Motion to Take Note
That this House takes note of the educational opportunities available to children and young people from working class backgrounds.
My Lords, I am very pleased to be able to introduce this debate today. I think this is one of the most important issues facing the nation and I am delighted that so many people have volunteered to speak and to stay late on a Thursday.
I suspect that many noble Lords are going to be quite critical of the Government’s performance as regards the opportunities available to working-class children—I know I am—so I want to say at the start that there are very many working-class children who now occupy places in our professions and in business. They are leaders and campaigners, they contribute to all areas of the economy and they contribute to society in full; indeed, they are Members of the House of Commons and they are Members of the House of Lords. There is nothing inevitable about being born into a working-class family and not having the opportunity to succeed in life. This is a complex issue.
We could spend the whole debate defining “working-class”, but I hope we are not going to do that. I am conscious that it is not only about money and income: it is about the support you get from your family and the neighbouring community; it is about the attitude and the aspiration that you have; it is about whether you meet a teacher, at some point in your life, who believes in you and gives you the extra push; it is about whether you yourself decide to seize the opportunities and run with them; and, at the end of the day, it is about working hard as well. Sometimes, though, young people from working-class backgrounds say that if they have succeeded because of those things—because of a teacher or a parent or because they seized the opportunity—they feel that they have done so in spite of the system, not because of it.
We know that at every stage of our education system there is a correlation between parental income and educational attainment, and that the gap gets wider the older a child gets. At age five, 50% of children from this sort of background will go into early years education with a language deficit. At year 1, the gap between them and the wealthier pupils in their class will be 14%, rising to 18% at the end of key stage 1, 22% at the end of key stage 2 and 28% at the end of key stage 4. These children are less likely to stay on at school in the sixth form. They are less likely to go to university and, if they do, they earn less after graduation, and 80% are less likely to enter a profession.
When you put the regional, gender and ethnic differences in attainment on top of that, what is stark—and this must be our agreed starting point—is that our education system has an unacceptable and unenviable link between the income of your parents at the time of your birth and your life chances throughout life. We know that it need not be like that: it is not like that in other developed countries; they manage to succeed. That is the kernel of this debate, and I hope that today we will hear suggestions as to how we could change things.
There have been some successes; it is not all failures. I think that these are my successes from my time both in politics and in education: a national curriculum—not necessarily the national curriculum we have, although that of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, was very successful—the London Challenge, Sure Start, literacy and numeracy strategies, the pupil premium and of course the Open University. All of those were sustainable initiatives. They were comprehensive, well-funded and ambitious, they involved taking risks, and they are still with us in the shape of the people who benefited from them.
However, littered among all that are the many small initiatives over the years that have been more about a press release and a headline than they have ever been about sustained and important change, or improvement in opportunities for working-class children. We have had breakfast clubs, after-school clubs, holiday clubs and catch-up clubs; we have had this zone, that zone and the other zone; we have had tsars. Every initiative that the Government launch has a paragraph at the end saying, “You must take extra care to target this at children from deprived backgrounds”. I am not critical of that—at least it shows intent—but the questions for us now are these. Have we learned from what has gone on in the past? Can what we have learned be seen in the policies before us at the moment? Are those policies likely to improve the situation?
We should be clear: in every stage of our education system, from early years right through to employment, there are problems. I want to look at three areas in particular that I think are important. The first is early years education. When you hear the statistics about the growing social-class gap as children move through school, you can conclude only one thing: once a child falls behind, it is very difficult for them to catch up. That is not because they get the poorest teachers or go to the worst schools or because no one tries; it is because it is damned tough to catch up if you have fallen behind at the age of five. The only conclusion can be that early years ought to be our prime focus; it ought to be where we put our resources if ever we have the chance. Yet when we look at that area, we see staff who are less qualified. Some 45% of childcare workers claim benefits or tax credits; it is essentially a low-skilled workforce. You have to have a PhD to teach a university student but you do not even have to have a level 3 qualification to teach the nought to fives. So we have learned what is needed but failed to take action.
I have to say that Michael Gove’s action in abolishing Sure Start was nothing short of politically criminal. I hope he has lived to rue the day, when he sees that nothing has been done—in fact, the gap at age five is growing, not closing. I believe that there is a review of the future of children’s centres, and it would be helpful if the Minister could give us some reassurance about what is happening. This is not just about the child; institutions such as Sure Start and children’s centres work with the parents. If you are going to get it right at aged five, that is the opportunity to bind together that most important of educational partnerships, not between teacher and pupil but between parents and children. We are wasting opportunities there.
Secondly, I want to look at schools. Again, I would say that the many schools that succeed do so against the odds, in the most extraordinarily challenging circumstances and working harder than many of us can imagine. Many individuals will talk about how they owe their life chances to the school that they went to and the teacher who taught them. But there is a danger in this debate that we pick out individuals or groups and say that it worked for them, but forget to look at the overall picture. Schools are still struggling to close the gap between social class and educational attainment.
The figures and statistics belie the actuality of what is happening because the biggest difference in attainment is within schools, not between them. We measure the difference between schools, saying, “This school got that and that school got the other”, but, no matter how affluent the catchment area of the school or where it is situated, poor children in those schools do worse. If poor children make up 1% of children in a middle-class school, guess who does the worst in that high-achieving middle-class school—the 1% of poor children. I worry about the Ofsted figures in this respect as well. When you look at the Ofsted gradings for outstanding schools, you see that they correlate to schools in middle-class areas taking middle-class children. It is not an exact fit, but a school is far more likely to be in special measures or to require improvement if a number of its children are on free school meals.
That means that we are not asking the right questions. You cannot just look at the performance statistics and say what is right or wrong. The reality is that even in high-performing schools, working-class children are not doing well. That means that our approach to failing schools and schools that have a lot of working-class children should sometimes be more empathetic than I fear it is. To be honest, there is little incentive for schools to tackle long-term inequality: you do not get many badges for it and you run the risk of ruining your overall performance, with all the consequences that that has.
I want to bring up one more important item in relation to schools. I do not mind the emphasis on literacy and numeracy—indeed, my time in office as a Minister, during the first term, was focused on the literacy and numeracy strategies—but I worry about, and am pretty cross about, the narrowing of the curriculum. If you want to help children from working-class backgrounds, you have to teach them to read and write to prepare them for secondary school and for life, but you also have to give them access to that wider, richer curriculum. That is what will give them the foundations to be brave enough to make decisions, and confident enough to visit places that they may not otherwise have gone to. If we have schools where is there is no creativity—no art, no music, no band or orchestra—but there is an awful lot of phonics teaching, we are not going to build children up. They might be able to pass the phonics test, but they will not have the confidence that is essential to get on in life.
I turn to a topic that for me is a tragedy equal to that of abolishing Sure Start. Since 2010, the Government’s priority on the schools agenda has been to try to force every school in this country to become an academy or a free school. I am not making a judgment—there are many such schools that are good—but I am absolutely confident that the amount of time, resource, leadership and effort that successive Ministers in the Department for Education have put into forcing schools to academise could have been spent on tackling the problem that we are discussing today. It is a tragedy that that has not been the case.
My third area is post-16 education. I will be honest: I was not quite as up to date on the statistics as I thought I was, before leading on this debate. I had not realised what a segregated system post-16 has become. Quite simply, twice as many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds go on to further education than stay at school. At post-16 we now have working-class children taking one path and middle-class children taking another. But which is the most underfunded sector of our whole education system? It is further education. Which sector has taken a 20% reduction in funding, compared to 8% in schools? It is FE. The salary of college lecturers is, on average, £2,500 less than that in schools—no wonder the average college had 16 vacancies at the start of the 2017-18 academic year. That cannot be right. I am not making a judgment about where children choose to go, but if they choose to go to further education, and if we are serious about closing the attainment gap, that is where our priority must be and where investment ought to be made.
I finish on this: education is the most powerful lever for change that we have. I stand second to none in believing in the power of education to change lives, and I pay tribute to everybody who chooses to spend their life in this sector. But I also believe that they cannot do it by themselves. Too often, our response is to blame them, because they have not got our policies right. They cannot do it by themselves; it is our responsibility to make sure that there are things around them to help them do their job better. It is difficult to close a social-class gap during a time of austerity. If being poor means that you are more likely to do badly at school, why do we make more children poor, as we have done since 2010? If we believe that a broader co-ordinated service is important, why do we cut social services, the probation service and the numbers of health visitors who go into schools?
What is happening in schools? Teachers know that if they are going to do the best for their children, they have to not just teach them but help them overcome the barriers to learning. These barriers are not necessarily educational: they are domestic, social and aspirational. Teachers do it because there is no one else to. We have a situation in which teachers are taking time out from teaching to help a parent who comes in with a money problem, or a child who comes in dirty because there is no bath at home to wash in, or a child who needs fed because they have had no breakfast. When Labour was in Government, we moved away from that. It is far more challenging to close that social-class gap during a time of austerity than at any other, and I lay that at this Government’s door.
This remains one of our biggest challenges. If our education system and our politicians want us to be the sort of society we say we want, we should put our hands up and volunteer to be judged by how much we can close the gap between the poor and the rich. We are not without successes and some evidence of how it can be done, and we are not without the wish and the will to do it. But I fear that, at the moment, we are without the ability to look at what has happened and seize the evidence of what works, and to turn that into policies that could shape a different future.
My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness. I do not know if I agree with everything she said, but I agree with a lot of it. I volunteered to speak in this debate because it follows one yesterday—I remind the House of my declared interests—in which I talked special educational needs. I did not have a chance to raise how the parents have to take on a huge responsibility for this group, because the school system seems to be failing them. Teachers are not trained to deal with most of the commonly occurring special educational needs—I have already referred to my interest in dyslexia—and parents traditionally have to step in. They normally step in to get the diagnosis in the first place. They have to notice that the child is underachieving or not achieving in certain ways. That means they need to know what the norm and the expectation are. If you do not have a background in education, you are less likely to know that. Then, once you have done that, you have to take on the system, to an extent. You need to start putting pressure on the teacher and the structures around you to say, “Why are you not doing it?” This means writing letters. Good literacy helps. Knowing how to access forms and look things up are all part of it. The tiger parent gets results.
