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Education Recovery: Support for Pupils

Volume 723: debated on Monday 28 November 2022

It is a pleasure to be back, Mr Speaker. The Government are spending £5 billion to help children recover from missed education as a result of covid lockdown periods. That includes up to 100 million tutor hours for five to 19-year-olds and a catch-up and recovery premium paid directly to schools to provide evidence-based approaches to help pupils catch up, and all 16 to 19-year-olds in education will receive an extra 40 hours of teaching a year.

Students in my Dudley North constituency need and deserve the best possible education. As they are our future workforce, businesses and public services depend on that. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that all Dudley schools have access to the best facilities, the best funds and the best teachers as they recover from time lost during covid and, moreover, historically poor access to the best lifetime opportunities?

Fifty-five educational investment areas, including Dudley, are being prioritised for funding to help strong multi-academy trusts to grow and to help improve underperforming schools. Nearly all secondary schools in Dudley are eligible for the levelling-up premium, which is a £3,000 tax-free bonus for maths, physics, chemistry and computing teachers in the first five years of their careers who work in schools where they are needed most. The Government are using every tool available, including funding, to help ensure that every child can catch up on lost education due to the pandemic.

Will the Minister join me in welcoming pupils and teachers from Pontypridd High School who are in the Public Gallery? The teachers do fantastic work in trying to catch up from covid, but one of the increased pressures on time is the rise and threat of harmful incel culture in our schools. None of the past four Education Secretaries has made any public comment on the rise of misogynistic ideology in our schools, so will the Secretary of State outline her plans to support teachers, who deal with that day in, day out, in their efforts to tackle incel culture, which poses a unique threat for women and girls across society?

I join the hon. Lady in welcoming the school pupils in the Public Gallery today—it is very good to have children visiting the Houses of Parliament, and I welcome all children who love to come to our House. I also agree with her about having a respectful culture in our schools. It is hugely important, both online and offline, that pupils and staff feel safe and respected in our schools.

Headteachers across Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke see the importance of the national tutoring programme, but they were concerned when Schools Week reported that £150 million could be clawed back from the scheme through the Treasury. Will the Minister back the plan that I was hoping to initiate when I was in the Department—albeit briefly—and make sure that we reinvest that in the third year of the national tutoring programme to increase the grant to nearly 50%?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the passionate way in which he conducted the role of Schools Minister in the Department and for bringing to that role all his experience as a schoolteacher. We have allocated almost £5 billion to catch-up programmes, including £1.5 billion to tutoring. My hon. Friend is right: because the evidence about the effectiveness of one-to-one and small-group tuition is so strong, we want schools to use the money we have given them for that. We have been clear that the national tutoring programme funding can be used only for tutoring and that the Department will recover any unspent NTP funding.

Helping children to catch up after the pandemic is partly about providing fit-for-purpose facilities, but the Government’s plan to cut education capital spending by £1 billion in real terms puts that at risk. Tiverton High School has been waiting for more than a decade to be rebuilt. Can the Minister guarantee that my constituents will not have to wait another decade? Will they finally see the rebuild approved in the next funding allocation?

We have been spending £13 billion on capital since 2015. The Department has met representatives from Tiverton High School to discuss its buildings. We are currently in the process of assessing nominations for the school rebuilding programme; we expect to prioritise up to 300 schools in the financial year to 2023. An announcement of the successful bids under that programme will be made before the end of the year.