down a route of unnecessary negativity and does not somehow send out a message that the United Kingdom is an unwelcoming place.
We are determined when it comes to our universities and our EU student exchanges, and we have set out the international education strategy, which has the ambition of 600,000 extra international students by 2030, as well as setting an investment figure of £35 billion. [Interruption.] As the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) says—if she would not interrupt me—the economic importance of our higher education sector is reflected in the need to attract EU students and students from across the globe. That is the crux of the matter. We want to ensure that our nation is attractive internationally.
We have given commitments and guarantees regarding all successful Erasmus participations and regarding the Horizon 2020 science programmes, from which so many of our universities benefit. We made it a priority very early on after the referendum that we would set out the post-EU exit Government guarantee and the Government guarantee extension—that is, that we would fund the lifetime of these projects before Brexit if these applications were successful, and even post Brexit to December 2020.
We are drawing up our immigration system for January 2021 onwards. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East is again chuntering. Labour Members have called for an urgent question; either they want me to answer it or they do not. The point is that they are threatening a situation and claiming that we are somehow turning our backs to our European partners. That simply is not the case. With regard to our negotiations, I have spoken to about 15 European higher education Ministers. We need to make sure that we commit to them that Britain remains an attractive place for students from all nations across the world to come for work and to study. That is why we have established our international education strategy, why we have made the commitment on the guarantee, and why, rightly, we continue to work on our negotiations with the EU. If we had signed and passed a deal in this House, we would have had the certainty going forward to December 2020. Labour Members, with their Janus-faced—two-faced—approach, cast aspersions about the levels of uncertainty with regard to EU student funding when we would have guaranteed that funding for the next two years but they decided to vote against it. We need to work with universities globally to make sure that we raise our attainment. Our universities are world-class, with four in the world top 10 and 18 in the top 100. We want to support our universities. That is why we have published the international education strategy and why we want to work with them going forward.
Labour already offers students supposedly free tuition fees. Of course, there is no such thing as free tuition fees—they are paid for by the taxpayer, and this would cost the taxpayer an additional £12.5 billion. Labour’s additional policy, now, of saying that it would fund all EU students coming here to be able to study free of charge without having to pay back their tuition fees would cost at least £445 million a year. We have talked about magic money trees in the past—when it comes to Labour, it seems that we are talking about a magic money forest. We need to make sure that we have a fiscally responsible Government who look after our universities. That also means ensuring that we do not deceive our universities by claiming that we can spend money that we do not have.
It is not right that we should discriminate against our other international students. Does the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne believe that we should offer a student finance package for European students once we have left the EU—a system that we have belonged to as members of the EU? Once we are no longer members of the EU, is it right that we then discriminate against Indian students or Chinese students? What does she say to them? How would she address the fact that her policy would discriminate against most of the students across the globe, at the same time as not having the money to be able to fund these student places?
Does my hon. Friend agree that if we are going to spend limited hard-pressed taxpayers’ funds, it would be better to spend them on the poorest countries in this world—the developing nations—and not on some of the richest, most well-to-do countries in the world?
It is important to reflect on our obligations with regard to international policy in terms of both higher education and our sustainable development goals agreed by the United Nations. That is why, in science and research, we have looked at things like the global challenges research fund, which focuses specifically on developing nations, and the Newton fund, worth £735 million, which also focuses on those developing nations. We want to ensure that we can be developing student partnerships and exchanges with all countries. I recently met the organisers of the Fulbright scholarships. Last December, we increased the amount going into those scholarships by about £400,000. We have also set up the Generation UK programme for China.
It is interesting to hear the Minister talk about these UK taxpayer-funded schemes, because we know that many of the people involved in them are not able to get visas to come and collaborate with their colleagues here in the UK, so the system is already failing.
The SNP recognises that our EU students are a national asset. As such, the Scottish Government have confirmed that EU students starting courses in Scotland in 2020 will continue to receive free tuition, because these young people across the EU are already planning where they are going to be studying in 2020. Can the Minister confirm when the fee status of EU nationals starting courses in England in 2020 will be announced? They must know this very soon, or we will lose them anyway. The European temporary leave to remain scheme will not suit many courses, as was mentioned in Education questions. Will he therefore work with the Home Office to ensure that his scheme matches a course rather than matches an idea that suits a very small number of students?
Contrary to the assertions of the Universities Minister earlier, the Higher Education Statistics Agency reports that after years of growth in EU student numbers, enrolments of EU students dropped for the first time last year. He must recognise that. We are already making the UK a less attractive place to study, and that is economically damaging. Although he is right to recognise the importance of international students, having EU students enables richer participation in schemes such as Horizon 2020. The Government have expressed enthusiasm to participate in the successor programme. How does he envisage that happening when our credibility in Europe has been undermined? Finally, the post-study work scheme has been economically and culturally beneficial to Scotland. When will the scheme be reintroduced for international students from the EU and further afield?
