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"fair funding to the NHS...We will end political meddling...removing the scope for fiddling".
My hon. Friends the Members for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper), for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) and for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) all expanded on what is problematic about the reorganisation. The Secretary of State began by posing as the friend of patients and those who work in the NHS. I will not take lectures from him on that. My mother came to this country as a pupil nurse from Jamaica in the 1950s. She was part of that generation of West Indian women who helped to build the national health service. Government Members cannot talk to us about the people who work in the NHS. As for patients, are Ministers listening to the patient groups-people who represent children, people who represent the elderly, and people who represent those with mental health problems-about their concern about what the reorganisation will mean for them?
This reorganisation is ill thought out and, at a time of tremendous financial stress in the national health service, ill timed. We believe that Government Members have been lulled into a false sense of security about what is to come. They believe that although students might be marching and the Church might be in uproar, the NHS is safe. I put it to them that, as the weeks turn to months and we move through the winter, and as we begin to see winter bed pressures, the consequences of this ill-thought-out, unnecessary, top-down reorganisation will reverberate not only in this Chamber but in the surgeries of Government Members and of all Members of this House. I am proud to support the motion.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Paul Burstow): This has been a revealing debate. Labour has come to the House today to make the case for the status quo-the case for standing still. Labour is here defending a failed status quo. We have heard Labour Members presenting to the House a number of extraordinary claims and grotesque caricatures of the Government's plans. They want to defend a failed status quo in which the NHS has been spending at European levels but has been so tied up in red tape that it has not delivered European levels of quality health care.
For 13 years, Labour tested to destruction the idea that the NHS was best run from Whitehall. The record speaks for itself. My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) talked about cancer survival rates, and it is nothing short of a scandal that cancer survival rates in this country lag so far behind the best in Europe. If the status quo is right, as Labour Members seem to be arguing, why are a staggering 23% of cancer patients diagnosed only when they turn up as emergencies? Why is that an acceptable outcome?
John Healey: The hon. Gentleman is right, of course; there is still more to do to improve health and to improve the NHS, but can I just check something? Did I hear him right? Did he say that the NHS had failed?
Paul Burstow: No, I said that the Opposition had failed and that they were defending a failed status quo. Let me give the House an example of a failed status quo. If the NHS were performing at the level of the best in Europe, 10,000 more lives could be saved every year. This is what our focus on outcomes is all about. It is what patient-reported outcomes are all about, too.
We all agree that elderly patients should be treated with dignity and compassion, yet for far too many, that is not what happens in practice. Just last week, a report on patient deaths found that 61% of older people received "inadequate" care in their final days. After 13 years of a Labour Government, the NHS is in the bottom third in Europe in dealing with dementia-way behind Ireland, Spain and Portugal.
Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): As the Minister will know, the independent public inquiry into Stafford hospital is taking place in my constituency at the moment, and the matters that he has just mentioned are highly relevant to that. Will he give the House an undertaking that the evidence given to that inquiry will inform the debate on the forthcoming Bill?
Labour's legacy is a demoralised and disempowered work force. Reforms have been half implemented, and billions of pounds have been wasted on a flawed NHS IT programme. This Government are clear that the NHS can be so much better than it is today-spending better and doing better both for patients and for the taxpayer. It is this Government's purpose to liberate the NHS so that it can deliver health care that is among the best in the world, to learn the lessons of Labour's top-down target-driven approach to health care, to reverse the obsessive focus on process that has stifled innovation and created dependency in the system, and to move away once and for all from a culture that measures success by ticking boxes, hitting the target but missing the point.
Labour talked about reforming the NHS and making it more patient centred, but its reforms were half-hearted, lacking coherence and a clear purpose. Reforms such as the introduction of foundation trusts, practice-based commissioning groups and patient choice, which promised so much, did not deliver under Labour.
Frank Dobson: If the hon. Gentleman is genuinely committed to getting away from top-down impositions, will he now formally abandon the top-down proposal to take £16 million away from the Great Ormond Street hospital for sick children?
Paul Burstow: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising that issue, as I was coming on to deal with the comments of the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield). We are all here to say, rightly, that we want the best from our NHS-dedication from our staff of professionals and creativity from front-line staff. Both the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) and the hon. Member for Sheffield Central talked about that, but I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the review of top-up tariffs started under Labour. [Hon. Members: "So what?"] Yes, it was in the NHS operating framework under Labour. We will complete that review and we are engaged constructively with the foundation trusts, but I think the right hon. Gentleman should have a conversation with his own Front-Bench team before he attacks the Government Front-Bench team.
Our proposals build on reforms such as practice-based commissioning, patient choice, foundation trusts, tariffs and social enterprise, and they hold true to the founding principles of the NHS-that it is free at the point of delivery, and not based on ability to pay.
Freeing front-line staff from the tyranny of process targets is another issue. The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr Brine) was right to talk about the need to build on the knowledge of general practices and help them to shape services to fit local need and deliver quality outcomes.
The hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) talked about health inequalities and how they had widened in her constituency under Labour. That is why the Government are forging new relationships between the NHS and local government, making common cause on public health so that we can see it not only as a matter of medical health but as part of a far wider attack on the determinants of ill health in the first place. That makes local government entirely the right place to start.
We must ensure that collaboration takes place. The right hon. Member for Charnwood (Mr Dorrell) talked about collaboration between health and social care becoming the norm rather than the exception, as it is today. We need to increase local accountability for health care decision making. Yes, we also need to empower patients and provide more choice and more control. Through HealthWatch, a champion for patients and service users, we should make sure that the seldom heard, too, are heard in decision making.
Andrew George: My hon. Friend rightly makes much of the need to stop the top-down reorganisations of the past and to emphasise the importance of having patient-centred structures. In that light, if a local area preferred to graft in clinical engagement in the management of the existing PCT and greater patient involvement in the structure, would he accept that as an alternative to the sort of top-down reorganisation that the Government currently propose?
It will be very much up to the consortiums to decide how to configure their governance. What we have said is that this is about the devolution of power.
My hon. Friend was not against the devolution of power to the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales, yet this is about the same thing-shifting power away from this Front Bench and Whitehall and putting it back into the hands of patients and clinicians. Those clinicians will be engaged in commissioning, as we need them to be.
Much has been made of accountability. Under Labour, the NHS lacked it. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) really should reflect more on what was done under Labour, because there was a huge democratic deficit. We will have greater transparency and, through our new council health and well-being boards, genuine democratic accountability.
In the Labour motion before us today, it is wrongly claimed that the NHS has not been protected and that promises have been broken. The hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) referred to the 1950s, but I would refer her to the 1970s, when Labour was busily cutting back-
"It is irresponsible to increase NHS spending in real terms within the overall financial envelope".
That was, and is, Labour's view-cuts to the NHS. That is not the coalition's view. That is why the NHS will get real-terms growth. Yes, it is a tough settlement; yes, there needs to be scope for increased productivity; and yes, management costs in the system need to be reduced. The Government, however, are determined to ensure that we reform the national health service, deliver the clinical engagement and deliver the change that will make the service better for our public. I urge the House to reject the motion.