Then look at straightforward cash. It costs £500, maybe £600, to get, privately, a diagnosis for these hidden disabilities. Other situations may vary. That is a big chunk. It is more than you would get from one week on the national minimum wage. Then, it is reckoned to cost about £1,000 a year to keep the pressure on and make sure you get the support for that child and the things they are missing at school. The people I have been speaking to reckon that, if you have to go to appeal, it costs over £6,000. At least 15% of the population have special educational needs according to the Government, and virtually everybody agrees that that is an underdiagnosis. It is reckoned that 80% of those with dyslexia are undiagnosed through the school system.
There is another, small element that goes into the bigger cocktail the noble Baroness has identified, and which may ensure that your chances of success are that bit lower. Everything is on a downward multiplier. You are being pressured to do things that you just cannot do if you do not have the resources or understand the education system that well. I do not know how many times I have had a conversation with a parent who said, “I have a dyslexic child and, by the way, I think I am dyslexic as well.” The same is true of dyspraxia and autism. With that sort of pressure, we will not get out of this until we start to have better education for teachers and make the system slightly friendlier to enable them to implement those changes. All these small changes will help but unless we keep an eye on them and how they fit together, we will miss out. Please can we hear how the Government are going to make sure that parents with lower educational attainment know how to access the help that the middle- classes are clearly getting?
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, for securing this debate and for the way in which she introduced it. I absolutely agree that education is the most powerful lever for change, but I did not always appreciate that. I grew up in Gateshead, when it was one of the poorest communities in the country. I attended a typical inner-city comprehensive school, where our most famous alumnus was Paul Gascoigne. The only remarkable thing about my O-level grades was that they spelled out “FUDGE” when I got them.
In later life, however, with the encouragement of my noble friend Lord Baker, the then Secretary of State, and the inspirational local businessman Sir Peter Vardy, I was part of a team that founded a city technology college in Gateshead. Over the past 30 years, it has transformed the academic opportunities of more than 10,000 children from working-class backgrounds. It did this by raising expectations among students and parents. The school instilled in students personal pride and self-belief, along with beliefs in self-discipline and ambition. Later in life, I was to have the opportunity of graduating from Oxford University as a mature student. What has all this taught me about the subject before us?
There are a few things. I am absolutely convinced that education is the surest path out of poverty ever discovered. I believe that investment in the early years of a child’s life will yield the greatest socioeconomic return it is possible to get. I believe in the dignity of hard work, and in celebrating excellence wherever it is found: in academia, the arts, sport, public service or enterprise. I believe in levelling up, not levelling down, and that the person who has the greatest responsibility for achieving your life goals is you. I failed my O-levels not because the system failed me but because I did not put in the work necessary to pass them. I believe that people born anywhere in the United Kingdom have won the biggest prize in the lottery of life. It is, without doubt, the best country to grow up in. I believe it offers some of the best schools and universities, and the best opportunities available anywhere in the world at this time. The British education system is the most admired in the world, judging by the fact that last year the UK overtook the United States as the number one destination for foreign students.
Over the past six years, we have seen the proportion of children achieving good development by the age of five rise from 55% to 74%. I am proud that the number of people being taught in good or outstanding schools has increased by over 2 million since 2010; this will pay dividends in future. I am pleased that the proportion of children who were on free school meals entering higher education in England has increased every single year since 2005. I am pleased that the scourge of mass unemployment, which I knew in my youth, has given way to the highest employment levels in our history and some of the lowest unemployment rates for 50 years. I am proud that we now have the lowest ever number of low-paid jobs, as a proportion of the working population.
The message I would send from places such as this to the working-class communities from which I hail is: you are special; there are opportunities open to you today which are unparalleled in our history; you have incredible potential; and it matters not where you start but where you finish. Be inspired, work hard, aim high and persevere. Above all, when you get there remember to invest back in the lives of the young, so that they might grow taller than we did.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for securing this debate. I would like to use the few minutes I have in what I see as a critical debate to focus on those areas that are rarely spoken about, much less understood in these discussions. I first declare my interests as chair of the advisory group for the Government’s race disparity unit, director of Operation Black Vote and board director for Youth Futures Foundation.
The importance of this debate must not be underplayed: as an extremely wealthy nation, we should be ashamed that children from poorer backgrounds are now less likely to have job security, and possibly social mobility, than when I left school 40-odd years ago. A decent and more level playing field in education, from early years to university, has to be the goal. We are talking about not dumbing down, but rather investing to raise up. It is in the top universities’ self-interest to acknowledge that a student with all the socioeconomic disadvantages who still gets two As and a B is probably as bright as a privileged student who has gained three As.
My second point is on the growing and misleading narrative that seeks to pit white working-class students against working-class black and minority ethnic students. First, black and minority students, particularly those from Roma, Gypsy and Traveller, African, Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani families, are more likely to live in poverty and disadvantage, as are their families. So why are they doing better than some disadvantaged white students? I would argue there are two fundamental reasons.
First, particularly outside big cities—for example, for some in the north, in Wales, in the south-west and in other places—there is a bottom-up lack of investment in good jobs, or in schools. This can contribute to certain sections of their communities having expectations and aspirations that are not as high as they could be.
In contrast, the black and minority ethnic, and the migrant, mentality towards education has been: “It’s your way out of poverty and disadvantage, and it will lessen race inequality.” In spite of their educational aspirations, BAME working-class students and youths face a disadvantage that their white counterparts do not: the race penalty. Just a few days ago, Operation Black Vote, alongside the Carnegie Trust and University College London, launched a research paper entitled Race Inequality in the Workforce. The data showed that black and ethnic minority young people
“are 58% more likely to be unemployed”
“47% more likely to have a zero-hours contract”.
In education, we are more likely to be expelled from school and have lower degrees, even though students start at the same level. But for me, the clearest factor, which we have witnessed, is that when student papers are marked blindly, without the student’s identity being revealed, lo and behold, black and minority ethnic students do that much better.
Let us bring this back to finding solutions. First, we must understand class that and racial disadvantage are not the same and stop pitting one community against the other. On race, I call upon the Government to have the biggest recruitment drive for black and ethnic minority teachers and role models ever seen. Funding our universities must be linked to them adopting the race equality charter—as they did for gender with Athena SWAN, which dramatically moved the gender inequality dial. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, as a nation, in a scary post-Brexit world, we must have the political will to properly invest in our children’s future. That is looking after our own self-interest.
My Lords, given the number of reports and studies on this issue, I think we all recognise the importance of educational attainment to social mobility, and indeed to social justice. It is therefore all the more important to be reminded that inequalities continue to exist within the education sector between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers. We start, of course, at the beginning. In the first five years of their lives, children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds often suffer disadvantages compared to their more affluent peers. In its most recent state of the nation report, the Social Mobility Commission found that 43% of children entitled to free school meals did not reach the “good” level of development at age 5, compared to 26% of more advantaged children.
Disadvantaged pupils start school behind their peers in terms of attainment, and the gap persists throughout the school years. By age seven, their attainment gap is 18 percentage points in reading and mathematics, and 20 percentage points in writing. By age 11, less than half of pupils entitled to free school meals reach the expected standards in reading, writing and maths, compared to 68% of all other pupils. Research shows us that high-quality early education is one of the most important determinants of every child’s life chances. Children who receive early years education start primary school at a cognitive advantage, and the longer children have been in preschool, the greater that advantage.
The excellent debate in this House last week, brought by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, drew attention to the need for improved early years interventions to support children and families facing a range of disadvantages. Over the last decade we have seen a plethora of policies aimed at addressing the attainment gap. In early years, we have seen the introduction of a number of hours of free early education or childcare for qualifying two, three and four-year olds, and an Early Years Pupil Premium aimed at helping disadvantaged three and four-year olds. In schools, the pupil premium was introduced for pupils eligible for free school meals, and for looked-after children. There is a national schools breakfast programme, and an essential life skills grant, aimed at supporting disadvantaged children in the most disadvantaged parts of the country—the 12 so-called “opportunity areas” that include Blackpool, Derby and my hometown of Bradford.
Although I welcome the ambition behind these schemes, the sheer range of policies and schemes is questionable. In her passionate opening speech, my noble friend starkly highlighted this. Over the years, we have seen many initiatives come and go without being properly evaluated, or without being given a chance to prove themselves before being scrapped. I think of the life chances strategy that was never published, and the disappointing decision not to carry out an early workforce feasibility study. Can the Minister reassure us that the Government will reconsider, or develop, a workforce strategy for early years as a priority? Although the commissioning of research on family hubs is well-intentioned, do we really need yet more reviews? Surely, we already know the benefits of children’s centres from the documented success of Sure Start and its basis of listening to parents and working with local communities.
The Government’s levelling-up ambitions include a commitment to education and skills, and to addressing inequalities in the regions, particularly the north, where I have seen for myself multiple inequalities. A report by the End Child Poverty coalition last year showed that child poverty is rising. The deep-rooted problems it highlighted emphasise the need to get consensus for long-term policy changes that will be kept to, over time, across the parties. If social mobility is indeed a “top priority across government”, will the Minister acknowledge that there are no quick fixes and urge the need for long-term commitment and investment, and joined-up, cross-government approaches?
My Lords, I warmly congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, on putting down for debate a subject in which the words “working class” and “education” are in the same sentence. For the past 10 years, I have promoted schools—university technical colleges—for the working class of our country, and I am proud to do so.
The youngsters whom we recruit at 14 are disengaged, disheartened, disobedient and entirely fed up with their schools; they are looking for a fresh start. We give it to them. First, we treat them, at age 14, as adults—that is simply not done in normal schools. They decide what uniform they want to wear—they invariably elect for business dress—and they usually call their teachers by their Christian names. It is a totally different relationship. Secondly, from day one, they make things with wood, metal and plastics and using 3D printers, and they realise that this is something quite different. When I speak to those classes, I say, “This is the first day of your working life, because you start at 8.30 am and go on until 5 pm.” These schools are transformational. We are proud of the record of our students. Frankly, 30% to 40% of our intake is challenging, but our principals do not give up, and they are very reluctant to expel the pupil. They work at it; we give the pupils additional training classes to catch up, and they do.