I will touch on several points that the hon. Lady made. During oral questions we heard concerns raised about the right to remain. I regularly meet Scottish Minister Richard Lochhead, and I will reflect upon representations he has made to me and work with the Home Office. The immigration White Paper will look at all issues relating to visas or post-study work schemes. It is important that that consultation takes place, and I urge Members to participate in it.
At the moment, we are keen to look at association to the successor scheme to Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe. That will begin later this year. The key point is that postgraduate tuition fees are separate from undergraduate tuition fees, and we do not want to do anything that will damage the potential of UK universities to research and continue with their research partnerships. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Blackpool South (Gordon Marsden) seems keen to keep on chuntering from a sedentary position. He is welcome to make a contribution in a moment, but I am trying to answer the points made by the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan).
I welcome the hon. Lady mentioning that this is taxpayers’ money and that subsidy is involved. It is right that we consider how that subsidy is spent effectively. I urge caution that we do not simply send out a message that EU students happen to be unique. We want students from all parts of the globe—Chinese students, Indian students and students from the ASEAN countries—to be involved and raise their opportunity, and to send out a crucial message that when it comes to soft power, the UK will remain a global leader in higher education.
I thank my hon. Friend for his explanation; I know he thinks deeply about these issues. Does he agree that if we want our university sector to continue to be world-leading, our action must match our ambition? While no decision has been made on this policy, the cumulative impact of some of our policy decisions—whether it is the proposed immigration cap, which would make it more difficult for researchers from abroad to work and study here, or this policy, which would hike up fees for EU students, or the lack of clarity on Erasmus—could be that we undermine the university sector and make it more difficult for young people from this country to live, study and work abroad, and this Government could be portrayed as one who are against young people.
I thank my predecessor for his remarks. The work that he did so soon after we voted to leave the European Union, making the Government guarantee in July 2018 and extending student finance for home fees last year, has set us in a position that is welcome among our European partners. I would also like to put on record my thanks for the work he did in establishing the high-level group on EU exit, which meets monthly. It gives the opportunity for university professionals, including the Russell Group, the University Alliance and MillionPlus, to meet and discuss issues of concern and to ensure that those are fed in internally and that we listen to those points—and we are listening.
We are listening when it comes to the consultation on the immigration White Paper. We are listening when it comes to ensuring that we have a sustainable future with our relationship with the European Union. We are listening when it comes to working on our plans for future association with and participation in the International Science Council, including on making guarantees about Horizon 2020 and looking at association on Horizon Europe. It is right that the Government do this, in tandem with working across all Departments with a cross-Government approach to looking at how we exit the European Union, and I will continue to make sure that I play my role as Universities Minister in backing our universities.
The political declaration agreed between the EU and the UK talks about establishing
“general principles, terms and conditions for the United Kingdom’s participation in Union programmes…in areas such as science and innovation, youth, culture and education”.
Do I take it from the reply the Minister has given this afternoon that the question of tuition fees—fees charged to EU students studying here in the UK and to UK students studying elsewhere in the EU—does not come within the terms of that wording, and that if that is the case, there is no bar to the Government choosing to increase those fees before any negotiations on the future partnership with the EU have even begun?
I think the right hon. Gentleman is pointing to paragraph 61—is it?—of the political declaration on the future partnership with the EU. I wish he would support the political declaration, alongside voting for the deal, because we could then get on with discussing those issues with our European partners.
When it comes to Horizon and Erasmus, part of the reason why we find ourselves in difficulties is the uncertainty that there is without knowing whether we are in a deal or a no-deal situation. For all the Opposition Members talking about instability and the lack of certainty, it is on their backs that this is taking place. Those voting against the deal have prevented us from moving on to phase 2 of the negotiations.
We have made commitments on 2019-20 student finance, and we will shortly be making an announcement for 2020-21, ready for applications opening in September 2019. Obviously, any future financial obligations will be part of the spending review, and it is right that they are looked at by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, generally speaking, the rule the Government should adopt, given the unfortunate decision that this country has taken to leave the European Union and in order to make our way in the world to the greatest advantage, is that we must retain a very open system to allow the brightest and the best to come and study here from all over the world at equal rates of charging, but also with a regime that allows them to stay here and work in an orderly, sensible manner that is easily enforced?