That this House believes that the Government is pursuing a reform agenda in education that represents an ideological gamble with successful services and has failed to honour the pledges made to deliver a pupil premium on top of a protected schools budget, and to deliver protected schools funding per pupil; is concerned that schools in deprived areas will lose out from the new funding mechanism; notes the unprecedented cuts of 60 per cent. to the schools capital budget, and is deeply concerned at the impact this will have on children, families and communities; supports empowerment of parents and their involvement in school planning but is concerned over a lack of accountability in the setting up of new schools under Government plans; is further concerned that this model will not represent efficient use of public resources in a time of austerity; disputes Government claims that these reforms are a continuation of Labour's successful reform agenda; and calls on the Government to work with families, teachers and communities to deliver improved standards of learning and teaching in all local schools.
We have just heard how the Government are preparing to take a huge gamble with our national health service, but the same is true in schools. In health and education we see the same emerging pattern in public service reform: a free market experiment brought in at breakneck speed with scant supporting evidence at a time of financial stress, and a real risk of good services being destabilised. There is a drive to atomise services and to unpick the fabric that holds together a successful NHS and the schools system in England. We can say what we like about the Department of Health, but at least it publishes a White Paper before rushing to reform. In education the ideological zeal is not constrained by the established processes of government.
Until recently, the Secretary of State has enjoyed a licence and latitude that other Ministers can only dream of: a big contract given to a former adviser without the troublesome requirement of a proper tendering process; a controversial education Bill rammed through Parliament in 62 days using procedures normally reserved for counter-terrorism; school building projects chopped in a casual and carefree manner, with inaccurate lists published day after day; and the services of experts who have given a decade of distinguished service to the cause of school sport dispensed with without even the courtesy of a meeting. Such things might be acceptable in the world of newspapers, but that is no way to run a Government Department.
Today, we are glad-I see that the Secretary of State is delighted, too-to give the House the opportunity to hold the Secretary of State and his Ministers to account. He has rushed into reform without listening to parents or to students and teachers and he needs to pause for breath and to take stock. First, I shall deal with the broken promises and the idea that schools are protected. Then, I shall challenge the Secretary of State's overall direction of travel, which I believe amounts to a dismantling of state education in England as we have known it.
Mr Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman is obviously going to explain why he thinks that the reforms proposed by the coalition Government are incorrect, but is he no longer one of the reformers on his Benches? If he is still a reformer, will he say, however briefly-I know that he quite rightly wants to focus on the Government-how he would seek to reform and improve an education system that lets down too many children?
Andy Burnham: As the hon. Gentleman sees more of his Government, he will perhaps come to understand the difference between real reform and reckless reform. Indeed, the House has just been hearing about the achievements of a reformed national health service under my watch and I can tell him that I am very proud of them.
Let me start with Building Schools for the Future and the charge that I lay at the Secretary of State's door. He has got into a mess and the allocation of capital is no longer driven by educational need but by ideology. Building Schools for the Future was a needs-led approach to the allocation of capital. Instead, he wanted to use capital as bait to lure schools into his new structural models, but then came the spending review.
Andy Burnham: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has ever been to any of those schools, but if he has seen the transformation in those communities and the messages that the schools send to children in areas that have, frankly, been let down for decades, I am surprised that he rises to his feet to say that that investment is not worth making. Let us talk about his Government and the spending review arrangements that his Secretary of State has recently secured: minus 60%. Let us just think about that figure for a moment.
"folding too early in negotiations over capital"
spending. The only shock for me on reading that was to learn that he had been negotiating at all. We know that he is courteous, and we like that about him, but minus 60%? I can almost hear him now, politely inviting George and Danny to fill their boots. Is 60% enough? Do they want more? I doubt that the Secretary of State has played much poker in his life-although he has his poker face on now-but, as with sport in schools, it gives a person certain life skills and I recommend it to him.
The average capital reduction across Whitehall was 30%. I would think that everyone in education could live with that. But double the punishment? How exactly does that minus 60% reduction meet the Secretary of State's "schools protected" claim?
Mr Dave Watts (St Helens North) (Lab):
Is my right hon. Friend surprised at the Government's announcements, given the fact that the previous Tory Government spent nothing on schools? There are those of us who can
remember tumbling-down buildings that leaked and needed the massive repairs that were put in by the Labour Government.
Andy Burnham: In the 1980s, I had the misfortune to go to a comprehensive school in my hon. Friend's constituency-a Merseyside comprehensive. It was not a great deal of fun. School sport had dried up and the buildings were appalling. It fills me with dread that my children will go to secondary school under a Tory Government. We on the Opposition Benches will campaign to ensure that another generation is not failed as others were.
Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): I am sure my right hon. Friend will not let this occasion pass without putting right the gross calumny against our Building Schools for the Future policy. It was not a school-building policy; it was a policy to let every local authority in our land have a vision of the transformation of education right across their community. That is what the Government are killing and that is why it is important to oppose them.
Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend is right. It was a new approach and we must give credit to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (David Miliband), who said when he was a Schools Minister, "Let's do it differently-let's not give out capital in a piecemeal fashion." My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) is nodding because he was in the Department at the time. Our approach was to go to the places where aspirations were lowest and young people did not have a great expectation of what life might give them, and build the best possible learning environment. That is why we should not listen to the nonsense that is spoken from the Government Benches. Building Schools for the Future has transformed many communities. It could have done more if the Government had stuck by its needs-led approach to capital allocation.
The sad thing about the Secretary of State's negotiating failure is that it has direct and unpleasant consequences for schools and councils. Within hours of the Chancellor's sitting down, there were panicked phone calls asking for 40% cuts to projects that only weeks before had been approved by the Secretary of State as unaffected. Why? Because what was left of his capital budget was needed to push towards his pet projects-or as we should now more accurately say, his pet shop projects. The losers, yet again, are schools in some of the most deprived parts of the country: Sandwell, Birmingham, Salford, Leicester and Nottingham.
Last week, I went to the Wodensborough technology college in Sandwell-a great school, battling against the odds. The Secretary of State is nodding, but he has not been to Sandwell. Since the summer, he has promised many times that he will go there, so I hope he is nodding because he will actually do so. When he was at his conference in Birmingham he was not far away. We hope he will go to Sandwell.
The college has been thrown into limbo by the 40% demand that is now being made of local authorities. After all the chaos to Building Schools for the Future that the Secretary of State caused in such authorities back in the summer, it is barely believable that he is coming back for another bite of their funding.
Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab): Can my right hon. Friend imagine the reaction in schools in my constituency, such as Birley and Handsworth Grange? They heard the Secretary of State's announcement before the recess and believed that their school programmes would go ahead, yet in October, only a few weeks later, they were told to find a 40% cut in schemes that had already been designed. That does not merely destroy the aspirations and hopes of young people; it is ridiculous and a complete waste of money to have a school designed to such an advanced stage and then cut the programme at the last minute. People cannot find 40% efficiency savings at the drop of a hat.
Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend puts it well. Let us get to the facts. Those schools were told in the summer that they were unaffected. We can work out what "unaffected" means to most people, but the effect of what the Secretary of State has done by coming back for another bite is that he is asking schools in my hon. Friend's constituency to abandon their ambitions for their children so that the right hon. Gentleman can fulfil his ideological ambitions to give funding to whichever schools come asking for it because it ticks the box-it comes forward with the structural form of which he approves.