The destination data is quite striking. Every July, August, September and October, our heads have to determine what happens to each of their students. If you ask the head of a normal school, “What’s happened to your students?”, I guarantee that they will tell you how many went to university, and then there will be silence. They are not really very interested in what happens to the other students. But we track down each one. Last year, we found that 27% of our students became apprentices; a normal school has about 6% or 7%. Some 43% went to universities, which is similar but slightly better than for many schools. What we found striking was that 75% of them did STEM courses—double the national average. Those courses are where the skill gap is in our country. The rest either get a job or go on to other forms of education. When it comes to NEETS—unemployed—we had only 3% last July, whereas a normal school would have 8% or 9%. Undoubtedly, then, we have transformed the life chances of those many youngsters who joined us two or three years early.
The other thing is that, on the whole, there has not been much encouragement for these schools from the previous four Secretaries of State. Michael Gove did not like them, tried to close them down and cut our money, and the other three Secretaries of State had passing relationships with education. However, the present Secretary of State is very enthusiastic about UTCs. He did not go to a public or private school—he went to an ordinary school and then college—and I found out that his daughter is at one of the city technology colleges that I founded back in the 1980s in Telford. Therefore, I have high hopes of the Secretary of State. He has visited a UTC and likes it, and said that we can expand, so we have put in applications for three new ones, in Salford, Carlisle and Birmingham, and we hope to have that approved in the summer of this year. Another will open in Doncaster this September.
More than anything else, these schools show that you can transform the life chances of many of the youngsters we have. Your Lordships might like to know of a striking example, because it is the sort of thing you might remember. We have a UTC in Liverpool, which is right on the border of Croxteth, the area for the black community. If you were born in Croxteth in the black community, you have a 15% chance of going to university. Three or four years ago, we took in several students from that black community, and it is striking that 85% of them gained university places. That is very strong social mobility, and it will be technical education—
I will finish in a moment; do not worry. The success of the Government in education over the next five years will depend on whether they manage to transform technical education fundamentally in our country and make it better. Remember: every attempt to improve technical education since 1870 has failed apart from UTCs, so they have a great task. That is the task on which they will be judged: not on the EBacc or Progress 8, but on whether technical education is better in five years’ time.
My Lords, I praise my noble friend Lady Morris for her inspiring speech and for the debate, and I remind the House of my interests as the chief officer at TES Global and as chair of Whole Education.
I believe that education is failing working-class communities in this country. Many of those places were formed to serve an industrial economy that has since moved on. Our education system emerged as those places became established and has yet to move on with the economy, as the noble Lord, Lord Baker, has told your Lordships on a number of occasions.
Our current system is a sift, and academic exams are the sifting mechanism. You go to school, work hard and get good grades. If your grades are good enough, you go to university and get a great career; if not, get some skills and get a job. Policy-makers have been delegating more to schools in exchange for more accountability, in the hope that it will generate more improvement so that more young people from more backgrounds can access the higher aspiration university route. Yet, the Sutton Trust tells us that the eight top schools in this country send as many pupils to Oxbridge as three-quarters of all schools. Working-class children are being failed. Teach First research in 2018 revealed that poorer pupils are more likely to be excluded than to pass the English Baccalaureate.
The most the current model can do is work for two-thirds of young people. For working-class kids, we would be lucky to get to half, however hard we drive the current system. There simply are not enough teachers and leaders to make the system work, and academic learning is not for everyone. For working-class communities, it is not just about learning and exams. On Saturday, I met the job-sharing head teachers from an all-through school in Portland, Dorset, where I used to be the Member of Parliament. They asked me to tell you this:
“We have felt that things have become even harder over the last few years. Students starting school with us have vast gaps in their education, not just academically. We support that well, and are proud to say we’re in the top 10% of schools in the country for progress, both at secondary and primary. However, the social and emotional needs of our students are challenging. The support Sure Start centres used to offer families had a vast impact on parenting skills and abilities. Now, there is very little early intervention for families who struggle or need assistance. The threshold for children who are at risk appears to be unknown. We leave students to go home on occasion unsafe to homes that are not suitable for them, and hope to see them the next day. Social care simply cannot support the needs of families like ours.”
We need a national debate about a new system. There can be no change in working-class communities without regeneration through education. That system must be designed for a long life of continuous reskilling—one that prepares people for a working life of 60 years, multiple careers, being great at interacting with machines as well as humans, but also out-competing machines at being human. It must be one that accepts that analytics will replace qualifications and that universities will have to innovate to deliver lifelong learning rather than a debt-loaded rite of passage, as at present. It will have more grow your own: across a lifetime, someone with a higher apprenticeship has higher average earnings than a graduate from a non-Russell Group university. Employers are increasingly growing their own talent rather than relying on graduate entry schemes. Schools should be growing and qualifying their own teachers from their own working-class communities, with less high-stakes testing and more trust in those teachers. We need a curriculum, not unlike that of some of the UTCs, that balances knowledge and skills, and is designed to nurture a love of learning, curiosity and skills for self-directed learning. This needs cross-party consensus, and what better place to start than in your Lordships’ House?
I really just want to say “I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris” and sit down, but I will use my personal experience to highlight what I believe is an absolutely fundamental issue. I was the first person in my family to go on to higher education. I was the eldest of five, and my father was a bus driver who brought us up as a single parent. So I guess that my appearance here says that I must have been pretty good at grabbing the opportunities that were available to me.
Delving into my background, you would find I went to a grammar school, but I am not an advocate of grammar schools—why? Because I saw what happened to my working class friends who went to the secondary modern. When I passed my 11-plus, news went around the neighbourhood faster than a Facebook post would today. It was unprecedented; no one in our area had done this. Within hours, a posse of mothers, who kind of looked after my father, had arrived at our door demanding to speak to him. Actually, they had come to convince him that I should not go to the grammar school, that it would be a disaster, make me different from everyone else and I would be outcast. Fortunately, my father listened more to his headstrong daughter than to the well-meaning neighbours, so off I went. Those women had a point, though. To start with, it was hard. I did not fit in anywhere. At school, I never had the right equipment, my uniform was second-hand and I was accused of being common or poor. Back at home, I was now shunned from the street life, teased for being posh, having a stupid uniform and being a clever-clogs. “You think you’re better than us!” echoed down the street after me as I walked down the road in my blue stripy dress and straw boater.
My point is that things have not changed. It is still the case that youngsters from similar backgrounds to mine have rules, mores, values and norms that are very different from those at the school that they attend. They see no link between being successful at school and future employment and a better life. They do not believe in the things that the noble Lord, Lord Bates, talked about; they see that as a myth that they have been peddled, because they do not see it around them in their area. We now have communities that have been hollowed out over decades, where traditional employment has declined and there have been no replacements. There is no clear pathway from school to employment, and in some communities some children are the third generation without a job. Such jobs as they can get are unstable and on zero-hours contracts. The brightest youngsters do not see their future in their community and, like I did, they escape and move away, taking their talent with them and compounding the problem in that area.
I believe that our education system is failing these youngsters. I wonder whether, like me, noble Lords watched the dramas “Little Boy Blue” and “Three Girls” and felt ashamed. It is absolutely clear from studies that there are two kinds of comprehensives. As the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, said, those who are in the more working-class and ethnically mixed comprehensives get a worse deal—there is no doubt about it. The studies show two completely different educational experiences under one roof. The reverse should be true: they should get the best teachers, more money and better opportunities. We know what works: there are some excellent schools doing excellent things.
The Prime Minister says he wants to level up the regions. How radical are the Government prepared to be to make changes in the life chances of these young people in so-called left-behind areas? Such inequalities become injustices when they are passed from generation to generation.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on securing this debate and on her speech today. Like her, I have been convinced for many years that if we are to really change the life chances of many people, we have to start with education, particularly early years education. Also like her, I am very proud of what the Blair Government did in establishing Sure Start. I recall seeing the direct input in my constituency, Dewsbury, and in my hometown, Bolton. I am proud of those local authorities which are still, despite all the cuts to their budgets, able to prioritise this area.
I have to admit that I did not believe that we would be standing here having to make the case for early years education, given all the evidence that has been there for so many years. Instead, I get alarmed when I talk to teachers and hear them report the lack of verbal skills and the difficult social and emotional problems that many four year-olds have. They are coming into school today just not ready or prepared for school at all. In my limited time I shall make just two points.
First, I shall mention a theme that has run through education policy in this country for a very long time, and one that I believe has reinforced the problem of underachievement of working-class children and young people. This theme is summed up by the word “meritocracy.” On the face of it, who can be opposed to a meritocracy? The idea is all very well if you have a perfect world, where everyone has the chance to progress, to shine, to reach their potential and to have choices about how they live their lives, but we do not live in that kind of world. We do not have, and we should recognise that we do not have, a level playing field. The fact that a few people manage to come through does not validate the whole system of education that we have at the moment. The disparities in life chances and outcomes are massive at present in a whole host of ways, including health, financial security, educational opportunities and work opportunities. The best, the most effective and, indeed, the only way to really counter the disadvantages of so many people is to have early intervention.
My second point, which my noble friend touched on, is that early intervention—and probably pre-birth preparation—can and does make a difference. That is why I believe that the lessons of Sure Start should be revisited. Sure Start directly helped thousands of children; it helped their parents as well. Partly it helped them to become better and more confident parents, but it also helped them to take more control of their own lives and to look for opportunities for themselves. In particular, young parents—who themselves may have had limited opportunities and may not have had a good educational experience—were helped to understand the importance of early years education. Many did not appreciate, or have the confidence to get involved with, their children’s education; they were encouraged to do that to understand its importance. I think everybody knows that once a parent is involved in a child’s education, the job of any educational institution—nursery, primary, or secondary—becomes easier, and the ease with which teachers can make progress is much improved.
My noble friend said that education is the most powerful lever for change. There is so much evidence that this is the case, and I urge the Government to revisit Sure Start to encourage and provide the proper delivery of real opportunities for many working-class children.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, for this important debate, and remind your Lordships of my education interests. She spoke mostly about schools, but there are of course educational opportunities for young people from working-class backgrounds outside of schools, and I want to consider a major one this afternoon.
