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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 659: debated on Monday 29 April 2019


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.

22. What message does the Secretary of State have for those who volunteer to exclude themselves from school to take part in climate change protests, given that they seem disproportionately likely to attend schools that are fond of organising long-haul flights across the world to take part in ski trips, social visits and even a netball match in Barbados in one case? (910577)

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

3. What steps he is taking to help ensure that creative and practical projects are part of the early years experience in schools. (910557)

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.

23. Does my hon. Friend agree with me that art, drama and music are crucial to a balanced and broad education and should therefore be encouraged in all our schools? (910578)

I do, indeed, agree with my right hon. Friend. Between 2016 and 2020, we are spending almost £500 million on a range of music and creative arts programmes.

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.

Does the Minister agree that the early years stage should include a broad range of learning goals, including communication, physical development and self-confidence, as well as of course a thirst for knowledge?

I certainly do. Our proposals retain 17 early learning goals to reflect the breadth of the current early years foundation stage approach as well.

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?

Art, music and design are compulsory in all maintained schools from age five to age 14. All schools, including academies, are required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that digital and IT skills play a role in the early years curriculum to ensure that our young people encounter early on the technologies that they will need to become familiar with as they progress through school?

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?

I certainly agree with all that. I will certainly support the fair that the hon. Lady plans in her area, and I am sure that my colleagues would join me in visiting it.

That sounds very exciting, I must say. I have been to the hon. Lady’s constituency a number of times, but I have merely spoken. The notion that I might create a robot has never been put to me—thankfully.

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

4. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of proposed immigration legislation on tertiary education. (910558)

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

6. What assessment he has made of the potential effect on tertiary education of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement. (910560)

8. What assessment he has made of the potential effect on tertiary education of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement. (910562)

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.

Language Teaching

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

9. What steps his Department is taking to help ensure the adequate provision of school places in Essex and other areas of high growth. (910563)

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.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove) on running in the marathon yesterday, while also expressing some surprise that he is nevertheless still leaping to his feet with notable alacrity.

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%.

Amounts per pupil are being top-sliced to meet a deficit in the high-needs block, so the amount actually going into the school accounts per pupil is not nearly as impressive, is it?

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.

20. When it comes to neurodiversity, some children in York are waiting two years for their diagnosis. The special educational needs and disabilities budget is overspent by £1.3 million and school cuts have been exacerbated, leaving parents and teachers seriously under-resourced to support their child, psychologically, socially and educationally, so how will the Secretary of State use the comprehensive spending review to ensure that all schools are fully funded to meet the needs of those children? (910575)

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.

The hon. Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) is also a successful marathon runner who deserves the approbation of the House.

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

13. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of (a) careers information and (b) guidance on apprenticeships for young people. (910567)

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.

School Curriculum

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.

17. The breadth of the curriculum is important, particularly when it comes to colleges. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Yeovil College on its successful institute of technology bid, which will enable the delivery of a much broader curriculum? Will he also meet me to discuss course funding? There is some concern about whether the capital funding made available for the initial T-level pilots will be available for subsequent ones, and in the further roll-out. (910572)

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.

We are under considerable pressure of time, but time must be found to hear the voice of Watford.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Before anyone asks, I did not run the marathon yesterday; I thought I should give other hon. Members a chance. However, I would like to declare a new—

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?

Academies and sixth-form colleges can apply for funding over two financial years. The funding starts in June, and allocations for new projects will continue up until spring 2021. My hon. Friend has been a champion for children and schools in Watford.

Topical Questions

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.

T4. Apprent- iceships in Copeland are ensuring that we can continue the legacy of world-class skills, but further education also often enables people of all ages to earn while they learn. What is being done to ensure that further education and colleges have sustainable long-term funding? (910583)

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.

T5. Does my right hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards agree that when Bolton Council oversees a huge level of house building, it should provide additional school places in new schools at the heart of those new communities, rather than doubling the size of existing schools, which causes traffic problems and prevents children from walking to school? (910584)

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.

T2. Tony Davies, the headteacher of St Matthew’s Primary School in Cambridge, recently told a national newspaper of his fury when he learned of a £60,000 budget cut to his school next year. The school is much loved by pupils and parents, but it will now have to cut its core education services. Does the Minister share Mr Davies’s fury? (910581)

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.

T6.   Can the Minister tell the House when the Augar review of post-18 education and student funding is likely to report? I hope he does not just say, “Soon.” Will he outline the steps the Department is taking to ensure that Augar’s proposals do not adversely affect or reduce university funding, or create a more uncertain financial environment for universities? (910585)

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.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green); I was not aware of that, but I am now, and I thank him for what he has done.

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.

T7. A recent survey I sent to schools in my constituency found that 82% have had their budget cut in real terms for the current academic year, and 88% were pessimistic about their funding over the next three years. Will the Minister meet me and headteachers from my constituency to discuss these findings in more detail, including the implications of the Government’s cuts for our children and young people? (910586)

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.

T9. Last Friday, a very special man, Ian Dickson, and his dedicated team of volunteers made possible the Care Experienced Conference, which was led by and involved care experienced people. I had the honour of being there; it was emotive, powerful and uplifting. The current care system was rightly characterised as being one of repeated loss, often lacking in love, emotional warmth and hugs. The Minister knows that that heartbreaking statement is true. How much longer are these voices going to be ignored? When will he do the right thing and commit to a wholesale review of our utterly broken care system? (910588)

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.

T10. On Friday, I met people from two schools in my Bristol South constituency, and funding and the impact on children were the key concerns expressed. When the Secretary of State’s Department reviews the work of his school resource management advisers, will that include a direct assessment of the impact of any recommended savings on pupil outcomes? (910589)

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?

My hon. Friend is right that we have to get the process right. We continue to keep the process under review. I would be happy for either me or my noble Friend Lord Agnew to meet my hon. Friend to discuss that case.

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.

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Jenn Willmitt and her team at Willenhall E-Act Academy, which has been moved out of special measures following a recent Ofsted inspection?

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?

We have launched ambitious SEND reforms, which I have spoken about at the Dispatch Box before, but I will happily meet the hon. Lady to look at the specific issue she mentions.

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?

The mention of phonics is usually a magnet for the right hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Nick Gibb).

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.

We have run out of time, but in admiration of the marathon man—or one of the marathon people—in the Chamber, and his persistence in springing to his feet despite his athletic endeavours yesterday, I call Mr Tom Pursglove.

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?

It is a pleasure to congratulate the school and highlight how important the Daily Mile is, as well as the work we are doing with the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that as many schools as possible deliver the Daily Mile.