That is very wrong. Today, if nothing else, I want the Secretary of State to come to the Dispatch Box and honour a moral obligation, as he has just heard, to the 600 schools that he approved as unaffected. That must mean what it says. Let them get on without the requirement to make unwelcome savings. Instead, the phone calls from his officials have made them scrabble round for cuts. I heard that one school was thinking of stopping the purchase of all new furniture. Is that what the Secretary of State really wants schools to do? It is mean-spirited. I hope he will honour the commitments that he has made and let them get on and build a better future.
Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House of any academic or empirical study which directly links the capital expenditure under Building Schools for the Future with enhanced educational attainment? If not, why does he think that that is the case?
Andy Burnham: It is depressing to hear such nonsense from the Government Benches after all these years. Is the hon. Gentleman saying to me that it is acceptable for a school to have leaking roofs or to have no playing field? Is he saying that office blocks are fine for schools? I disagree. I believe that we can do better for our children. If that is a call to cut off the funding to deprived authorities, he should be utterly ashamed of himself.
Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab): Perhaps the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) could enlighten the House by pointing us to any private schools that have outside toilets and leaking roofs.
Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend makes the point. We should aspire to the best possible environment for every single child in this country. We should start where aspiration, expectation and ambition are lowest and transform what those children have. I remember a child in my constituency going into a new school and saying, "It's too good for us." That is what we need to challenge and break down. The depressing comments from the Conservatives show that they have no understanding of the message that the environment sends to a young person.
Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): Aintree Davenhill primary school in my constituency is near where my right hon. Friend used to live. Phase 1 of the rebuild is nearly completed, but phase 2 is yet to be approved by the Government. If phase 2 does not go ahead, the children there will be left to learn in a corrugated iron hut, which is freezing at this time of year and boiling hot in the summer. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is not the kind of facility in which our children should expect to learn?
Schools all over the country are in chaos because the Department promised a capital review to clear up the problems and give clarity to schools. Instead, schools all over the country are in limbo, waiting to hear. I hope they will hear some clarity from the right hon. Gentleman today. It is clear that he has made a mess of the capital budget, but I hope he will acknowledge today the anxiety in schools right now about revenue budgets for next year.
"Schools protected" was the headline that schools wanted on spending review day, but here is the second charge that I lay at the door of the Secretary of State: has he not raised expectations that he now cannot fulfil? As the Institute for Fiscal Studies said, when rising pupil numbers are taken into account, the "Schools protected" headline turns into a 2.25% real-terms per pupil cut. Further changes to funding may mean it is far worse for some schools. Specialist schools fear losing the extra money that comes with their status. I hope that today the Secretary of State may provide them with some clarity on that.
Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Can there be any worse con perpetrated on parents than the cast-iron guarantee that the Lib Dems and the Secretary of State gave on the pupil premium? Is not that a classic example of a promise that did not last until the ink had dried?
The big issue facing all schools is the effect that the pupil premium will have on their budgets. The rush to bring in this new system could cause real volatility in budgets. I hope that the Secretary of State will tell us how he is planning to avoid that. It happened to us when we made changes to school budgets; these things need to be done carefully. We acknowledge that problems can arise, but I hope that he will give me, and schools,
some reassurance that the Department will have measures in hand to protect schools from very marked swings in their budgets.
As I told the House on Monday, experts are predicting that schools in the most deprived parts of the country stand to be the biggest losers from the much vaunted pupil premium-amazing, given all the claims made for it by the Liberal Democrats, but, it would seem, true. Today I visited a secondary school in Walthamstow which, by any measure, faces some of the biggest challenges of any school. It has double the national average of pupils on free school meals and with special educational needs. It is very important that the House hears what the pupil premium might mean for them-might mean, because we do not know yet. The school estimates- [ Interruption. ] I do not know what the Minister of State, Department for Education, the hon. Member for Brent Central (Sarah Teather), is chuntering about. This is coming directly from schools. If she listens to this, she might be able to change things and do something about it. The school estimates that it is set to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds under the pupil premium. That is supported by the IFS, which has calculated that the pupil premium could be 2.5 times higher in Wokingham than in Tower Hamlets. It says that schools in more deprived areas would receive noticeably less in percentage terms than similarly deprived schools in less deprived areas.
May I ask Liberal Democrats to examine their consciences before final decisions are made on this issue? Is this really the effect that they wanted for their pupil premium-to take money off kids for whom life is already hardest?
Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall) (LD): I have been listening closely to the right hon. Gentleman's comments about what may or may not be in the pupil premium based on the suppositions that he is making. After more than a decade of his Government, pupils in my part of the country were getting much less than the national average despite its having the lowest wages in the country. What did his Government do about that when they had the chance? At least the pupil premium is an attempt at a better suggestion.
Andy Burnham: The hon. Gentleman cannot say that the Labour Government did nothing for education funding in Cornwall-that is an astonishing claim. I hope that he accepts that the needs of schools vary in different parts of the country. I am not arguing that we had perfection, but we did take steps to improve funding for schools all over the country.
Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): We hear a lot about fairness from this coalition. It would be completely unfair if a school in a deprived area were to miss out in order to shift money to another school in another area. We should not be playing one school off against another. Should we not hear from the Secretary of State that there will be a minimum by which no school will miss out, and that the pupil premium will be additional money that does not come at the expense of other schools?
Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend has made a very important point. I have invited the Secretary of State to set out how he will ensure that no school sees a huge loss of funding to the pupil premium, with that then causing a problem in terms of service continuation.
As I said, I ask the Liberal Democrats to examine their consciences, and I got the impression that the hon. Gentleman was thinking about it. If they do not, for goodness' sake they should speak up and show that they have some influence in the Government. They should speak up for the kids in the school that I went to this morning. We need to hear their voice to ensure that the pupil premium is what we were told it would be. At the moment, it is nothing more than a con.
The real trouble is that we do not have a new and additional pupil premium at all. The danger for the Liberal Democrats is that this issue goes to the very heart of the politics of the coalition. In the post-election talks with Labour, the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr Laws) told my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) that he had secured from the Conservatives a pupil premium additional to a schools budget protected in real terms. Let there be no debate about that-that was what the Liberal Democrats said they had secured.
"substantial extra money from outside the education budget."-[ Official Report, 7 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 15.]
That was meant to be the Liberal Democrats' big win, and it was paraded as the consolation prize on the day of the tuition fees announcement. The painful truth for them is that they have failed to deliver it. They have been chewed up and spat out by the Tories. We are now looking at a pupil premium that will take money off her constituency in Brent, where more than 20% of kids are on free school meals, and give it to the Secretary of State's constituency in Surrey, where less than 10% of children receive them. That Liberal Democrat fig leaf of credibility for staying in the coalition has been snatched away.
Because the education budget is not rising-it is falling in real terms-the pupil premium is simply a relabelling of existing funding. There will be more losers than winners. The IFS estimates that 60% of primary school children and 80% of secondary school children will be in schools whose real budgets are cut. On the day when the budgets for those schools land, the "Schools protected" spin will be wearing very thin indeed.
