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Schools White Paper

Volume 820: debated on Tuesday 29 March 2022


The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Monday 28 March.

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a Statement on the publication of the schools White Paper.

Since 2010, we have been on a mission to give every child a great education. We have made huge strides, but we know there is still further to go on that journey, which my predecessors began and I am proud to lead today. Too many children still do not get the start in life that will enable them to go on and make the best use of their talents and abilities. Sadly, disadvantaged pupils or those who have special educational needs are less likely to achieve the standards we expect for them. Since 2010, we have been rolling out many changes to our education system—changes that have driven up standards, lifted us up the league tables internationally and given us measurable evidence of what works. We will now put that evidence to use and scale up what we know will create a high-quality system for children, parents and teachers.

We have an ambition that by 2030 we will expect 90% of primary school children to achieve the agreed standard in reading, writing and maths. In secondary schools, I want to see the national GCSE average grade in both English language and maths increase from 4.5 in 2019 to 5. By boosting the average grade, we show a real determination to see all children, whatever their level of attainment, do better. A child who goes from a grade 2 to a grade 3, or one who goes from a grade 8 to a grade 9, contributes to that ambition as much as a child on the borderline who may go up from a grade 4 to a grade 5, so every parent can rest assured that their child is going to get the attention they deserve, however well they are doing.

It goes without saying that every child needs an excellent teacher. This White Paper continues our reforms to training and professional development, to give every child a world-class teacher. The quality of teaching is the single most important factor within a school for improving outcomes for children, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our vision is for an excellent teacher for every child in our country, but if we are to do that, we need to make teaching even more of an attractive profession. To make sure that it is, we will deliver 500,000 teacher training and development opportunities by 2024, giving all teachers and school leaders access to world-class evidence-based training and professional development, at every stage of their career. We will also make a £180 million investment in the early years workforce. Teachers’ starting salaries are set to rise to £30,000, as we promised in our manifesto, and there will be extra incentives to work in schools with the most need.

A world-class education also needs environments in which great teaching can have maximum impact. Therefore, we will improve standards across the curriculum, behaviour and attendance. Making sure that all children are in school and ready to learn in calm, safe, supportive classes is my priority. All children will be taught a broad, ambitious, knowledge-rich curriculum and have access to high-quality experiences. We will set up a new national curriculum body to support teachers, founded on the success of the Oak National Academy. This body will work with groups across the sector to identify best practice, deepen expertise in curriculum design and develop a set of optional resources for teachers that can be used either online or in the classroom. These resources will be available across the United Kingdom, levelling up education across our great country. We will continue to support leaders and teachers to create a classroom where all children can learn in a way that recognises individual needs and abilities. In addition, we are going to boost our ability to gather and share data on behaviour and attendance. We will move forward with a national behaviour survey to form an accurate picture of what really goes on in schools and classrooms and, of course, to modernise our systems to monitor attendance. We will introduce a minimum expectation for the length of the school week to the national average of 32-and-a-half hours for all mainstream state-funded schools from September 2023, at the latest. Thousands of schools already deliver that, but a number do not and that needs to change.

Too many children, especially those who are most vulnerable, routinely fall behind and never catch up with their peers. The awful Covid pandemic has made that worse. Even though I am relieved to tell the House that the latest research on learning loss and recovery shows that pupils continue to make progress, there is still much more to do. That is why today’s White Paper sets out a really ambitious plan for scaling up that recovery, building on the nearly £5 billion of recovery funding that has already been announced.

My children are the most important thing in the world to me and I know that I am not alone in saying that. All parents want their children to be happy and to grow up to a future that is full of promise, so I am today making a pledge to parents; it is a pledge from me and this Government via schools to all families. The parent pledge is that any child who falls behind in English or maths will receive timely support to enable them to reach their potential. A child’s school will let parents know how their child is doing and how the school is supporting them to catch up.

Tutoring has been a great success and that is making a difference. It is here to stay, and we want it to become mainstream and a fundamental pillar of every school’s approach to delivering the parent pledge. There will be up to six million tutoring packages by 2024.