From the international perspective of the United Kingdom’s universities, I entirely agree that we now have the highest ever number of applications from foreign countries—about 158,000.[Official Report, 9 May 2019, Vol. 659, c. 10MC.] Looking at this in the round, it is important to reflect on the fact that people want to come to the United Kingdom, and we have an obligation to ensure that we make that possible. However, I suggest that we will support our universities and ensure, as we develop our partnership with the European Union, that we do not exclude those from other foreign countries. That is why we will shortly be publishing our international research and innovation strategy, in addition to the international education strategy. It will ensure that we have a cross-Government approach not just to finance but to the welfare of students, so that when it comes to mental health, accommodation and the full range of student experience, we align in a way that ensures international students feel welcome in this country.
May I tell the Minister that this was a deeply disappointing statement? He may not have been chuntering, but he was certainly not sending out a clear message. I do not know of a university leader, or university town or city, that is persuaded by the kind of stuff he is saying about the role of universities in the coming years. The fact of the matter is that there has always been the possibility of being a citizen of Europe for someone who is wealthy, like many of the people on his Back Benches, but not for an ordinary member of this society. Our students have been able to be European citizens—that is what they value—but now they have been cheated of that. This will not be about pounds, shillings and pence, but about robbing young people of the heritage of being real European citizens.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. Further to a previous intervention of his, I am looking forward to coming up to Huddersfield on 10 May. That demonstrates that I do take action when he asks about my commitment to universities. I am looking forward to meeting the vice-chancellor and other university representatives there, and I am sure that they will discuss these issues with me.
When it comes to opportunities for UK students, it is worth noting that, yes, 16,000 UK students benefit from a European education—that is obviously part of the current system through the EU structures—but that contrasts with a total of 34,000 UK students who are educated internationally, in both EU and non-EU countries. We want to be able to grow that number as well. There is, however, a disproportionate impact on the number of UK students studying in the EU compared with the number of EU students studying in the UK. We would obviously wish to rebalance that and ensure that UK students have the opportunity to study abroad, both in the EU and outside it.
Last November, the EU27 and the UK agreed to the 147-point document about the future framework. Point 11, right at the top, sets out the ongoing commitment to co-operation in science, innovation, youth, culture and education. It calls for
“fair and appropriate financial contribution”
and “fair treatment of participants”. Does my hon. Friend agree that the best way to help support our ongoing co-operation on science and students is to vote for the withdrawal agreement and firm up the details of our ongoing co-operation, as already agreed between the UK and the EU27?
Absolutely. As a Minister, I am keen to move to the next stages of the negotiations around our future partnerships—in fact I am desperate to do so. I encourage Members who voted against the deal to recognise that it is a great deal when it comes to continuing our education and science partnerships.
I attended the EU Competitiveness Council on 18 February, and I talked to EU Ministers. They recognise the world-leading position of UK universities and that the UK does disproportionately well out of scientific grants. We put £4 billion into Horizon 2020, but we get £5.7 billion back. Why would we not want to continue to participate in that?
We are moving on to Horizon Europe as the next process of the scientific partnerships. I will attend the EU Competitiveness Council on 28 May as Science Minister. I will discuss with colleagues on the margins issues such as Erasmus education partnerships and exchanges, which the deal would also have protected. I urge all hon. Members to give me the opportunity to go to Brussels and get on with the next stage of the negotiations.
If UK universities have to increase their fees for EU students and the EU universities reciprocate, will that not mean that only the richest UK students will be able to study abroad? What specifically does the Minister intend to do about that?
I go back to the statement. All these issues around reciprocal arrangements and partnerships are matters for future negotiations. I am keen to make sure that we can get on to that page. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will now vote for the deal, to make sure that we can do so.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, post Brexit, we want to continue to attract bright students from many countries all over the world? The proposal that we should exempt EU students from paying fees yet impose them on those from other countries is inherently unfair and, in fact, discriminatory. It does not make economic sense or reflect the open Britain that we are striving to create.
I urge my hon. Friend to do so as well. I will not discriminate on either side of the House. It is a great deal, which will provide us with certainty. We have been closely involved with our European partners for many decades. Ensuring that we continue some of those partnerships, which have both social and economic value, is important.
My hon. Friend is right about the international perspective. People voted to leave the European Union to ensure that Britain can be outward-looking, positive, not insular and not nativist. We want to be able to reach out to other countries and meet our responsibilities on the sustainable development goals. We want students from India and ASEAN—Association of Southeast Asian Nations—countries who want to come to the UK to study, but cannot at the present time, to have the opportunity to do so. Why should European students be given a disproportionate opportunity when it comes to fee levels? She has a valid point.