The problem with this ministerial team is that they simply have not got a grip on the detail. They simply do not know what the changes will mean for schools. However, the situation is still worse than that. They are also obsessed with costly, untested structural reform. That lethal combination of incompetence and ideology is toxic for our schools. The Government's preoccupation with structures risks a loss of focus on standards. Under Labour, school standards rose year on year, with some of the highest ever results at every stage and the best ever results this year in GCSEs and A-levels. In 1997, half of all schools fell below the basic benchmark of 30% of students getting five good GCSEs graded A to C. [Interruption.] I hear Conservative Members
speaking up, but those were our schools and our children in our constituencies that were being failed. Many children were leaving school without any hope of a better life-that was the reality.
Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): Is it not accepted that in science, for instance, the UK has gone from fourth to 14th position? In literacy we have gone from seventh to 17th, and in mathematics from eighth to 24th. That has to mean we have less, not more.
The hon. Gentleman cannot deny the figures that I have just read out, which show a transformation in our secondary schools. Half of schools were not achieving the basic benchmark in 1997, but today it is fewer than one in 12. Just think how many thousands of kids have hope of a better life because of that transformation in our schools, particularly in our most deprived communities.
Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what the reality was in some of the most deprived schools, because I was teaching in some of them. Children were forced on to courses that they did not want to be on simply to shove up standards, and the gap between the best and worst-performing schools widened over Labour's time in office. The reality is that in the area in which I used to teach, children are less likely to progress socially than those from schools elsewhere. Statistics and figures are one thing; the reality is something very different.
Andy Burnham: The reality is very different. Is the hon. Gentleman really saying that head teachers and teachers in primary schools in his constituency would say that there has been no change in primary schools in the past 10 years? Is he really saying that secondary schools have not improved? The figures tell us what has happened. Am I saying, "It's all perfect"? No, I am not, because more needs to be done. We turned failing schools into good schools and I am very proud of what we as a Government achieved for some of the most deprived children in our country.
It is encouraging that the right hon. Gentleman told the national children and adult services conference recently that he will set new minimum standards for schools-we welcome that continuation of Labour's successful national challenge programme- but he is about to take huge risks with all the progress that we made. One area on which we should both agree is that excellent teaching is the surest route to the highest standards.
It was with some surprise that I heard the Secretary of State confirm to the House on Monday that his free schools will be able to use public money to hire whomsoever they like to teach, with no teaching qualification requirement. When he took up the job, he said that teachers should have a good 2:1 degree. He should be consistent in this important area: investing in our teacher work force is of fundamental importance to good school standards.
Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab): My right hon. Friend mentioned the record of higher standards under the Labour Government. Like me, I am sure that he welcomes the fact that young people from the poorest areas are 30% more likely to go on to higher education than they were five years ago. Does he agree that not only higher standards but education maintenance allowances played a significant role in encouraging people to stay on at school, perhaps for the first time in a family? What will be the effect of the Government's plans to abolish education maintenance allowances?
Andy Burnham: I am glad that my right hon. Friend raises that issue. I will spend a moment on EMAs. As we heard at education questions on Monday, the EMA is the subject of huge concern among Labour Members. It is feared that it will be pared back or, worse, taken away.
The Secretary of State is good with words and is good at making big commitments, but I want to see some follow-through-I want him to stand by what he says. Young people will look to what he or I say, so that they can have trust in politics and in this place. In an interview in The Guardian on 2 March-just before the election-he said:
"Ed Balls keeps saying that we are committed to scrapping the EMA. I have never said this. We won't."
Andy Burnham: The right hon. Gentleman nods, because he obviously acknowledges the veracity of the quote. Why is such a move acceptable now? Before the election, he made that statement to the young people who receive EMA, some of whom might be watching these proceedings. What are they to make of such a statement? It sounded commendably clear before the election, but now that crucial support is being removed. Throughout Education questions on Monday, his Minister spoke in an offhand way of the dead-weight cost of EMA. If I understood him correctly, he meant that 90% of young people would have gone into post-16 studies anyway. For young people who come from homes where incomes are low and do not have much support, this allowance can mean the difference between having to get a part-time job or having to walk to college because they cannot afford the bus fare. The EMA allows them to focus on their studies, which gives young kids from backgrounds where life is hardest the chance to exceed expectations and excel in further and higher education. When I heard the Minister on Monday, I did not feel he had any appreciation of the fact that the EMA makes it easier for those young people to fulfil their potential and be the best that they can be.
Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): Since 2004, more than 22,000 people in Tower Hamlets, where my constituency is, and nearly 500,000 people across London, have received the EMA. Only last night, a constituent, who is now reading law, told me that he could not have studied without the EMA. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, throughout the country, those on low incomes will be prevented from taking up higher education places if the matter is not reconsidered? I make a plea to the Government to think again.
Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Labour Members have been struck by the concern among young people about the EMA. Taken with the tuition fees announcement, the one on the EMA is having a depressing effect on the aspirations of young people who have least. That is the great worry about what is happening. I hope that the Secretary of State has heard my hon. Friend's words.
Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): Given those young people's anxiety and the increase in tuition fees to £9,000, does my right hon. Friend think it acceptable that the schools Minister seems happy to sit using her BlackBerry?
Andy Burnham: That is not acceptable, nor is it acceptable to chunter and object throughout when many of the points that have been made should be listened to. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) did so much work on the EMA and on lifting young people's hopes in constituencies such as his.
We must also take into account the changes in child benefit for families with a higher earner because, although they may not be eligible for the EMA, some give the child benefit to the young person in further or higher education, which helps young people get through. The removal of child benefit will further damage staying-on rates.
Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): I am interested in the right hon. Gentleman's comments about the EMA. Will he give me some statistical evidence that directly relates improvement in educational attainment to the EMA?
Andy Burnham: I am looking through my notes-I do not want to cite the wrong figure. There is evidence that 18,500 young people stayed on at school who would not have done so without that financial support. That means 18,500 young people with the hope of a better life because of the EMA. Why do the Government want to abolish it? I am lost for words.
Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab): If Government Members are looking for evidence, a collection of college principals in north-east England wrote to me asking me to point out to the Government at every stage the real dangers that they perceive to youngsters going into further education from the abolition of the EMA. That applies across the board in the north-east.
Andy Burnham: There is evidence, so we will write to the hon. Lady with it. There is supposedly a successor scheme, but, if the Government are to replace the EMA, will she and others on the Government Benches ensure that it is with something that gives young people some hope? If the proposal is simply to cut support to the poorest, she will set back the cause of opportunity for all in this country.
Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab):
If my right hon. Friend is looking for evidence, I suggest the case of one young woman in my constituency whom I helped during the election campaign. She came to me, worried about her EMA, which she had trouble getting from the school. I helped her with the head teacher. I later found out that she was the sole carer for her mother, who was
blind. She would have gone to school anyway, because she was utterly determined, but the EMA gave her and her mother a quality of life that they did not know previously.
Andy Burnham: Listening to the responsible Minister on Monday at Education questions, one would have come to the conclusion that he had no appreciation at all of the effect the EMA could have on a young person's life in those circumstances. I said that the Government should listen to students. I hope that they will, and that they will meet some young people who currently benefit from the EMA such as the person about whom my hon. Friend just spoke. The EMA is a lifeline. For young carers, who have been in the news this week, it represents the hope of a better future, and I hope that the Government will not wipe away their hopes and dreams.