We know that the approaches that I have outlined make a huge difference to pupils, so I have asked myself this. We have 22,000 schools in England; how do we ensure that these happen systematically in every school for every child? How do we get that consistency across the system? It has become clear from my six months in the department studying the evidence that well-managed, tightly managed families of schools are those that can consistently deliver a high-quality and inclusive education. It is one where expertise is shared for the benefit of all and where resources and support can help more teachers and leaders to deliver better outcomes for children.

With that in mind, by 2030, we intend for every child to benefit from being taught in a family of schools, with their school in a strong—I underline “strong”—multi-academy trust or with plans to join or form one. That move towards a fully trust-led system, with a single regulatory approach, will drive up standards. We also want to encourage local authorities, if they think that they do well in running their schools, to establish their own strong trusts, and we will back them. There will be a clear role for every part of the school system, with local authorities given the power that they need to support children. We will set up a new collaborative standard requiring trusts to work constructively with other partners.

I know from my experience in business and in rolling out the Covid vaccine that the hardest thing for any complex system, whether it is health or education, is scaling up, but I have faith both in the brilliant leaderships that we already have in our school systems and in our educationalists to be able to deliver on this White Paper. We want to spread brilliance throughout our country, levelling up opportunity and creating a school system where there is a clear role for every part of the system, all working together and all focused on one thing: delivering outstanding outcomes for our children.

Soon, everyone will see what we all know—that this Conservative Government are busy making our schools the very best in the world. We should be so proud of how far we have come and rightly hopeful about where we are going next. For that reason, I commend this Statement to the House.”

My Lords, I thank the Minister for the briefing that she and her officials provided for the Labour education team yesterday.

This White Paper is a thin document that we believe represents a missed opportunity in many ways. Paragraph 123 says:

“The system that has evolved over the past decade is messy and often confusing … Unclear expectations of academies and local authorities permit grey areas which have sometimes allowed vulnerable children to fall through the gaps. Government has not been able to intervene adequately in the small number of trusts that have fallen short in the expectations of parents”.

So what have the last 12 years been all about?

Other than an attainment increase at key stage 2 and GCSE, for which there is minimal detail, this White Paper betrays a real lack of ambition by the Government. When the headline soundbite is some schools staying open for 10 or 15 minutes longer, there is something seriously lacking.

The Secretary of State would have done well to have studied the speech given by his shadow, Bridget Phillipson, at the ASCL conference earlier this month, where she spoke about the broader aims of education and the importance of soft skills, creativity and balance in the curriculum. The White Paper never really gets beyond a fixation with maths and English.

There is no recognition of why many employers are seriously critical of the current school system and curriculum. There is seemingly no understanding that England is becoming an outlier internationally in its narrowness and fixation on academic subjects and end-of-course exams. There is no attempt to set out a vision of what education is for and of the kind of world that we are preparing children for.

There are no funding commitments of any seriousness, and inflation will surely erode much of what has already been agreed. This needs to be seen in the context of the new funding formula, which has been introduced at the expense of the most disadvantaged areas and is quite contrary to the Government’s levelling up ambition.

One proposal that I welcome is the introduction of a register for children not in school, which is long overdue, not least in terms of safeguarding issues.

On structures, some potentially interesting changes are proposed, but without the detail it is hard to assess them. It could imply the effective replacement of individual funding agreements by a statutory framework. It could imply the end of the free school programme except where there is a demographic need for new schools. In recent weeks, the education media have been fed stories of all schools being forced to become academies. The White Paper does not state that explicitly. Can the Minister clarify the Government’s intent? I read paragraph 146 as enabling forced academisation where the local authority wants it, irrespective of what individual schools want, as has been the case in places such as Hull, Leicestershire and Thurrock.

The Government admit that contracting with academy trusts is at an end and will be replaced with “academy trust standards”. No further information is given. Is this a return to direct grant schools, which Labour abolished in the late 1970s, with academies remaining independent schools? Is the intention to set up a new type of school which is “Secretary of State maintained” rather than local authority maintained, similar to the grant-maintained schools? We just do not know, and there is scant evidence that the Government do either.

The premise that trusts are the best way of organising schools is asserted but not proved. Occasionally, data is cherry picked. I ask the Minister how many trusts do not contain 7,500 pupils, which is said to be the benchmark for efficiency and effectiveness. How does the DfE propose to deal with the many trusts that are not that size? Talk of a family of schools quickly comes up against a basic problem: that of geography. How can you have a family of schools scattered the length of the country?

