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Children from Disadvantaged Backgrounds

Volume 670: debated on Monday 20 January 2020

4. What assessment he has made of the educational attainment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. (900241)

Against a background of rising standards, the attainment gap has closed by 13% at primary schools and by 9% at secondary schools since 2011. Most disadvantaged pupils attend good or outstanding schools, and 86% of schools are now rated as good or outstanding, which is up from 68% in 2010.

Nottingham schools have made the significant strides in attainment to which the Secretary of State refers, but massed within that, in less well off and less diverse communities, is poor attainment for boys. What specific interventions will the Department make to support schools to improve outcomes for white working-class boys?

The hon. Gentleman highlights an important issue. One group that universities are most unsuccessful at recruiting from is white working-class boys and that is something we need to address. The way to do that is by continuing the reforms that the Government have introduced and continuing to drive standards, and by ensuring that academic rigour is there for every pupil. We must support those children by ensuring the very best teaching and support for every child.

Across the Windsor constituency, which stretches from Eton as far as Warfield, we have some fantastic schools and colleges, from primary to secondary and beyond. One of the Government’s greatest ambitions seems to be to close the attainment gap, so that any child from any background can get a decent education. Does the Secretary of State agree that to continue closing that gap we must ensure that there is a range of schools, colleges, apprenticeships and university places, so that students and parents can make choices for themselves about what suits them?

My hon. Friend raises the vital point that we have to have a range of different tools to be able to ensure that children succeed. At the core of that is making sure that as many children as possible achieve and deliver on what they need to do in terms of English and maths, while ensuring there is a range of different opportunities as they progress through their schooling career. The Government have introduced a number of initiatives, including T-levels, and a changing approach in terms of apprenticeships, which will give so many young people the chance they deserve and need.

Does the Secretary of State have in his mind that, as child poverty is now rising and due to rise to 5 million by 2022, there will be more disadvantaged people who need more help? What are the Government going to do about that?

Through initiatives such as the pupil premium and the extra money we are putting into special educational needs, and the fact that we are levelling up education funding across the country, we on the Conservative Benches recognise the important role education plays in delivering opportunities for young people. That is what we are delivering for all children in this country.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds in my Havant constituency benefit from the national school breakfast programme. What support is my right hon. Friend giving to that programme to expand it so it reaches more children?

We are giving £35 million towards supporting that incredibly important programme, which is having such an impact not just in the constituency of Havant but in so many constituencies across the country.