Mr Sheerman: One of the big consultancies-I believe it was PricewaterhouseCoopers-conducted a full evaluation of the relationship between the EMA and improvements in rates of staying on and entering university, and in evidence given earlier this year to the Children, Schools and Families Committee, which I chaired, made it clear that that relationship was very positive.
Andy Burnham: I hope that the Government will take account of my hon. Friend's point because there is good evidence to show that the policy has been a success and is helping many more young people stay on in education and achieve.
Mr Watts: Is my right hon. Friend as depressed as I am about the fact that the Government seem to be saying that financial assistance to families does not matter, the poor state of school buildings does not matter and the overall funding package for education does not matter? What seems to matter is that both the Liberals and the Conservatives are determined to cut education spending and push people back into deprivation.
Andy Burnham: That is the inference that people will draw. There is an obsession with structures, not with standards or with helping young people to be the best they can be. I would like to hear the Secretary of State talk a little more about that and a little less about free schools and whatever structural ideas he is dreaming up. Let us focus on standards and on the aspiration of kids from a working-class background. Let us give them some hope rather than introducing organisational reforms that may or may not offer them anything. That is the problem the Secretary of State is facing.
Steve McCabe: I would like to help the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), who asked about the EMA. Did not the Institute for Fiscal Studies publish a report showing a rise of six percentage points in the number of EMA recipients getting level 2 qualifications? That is hardly a Labour party assertion, is it?
Not at all, and the report also showed specific improvement among groups who have traditionally under-achieved in post-16 education. The Government seem to be saying that this evidence is simply to be disregarded because a political decision has been made. At times, I get the feeling from this Government that if
a reform was introduced by Labour, they just want to wipe it away, even if it was successful. They want to do something different. [Interruption.] Well, we shall talk about school sport in a minute, and I think they are also guilty of the charge on that issue.
Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): Evidence from the IFS and the CfBT Education Trust clearly demonstrates that the EMA has benefited students. As a former principal of a sixth-form college, I have seen the impact on students. We did our own evaluation, which showed higher attendance among students on the EMA than among those who were not, and a direct correlation between their attendance and attainment.
Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend makes an important point. His experience matches exactly that of my brother, the vice-principal of a sixth-form college in St Helens. The change to EMA needs to be looked at alongside potential changes to the funding of post-16 education-the funding available to sixth-form and FE colleges-because it could have a very damaging effect. There is also a rumour-I do not know whether it is true-that people will no longer get free A-levels beyond the age of 18. Will the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning address that point today? All those proposals will combine to take away opportunities.
The Government's policy is an ideological gamble. Schools will be able to use money to employ whomsoever they like, even if that person has no qualifications, in any premises, which, as we have heard, might include converted prisons, bingo halls, hairdressers and pet shops.
What guarantees do parents have that the Secretary of State's free schools will have the highest standards? What guarantees do they have that they can hold those schools to account if they do not meet such standards? The truth is that free schools are a risky ideological experiment being pushed through at speed with a lack of reliable evidence. Is not there a real danger that one person's decision to create a free school will undermine existing good provision in an area and a school's ability to improve?
Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will know that I have the misfortune that the local authority in my area is one of the ideological dustbins of the Conservative party. It adopts all these initiatives, so we have three of the 16 new free schools, but there are no suitable sites for them. Existing community organisations are being evicted from their premises so that a few free schools can take them over, despite the fact that their catchment areas are outside the borough and the area. How is that localism or parent choice? Is it not the triumph of ideology over education standards?
Andy Burnham: I had the good fortune to meet head teachers from my hon. Friend's constituency very soon after I came into this job. They told me how that cluster of free schools could undermine other local schools. I am at a loss, and I wonder whether the Secretary of State can help me. Why is a school specialising in Latin exactly what Acton needs? I am yet to be persuaded that that is the best route for modern education in west London.
I mentioned outdoor space. A good example of schools achieving more together than they can alone is sport. School sports partnerships are a wonderful example of schools working together. The Australians have described our system as world class. I urge the Secretary of State to think again on that. School sports partnerships, which created a new delivery system for school sport, have worked well and given more opportunities to young people. I hope that he is open to the arguments of Darren Campbell and others who are pleading with him to keep that infrastructure rather than dismantle it.
My worry is that in the long term the free school experiment will lead to a much more segregated schools system-a splintered system in which narrow social groups impart a narrow world view. Are we heading towards an unaccountable free-for-all in our local education systems? Experience in Sweden suggests that the Secretary of State's schools will have a negative impact on standards.
I have never heard how that negative impact will be addressed in the Secretary of State's world view, in which schools are free to fail. I am worried that he is creating a world where each school exists within a walled garden, with no obligation to other schools. The local authority co-ordinating role is important, and I cannot see why the Government want simply to wipe it away with a national funding formula. Local authorities look out for the needs of all children within an area, including the vulnerable and the voiceless. Who will speak up for them in his brave new world?
My vision is of a truly comprehensive education system, in which there is diversity of provision, and in which we help all children to be the best that they can be. I want a collaborative rather than a competitive system, and I want all schools to recognise their obligations to each other. I am worried that the Secretary of State is creating an elitist education system.
We fear that Sure Start centres are about to close, and we heard today that the pupil premium will take money from some of the most deprived communities in our country. We have just had a debate on how the Government's policy on EMA could depress aspirations, particularly those of working-class kids. We have heard that the Secretary of State, in closed meetings in Westminster, has nodded and winked to the effect that his foot is hovering over the pedal when it comes to allowing more selection and allowing grammar schools to use the free school route to set up more grammar schools. He needs to come clean on those things. Does he want to create a more elitist system, where opportunities exist for the few but not the many?
That is the Opposition's critique of the Secretary of State. We have had broken promises and free market reforms with no evidence, and there is a whiff of elitism in everything the Department introduces. That spells danger for our schools. We need a plan not just for some schools, but for all schools. That is what our motion is about, and I commend it to the House.
The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): May I offer a few words of heartfelt thanks to the shadow Secretary of State? Today we announced a radical extension of academy freedoms for many more schools, allowing weaker schools to be supported by stronger schools, in a culture of collaboration that drives up standards for all. This afternoon, in No. 10 Downing street, I, along with the Prime Minister, met hundreds of head teachers in the state system who have taken advantage of academy freedoms to drive up standards not just for their children, but for others in their local areas. After that morning good-news announcement and that afternoon celebration, I ask myself: what could we do to top it? I am so grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me this opportunity to explain to the House of Commons the radical, comprehensive reform programme that we are introducing that will help to transform opportunity for the very poorest.
The Secretary of State has said that he has met a group of head teachers from academies. Will he meet the other hundreds of head teachers who are desperately waiting to see whether their schools will be modernised and the holes in their roofs fixed? Will he be as keen to meet them as he has been to meet the academy heads?
Michael Gove: I am always keen to meet head teachers, and the more head teachers I meet, the more I find that they say the same things: that under this Government, they are at last being treated properly. At last, in the words of Mike Spinks, a head teacher from Stretford and Urmston, the baseball batting of bureaucracy has ended. At last, in the words of Patricia Sowter, a head teacher from the Labour constituency of Edmonton, head teachers are being given the opportunity to do what they have always done, which is to stress the importance of helping the very poorest. At last, in the words of Sir Michael Wilshaw, a head teacher who teaches in the Labour constituency represented by the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), we have a Government who are on the side of extending academy freedoms. I talk to head teachers all the time. When I do, the one thing I say to them is: "You've got a Government who're on your side," and the one thing that I hear from them is: "At last."