Chapter 3 focuses on targeted support. There is no definition of students falling behind, but the White Paper says that you must not label children as “behind”. Can the Minister clarify where the funding for this support will come from? Of course, the elephant in the room on the whole question of education recovery is the Chancellor. Sir Kevan Collins knew exactly how much was required to deliver meaningful programmes, but the Chancellor callously put his red pen through it and hundreds of thousands of children throughout the country are living with the consequences of his parsimony. Yesterday’s DfE-commissioned report on pupil learning loss from the pandemic bears that out.

There is no recognition of the huge issues in teacher recruitment at present but quite a lot about the current attempts to change initial teacher training, with the imposition of a political ideology on all stages of teacher development. The proposals around the Oak academy turning into a provider of resources and lesson plans could be a worrying step towards enforcing a national model of pedagogy and curriculum content.

After two years of pandemic chaos and six years since the Government’s last schools strategy, this plan will leave parents, teachers and pupils wondering where the ambition for children’s futures is. Clearly, it is not with this Government.

My Lords, I apologise for being a few minutes late; I hope that I shall not be sent to the back of the class.

I thank the Minister for the Statement. I like the tone of it; I like the fact that we are celebrating schools and the hard work that teachers do. I detect a real change in the way that we look at our education system.

All the research shows that parents are not interested in structures. We go on about academies, academy chains and LEA schools, but parents want good teachers, good leadership of a school and a curriculum which excites, motivates and enthuses pupils. I am afraid that we get hung up far too often on structures. I think I detect the glimmer of hope that we will again move away from the notion that structures are the way forward—they are not; it has to be about the quality of the education provision and of the teacher.

Turning to academy trusts—we have long debated this in the past—I have a number of observations resulting from the Statement. First, we hear that the voice of the parent should be heard. Perhaps the Minister could assure us that those academy trusts—few, thank goodness—which have done away with governing bodies for each school will be a thing of the past. Schools, even in multi-academy trusts, need to have a governing body, particularly so the parent voice can be heard.

My second observation, which I raised time and again with the Minister in the Lords before this Minister, is about chief executives of academy trusts and how their salaries have got completely out of control—some are getting up to £300,000. Over the last two or three years the number of chief executives of even small academy trusts earning more than £100,000 has grown. I remember the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, assuring us that he was going to tackle this issue, but his tackling of the issue has seen the problem escalate rather than get better.

As was mentioned in Oral Questions, academies can choose the curriculum they want. There are certain things which are crucial for all children. Again, when we discuss the White Paper, we need to look at giving all schools the same freedoms and opportunities, but with those freedoms come responsibilities. There are areas of the education curriculum where we should ensure that every school, whether a local authority academy—there is a new thing—a free school, or, if they still exist, any local authority schools not in academy trusts, must teach.

One thing that slightly jarred with me in the Statement was that only one school was mentioned. It was not that anything this school—Oak National Academy—had done was wrong, just that only one was picked out. A teacher would not pick out one clever pupil in the class, they would celebrate the whole class. There are lots of examples of schools which have done just as much, if not more, innovative things than the Oak National Academy. That jarred slightly.

This afternoon we talked about creative subjects and the EBacc. I challenged the Minister to give a direct reply, which she was not able to do, and I understand why. The White Paper will give us all an opportunity to explore the effect the EBacc has had on certain subjects in the curriculum. It might well be—it is not my particular wish, but I got this sense from the Minister’s reply—that she sees T-levels as providing the less academic, more vocational route, hence they would not be part of the EBacc. That would be a grave mistake and the EBacc should encourage creative subjects as well.

I am pleased the Government have listened to the issue of a national school register, but there are a number of other matters, as the Minister well knows, such as unregistered schools. One of the reasons we are not able to take action against unregistered schools, as Ofsted will tell you, is that they can morph into very small units. Unless we are prepared to see home education treated in a different way, it will be very difficult to deal with unregistered schools. That is an area where we need to focus.

