Since last week, schools across the country have begun welcoming children back into the classroom with a range of protective measures in place. I thank all teachers, support staff and the whole school community for making it such a positive and pleasurable experience for all children.
Will my right hon. Friend update the House on what support his Department is giving to universities and schools to help them recruit foreign students?
A great and important strength of our university sector has always been its ability to attract students from across the globe, and we have been working with Universities UK and all universities to ensure they are properly supported. We are supporting them with a campaign to attract more students to the UK and working across Government to make sure that students applying for visas can do so with ease. The Home Office has been incredibly supportive in ensuring that for those who want to come and study here it has been a positive experience.
Last month, the Prime Minister ordered parents back to work, and while it may not have occurred to the Prime Minister, I want to draw the Secretary of State’s attention specifically to their need for wraparound care at the start and end of the school day, where parents tell me there remains a gaping hole. Can he set out precisely what he is doing to ensure that working parents’ need for wraparound care will be met?
The hon. Lady raises an important point about the importance of wraparound care. We are working with all schools to ensure it is provided to parents. We have issued guidance setting out how this can be done safely and cautiously and in a way that works for those who work in schools and, importantly, for the children who benefit from this wraparound care as well as the parents who depend on it.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important case in her constituency. Uppingham Community College is actually covered by risk protection arrangements, and I know that officials in my Department are working closely with it to see what is needed in order to ensure that there is provision. I know that Baroness Berridge would be delighted to meet with my hon. Friend to discuss in more detail some of the particular issues that she faces in Rutland and how we can best support her and, most importantly, the provision of education in her constituency.
I would be more than happy to meet with such a delegation, and I know from my own experience of having a child who arrived prematurely some of the challenges that can come about. I would be very interested to listen and to see what more can be done to provide support in the future.
I know that as a former teacher my hon. Friend was itching to get back into the classroom if there was a need for extra teaching support. He was ready, willing and most certainly able to do so had the call come. He will probably have seen that schools in his constituency are seeing a more than £47 million cash increase, which will be followed in the next financial year by a substantial cash increase, and then in the third financial year there will also be a substantial cash increase. Schools were one of the few areas, if not the only area, that were able to get a three-year deal, and I believe this will have a real impact in helping them plan for the future delivery of the best education.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his offer to step in for any supply needs schools may have, but he raises a very important point. I would be happy, if it is possible, for him to meet with the Minister for School Standards if he has particular details or concerns so that we can take them up. I am not aware of the situation that he outlines, but it is important to keep an eye across all of this. We have been very clear in our guidance that we have issued to schools, and we need to ensure that that guidance is properly considered by all schools but that people do not develop it in ways in which it should not be developed.
My right hon. Friend raises the important point of young people’s mental health and the benefits they get from going to back to school, college or university. That is why we have worked incredibly closely with not just the school sectors but the university sector to ensure that that return is done in a safe, cautious and planned way, and I give thanks for all the work done in the higher education sector. We do recognise that covid has presented some quite challenging mental health problems to many young people as well as staff, which is why we announced a £9 million fund to support additional enhanced mental health work to support those who work in and those who benefit from being in the education sector, students included.
I will certainly go back to the Department and immediately check why the hon. Member has not received that letter. I can only apologise for it not arriving.
We have funded the National Association for Special Educational Needs on behalf of the Whole School SEND Consortium to work to recruit teachers to deliver high-quality teaching across all types of special educational needs, and that support is available to all schools. We also funded targeted support, focused on particular areas of concern flagged by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission. We are putting £730 million into high needs next year, coming on top of £780 million of additional funding this year, which means that high needs funding has increased by 24% in just two years.
We do want all children to return to school, and to return to school safely, including children with special educational needs and disability. We have given guidance to schools, and the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford), has written an open letter to parents of children with special educational needs about returning. Where there are families who have particular concerns about the safety of returning, the advice we give is to talk to the headteacher, who hopefully will be able to provide them with reassurance.
Maybe in anticipation of the question, Cornwall College has already been a beneficiary of £1.4 million of extra money heading towards it as a result of our commitment to putting more money into further education in capital build. I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend and the college to discuss further their plans for St Austell and to hear about how they want to transform educational outcomes for those not just in St Austell but more widely in Cornwall.
I very much agree with the fact that there needs to be a robust regulatory framework around any use of algorithms. Algorithms are used every single year in the management of grade boundaries as youngsters are awarded both GCSEs and A-levels. That has always been the case and will always be the case.
It has been incredibly impressive to see the turnaround at West Nottinghamshire College and the work that has already been undertaken. I would be more than happy to work with my hon. Friend to see what opportunities can be created in the future for this college, which has had some difficult times, but is very much looking to the future with optimism and with a real sense of purpose in delivering the very best for young people in his constituency.
I am very happy to meet the hon. Member. This was an issue that we discussed at great length with the regulator. We wanted to find a way in which those students could be awarded grades, notwithstanding the fact that the summer series had to be cancelled. However, for some students who do not have a relationship with a school, it was not possible for them to have centre-assessed grades. That is one of the reasons why we put on an autumn series of exams in all subjects across GCSEs, A-levels and AS-levels to ensure that they have the opportunity to take their exams this year.
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Bungay High School on its new specialist facility, and I pay tribute to him for his passion and his support for a GCSE in British Sign Language. I do remember meeting Daniel Jillings and his mother who made a compelling case. As this is a brand new subject at GCSE, we have been taking care to consult experts very closely on the detail of the subject content. The covid pandemic has affected the timeline for developing the GCSE, but my hon. Friend will be pleased to know that that work has now been resumed.
In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for three minutes.