The right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) asked whether I played poker. I have to confess that when I was growing up and learning card games, poker was somewhat frowned upon at the Kirk socials that I attended, although we did play the odd game of knockout whist. One of the things that I learned in card games is that one has to play the hand that one is dealt. What was the hand that we were dealt by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues? Credit agencies ready to downgrade our debt; a £150 billion deficit; and a letter, left by the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, saying that there is no money left. I know that that is painful for Opposition Members to hear, but it is even more painful for the people in our school system who have been let down by the profligacy, arrogance and extravagance of a party that still does not have the humility to say sorry for debauching our finances.
Mr McFadden: The Secretary of State mentioned the academy programme. I am a supporter of the academy programme that the Labour Government introduced. It gave hope and higher standards to children who had not been given the opportunities that they deserved under what went before. Earlier this year, he issued his list, which said that the Building Schools for the Future programme in the city that I represent would be unaffected by the changes, and that programme includes two city academies, one of which is in my constituency. However, they are now being told that there will be a cut in that programme of up to 40%. How can he say that the programme is unaffected and that that will not have an impact on opportunity for those children who need it most?
Michael Gove: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a great deal of respect. He was a very good Minister, and it is a pity that he is not on the Opposition Front Bench now. I absolutely share his commitment to improving academy provision, not just in the west midlands, but across the country. I can reassure him that all those schools that were recorded as being unaffected will have their building work backed. The money will be there, but we have a duty, to both the taxpayer and those schools, to ensure that when we negotiate with the contractors-with the private sector-we get the best possible value for money. The more money we can save in our negotiations with contractors, the more we can invest in education elsewhere to ensure that the many, many school buildings that are in a state of dilapidation and extreme need receive additional support. I know that the right hon. Gentleman-when he was a Minister, he always sought to secure value for money for taxpayers-will appreciate that that tough negotiation on behalf of the public is exactly what a responsible Government should do.
Hon. Members know that education standards should not just be measured against the past. Countries across the globe are improving relative to the past. We need to measure ourselves against the best in the world. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) said, the grim truth is that the statistics produced by the OECD show that over the past 10 years, educational standards in this country, relative to other nations, have fallen. We have moved from being fourth in the world for the quality of our science education to 14th, from seventh in the world for the quality of literacy to 17th, and from eighth in the world for the quality of mathematics
to 24th. Those are facts that we cannot deny. At the same time as we have fallen behind other countries, the gap between rich and poor, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) said, has grown wider.
In the last year for which we have figures, the number of children who were eligible for free school meals, bearing in mind that every year 600,000 children attend state schools, was 80,000, of whom just 45 made it to Oxbridge- [ Interruption. ]. It is absolutely the measure. The right hon. Member for Leigh might not like to hear it, but on his and his Government's, watch the poorest children were denied opportunity. He made it to Cambridge; why should not more children from poor homes make it to Cambridge and Oxford? Why do children from Westminster, St Paul's, Eton and such bastions of privilege make it to Oxford and Cambridge but not our poorest children in state schools? This Government-the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats united together-are at last investing in social justice, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that that figure is a scandal and that at last the investment is going in to secure reform.
Andy Burnham: I am grateful that the Secretary of State acknowledges that I have some knowledge of these matters. He lays all the blame for that figure at the door of the school system in England. Why does he not place any of the blame at the door of Cambridge university and Oxford university? Is he saying that there is no talent in state schools?
Michael Gove: The talent is there, but such children do not get in because they do not have the opportunities that they deserve. The school system has failed them. They do not get in because in the school system children from poorer homes fall behind their wealthier compatriots at every step of the way. At key stage 1, the gap grows wide; at key stage 2 it grows wider still. Children from wealthy homes are twice as likely to get five good GCSEs as those who are eligible for free school meals. That is entrenched inequality in our school system. The Labour party had 13 years; they did not take action, and now they blame others instead of taking responsibility.
Andy Burnham: I am disappointed that the Secretary of State lays all the blame at the door of our schools. When I went to Cambridge in the late 1980s, the proportion had just changed, and the majority had just become children from state schools at 51% with 49% from the independent sector. The figures today are around 55% from state schools, 45% from the independent sector. I am not saying that schools cannot do more to encourage the highest level of aspiration, but is he saying that the Russell group and the most elite universities in our country can do nothing more to open their doors and to operate less elitist admission policies?
The right hon. Gentleman is taking no responsibility for what happened on his watch, for the inequality in the school system, and for taking no steps to deal with the mess that was left to us. We are the party that is saying to Russell group and elite universities that they must do more to ensure that talented children can go to top universities. Unfortunately-this is a fact
that he cannot run away from-social mobility went backwards on his watch. This country is less equal as a result of a Labour Government. There were 13 years of shame and 13 years of hurt, and the Labour Government were responsible.
In place of the Labour Government's failure, we are introducing a wide range of reforms, all of which are based on best international practice and all of which have been proven, in other nations, to drive up standards. We are ensuring that we learn from all the best performing education nations. We are improving teacher recruitment and training. It is our Government, not theirs, who have doubled the number of students entering Teach First, to ensure that we have top graduates going into the most challenging classrooms. It is our Government, not theirs, who have changed the rules on discipline and behaviour to provide teachers with stronger protection and to ensure that we no longer have the absurd situation in which teachers have to wait 24 hours before issuing a detention to an unruly pupil. It is our Government, not theirs, who are changing the national curriculum and introducing an English baccalaureate to ensure that all students, from whatever background, have access to an academic core by the age of 16.
It is our Government, not theirs, who are reforming key stage 2 tests to ensure that all students have accurate information on their progress at primary school, and that we end the damaging "teaching to the test" that has characterised those tests in the past. It is our Government, not theirs, who have given head teachers in all schools the degree of autonomy and independence for which they yearned for 13 years. So it is unsurprising that, in the 37 minutes of the right hon. Member for Leigh's speech-[Hon. Members: "Forty-seven!"] Forty-seven? Just see how numeracy went down on Labour's watch. In the 47 minutes of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, there was not a single new idea on how to improve our state education system. He is an IFZ: an ideas-free zone. Those beautiful eyelashes might flutter, but behind them there is a dusty plain where a single idea has yet to take root.
Mr Umunna: I find it quite extraordinary to hear the Education Secretary's comments about increasing the participation of people from deprived backgrounds, in the light of his reforms of higher education financing. Can he tell us how introducing tuition fees of up to £9,000 will increase the participation in higher education of people from deprived communities- [ Interruption. ] The right hon. Gentleman has been talking about Oxford and Cambridge, and other universities, and he should answer my question.
The debate today is about schools, not about higher education. However, I would be delighted to have a debate about higher education. It would be interesting to know who would represent the Opposition in such a debate. Would it be the Leader of the Opposition, who believes in a graduate tax, or the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, who denounces such a tax? Would it
be the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden)-who is no longer in his place-who backs the Browne reforms, or would it be the hon. Member for St Helens North (Mr Watts), who opposes them? The truth is that, on higher education, there is a split in the Labour party as wide as the River Jordan between those who are genuinely progressive and back our reforms and those who are regressive and oppose them- [ Interruption. ] Hon. Members ask who introduced tuition fees. The Labour party did that, and in so doing, broke a manifesto promise- [ Interruption. ]
Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I must remind hon. Members that this is a debate on schools, and not on higher education. I am sure that the Secretary of State would not want to open up another debate.
