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House of Commons Hansard
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School Places: England
17 December 2018
Volume 651
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6. What steps his Department is taking to increase the number of good school places in England. [908214]

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There are 1.9 million more pupils in good or outstanding schools compared to 2010 and we are on track to create 1 million places this decade. That compares with a loss of 100,000 places in the six years up to 2010.

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A badly planned new housing development is putting enormous strain on school places in my constituency, particularly primary places. We have a new school that will open in 2019, but the funding process through the Education and Skills Funding Agency has been very elongated and bureaucratic. I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend could say how the process can be simplified, so that in future we can ensure that the supply of good new school places matches the demand in areas where there is new development.

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I thank my hon. Friend for his support on the Lower Farm primary academy. The Department is always looking for ways to improve our processes, driving efficiency and value. That now includes the establishment of a specialist property company and the use of modern construction methods to help to build schools faster. I am very grateful to him for his helpful feedback.

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I am deeply concerned that schools are using isolation rooms as a form of unregistered exclusion for pupils for extended periods of time, thereby severely harming their education. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of how good the education is that is received by the children forced into using them?

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We think it is up to headteachers, within the rules, to set the behaviour policy in their schools. They have to set it out clearly in their behaviour policy, on which there are clear guidelines.

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Does my right hon. Friend welcome the rising percentage of good and outstanding places in special schools, meaning that no matter what challenges someone faces, real opportunities are on offer for all?

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I do welcome that. As part of yesterday’s announcement, we also said that we would take off the cap on the current round of special and alternative provision free school applications and approve the full set that met the criteria.

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Good school places include good school music teaching, but headteachers tell me that they cannot afford to provide high-quality music education, which flows into a lack of access to tertiary places. We have more international students studying at tertiary level than we do our domestic students in some cases. Will the Government urgently review the provision of high-quality music education, so that every child, regardless of their region, background, skin colour or religion, can study music at our wonderful universities?

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I agree with the hon. Lady about the essential importance of music. That is one reason why music is the second most financially supported subject in our school system, after PE. We have invested £300 million in funding for music hubs and other music programmes between 2016 and 2020.