We are told that Ofsted will inspect all schools. That is right, but let us remember that schools have been through a terrible time just keeping the doors open and keeping children educated. I would hope that Ofsted would be more about an opportunity to work with schools and would offer a supportive inspection. Rather than waving a big stick where perhaps the wheels have wobbled during the pandemic or things have gone wrong, I hope that Ofsted might proverbially put its arm around the school and say, “Look, these are the issues that need sorting out.”

I have a few questions. First, we know that children from deprived communities have suffered the most for all the reasons that we have debated and discussed in the past. I was a bit disappointed that that issue was not particularly addressed in the comments. Secondly, children have missed out on extra-curricular social and academic experiences—opportunities to develop the skills that they will need for the future. Why have the Government not used the first White Paper in six years to change and expand the range of opportunities that are given to children? Where is the ambition?

The White Paper has so far had quite surprisingly mixed reviews. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that, although the paper outlined promising measures, it lacked ambition or “big ideas”. The Education Policy Institute think tank said that pushing all schools to become academies was “no silver bullet”, and that, although the White Paper contained “some bold aims”, it seemed

“unlikely that many of these bold pledges will … be met.”

My party looks forward to the opportunity that this White Paper gives to address not just the questions that I have raised or those raised by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, but issues such as children being permanently excluded from school, how they are treated, and how we need to make sure that we give them a much better opportunity and a much better education. I look forward to working with the Government on the White Paper.

My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their remarks. I will do my best to respond to them now, but I look forward to further opportunities to discuss the White Paper in more detail.

The noble Lord, Lord Watson, asked where all this comes from and criticised the thinness of the document. The White Paper stems from a very clear ambition for our children at every stage of their schooling and beyond. We have approached this by trying to understand what is already working well in our school system and scaling that up. The gap between what the best schools and trusts achieve for our children at key stage 2 and key stage 4, and what that means for their future prospects, is very sizeable, particularly for disadvantaged children. Our focus is on scaling up what works and has been shown to work over the last 12 years.

The big idea is to make that work on a national scale. I understand why the noble Lord questions where the sparkly new policies are. There are, of course, new elements within the White Paper but the big, difficult idea and the hardest thing to do will be to scale up that quality. Our ambition is crystal clear: it is about quality for all our children. We have approached it in a spirit of looking at the evidence and being very transparent about that evidence. I hope that the noble Lord will have a moment to look at the data annexe that sits with the White Paper; it is not in the hard copy but is available online. I hope he will feel that it is anything but cherry picked. We have made every effort to be as transparent as possible, including both data that supports our arguments and data that does not, so that we can show how we have reached our conclusions. Most importantly, we have approached this in a spirit of fairness—it should feel fair to all of the actors in the system as we move forward.

The noble Lord asks why we have a fixation on academic standards, particularly in English and maths. Of children who did not reach the expected standard at key stage 2, just 21% achieved grade 4 or above in English language at GCSE and only 14% achieved that at key stage 4 in 2019. Of those with five or more GSCEs, 55% completed a degree, compared to 6% of those with fewer; post GCSE, they are 16 percentage points more likely to be employed, and they earn on average £9,000 more a year. I could go on. The impact on the economy is massive—these are huge and important markers at the start of a child’s life which translate to their future prospects, their future social mobility and the future health and wealth of them, their families and our nation.

I did not follow the noble Lord’s argument on the funding formula. It is clearly not at the expense of disadvantaged areas—quite the reverse. We currently have an outdated mechanism for funding our schools. We now have a national funding formula, and we will be working progressively and incrementally to make sure that funding goes to schools directly in response to the need and nature of the cohort that they serve.

The noble Lord also asked about compulsion and requiring schools to become academies. We are keen and have worked very hard in this White Paper to try to make sure everyone involved in the schools system feels they are part of this journey. We are considering all options, and we will engage with the sector to deliver a fully trust-led system.

The noble Lord, Lord Storey, talked about the importance of local governing bodies. In preparing the White Paper, we—and I personally—spent a great deal of time with local authority-maintained school heads, particularly primary school heads. One of the things they talked about that was almost universal was a sense of being local and part of their local community. Therefore, in the governance plank of the five planks of our “strong trusts” framework, we are clear that schools need to feel local, have a sense of local identity and have a role in their local community.