I am the chairman of a charity called CVQO, the Cadet Vocational Qualifications Organisation. Its whole reason for existence is to provide opportunities for teenagers—who often could be failing at school—to take BTEC levels 1, 2 and 3, in a variety of subjects, in their spare time and with the assistance of volunteer cadet officers and instructors. Most of these qualifications lead to greater employability. Each year there are about 11,000 young people on our books; most qualify for free school meals and many are from areas of multiple deprivation. Each July, I bring to the House of Lords, for lunch in the Cholmondeley Room and a presentation, the dozen most successful of these young people, smartly dressed in their uniforms, with their parents and the commandants of their cadet forces. In the past six years, these have come not just from armed services cadet forces, but from the police and fire service cadets and St John Ambulance Cadets. We arrange for this group to go, a month after coming to Westminster, to Africa to have a wonderful experience there, working together to help in a village school.
It is worth recounting the story of just one of our past winners, who had spent years in care, after his father had been stabbed by his mother. He was encouraged by the police to join the cadets. A misfit at school, he blossomed in the Army Cadet Force and took the qualifications I have described. He was entirely successful, and now proudly holds down a good job in the NHS.
One of our qualifications applies especially to music. Each year, some 500 young people attend cadet music courses, each lasting a week away from home. These are run by the Colonel Cadet Music and enable talented but poor youngsters to learn an instrument in a disciplined but fun environment. The tuition and the loan of the instrument are at no cost to them. Our research shows that only 5% of these children have the opportunity to play an instrument at school. Of course, many schools have to charge for music lessons nowadays, and inevitably a large number of homes simply cannot afford this. Additionally, evidence suggests that the number of school orchestras has fallen dramatically over the past few years. Our courses enable young people to play together in a large number of bands, some of which cater for beginners and others for the most accomplished, who may go on to study at one of the colleges of music.
I am pleased to say that all these activities receive funds from government sources. Close observation during the decade in which I have been involved shows that this money is extremely well spent and goes a long way, because the teachers and instructors we use are volunteers who give up a great deal of time on behalf of the young people we serve.
It is hugely important that the work of these organisations continues to receive support. For many children from backgrounds of the kind that the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, described to us so well, they are a route away from impoverishment and to social mobility. I commend them all to your Lordships.
My Lords, I have almost 35 years’ front-line experience as a classroom practitioner teaching in the state sector. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Baker, for the introduction of training days during my career—the start of teachers doing it for themselves—and my noble friend Lady Morris, not just for an excellent speech setting out all the priorities but for the threshold she introduced for teachers and the significant pay rises that brought to the profession after 20 years of stagnation. I have a lifetime of working in comprehensive schools far away from leafy suburbs but containing some of the UK’s finest teachers and many incredibly talented and clever youngsters.
When I began researching and writing this speech, it became obvious that two words were missing from the debate’s title: “lack of”. As many noble Lords have expressed, education is a solution for disadvantage: the route to skills and learning, well-paid jobs and opportunities. But at its worst the education system merely replicates and perpetuates the class inequality that already exists, pushing advantage to the already wealthy and locking disadvantaged pupils into poverty.
The odds are not simply stacked against low-income young people at birth but made worse by this Government. The Government talk about social mobility, but the academy and free school movement has made things worse for working-class children, with more segregation and polarisation. Despite free schools and academies receiving more funding per pupil than state comprehensive schools, they typically educate fewer children in receipt of free school meals and have a more advantaged intake than comprehensive schools.
Wales, with a Welsh Labour Government, is an academy-free zone and Welsh schoolchildren do not have this immediate disadvantage in funding, although lack of funding for education in England has a disproportionate effect through the Barnett funding formula.
England does not appear to have an education system that is serious about realising the potential of all children. Those on free school meals and receiving the pupil premium are 27% less likely to achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C, or 9 to 6 as we have in England now.
Research suggests that the wealth and inclination of parents, rather than the ability and efforts of the child, have the most bearing on a child’s educational success today. A working-class child starts the race half way around the track, behind the middle-class child whose parents do an awful lot via extra resources and activities. Government money that has gone into the academy and free schools programme has been taken out of the comprehensive school system. Free schools receive 60% more funding per pupil than local authority primaries and secondaries, and the £96 million originally intended for improving underperforming schools was redistributed to academies.
Research from University College London found that the average spending on a privately educated primary pupil is £12,200 a year, compared with £4,800 on a state pupil. For secondary, it is £15,000 per pupil, compared with £6,200. The gap between rich and poor is greater than it was 30 years ago. Austerity continues to punish the poor and the limits on educational opportunities for working-class children continue to contract. It is an unsustainable position. We leave so much talent and ability untapped in our schools. I and many like me did our best to address the inequalities, but there is a limit to how much individual teachers can do to fight the system that is so patently skewed in favour of the better-off in our society.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Morris for initiating this debate. I have always respected her enormously for her ethics, her commitment and her consistency. I am honoured to speak in this debate, with so many people who have great knowledge and with whom I agree. I also offer my congratulations to the Minister; she and I worked together on religious freedoms, and it is wonderful that she has been given the opportunity to do this work.
I will concentrate on something that the noble Lord, Lord Baker, has been working on, and that is technical or vocational education. I want to talk about the changes which I think are necessary in relation to this. I completely agreed with the first two points made by my noble friend; this relates to the third point.
Somewhere in the 1980s, despite evidence that the growth areas in employment were in relational care, building and maintenance and cooking and cleaning, it was decided that we were moving towards a knowledge economy. I would strongly argue that it was a great mistake to abolish the polytechnics and turn them into universities. Essentially, it was an exclusively academic concentration on the pathway which, as my noble friend Lord Knight mentioned, is not for everybody and is not what is wanted. There was also a definition of social mobility as a velocity concept that judged you by how far you moved away from your mum. That led to the denigration of place and of belonging, particularly in relation to working-class communities. There was no way out of abandoning those communities if you wished to pursue your career. In 1974, the funding for apprenticeships and university places was at parity; 14% went to university and roughly 14% did apprenticeships. The apprenticeship system has been decimated, whereas now about 48% or 49% go to universities.
What is required is to look at the concept of vocation. The noble Lord, Lord Lingfield spoke about the cadets, but generally the vocation is good work. In the labour market, the rise in jobs is in the vocational sector—social care is one example where there has been an enormous rise in jobs, which are low-grade but should be dignified work. Building and maintenance, plumbing and all these areas were assumed to be a relic of the past—a bit like the working class, the ultimate relic of the past but a very decisive force in our society and our politics and rooted in those areas.
I suggest we look carefully at pathways from the age of 14. If you look at the bottom third of the educational cohort—a bit like social class—in terms of Cs, Ds and Es at GCSE; there is a real failure at the bottom end. If you look at the UTCs and what is being done by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, there is an alternative, but the pathway should be towards genuine vocational colleges. In those colleges, we should think quite radically about putting medical schools, dentistry and—heaven forbid—accountancy, in those vocations. Remember, vocation is linked to virtue, and virtue is not “do-gooding” but “good doing” or being able to do things skilfully, which is essential for our society.
I urge the Minister and the Government to look very seriously at those educational pathways, at the skills we need and at the low attainment at the bottom end of schools. We need to give genuine dignity and vocation to working-class communities.
I speak today from my vantage point as chairman of the trustees of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, deputy patron of Outward Bound, and also from my personal experience of social mobility, as the adopted son of a south Yorkshire coal miner, raised in what I might describe as loving poverty.
It is an indisputable fact that the lack of opportunity for those born into what we regrettably still describe as the working class is a significant drag on the potential prosperity and overall happiness of the UK—not that academic or material success can guarantee happiness. However, if we do aspire to upward mobility, we should ask ourselves what is the great advantage that the middle classes, and particularly privately educated children, enjoy in their pursuit of lucrative careers?
I contend that that specific advantage is the quality of confidence—confidence allied with the interpersonal and social skills needed to work effectively with others in a team. I have spoken before of the desperate need to ensure that all our young people, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, leave school educated and trained in basic life skills—the essential skills so necessary to enter the world of work and to develop into responsible citizens, to help to keep our society cohesive and healthy, and to maximise their potential and their social mobility.
It is a proven fact that extracurricular experiences with organisations like the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and Outward Bound can often do much more to equip a young person for life than an academic education alone, important though that may be. Schools should undoubtedly increase their focus on teaching life skills, embedding them in day-to-day education, for the benefit of everyone.
I deeply regret the ever-increasing focus of state education on core subjects—English, maths and science—and the fact that teaching is relentlessly centred on exam results. Learning modern languages and nurturing an appreciation of art, music and drama can all do much to grow a young person’s sense of self-worth and enjoyment of life, regardless of background.
Happiness, fulfilment and learning can also be greatly enhanced by getting away from the classroom and experiencing the outdoors. Nearly two-thirds of British schoolchildren spend less than five hours a week outdoors—less time than a prisoner spends in an exercise yard. Indeed, there are 1.6 million kids from poorer backgrounds in the UK who have no garden, and who in the course of a year never set foot in a park, let alone go to a beach or enjoy a holiday. That should concern us all, because, in the wise words of Sir David Attenborough,
“No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—the guiding principles of the American declaration of independence —should feature high on our agenda as we move on from our membership of the EU. We should not value people simply by the level of their exam results or the size of their pay packets but rather by their contribution to the sum of human happiness—whether they are content in their own lives, and how much they contribute to the happiness of others.
Let us broaden our approach to education so that we give equal value to every facet of it, combining creative, academic and vocational skills, indoors and outdoors—whatever may help to nurture a rounded, confident and happy individual. And we should make that opportunity open to everyone. Let us also break down the ludicrous and outdated distinction between technical and academic education, to enable the apprentice to feel as highly valued by society as the Oxbridge graduate. That would help us to build a fairer state, in which no one fails to achieve their full potential because of the circumstances in which they were born, or where they may live.
My Lords, like everyone else, I thank my noble friend Lady Morris for a genuinely inspirational opening speech for this debate. I agree with just about everything she said, particularly about early years and about teachers.
One range of opportunities that is increasingly unavailable to children in the maintained sector, as the curriculum narrows and budgets tighten, is access to the arts. We might ask why that matters. It matters because it is clear from plenty of evidence that for all children and young people, but particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, experience of the arts is a key way of building the social and cultural capital that is, I think, what the noble Lord, Lord Kirkham, was referring to in his own way—the social and cultural capital that they need to succeed.
