Every child, no matter what their background, should have access to world-class education that opens up opportunities for their future. Our pupil premium is targeted at schools based on the number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. It has helped to close the attainment gap over the past decade, and it is expected to increase to more than £2.5 billion this year.
I am most grateful to the Minister for her reply. Early years education plays a key role in supporting children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but there is a concern that the current funding arrangements are skewed against providers operating in deprived areas such as parts of Lowestoft in my constituency. I have corresponded with her on this issue, and we will hopefully meet shortly, but does she agree it is vital that all children, whatever their background, have ready access to high-quality and properly funded early years education? Will the Government take steps to ensure this happens?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. High-quality early years education is important, which is why the Government have invested over £3.5 billion every year for the past three years in supporting education for two, three and four-year-olds. Our recent education recovery announcement included increased investment in early years teaching.
I urge my hon. Friend and, indeed, all hon. Members to encourage families from lower-income backgrounds to take up the Government’s generous offer of 15 hours of free childcare for their two-year-olds. Children who take it up do better at school, and it gives them the vital skills that set them up for life.
We are considering the recommendations of the Select Committee on Education very carefully, and all the evidence shows that high-quality teaching is the single most effective way to improve education outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. That is why it is so important that the pupil premium is used to support continuing professional development, as well as academic programmes and pastoral support. It is also why so much of our recovery funding is tilted towards top-quality teaching and tutoring for disadvantaged pupils.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right—sex abuse is not acceptable. The Government are taking action through the child sex abuse strategy and the violence against women and girls strategy, and we have published strengthened guidance for schools on peer-on-peer abuse and updated relationships, sex and health education. In addition, we have asked every local safe- guarding partnership across the country to review how they work to support schools to tackle this issue.