The noble Lord, Lord Watson, talked about families of schools and families being strung out across the country. I will not take the analogy too far, but we will be working hard on commissioning to make sure we have geographically coherent trusts, so they can benefit from all that that offers.

The noble Lord, Lord Storey, talked about CEO salaries. We take that seriously and are continuing to follow on from the good work of my noble friend Lord Agnew. The Oak National Academy is not an individual school; it was the platform that was created during the pandemic that delivered all the digital lessons for children across the country. I apologise if the name was confusing.

To finish, the noble Lords, Lord Storey and Lord Watson, said we would need a number of measures to turn things around for our children. That is what is in this White Paper—it is about great teachers, a great curriculum, good attendance, good behaviour, a pledge to parents if their children fall behind, and creating a system that delivers the strongest, fairest and most ambitious school system for our children.

My Lords, I do not doubt the commitment of the Minister to equality for all children. However, in responding to the White Paper, the National Children’s Bureau comments that too many children still live in poverty. That must be addressed for education success to follow. The White Paper has left many in education underwhelmed and, as my noble friend Lord Watson said, it has left our schools underfunded.

In all the years that academisation has been an option, only 44% of schools have taken it, some voluntarily, often with inducements, and some not. No solid evidence can be adduced that academy status per se equates to better outcomes for young people. School leaders have declared that total forced academisation would be a distraction, so why does the Minister think that politicians know better than school leaders?

With one in six children reporting mental health difficulties, an opportunity to reassess assessment and the curriculum should have been taken. The potential for centralisation of pedagogy through Oak Academy is a problem. It looks like deskilling our teachers, with talk of “delivering” lessons. While the White Paper is about England, will the Government take the opportunity to learn from the very good practice in evidence in Scotland and Wales, including on school governance, curriculum and assessment?

I thank the noble Baroness for her remarks. On academisation, she will be aware that the picture is very different in secondary and primary education. About 78% of secondary schools are now academies compared to about 38% of primaries. She questions their performance. Our emphasis has been very clear. We are talking about creating strong trusts and we are building on the experience of the existing strong trusts. If all children did as well as pupils in the top-performing 10% of trusts at key stage 2, our results nationally would be 14 percentage points higher, going from 65% to 79%, and would be 19 percentage points higher for disadvantaged pupils. I know the noble Baroness shares my passion and the passion of my colleagues in the department for supporting particularly those disadvantaged children.

On Oak Academy, far from deskilling teachers, we are going to make the most enormous investment in teachers in terms of teacher training opportunities and continuing professional development at all stages of a teacher’s career. We are aware that, particularly in primary, individual teachers are writing lesson plans from scratch. Oak Academy is by teachers, for teachers and of teachers. It is there as an option for teachers. Again, I know the noble Baroness shares our concerns about teacher workload. One way we can support teachers is by providing them with the best-quality curriculum to draw from.

My Lords, I echo the noble Lord, Lord Storey, in his thanks for the White Paper. In doing so, I declare my interest as president of the Woodard Corporation. In expressing gratitude, I appreciate in particular how the White Paper recognises the vital role the Churches have played in the educational landscape of this country for more than 200 years and that it sets out how the role needs to continue to be enabled in the future development of the school system. I will focus on two questions regarding the move towards the fully academised educational landscape set out in the White Paper and invite the Minister to agree that it requires two key things.

First, it requires significant investment of resource to make that transition possible. The Church of England is the largest provider of academies, with over 1,500 of our schools having already converted, but that still leaves two-thirds of our schools waiting to become academies. This will require time and resource for the conversion process, as well as strong, new trusts to be formed to enable that transition. Recognition that MATs must grow to a sustainable level of about 7,500 pupils means thinking carefully and strategically about small rural schools and how a funding model can work for them, to enable their vital education to remain at the heart of communities, particularly rural communities, across our land.

Secondly, I hope the noble Baroness can give assurance that legislation will be introduced to ensure that the statutory basis on which the dual system of Church and state as partners in education, which has been in operation since 1944, securely translates into the contractual context in which academies are based, so that the sites on which schools are situated can continue to be used for the charitable purposes for which they were given. So, in expressing thanks, I ask the noble Baroness to assure us that these things will be addressed and secured in order to ensure that Church schools can approach this new future with confidence.