In her excellent Lord Speaker’s lecture last month, the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, who is not able to participate today unfortunately, made this point with great cogency. If time allowed, I would reference in more detail one of her sources, the work of Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison in their book The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged, which looks at how class and parental income affect who gets to the top in elite professions. I commend that work to the Minister.
High-performing independent schools—massively overrepresented in top jobs—have long understood the value of the arts in education and promote it heavily as a key part of their offer. That is fine for those who can afford around £20,000 per child per year but not so good for everyone else.
I wish to mention three organisations with which I have close connections, each of which, in different ways, is doing first-class work to bring the benefits of involvement in the arts to children and young people who really need it. The first, the Artis Foundation, is a very small organisation that has been working for the past 15 years placing performing artists of all kinds in schools, principally primary schools, to support and enhance the curriculum. It has been successful and highly valued work, with special impact on children with disadvantaged backgrounds. However, many schools now struggle to afford its services despite excellent outcomes.
The second organisation, Chickenshed, which will be known to some Members of this House, is a brilliant company in which children and young people of all abilities work together to create theatre of high quality. Chickenshed also provides pathways to BTEC and degree- level qualifications. One in four participants have disabilities or disadvantages, often reflecting challenges in their lives, including exclusion from mainstream education and other social settings. Involvement with Chickenshed is a lifesaver for many of these young people.
The Royal Shakespeare Company needs no introduction but I want to emphasise the work of its education department and to draw the Minister’s attention to research, called Time to Listen, commissioned jointly by the RSC, Tate and the University of Nottingham, which examines the benefits of arts and cultural education. This study brings out the voices and opinions of young people as well as teachers and gives insights into the positive difference that sustained engagement with the arts can bring to their lives. It also points to the increasing difficulties state-funded schools face in giving access and priority to this aspect of education.
I grew up in a large family where there was no money most of the time, but both my parents were university educated, both had a wide range of cultural interests and the house was full of books and music. Even at that time, many years ago, this set me apart from most of my fellow students in the grammar school I attended, and I am in no doubt that the cultural capital that I built up from that accident of birth has been a huge and entirely undeserved benefit to me all my life.
I hope that when the Minister comes to reply she will not only acknowledge the value of the arts in helping young people to find and make good use of their talents—I am sure she will—but also give an undertaking that she will do everything in her power to influence the more sceptical of her colleagues in the Department for Education who have yet to be persuaded.
My Lords, I welcome this debate initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley. I wish to make my comments on the early years of children, from the ages of two to five.
At a debate on a similar subject on 8 January 2015, I said that,
“education starts at the age of two, which is why early years education, free for all, is an imperative. By the time the child reaches school age, most key brain wiring, language ability and cognitive foundations have been set in place. The early years are critical in the formation of intelligence, personality, social behaviour and physical development”.—[Official Report, 8/1/15; col. 469.]
Science also tells us that human development occurs more quickly in years two to four of life than at any other time in human growth.
I have been involved in the early education field since my days in Tanzania, from where I come, and in the UK. I have been associated with the Montessori system and the HighScope foundation in Michigan, USA. The single most important lesson I have learned is that unless a child receives good early childhood education from the age of two, his or her foundation education is ruined.
Since 2010, the Government have steadily reduced the funding for this sector. Sure Start projects have been reduced substantially. Funding cuts have hurt children from low-income families significantly. As a result, only families who can afford to send their young ones to private early years schools make it to better schools and reach university and professional careers. This is how the UK has become a society of haves and have-nots.
As a result, poverty in the UK is on the increase. Food banks are the only safety net left for low-income families. Despite this, and the fact that there is considerable evidence that funding for the early years education continues to be reduced, I request that the Minister respond to a simple question: as austerity is over, will more funding be made available for the important early years sector of education?
My Lords, I declare an interest: I failed my 11-plus. I was a late developer; I do not want to talk about it. I want to talk about adult education, which is particularly relevant by reason of the deficiencies in the education of working-class children, which have been set out by many noble Lords this afternoon, in particular my noble friend Lady Morris in her powerful speech. I thank her for initiating this debate.
When I was about 10, I remember helping my dad cut the hedge in front of our house in Hayes, Middlesex. It was on a main road. A big lorry pulled up, and the driver jumped out and said to my dad, “Can you read?” My dad said yes, and the driver took him around the back of the lorry. Chalked on the back of the lorry was the driver’s destination depot. He could not read it. My dad read it to him. He said, “I know how to get there”, and off he went.
Ten years later, in the holidays while doing a degree, I worked in a warehouse in Greenford. One tea break, I was sitting next to an old chap who had been working there for years. He was reading the Sun. I took my nerve in both hands and said, “You shouldn’t be reading that. That really is rubbish,” and he said, “I’m not reading it; I’m looking at the pictures. I can’t read”. It was true; he was looking at the pictures, including the demeaning page 3 pictures, and so on.
I have thought about those two vignettes many times in the decades since those events. I always imagined that the problem was some deficiency in the education system caused by the Second World War, when those men were young. But now, looking at the figures, it appears that virtually nothing has improved. There are 9 million people in this country with literacy and numeracy difficulties, and half of them are unemployed; there are 2 million fewer publicly supported adult learning places than in 2004; and there has been a 50% drop in student numbers in higher education in the past five years or so. In those circumstances, the Government’s slogan that they will “unleash the UK’s full potential” appears laughable.
The reasons for adult education are perhaps obvious, but I cannot improve on the language of two of our leading academic experts, Nigel Todd and Professor Sir Alan Tuckett, who last year wrote:
“the need for adult learning has never been greater. All the key challenges we face involve adults learning, adapting behaviour and helping to shape change. Whether we look at climate change, a rapidly ageing demography, the need for better alignment between services and people’s well-being, or urban renewal, it is today’s adults who will need to engage, adapt and shape change. To renew democracy, to rebuild a culture in which everyone’s voice can be heard, and tolerance and diversity respected, we need strategies involving people in learning together throughout the life-span. And report after report from the United Nations, the OECD, the International Labour Office and the World Economic Forum highlight … the rapid spread of robotics and artificial intelligence … which threaten to eradicate many white collar jobs … To be clear: adult learning matters. It can transform lives, fire new enthusiasms and satisfy old curiosities. It can be a route to gain or maintain employment, and the means to sustain livelihood … It offers opportunities for people to rub shoulders with others from all backgrounds and to strengthen social capital”.
I commend it.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Morris for securing this debate and for her inspiring opening speech. I want to focus on the opportunities for working-class young people in higher education.
Getting a degree from a leading university remains one of the surest routes to social mobility. I know this to be true. Twenty-five years ago, I was the only pupil in my school year who went to university. Today, I have the honour of speaking in your Lordships’ House.
Two decades later, despite many reforms and much investment, young people from a working-class background are still: more likely to have their A-level grades underpredicted; less likely to apply to university; less likely to be accepted; more likely to drop out; less likely to achieve the highest degrees; and less likely to work in an elite profession after graduating. On average, they will have lower earnings over the course of their life than their middle-class peers, even with exactly the same degree in exactly the same subject from exactly the same university.
This year, the World Economic Forum published its first global social mobility index. The UK was ranked 21st out of 82 countries, behind all Scandinavian countries, behind a further 10 EU member states and behind Switzerland, Canada, Japan, Australia and Singapore. If the UK is to survive and thrive in this global economy, it cannot afford to limit opportunities and waste talent on this scale.
The number of school leavers entering higher education varies dramatically by socioeconomic background, from over 80% in the most affluent areas to just 3% in the most disadvantaged. This variation begins well before a young person ever sets foot in a university. The highest- attaining students from disadvantaged backgrounds are those most likely to have their A-level grades underpredicted, with 1,000 high-attaining disadvantaged pupils having their grades underpredicted every year.
Working-class students also often lack the advice, guidance and support needed to navigate the university application process, and when they do apply, they are much less likely to be accepted. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are eight and a half times less likely to win a place at the most selective universities than those from more affluent backgrounds. Independent school pupils are twice as likely to gain a place at a leading university than state school pupils.
A recent report from the National Education Opportunities Network found that white youngsters in receipt of free school meals are the least likely of any group to study at university. More than half of universities in England have fewer than 5% white working-class students in their intakes, and of all applications to higher education by this demographic, only 22% were accepted.
Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that the gap in drop-out rates between rich and poor students is widening, with 8.8% of disadvantaged students not returning as second-year students, compared with 6% of students from more advantaged backgrounds. In some universities, more than a fifth of students from the most disadvantaged social backgrounds dropped out in their first year.
According to research by the London School of Economics, if you are a working-class graduate with a first-class degree, you are less likely to land an elite job than if you are a middle-class graduate with a 2.2. Even if, as a young person from a working-class back- ground, you do get an elite job, you will earn on average 16% less than your middle-class counterparts.
The Sutton Trust, the leading think tank in this area, has proposed five policies to begin to tackle these issues. I would be grateful if the Minister could briefly indicate the Government’s position on each in her response. First, all universities should make better use of contextual admissions, where the social background of a university applicant is taken into account in the admissions process. Secondly, post-qualification applications should be implemented, where students apply only after they have received their A-level results. Thirdly, all universities should rigorously evaluate their outreach activities and should spend at least 10% of their outreach budgets on evaluation. Fourthly, the number of degree and higher-level apprenticeships should be increased as an alternative to university. Finally, maintenance grants for students should be restored to at least pre-2016 levels to reduce the debt burden on the least well off.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, for initiating this terribly important debate and for her passion in sticking to this subject over many years.
I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Livermore, because I too want to pick up on that end of the educational spectrum—the post-16 to 18 choices made by our young people. In our educational policy to date, the underlying assumption has been that levelling up requires a few limited pathways of social mobility. Therefore, if you are more cognitively able, it is university, and for the less advantaged, we have further education colleges and apprenticeships.