UK higher education is one of our great national and international success stories, yet there can be no doubt that the Prime Minister’s immigration policies have done enormous damage to our international reputation. And here we are again—the cat is out of the bag—looking to charge EU students tuition fees and make as much money out of them as possible before the withdrawal agreement has even been signed. Will that not just use EU students as cash cows, but rob UK students of the opportunity to study abroad? How many more national success stories are we prepared to sacrifice on the altar of Brexit?
When it comes to national success stories, I want to ensure that our international education strategy provides opportunities for UK students to go to every corner of the globe, not just the EU. We have provided student finance for 2019-20 and will shortly be making an announcement on 2020-21. Any future decision on access to finance for EU nationals will come later on as part of the negotiations we will take forward. The hon. Gentleman’s logic is: why not ensure that access to student finance is free for every student internationally? The Labour Front Benchers have just proposed a policy that would ensure that British taxpayers pay for European students’ fees in their entirety. I do not feel that that is necessarily best value for the taxpayer, and I am not sure his constituents would either.
As I stated, since 2017 there has been a 3.8% increase in EU students applying and a 4.9% increase in non-EU students. It is welcome that last year we had a record number of international students, both EU and non-EU, applying to our British universities. I congratulate all universities on being able to be so welcoming. We want that to continue.
The Minister must know that the university recruitment cycle for 2020 is already under way, and the ability of UK universities to attract and recruit students from the EU will be seriously affected if the fee status remains uncertain. He has the ability to settle this matter today. We do not need to vote for a flawed withdrawal agreement; the Minister could simply roll the current arrangements forward.
I recognise the hon. Lady’s point, which was made to me by Vivienne Stern, the director of Universities UK International. The recruitment procedures are ongoing. Applications for the 2021 academic year will open in September, and I am keen for the Government to make an announcement shortly. We have to go through cross-Government processes, which is one of the reasons why we have seen this unfortunate leak in the first place. As a Minister, I am keen to ensure we can put that security in place for universities. I hope to ensure that we can do so in due course.
With four of 10 of the top universities globally being in the UK, international students are fortunate to be able to access higher education in this country. As a member of the International Development Committee, I am keen that students from the developing world have the same access. Does the Minister agree that students from relatively well-off EU countries should not be subsidised at the cost of students coming here from the developing world for higher education?
When we look at the new immigration system, the new student finance system that will emerge post ’20-21 and whatever new system emerges on future scientific partnerships, it is important that we are bold and that we go beyond the status quo. What we have already established with developing countries, such as the global challenges research fund and the Newton fund, ensures that British researchers can work in partnership with researchers from those countries. We should look at expanding those opportunities.
I am keen to expand opportunities that may not have existed before and to ensure that opportunities that were there previously are able to continue. I am sure that our international education strategy, as well as our international research and innovation strategies and the spending review—when it comes to looking at investments that we will need to make, that is obviously a critical part of the next financial framework—will have that international context in mind.
I support the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) about the consequences of these proposals for universities. However, this is unfortunately yet another example of the damage that Brexit is likely to inflict on future generations of young people. The House will return to further discussion of Brexit soon. When he casts his vote on various options, will the Minister consider the damage that will be caused to our universities and to the standing of British higher education around the world by any Brexit?
I am afraid that I do not agree with the hon. Lady on this. The British people voted to leave, and I am determined to ensure that I fulfil my manifesto commitments to my constituency, which also voted to leave, by making sure that that happens. I want to ensure that we can mitigate any circumstances that may arise from leaving the European Union, to ensure that we continue to benefit from the opportunities that we have had as a member as we move forward into the new relationship with our EU partners and also move forward internationally.
On the votes, when it comes to looking at the deal and the future economic partnership, I ask the hon. Lady to please, although it sounds like she will not—[Interruption.] Brexit is happening, and we need to ensure that we have—[Interruption.] Hon. Members seem to query that and suggest that they do not want it to happen, but I am afraid that is what the British people voted for. I am sure that when we, as a House— [Interruption.] I cannot actually believe what I am hearing from Opposition Members. When they stood in 2017, they also said that they were going to respect the result of the referendum; it sounds like they do not believe in the manifesto commitments that they made.
However, I believe that the deal is a good one. It is vital for scientific and education partnerships going forward, which it will protect for the next two years, and will allow for future negotiations, in order to make sure that we can continue to work with our European neighbours.
As a member of the board of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, I agree with my hon. Friends the Members for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) and for Crawley (Henry Smith) about the importance of encouraging students from low-income countries to come here. I would like us to provide more scholarships and bursaries out of our international development fund than we do at the moment; we are falling behind quite a number of other countries, but by doing that we can increase our influence. Does the Minister agree that it is absolutely vital to avoid any kind of cliff edge