I thank the right reverend Prelate for his questions. I also extend my thanks to Church schools but also to all schools that have been working in the most difficult circumstances, particularly in the second half of this term, with the pressures that Covid has placed, once again, on their staff. I can, I hope, reassure the right reverend Prelate that we will be protecting the faith designation of diocesan schools on a statutory basis as we move forward with our plans. We are providing funding to support academisation and to make sure that schools, particularly schools in the most entrenched areas of educational underperformance, are funded to join strong trusts.

On small rural schools—to go back to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Storey, about feeling local—perhaps there are no schools more local than small rural primaries, which often play a really important part in their community. We will be putting a great deal of thought into this and look forward to working with the right reverend Prelate’s colleagues at the diocesan education board in thinking through how we can deliver this in a way that supports small rural primaries.

My Lords, the Secretary of State deserves the warmest congratulations, with the ministerial team and all those officials and others who have been involved in Opportunity for All: Strong Schools with Great Teachers for your Child. I suggest that anyone who thinks there is excessive focus on English and maths should consult parents. Parents want their children to read and write; parents know the world is difficult; they know that numeracy and now digital skills are critical. They know that a good education is the passport for the future, and the most disadvantaged parents know that quite as much as the most affluent. I really like this White Paper for its coherence, its ambition, its relative simplicity and its evidence base. How many times have we all heard head teachers saying, “I’ve had so many documents come through that I have to read—I’ve got to teach my school and do everything else”? Somebody once said to me, “I’ve given the documents to my husband to read because I just don’t have time to read it all.” This is accessible and approachable.

Children spend around 15,000 hours at school; the same amount of time as they spend at home. Professor Sir Michael Rutter, the architect of child psychiatry, wrote a book, Fifteen Thousand Hours, with the team at the Maudsley, comparing the output of 12 secondary schools in Southwark. They found that the brightest children at some schools were doing worse than the least able children at another school. This is about teachers, about expectations and about rigour. For those of us who want to see what can be achieved, we can only celebrate again the extraordinary results at the Brampton Manor Academy. This year, 89 young people got Oxbridge offers—ethnic minorities, free school meals, first generation university.

I have so much to say, I had better be quick. I have two questions I want to ask. Will the Minister say a little more about the Education Endowment Foundation; and will she say just a bit more about excluded pupils? They are a really vexed problem. They can be disruptive in a class aiming for high standards, but we do not want them to fall out of the system, so I very much hope she will address that.

My Lords, I will pass on my noble friend’s very warm words to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. I am glad that she appreciates the White Paper. I agree with her wholeheartedly about what parents want. I was lucky enough to spend some time with a group of parents yesterday while visiting a school in Newham, where 94% of the children have English as an additional language. The mothers and fathers to whom I spoke were all crystal clear about how important it was for their children to achieve.

In relation to my noble friend’s specific questions, the Education Endowment Foundation, which we fully endowed through, and announced in, the White Paper, provides us with the academic rigour in terms of evaluating different interventions across the education system, so that teachers, school leaders and MAT leaders can feel confident in the interventions that they use. All that we have suggested in the White Paper has been supported and recommended by the EEF. In relation to excluded children, if my noble friend will bear with me for another day, we are taking the Statement about the special educational needs and alternative provision Green Paper in this House tomorrow, when I will be delighted to talk about that in more detail.

My Lords, there is a great deal in this White Paper on special educational needs and teacher training. Indeed, teacher training is the main thrust of it. Then we talk about 90% literacy. Some 15%—or 10% if you are being conservative—of the population are dyslexic. Another 5% are dyscalculic. If you put the other “disses” in there, you have a great pot of people who are going to struggle in the classroom. How, unless you have a major investment in special educational needs, are you going to hit that target? Or are we going to do something very sensible such as saying that if somebody communicates through a computer coherently—every computer that you buy now has a built-in voice-operated section and read-back facility—we will count that as being literate? If we are, we can achieve it. If not, we are basically going to break the back of people achieving an unrealistic target if it is still with a pen and paper. If the Minister can give me an answer now, it will help the rest of the debate today, and the debate on the Statement tomorrow.