The route through university now results in more than 50% of under-30s in the UK being university graduates, which, along with that shiny degree, also carries significant burdens of debt. However, there is growing consensus that technological change—automation and AI—is changing the quality, quantity and types of jobs that will exist as children in today’s schools make choices in the next five to 10 years. Whereas in the past, technological change was job-augmenting, the next wave of change—the fourth industrial revolution —is likely to be job-displacing. Although our new-found emphasis on technological education is welcome, it is not sufficient either to augment future jobs or to mitigate job displacement.
What jobs are vulnerable? The Oxford economist Carl Benedikt Frey, whose work is about labour market impacts of technology, shows that recent developments in machine-learning will put at risk a substantial share of employment across a wide range of occupations in the very near future. In Britain, the estimate is that about 35% of the workforce is in jobs at high risk of automation. Most of these jobs will be white collar and will probably result in a scenario where we get what is described as “job polarisation”. The cognitive elite will still have jobs—after all, judges, academics, scientists and software developers will always be fine—but, at the other end, so will baristas and hairdressers. The problem will be for all the people in the middle.
What is to be done? Our current system of education overall needs a rethink. Since 1945, educational systems have encouraged specialisation, so students learn more and more about less and less. However, as knowledge becomes obsolete more quickly, the most important thing will be to relearn and then to relearn again, rather than learning to do one thing very well. Therefore, what you learn in college and university will not be enough to keep you going for the next 40 years.
I go back to where schools comes in. The City of London Corporation is adopting a “fusion skills” agenda, which is pioneered in its schools. It is a response to what employers are demanding in terms of transferable skills that are capable of being reconfigured and adapted over time. It defines fusion skills as
“a mix of technical and creative skills which … encompass a broader ‘bundle’ of skills categories including digital, creative, social, interpersonal competencies as well as a range of cognitive skills such as judgement and decision making, critical thinking and problem solving.”
To conclude, is the Minister aware of this new type of agenda, and will she take the time to have a closer at what the City of London Corporation is doing on fusion skills as a way to the future?
Like others, I want to say how much I appreciate my noble and good friend having introduced this incredibly important debate.
I have certain contextual concerns about the whole education debate. We have to remember that education should be an emancipator and enabler, letting people discover who they are and what their potential and contribution can be. There is far too much talk about the earning capacity and measuring this from an early age. Children need to reach the point at which they know who they are and what they want to do, and then we can talk about earning capacity and where we are going with it.
I also believe that we talk an awful lot of nonsense. If we are going to tackle this issue seriously—and it is a grave issue—the resources have to be in place. We have to make sure that the resources are going to the places of deprivation and disadvantage, the places where the issue of social integration of different ethnic groups is a bigger challenge than in other places. It is no good not doing this and then trying to sort the thing out with first aid measures.
It is also important to look at our language around how we inspect schools these days. I used to hold up the inspectorate in my younger days as one of the great British institutions. I do not do that any longer. Just think what it does to teachers, children, their families and the whole community if a school is told it has failed or is failing. The language is preposterous. It should be saying: how do we help this school to increase its capacity and its ability to do the job it wants to do, and how do we make sure that the resources are there?
There is another thing that concerns me in the debate about education. We may inadvertently—I think it probably is inadvertent to a large extent—be slipping into a situation in which we institutionalise social disadvantage still further. Why? Why do we assume that music, the arts and literature should be the preserve of certain children, whereas other children are more practically orientated and therefore should not need these things so much? It is terribly important that a mechanic or a window cleaner is able to hum or sing the music of Mozart or Beethoven or his pop music that he likes, certainly by choice, but that he or she has every opportunity to do that. Instead of doing this, we are concentrating those qualitative dimensions of education with the already-privileged.
If I was asked what I was looking for from the outcome of education, it is that children should certainly be prepared for citizenship and the heavy responsibilities of citizenship but also that they have really had the opportunity to discover what it is to live and to realise that whoever they are, wherever they are, their contribution matters, and in that sense the comprehensive approach is indispensable, because either we are one community or we are not.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Morris for initiating this debate and for covering important issues with her usual expertise and dedication. It is a pleasure to see the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, responding. Her concern for children goes back a long way.
The economist Esther Duflo said in a recent interview:
“What people are mobilised by is dignity. They want status and a place in life.”
I immediately related this to this debate. How much dignity and status do many schools give to working-class children? What place in life do they envisage for working-class children? We know the statistics on the educational achievement of working-class children. It has always been the same. It should have improved. Why has it not?
I was a working-class child. Many parents in the area where I grew up worked in the cotton mills, as did mine. I passed the 11-plus and went on to grammar school. Most of my cohort did not. There were three streams: A, B and C. We had no education on social skills nor any discussion of growing up and relationships, and no discussion of our hopes and fears. Few pupils went on to higher education. I had inspiration from two teachers; I was good at sport, and those teachers encouraged me to go on to university. I became a teacher myself. I was lucky, but luck is accident rather than design, and our education system should surely be more robust than that if working-class children are to succeed. Of course early intervention is important, but some children need consistent intervention, especially in adolescence.
I shall refer to two examples of ambition for working-class children. In my home county of Lancashire, the new executive director for children’s services, Edwina Grant, and Matt Lees, a consultant from East Learning, are working together to change poor outcomes. The area is the most deprived of the English county council areas, with a resultant impact on children’s readiness to learn and their life chances; at the end of primary school, the combined score for reading, writing and maths was below the national average in 2019, and the number of young people excluded from school has been double the national figure since 2015. With a new approach, Lancashire has recognised and researched missing data to show what is needed at community level, moving away from a single solution for schools. It is helping to identify what each community needs, linking action to partnerships with the NHS and other services. Data is collated and shared with young people to stimulate discussion on needs and to identify opportunities for change.
A different example of identifying need and improving the chances of working-class children is the Amos Bursary, set up 10 years ago to help the outcomes for black boys. Each boy in the scheme has a personal, academic and social mentor, with the intention of creating high achievers, role models and leaders. It works: 80% of the students attend Russell group universities and some Oxbridge, studying subjects from medicine to law and aerospace. Some 96% gain 2.1 degrees. One young man, brought up in a single-parent family in east London, recently graduated in anthropology at University College London and was a visiting undergraduate at Harvard. He has been selected, under intense competition, to be an intern on a Silicon Valley scheme aimed at creating the technical entrepreneurs of the future. I take great pride in being a patron of the Amos Bursary.
We need to look at new methods of delivery for children, especially working-class children. Will the Government seek out examples of good practice in education for mobility, of which we have heard many today? This might inform us when it comes to how our policies should be formed and local practice. Will the Minister respond in this fashion? What can we do?
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, for her debate and for her tremendous contribution to education. Everyone should have access to outstanding education, whether they are from a working-class family or a BAME community or have behavioural or learning difficulties. That means that all our schools need to educate and enrich our children to the very highest standards. That happens when schools are well-led and our teachers are well-trained, highly motivated and well-respected, and when we put in the resources to make this happen.
Noble Lords have all had four minutes, so here are my four points on how we can support working-class children. First, “It starts with early years, stupid.” If we do not get it right in the early years, as we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, the attainment gap gets wider and wider as the child progresses through the school system. The first years of a child’s life are a critical period for social mobility. Evidence shows that the poorest children are already 11 months behind when they start school.
So what can we do? The Government need to review their 30 hours of free childcare and shift the entitlement from high-income families to those on lower wages. Secondly, we need to see the development, not decline, of children’s centres. They were an incredible way of providing for not just children but the whole family, particularly mums. Thirdly, as we have heard, the Government should invest in improving the qualifications of early years staff.
My second point is on special needs. Last night, we had a good debate on special needs in general and dyslexia in particular. Every speaker highlighted the need for early identification and intervention in providing the support needed. The education, health and care plans are not fit for purpose, and I welcome the Government’s proposal to review them. As my noble friend Lord Addington rightly said, teachers need to be trained to identify educational needs.
My third point is that children from disadvantaged backgrounds do not have the wraparound support that children from wealthier families have, such as one-to-one private tuition. For example, my daughter, at a secondary school in Liverpool, was told that she could not do three sciences because she was not very good at physics—surprise, surprise. We, as caring parents, bought in private physics tuition for her; we had the financial means to do that. Guess what? She passed all her science subjects with a first. She would be embarrassed if she knew I was saying this, but the point is that we had the means to provide that private tuition. When she was looking for a career—finally—we had the ability to network and to talk to friends. She was interested in the law, so was able to spend a week with a barrister. She also had the opportunity to enrich her interests at weekends, with different clubs and activities. That should not be the preserve of only those who can afford it; it should be the preserve of everybody. Whether you come from a council house or a mansion, you should have those opportunities.
As a norm, we should expect one-to-one or small-group tuition in our schools. We should see schools offering a gold standard in careers education, with careers monitoring and mentoring, particularly for disadvantaged pupils. Business and organisations should be encouraged to offer paid internships to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. I am delighted that the Liberal Democrats in the Whips Office all put money into a pot to employ, every year, an intern from a disadvantaged background on a living wage. Would it not be good if other groups did the same? We have had people from Bradford, Manchester and London. I very much like the proposal of the Sutton Trust, that state schools should be funded and incentivised to develop essential life skills, such as confidence and motivation.
My fourth point is on post-16 education. As the noble Lord, Lord Kirkham, rightly said, we should break down those barriers. Young men from working-class backgrounds are half as likely to take up an advanced apprenticeship than their better-off peers. Why is this? Our school system is still geared to academically able pupils. We need to realise that over half of young people would be better pursuing a vocational route in education. It took an amendment to the FE and research Bill from the noble Lord, Lord Baker, even to allow—God forbid—FE and university technical colleges to go into schools and show young people the variety of opportunities and courses available. I must tell the Minister that, sadly, many secondary schools actively discourage this from happening. There should be a proactive information service, where young people can easily find information about the best vocational opportunities and apprenticeship schemes available. This would help to increase parity of esteem with academic routes. Those are my four proposals.
Finally, I was interested in the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Knight, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, who talked about our present school system. I have always been concerned that children in our primary school are nurtured and developed, in small teaching and learning environments, but suddenly, at the age of 11—and some are summer-born children —we thrust them into large secondary schools, often with 800 to 1,000 pupils, and a very different ethos and environment. Children, particularly from working-class backgrounds, struggle to cope. Oh, how I regret the loss of middle schools. We have to think through how we can improve on those transitional arrangements.