Mr Stewart Jackson: I hesitate to derail my right hon. Friend's peroration, but related to his point about the badge of shame and ignominy attached to the record of the last Labour Government is the number of children in care and the fact that the educational attainment of the most vulnerable in society actually went backwards under their time in office. Should not those on the Labour Front Bench hang their heads in shame about that?
Michael Gove: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. His commitment to looked-after children and children in care has been consistent, both before he entered the House and now that he serves with such distinction here. One of the reasons that the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) is taking such pains to change the rules on, for example, adoption and to work with looked-after children is that the vulnerable and the voiceless need our support. I hope that the efforts that we are all making to ensure that they enjoy a better future will be backed across the House.
Fiona O'Donnell (East Lothian) (Lab): If the right hon. Gentleman is really serious about increasing social mobility, will he explain how the double whammy of getting rid of the child trust funds and the education maintenance allowance will achieve that?
Michael Gove: We are increasing social mobility by reforming our school system. Let me mention one striking thing about the changes we are making. According to the right hon. Member for Leigh, these changes are an ideological experiment, so who is backing these changes? Who are the extremists who support what the Government are doing? Who are the figures with whom we are ashamed to be associated, who are saying that our ideas are right? Well, what about Arne Duncan, Education Secretary in Barack Obama's Administration? The other week, he said:
"I just have tremendous respect for the educational work and the leadership that I've seen coming from the UK and we're all working on the same issues and have the same challenges."
"pushing in all the right areas"
"working very, very hard, and I love his sense of urgency, I love his willingness to challenge the status quo when things are not working".
"In many areas of domestic policy, the Tories will be at their best when they are allowed to get on with it-as with reforms in education."
We shall come back to some striking things about the former Prime Minister's words. I remember when the right hon. Member for Leigh was a Blairite-although that was before he was promoted by the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), but there we are. [Interruption.] Oh, yes, he was one of the plotters, but we will come back to that later. It is striking that the arguments that the former Prime Minister made at every stage in favour of educational reform are now rejected by the Opposition. In 2005, Tony Blair said:
"In our schools... the system will finally be opened up to real parent power... All schools will be able to have Academy style freedoms... All schools will be able to take on external partners. No one will be able to veto parents starting new schools or new providers coming in, simply on the basis that there are local surplus places. The role of the LEA will change fundamentally. There will be relentless focus on failing schools to turn them round... schools will be accountable not to government at the centre... but to parents, with the creativity and enterprise of the teachers and school leaders set free."
I agree with those words, but I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Leigh does, as he opposes every single one of the points made in that quote. He opposes extending academy-style freedoms to all schools. He wants to veto parents from starting new schools. He does not want the role of the local authority to change fundamentally, and he does not want the creativity and enterprise of teachers and school leaders set free. Why is that? Why are the real conservatives now sitting on the Opposition Benches?
Michael Gove: As the hon. Gentleman will know, I have a consistent record of opposing Islamic extremism. One thing we have done is to set up a new due diligence unit within the Department in order to ensure that the threat of extremism-not just from anyone who might wish to promote a free school, but from anyone who wishes to infiltrate our state school system-is dealt with. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that in both Surrey and Birmingham there were genuine dangers due to extremist influence in state schools. I take the issue very seriously and I am delighted to work with others such as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood) in helping to counter it.
That brings me to another key point on which I agree with Tony Blair-no slouch when it came to opposing Islamist extremism. If we automatically assume that any parent who believes it is right to set up new schools
is an extremist, we are saying to the overwhelming majority of people in this country who want better state education, "I am sorry; you are outside the mainstream."
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): The Secretary of State refers to deprivation and how to tackle it. He will know that the inheritance of teenage pregnancy is an issue that affects deprivation and the poverty of ambition of many families. If we look at the map of teenage pregnancy in this country, we see that it is also the map of deprivation. I acknowledge that we did not have complete success on this issue, although we had partial success. We cut the numbers. They had risen dramatically under Mrs Thatcher's era. They fell in ours, but not as much as we would have liked. I think that was partly because we did not learn the lessons from countries such as Holland-where the figure is five times lower than it is in this country-and introduce statutory sex and relationship education. Will the Secretary of State think again about his opposition to that?
Michael Gove: The hon. Gentleman has been a consistent proponent of better sex and relationship education, but I have to tell him that it is a statutory part of the present curriculum. The critical question is how we can improve the quality of guidance and the quality of teaching. The hon. Gentleman is passionate, and in this respect his passion is in a good cause, but I fear that he has got his facts wrong. Sex and relationship education is already compulsory; personal, social and health education, which is a broader issue, is not yet compulsory in the national curriculum. Now that I have cleared up that confusion on the hon. Gentleman's part, I hope that we can work together to ensure that our sex and relationship education reflects 21st-century values. I have been delighted to work with Liberal Democrat colleagues to achieve just that.
I have quoted politicians who back our reforms, but it is important for us to hear from teachers as well. I mentioned head teachers earlier, but let me run through what some are saying about coalition policies. These are head teachers who have taken advantage of the changes that we have made: changes that the right hon. Member for Leigh said had been introduced in a rush, and were ill-conceived and ideological.
"we can be totally focused on our age group and our community... we can target resources to employ specialist staff, such as speech and language therapists or reading intervention specialists."
At Durand primary school in Stockwell, London, 52% of pupils are eligible for free school meals. What does the head teacher say when he thinks about how to improve outcomes for those poor children? He says:
"Academy status does give us greater freedom to deliver an even more bespoke education, tailoring it to the needs of our specific intake."
"time and space in the curriculum back to subjects like sport and music, the importance of which have been lost over recent years."
"training, development and non-contact time for senior teachers."
"to deliver an outstanding environment"
"I don't understand why anyone would not want to do it."
"employ two or three more teachers to cut class sizes."
While we are talking about smaller class sizes, let me cite Paul Gazzard, head teacher of St Buryan school in Penzance, who has been able to bring the average class size in his school down to 18 by introducing academy reforms.
The question for the right hon. Member for Leigh is this: will he reverse these changes? He opposed them, which is fair enough. It is understandable. A new, keen, young Opposition spokesman is entirely entitled to fly an opportunist flag, but now that real schools and real pupils are benefiting, the question for him is this: will he turn the clock back?
I have more confidence in the right hon. Gentleman than in his predecessor. I think he will see that our changes are bringing real improvements, and I do not think he wants to turn the clock back. However, that is the test for Labour Members. Are they ready to embrace reform and to acknowledge that it is now the coalition Government who are delivering improvements in state education, or do they want to go back to where they were in the 1980s? Do they want to go back to being the voice of the conservative teaching establishment? Do they want to be the voice of those individuals in trade unions who are opposed to reform and opposed to change?
"Parts of the left will say we are privatising public services and giving too much to the middle class."
"both criticisms are wrong and simply a version of the old 'levelling down' mentality that kept us in Opposition for so long."
