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Attainment Gap: Disadvantaged/Affluent Areas

Volume 679: debated on Monday 7 September 2020

What steps his Department is taking to close the attainment gap between students from disadvantaged and affluent areas. (905501)

What steps his Department is taking to close the attainment gap between students from disadvantaged and affluent areas. (905517)

In addition to the pupil premium, the £350 million national tutoring programme will provide affordable, high-quality tuition to disadvantaged pupils in schools and colleges. The catch-up premium provides a further £650 million to schools to make up for the lost teaching time of all pupils.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the recent data highlighting the learning gap between rich and poor secondary-age pupils demonstrated that the disparity is wider in Blackpool than in any other part of the country. I know the Government are determined to close the gap, so will he join me in calling for additional resources to schools in opportunity areas, such as Blackpool, that have particularly acute challenges?

It was a great pleasure to join my hon. Friend in visiting St George’s School in Blackpool South to see the amazing work being done there to raise educational attainment in his constituency. He is right to highlight the important role that opportunity areas can play. That is why we have already invested £6 million in the Blackpool opportunity area, and why it was a pleasure to announce, just a short time ago, that we are investing another almost £2 million in the Blackpool opportunity area, on top of all the extra investment we are making in terms of schools and the covid catch-up fund.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the key to tackling this issue is to start early? Will he commend the role of nursery schools in that provision, and can he find a way to give them a long-term sustainable funding settlement so that they can plan for the future?

My hon. Friend tempts me into a discussion that I probably have to have first with the Chancellor, but he is absolutely right to highlight the important role that early action and early support plays in children’s lives. That is why I was delighted to see that we will take action to invest in the Nuffield early language interventions, which have already shown that they can deliver so much for youngsters. Building on that into the future is an important part of the work that the Department is doing with our schools and so much more.