I want to end by being positive and celebrating our education service, which is the means by which we are able to give every child and young person the opportunity to flourish, to be enriched, to discover the excitement of creative subjects and to find the joys of learning. It is wonderful. I have always taught in working-class communities—including some of the most deprived communities on Merseyside—and for me, it was an absolute privilege to teach those young children and see how, like a sponge, they soaked up knowledge. Imagine how I felt when a girl of Nigerian parentage, Intang Ekoku, went on to university and came back to teach at my school, in a working-class community. As the noble Lord, Lord Baker, rightly said, it is about changing life chances.
My Lords, like all other noble Lords I congratulate my noble friend Lady Morris on securing this important debate and on her quite brilliant speech. It has clearly inspired all the other contributors to the debate, which will no doubt make the job of the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, harder when she comes to sum up.
This debate is not only important but timely. It is timely because we speak less than three months after an election in which the Prime Minister talked about the need to level up, reduce inequality and invest in towns and communities that many of us believe have been left behind. It is timely for another reason, too. Next week we have a Budget and, in light of their new electoral priorities in working-class, leave-voting areas, the Government may have finally found the motivation to show the colour of their money in tackling issues of left-behindness and inequality.
It is inequality that drives this debate. In this House, we often say it is a privilege to speak; we who speak here are the privileged, a fact we should never forget. I say that as a white, working-class schoolboy who, statistically, really should not be here. I really should not. Just for fun, I decided to look at the social composition of the Lords and it is very revealing. I took a look at the Sutton Trust and Social Mobility Commission report, Elitist Britain, published last year. The Lords has the third-highest proportion of public school-educated members among all professional groups, just behind senior judges and Permanent Secretaries, at 57%. That figure—57%—has grown by 8 percentage points in the last 10 years. Of the rest, 22% went to grammar school, 17% to comprehensives and 4% to international schools. I confess that I went to none of those. I am a failure at the 11-plus and a product of a secondary modern school, along with, I think, two other Peers—perhaps three, after listening to my noble friend Lord Hendy. There are so few of us that we do not even register as a percentage point. To put it bluntly, there are as many Old Etonians in the Lords, roughly 100, as there were pupils in my school year. So I really should not be here.
What should we be looking at to tackle the inequality of which your Lordships’ House is in many ways but a reflection? It is a fact that inequality holds people back at all stages of their life, but the early years are crucial in a child’s development and play a decisive role in their chances of success through school and adulthood. High-quality childcare makes a huge difference, especially for poorer families, but there is a stark difference in the status of the availability of outstanding provision between the most and least deprived areas. This has been compounded by the Government’s closure of 1,000-plus Sure Start centres since 2010, and a free childcare policy that excludes the disadvantaged families most in need of support from entitlement to the 30 hours of free childcare enjoyed by affluent families. So, as part of levelling up, will the Minister tell her department of the need to review and reverse those austerity-driven cuts?
When children begin primary school aged five, the gap between pupils receiving free school meals and their more affluent peers is already the equivalent of 4.3 months of learning. By the end of secondary school, the most disadvantaged students are, on average, two years of learning behind their better-off classmates and 27% less likely to achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A to C, including English and maths. It is therefore unsurprising that the gap in higher education participation and attainment between the most and least advantaged students remains stubbornly high, at around 17%, for white working-class students in particular. Only 9% of those will go on to university, compared to around half in the general population.
Following the Government’s disastrous decision to triple tuition fees and remove maintenance grants, it is even more important that we focus on ensuring access to our universities for the most disadvantaged. The Government insist that higher tuition fees are not a deterrent to university, but research by the Sutton Trust suggests that these and the £50,000-plus student debt may be starting to have an impact on the aspirations of children before they even take their GCSEs. Its survey found that the proportion of schoolchildren likely to go to university has fallen to its lowest level in eight years, and that the proportion of people from low-affluence households who believe they are likely to go to university has fallen to an all-time low of 61%. This is deeply concerning. The removal of maintenance grants in favour of loans is another reason why working-class young people avoid higher education. I hope that the forthcoming Budget will restore means-based grants to help support students from less wealthy backgrounds and ensure that all universities are more diverse in social and ethnic composition.
I make this point because there is evidence that the cumbersome system of predicted grades and conditional offers is especially unfair on students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are the most likely to have their grades underpredicted. Poor predictions can blight young people’s life chances, often becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Moreover, young people with huge potential but low predictions stand little chance of proper consideration from the top universities, especially when competing against more affluent students from schools that overpredict grades. UCAS has defended the current system, emphasising that predicted grades are one part of a student’s application and that personal statements, references and interviews are equally important in assessing an individual’s aptitude and ability. However, there is evidence that personal statements, in which students write about their interests and achievements to persuade tutors that they are worthy of an offer, are also used to game the system, with parents, teachers and even professional companies being found to have embellished middle-class teenagers’ statements. That cannot be right. Reform of the system is long overdue. In that context, I eagerly anticipate the results of the Office for Students’ university admissions review. Can the Minister ensure that the Government make those points to the reviewers? They need to be urgently considered.
A number of noble Lords referred to drop-out rates. Progress on widening the pool of applications and enrolments will continue to be undermined if we do not tackle the significant number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds who subsequently drop out of university. Disadvantaged students are likely to need higher levels of financial and pastoral support during their studies, and universities must ensure they are equipped to provide this as part of their work to continue to widen participation.
Success comes in all shapes and sizes. Although not every child will go to university, it is imperative that all have the opportunity to develop the skills needed to prosper. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, through his UTC programme, has been a brilliant advocate for the development of that sort of education. He is one of few Conservative educationalists whose interests I really engage with and support. As a number of other Peers have said, it is through high-quality apprenticeships and trainee schemes that we can unlock the door to the long and successful careers that many people would otherwise be prevented from pursuing. It is clear that more work is needed to promote this as a viable route. To do so, we must overcome the assumption that apprenticeships and vocational qualifications are just the preserve of working-class students and ensure that these routes enjoy parity of esteem with higher education. We must also ensure that the apprenticeship levy is being used appropriately, given evidence that employers are merely rebadging existing training schemes as higher apprenticeships for courses equivalent to a master’s degree.
At present, half of all children in receipt of free school meals are educated in just a fifth of all schools, and more than half of universities in England have a white working-class student intake of less than 5%, despite the fact that 75% of universities, including the Russell Group institutions, claim to use “contextual information” to admit students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
This is an expansive agenda, and if the Government are serious about levelling up and tackling regional inequalities, it is vital that we encourage ambition and widen access to educational opportunities for students from low-participation, working-class groups, so that that no part of our country and no social group or ethnic minority feels as though they have been excluded and left behind. If we are to heal the social divisions that Brexit has laid bare, we should look to a fairer educational system to bring us to that point. This is one of the real-life challenges for the Government if they wish to burnish their one-nation credentials.
My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, for bringing not only an important issue to the attention of the House but one that covers, in the first weeks of my job, the entire department. As a child from a working-class household, for whom education was the vital route to where I stand today, I agree with her that few issues could be so important. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, I am the first generation to attend university—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that it is the enabler—and I am part of the 17% that noble Lord, Lord Bassam, mentioned, as I was state comprehensive-educated.
I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, read my mind, because my first question to officials was, “What is the definition of the term ‘working class’?” As a subjective expression, it is not used by the Government or my department. Our statistics deal with gender, ethnicity and place, so that means that no attainment gap data exist for the “class” of a pupil. I know, like many noble Lords, and in particular my noble friend Lord Kirkham, that many working-class families have sky-high aspirations for their children, so we recognise that we are dealing with a number of different situations here.
When we look at the evidence to see which pupil groups generally underperform at school we see that, for years, pupils from homes claiming welfare benefits have tended to achieve less than their peers. As a result of their lower qualifications they have often gained less secure employment or no employment, and have themselves created homes claiming welfare benefits in which to raise their children. This type of socioeconomic disadvantage is a key predictor of poor educational attainment. The best pupil-level proxy we have is eligibility for free school meals, either now or in the last six years. This measure enables us to provide funding to schools—in the form of pupil premium funding and certain factors in the national funding formula—to ensure that schools have the resources they need to tackle educational inequality.
There is good news—that since 2011 the attainment gap has narrowed by 9% at the age of 16, and 13% at the age of 11. On the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, the working-class issue cuts across all ethnicities, so we do not seek in any way to pit any group against another. Our aspirations in all our schools are for all pupils to attain, while recognising the particular context from which different groups come to the school environment. Our aim is for each child to have access to a world-class education, which is why the Government have set out an ambitious agenda and made record investment in opportunities for children and young people in our country.
I will start with the pupil progress from early years, which many noble Lords mentioned, and which is fundamentally important to social mobility. The more prepared a child is at the start of their education journey, the greater their chance of success. With regard to the comments made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Warwick and Lady Morris, and the noble Lords, Lord Bhatia and Lord Bassam, £3.6 billion in 2020-21 is being accessed for free childcare. In 2018 the Government set out a 10-year ambition to halve the proportion of children who finish their reception year without the communication, language and literacy skills they need to thrive, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor. They need those skills to access the education on offer to them. The department has launched an innovative three-year campaign called Hungry Little Minds, to help parents support their children’s early language development, setting them up for school and beyond. This is part of the wider £100 million investment we are making into the social mobility programme.
A number of specific points were made by noble Lords in relation to the early years foundation assessment. This is not a benchmark for schools, but we have seen the good level of development increase from 51.7% in 2013 to 71.8%. We are seeing more children with the skills to access the education system. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and the noble Lord, Lord Storey, and others mentioned the issue of children’s centres. It is a decision for councils in terms of the provision they make for these. There is a piece of work looking at working with MHCLG to see how the funding has been happening at local level, to preserve more for children’s social care. The Early Intervention Foundation is looking at all the evidence in relation to family hubs and children’s centres, so there is no sense that we are not seeking to use what has been done in the past and recognise and recommend what works in this sector. Over the period 2014-19, the gap between those who are on free school meals and those who are not has narrowed. In 2014 there was a gap of 18.9% in terms of the good level of development, and now that gap is down to 17.8%.