I hope I can give the noble Lord a fuller answer tomorrow, when we talk about the SEND Green Paper. But in terms of this document talking a lot about children with special educational needs and disabilities, that is intentional. We are absolutely clear that the best place for the majority of children with special educational needs is in mainstream education close to their home and their friends. We need to make sure that mainstream schools are a safe, welcoming, supportive and effective environment for those children. We have looked at and tried to model the interventions that are set out in the White Paper to see how we can reach the targets that we have set out. As the noble Lord knows, however, currently only 22% of children with special educational needs reach the expected standard, compared with an average at key stage 2 of 65%—so it is well below what we need to get to.

My Lords, one of the themes that the White Paper majors on is listening to the voices of parents and making sure that they are heard. However, More Than a Score and Parentkind today put out a survey from YouGov, showing that 80% of parents think that SATs do not provide useful information about a child’s progress; 95% say SATs have a negative impact on their child’s well-being; and 85% do not consider SATs results when choosing a school. Only 1% of the members of the National Association of Head Teachers thought that key stage 1 SATs should go ahead this year; 3% thought that key stage 2 should go ahead. The White Paper is on the bigger, longer-term issues, but are we not seeing, both in terms of the Government’s determination to push ahead with SATs and in terms of the focus on academic targets and testing in this White Paper, a push to schools to more and more teach to the test in a narrow range of subjects? Are we yet again not listening to parents and not listening to pupils? I take the point from the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, about pupils spending 15,000 hours in school. We have the unhappiest children in Europe. We are failing our children, and focusing just on tests in a narrow range of subjects is a big part of that. Will the Government think about the happiness of our children?

The Government think a lot about the happiness of our children. We worry a lot about the children who are in underperforming schools, and where their life chances are being held back because of the nature of the education they receive. This is why we are focusing our education investment on areas of really entrenched under-performance. The noble Baroness shakes her head, but 54% of children in secondary schools in Knowsley today are in schools which have been judged more than twice as requiring more improvement. That is what will turn around our children’s life chances, and that is where we are focusing.

I thank the Minister for the answers she has given. I welcome the ambition of the Government’s policies as set out in the White Paper. I will look at the statistics they have provided with some care. Are such statistics in a White Paper run past the UK Statistics Authority—not just the figures, but the conclusions drawn from them? It would be useful if we could be told.

I hope I will be forgiven if I suggest, for those with long enough memories, that the support expressed in the White Paper for well-managed families of schools delivering high-quality and inclusive education, coupled with the encouragement in the White Paper for LEAs to establish their own strong trusts, might be taken as an attempt to recreate the achievements of the Inner London Education Authority after many years. Of course, the fear of many people is that academies—particularly when we have multi-academy trusts—lead, in effect, to the privatisation of the education service. The distinction between an MAT and a commercial organisation is often hard to discern.

My first question for the Minister is, what are the Government going to do to ensure that all academies, whether SAT or MAT, operate with a social purpose? My second question, given the emphasis on what parents want from education in the previous question, is, what role do the Government want for parents in the governance of academies? There is a reference in the White Paper to a review of the governance of the system, but it is notable that in the document, The Case for a Fully Trust-Led System, there is only one reference to parents, and then only as passive observers. Should the Government not do more to enable the participation of parents in school governance?

I am really puzzled by the image the noble Lord paints of multi-academy trusts representing privatisation. They receive exactly the same funding as any other state-maintained school, and they are inspected in exactly the same way. The majority of them are charities. I am not sure quite where privatisation comes in. What we see in the best trusts—and perhaps this is behind the noble Lord’s question—is that they use the resources from the taxpayer intelligently, in the interests of the child. I will give an example from the north-east of England. I recently visited a trust which, through better procurement, was able to reinvest those savings in dedicated tutoring for all their students. I do not know where the noble Lord’s concern comes from, but I genuinely think it is misplaced.

I turn to the noble Lord’s second point, about trust standards. We will be working with this sector. There is not a lot of detail in the White Paper because we want to co-create those standards together with the sector, and we look forward to reporting back more on that in the future. This would, of course, include the role of parents.