We have reformed the national curriculum and qualifications, raising expectations and providing rigorous GCSEs and A-levels, in which universities, employers and young people themselves can have greater confidence. As of March 2019, 85% of children were in good or outstanding schools, which is in part due to our reforms.
Formal partnerships between schools in different sectors, such as that between All Saints’ Academy and Cheltenham College in my constituency, are an excellent way of sharing best teaching practice, enriching extracurricular provision and boosting the professional development of staff. Does the Minister recognise the scope of such partnerships for driving up standards in all our schools?
My hon. Friend is right: such partnerships are excellent. They raise standards, not just in state schools; they bring benefits to the independent schools that take part in them. The Government have just announced a new grant fund, which could be used either as seed funding for new partnerships or to expand and deepen existing ones.
In response to questions about school standards and, indeed, school cuts, the Government often try to persuade us that nothing is wrong by citing the number of children in outstanding schools. Yet over the past year, 80% of the 305 schools rated outstanding by Ofsted saw their ratings fall. Will the Minister therefore now be honest about the impact that austerity is having on our schools?
We would expect the outstanding schools that are re-inspected to have a higher propensity to be either good or lower, because Ofsted inspects outstanding schools only when a risk factor, such as a drop in standards or complaints from parents, has been triggered.