Many noble Lords made points about teachers. The professional development in this sector is very important, and there is £20 million being invested—particularly in disadvantaged areas—in the pre-reception workforce. In relation to some of the issues mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, more than £1 billion has been invested in the troubled families programme. In the debate in your Lordships’ House last week, I referred to the hundreds, if not thousands, of children who are not in care now and who are still in their homes because of the intervention of that service and other services and their key workers.
Education reforms, including those aimed at improving teaching, encouraging good attendance and behaviour and strengthening the curriculum and examination system, are designed to deliver opportunity and high standards for all, including working-class pupils. These reforms are underpinned by new accountability measures, which are intended to encourage schools to focus more closely on the attainment of all their pupils. We have high expectations for all pupils.
In relation to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, I say that we measure the performance of disadvantaged pupils by comparing them to the national average for all pupils, because it is the measure that does not respond to individual school quality. Our reforms are working. By the end of the last academic year, 86% of schools were judged good or outstanding, compared to 68% in 2010. More children take the core academic GCSEs, more children read fluently, and more children attend good or outstanding schools. I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Knight: the system is not perfect but it is not failing and there are many examples of extremely good schools. To give an example, in 2011, just 7.9% of those on free school meals in state-funded schools took English, maths, science, history, geography and a modern foreign language—that figure is now up to 25.1%. We have high expectations and aspirations for all, and we want to see those opportunities grow. We want 90% of all 15-year-olds studying these core academic subjects by 2025.
In terms of the inspection framework, and the soft skills and experiences many young people from working-class backgrounds do not have access to—mentioned by many noble Lords—the new Ofsted framework not only says that there should be a broad and balanced curriculum but talks about the personal development opportunities for disadvantaged students. I was very pleased to learn of the programme outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, taking students who have not had those personal development opportunities.
In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, I do not think it is specifically in the framework, but if Ofsted were to pick up any lack of dignity for working-class students, I am sure that it would make reference to that.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, for mentioning the introduction of the pupil premium funding. It is not only reforming schools for the better, it is investing significantly in our young people. As noble Lords will be aware, the Prime Minister announced last summer that the budget for schools and high needs will be increased by a total of over £14 billion over the next three years, rising to £52.2 billion by 2022-23. This is a huge funding increase and every pupil will get more funding, so I hope the noble Lord, Lord Judd, will agree that the resources are in place. There is also specific targeted funding towards children from low economic circumstances. Since 2011, the pupil premium has seen £15 billion invested and distributed to schools, with a further £2.4 billion in the current financial year.
We know from the research that one of the best things for disadvantaged students is teacher quality. Schools are allowed to spend the pupil premium as they see fit, but we are providing them with what works: the overwhelming evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation is that they should spend that money on quality teachers. We are piloting a £2,000 after-tax payment in the first five years of a person’s teaching career in maths and science, in the opportunity areas and in the north-east, Yorkshire and the Humber region, because we recognise that we must be specific and drive the best teachers into those areas.
The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, mentioned many different figures and statistics, so I will respond afterwards, but every pupil in England gets the same amount of money: there is no differentiation, when the money leaves the department, as to whether it will end up in a maintained school or in an academy school. Obviously, money for special educational needs is different, but all our pupils are treated the same. Of course, other aspects of development are important for working- class students, particularly such things as arts, PE and sport. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, spoke very movingly of her environment—the home learning environment is another major factor for young people’s attainment in education. Arts, PE and sport are an essential part of the curriculum.
The noble Lords, Lord Lingfield and Lord Judd, mentioned music and the arts. The Government announced funding of £85 million for music and arts in 2020-21 and another £80 million for music hubs, coupled with further investment in film, dance, theatre and design. We are investing nearly £500 million from 2016-20 for a diverse portfolio of music and arts education programmes. In the manifesto there was a commitment to an arts premium worth over £100 million to secondary schools. I was very interested to hear about the Chickenshed project, which I had heard of. We know that access to arts can be essential for children who are struggling to access education.
Will the Minister say how and with whom the money she has just outlined is going to be spent? It sounds like a lot of money and is very encouraging to hear about, but the real problem for schools is that their budgets are so tight that they cannot incorporate these things into the normal curriculum, which is where it has the most effect.
I will write to the noble Baroness on the mechanism by which the money is to be spent, but I thank her for asking for that detail.
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkham, being outdoors and being active in PE and sports is very important. The Government have invested more than £1 billion in a primary PE and sports premium, which is ring-fenced funding for primary schools to improve their PE and sports. The Government have doubled the premium that has been invested since 2013 to £320 million a year using revenue from the soft drinks levy.
Further education is often a lifeline for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and there is an input of £400 million-worth of funding to further education. The national funding formula, for 16 to 18 year-olds, includes extra funding for disadvantaged students, and we recognise that often they have barriers to accessing education. The discretionary bursaries also on offer are being reviewed and reformed, so that they meet the needs of those students. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, referred to the workforce in this area, and there has been £20 million invested in development of the FE workforce.
I turn to higher education, the route for many people into their career. Higher education providers now have to give us ambitious access and participation plans. These are to be agreed with the Office for Students, which will monitor each provider’s progress against the targets set out in those plans.
In relation to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, there will be a response to the Augar report in the spending review, and I think he will know the Government’s position on maintenance grants when he receives that reply. There are record numbers of 18 year-olds accessing higher education. There is, in addition to the access and participation plan, a transparency condition, which requires higher education providers to publish their application, offer, acceptance, non-continuation and attainment rates by socioeconomic background, gender and ethnicity. This will help to drive fairness in admissions and outcomes.
The noble Lord, Lord Livermore, asked about contextual admissions. The Government hope that universities will look in appropriate circumstances at the background of students. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, mentioned the post-qualification application to university; there is an ongoing review by the Office for Students, and I hear the arguments there. I am not sure whether we are allowed to submit to that review, but I am aware of the concern for disadvantaged students that post-qualification application might cut them off from the in-school support that they need to write their personal statement. So, we might inadvertently be placing them at a disadvantage. This hopefully will all be considered by the review, the outcome of which we are waiting for. It is a delight to hear of the involvement of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, in the Amos Bursary; it looks like Stormzy has followed in someone else’s footsteps there.
Many noble Lords, in particular the noble Lords, Lord Baker and Lord Glasman, referred to technical education. This, of course, needs to be a similarly world-class system; it is crucial to increase the skills of young people and to the nation’s productivity. Therefore, we are and have been reforming the apprenticeships system to put vocational study on a par with academic study. Apprenticeships should encourage people to get the training qualifications that they need to enter the job market.
In relation to the UTCs, we see that there is a better progression to apprenticeships from schools, and there is wonderful employer engagement in many of the UTCs, particularly the outstanding Energy Coast UTC. I thank the noble Lord for his role in helping us to reduce the level of young people not in education, employment or training to the lowest it has ever been since records have been collected. I hope that the Secretary of State meets his high hopes, but I will say nothing further, because the applications he refers to might hit my desk before they hit the Secretary of State’s.
For those aged 16, T-levels are essential to our plans for this world-class education system. The first three should be introduced by autumn this year, in construction, education and design. This is to enable students at the age of 16 to have a very clear choice between A-levels and T-levels. In terms of esteem, the technical will be on a par with A-levels, and there has been much investment to ensure that the workplace programme is high-quality from the beginning. It will be about an 80% classroom and 20% workplace placement.
On the comments by the noble Lord, Lord Bates, the Government are investing £24 million in Opportunity North East, working with local partners to tackle the specific issues holding back young people in the region. There is a great deal of freedom for them to spend that money as they see fit.
On a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Knight, a review of children’s social care is planned; it was in the manifesto.
On grants, I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, read my mind again. In my area of the department, I have asked what all these things are—these little grants—so that we can get a handle on that.
Time is against me here.
I note that the Minister has indicated investment in teaching quality in schools and in the further education workforce. Does she mind responding to the point I made about investment in a workforce strategy for early years?
I will write to the noble Baroness about that. There is now a first-ever national strategy for teachers. I do not know whether that includes early years, so I will come back to her on that.
I will draw to a close. We are committed to diversity in the teaching workforce and are working with a number of partners, include BAMEed and the Ambition Institute, to encourage the most talented people into one of our most important professions.
It really has been a pleasure to respond to this debate. I know I said yesterday to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that he would hold my feet to the fire on special educational needs; I was not expecting it to be the very next day.
The attainment of working-class students is one of the Government’s top priorities. I look forward to many further debates and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, for placing this front and centre at the beginning of my time in the department.
My Lords, I will respond briefly, primarily to thank everybody for their contributions. It has been an excellent debate. I do not think I have been in a debate in which as many Peers have spoken from personal experience as today. As I whispered to the noble Lord, Lord Knight, I suspect that if we looked at the backgrounds of the Peers who decided to speak in today’s debate, it would probably not be representative of Members of the House. That is a good thing, really, because it means we bring those experiences with us and remember to talk about them. It also allows me to say to the Minister that listening is extra important, because people have not spoken theoretically but from their own childhood or working experiences.
I will not go over the points, because it has been a long debate and, when people have had four minutes to speak, I do not want to take four minutes winding up. I will say just a few things. The message about early years could not be stronger, given the number of people who have spoken about it. I want to acknowledge the people who spoke about adult skills and universities, because I did not; I thank them for adding that to the debate.
I have confidence that the Minister will take this seriously. I have worked with her in this place long enough to know that she cares about this just as much as me or anybody else. I know she will find her way around all those sections of the department. It is not easy for politicians—I am not sure I would have done it myself—but what we need at this time is a great degree of honesty about what has and has not worked. I will not criticise the Minister if she says that something has not worked.
Of the 12 opportunity areas, seven have seen the gap between the poor and the rich in early years widen rather than narrow. That is a problem. It is public money and we might be wasting our time. For the north-east, £24 million is not a lot; it is our most underperforming region and it was not included in the opportunity areas. It pales into insignificance against the money put into London Challenge, which was successful.
As I say, I thank the Minister for listening and for her responsiveness, and have every confidence that she is the sort of Minister who will ask the right questions. Unless you ask the right questions, you will never get the right answers. In that frame of mind, I again thank everybody for contributing and wish the Minister well in her work trying to solve this problem.