If we are to extend opportunity more widely, we need to ensure that the head teachers whom I have cited, and the others who are anxious to take advantage of these reforms-to invest in improving teacher quality, to invest in better discipline and behaviour, and to invest in higher academic standards-are given the freedom to do so.
Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East) (Lab): The Secretary of State has spoken passionately about extending opportunities for the poorest children in our country, but let me tell him something. On Friday I shall be meeting the head teacher of Our Lady and St Chad Catholic sports college in my constituency. She is deeply concerned about what we suspect is the Secretary of State's intention to withdraw the specific budget for specialist sports schools. That school is in a deprived area of my constituency, and it has both raised educational standards and improved health conditions for young people in the area. Will the Secretary of State reconsider?
Michael Gove: The hon. Lady makes a strong case on behalf of her constituents and that head teacher, who I am sure is doing a superb job, and I can assure all head teachers whose schools enjoy specialist status that what we are doing is removing the bureaucracy which had attended specialist status. All schools will now receive the money through the direct schools grant, and as a result they will be able to spend it as they think fit, not as bureaucrats decree.
On the subject of funding, I want to pay particular tribute to my Liberal Democrat coalition partners. They came under attack from the right hon. Member for Leigh, but I think it is only fair to say the following. Before the general election, Liberal Democrat coalition partners made the case for the pupil premium passionately, fluently and effectively. It was a policy I supported, but it had been developed with particular attention to detail by the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr Laws), and it was first promoted by the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Brent Central (Sarah Teather). As a result of the case that was made by Liberal Democrat members of the coalition, this Government are now delivering a pupil premium that is worth £2.5 billion in additional spending after four years.
Michael Gove: Just a second. That £2.5 billion of additional money is on top of another £1.1 billion of additional spending to deal with demographic changes, so there is £3.6 billion in additional spending on schools, targeted towards the very poorest-spending that the right hon. Member for Leigh and others consistently opposed, and which they rejected during coalition negotiations. It is spending that has been delivered by a coalition Government-two parties united in pursuit of social justice-after one party had let those children down.
Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (LD): I greatly welcome the fact that children in my constituency who come from disadvantaged backgrounds will be supported in their education. However, I would like an assurance from the Secretary of State that this is extra money, and that it does not involve taking money away from schools in deprived areas.
Michael Gove: I am delighted to be able to give the hon. Lady that assurance, and I can do so because the case for the pupil premium was made so passionately by her parliamentary colleague the right hon. Member for Yeovil, and because it was then delivered thanks to the hard work of the Minister of State, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Deputy Prime Minister. [Interruption.] All of them worked together to ensure that we have £2.5 billion extra.
Michael Gove: Labour Members are upset and annoyed and are heckling because it is this coalition Government who are delivering for those poorest children and they hate that. We can see on their faces their anger and annoyance that it is the coalition parties that are at last delivering on social justice and progressive reforms, and that are improving the school system.
Andy Burnham: It was Labour that gave local authorities funding to raise standards in the poorest areas. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said we had an implicit pupil premium; the Secretary of State might care to read its research.
Let us stop shifting the ground. The commitment the Liberal Democrats said they had was for a pupil premium additional-on top of-a schools budget protected in real terms; that is not just the dedicated schools grant, but the entire schools budget. Have they got that? This is fundamental. Let us have no fine words from the Secretary of State; he must get to the heart of that question. Have the Liberal Democrats got what they told the former Education Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls), they had during those post-election talks? We need to know.
Michael Gove: I think the right hon. Gentleman is talking about schools rather than education, but the truth is, yes, the Liberal Democrats have got a fantastic deal-and more to the point, so has the country. There is £3.6 billion extra; £2.5 billion extra spent on schools, and £1.1 billion extra spent on demography, so there is a real-terms increase in education spending, and delivered over four years, whereas the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) was going to deliver additional spending only for two years, not four years. More than that, he was not going to deliver, as we have, additional pre-school learning for the poorest two-year-olds. He was not going to deliver, as we have, an extra £150 million to help students from poorer backgrounds to go to universities. He was not going to deliver, as we have, an additional £7 billion over the lifetime of this Government to help the very poorest children. The reason why all Labour Members are so anxious to try to attack this proposition is that they hate the fact that progressive policies are being delivered by a coalition Government.
"work with families, teachers and communities to deliver improved standards of learning and teaching in all local schools."
But how? Nothing in what the shadow Secretary of State said today, what he said in his speech to the Association of Directors of Children's Services or what he has said in any interview that he has given constitutes a new or fresh, radical or reforming idea to improve our education system. What do the Opposition offer? How are they going to work with schools, local authorities and parents to improve education? Are they just going to hold hands and sing "Kum ba ya"? Are they going to close their eyes and wish really hard? Are they going to cross their fingers and hope that Tinkerbell will somehow magic a better education system into place? Why can the Opposition not give us a single solid idea for reforming our schools system? It is because they have abandoned reform and instead prefer the opportunism of opposition.
Mr David Ward (Bradford East) (LD): Now will the Secretary of State answer the question: is it £2.5 billion on top of cash balances or is it £2.5 billion in real terms on top of what schools are now receiving?
Michael Gove: It is £2.5 billion on top of the cash settlement that schools have been given. It is a real-terms increase in schools spending and £3.6 billion overall. [Interruption.] I think that the hon. Member for Bradford East (Mr Ward) is probably off to celebrate the good news. The truth is that this spending could not have been delivered by the Opposition, because they were not committed to taking the tough decisions that we have taken in order to invest in schools spending.
Bill Esterson: Is the truth not that the Institute for Fiscal Studies figures clearly show that because of increasing pupil numbers this will amount to a 2.25% cut in real terms-not an increase, but a cut-and that the most disadvantaged areas will lose out as a result of the proposals that the Secretary of State wants to introduce on the pupil premium?
Michael Gove: Absolutely not. Schools spending will rise in real terms over the lifetime of the coalition Government. That was not a promise that the Opposition were able to give; they could promise only to increase spending over two years. As I say, we are also extending 15 hours of pre-school learning to all disadvantaged two-year-olds-the Government of the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath were not able to deliver that. We are also giving £150 million to help disadvantaged students from poorer backgrounds to make it to university.
Mr Graham Stuart: The Opposition are complaining about any possible changes to areas of deprivation, but it is not areas that we need to be concerned about-areas of Sheffield that were some of the wealthiest in the country were getting additional money. What we need to do is ensure that money follows the pupil. The gap between children on free school meals and the rest is wider in the East Riding of Yorkshire, including my constituency, than in any other part of the country. We need a pupil premium that follows children wherever they live, so that we have a more just system that does narrow that gap, which sadly widened under the previous Government.
Michael Gove: My hon. Friend makes a good point and we need to narrow the gap. The gap between children who are eligible for free school meals and other children across the country is far too wide. We need to ensure that disadvantaged children receive additional funding, and under the coalition Government they will receive such funding on top of the dedicated schools grant that was not going to be delivered by the Opposition.
The change in Opposition policy since 2005 has been remarkable. A party that was once committed to education reform is now committed to putting the clock back. It is those on this side of the House who are investing more money in the education of the poorest, who are recruiting more great teachers into our most disadvantaged schools, who are changing the policy on discipline, who are reforming the allocation of funds for children with special educational needs, who have ensured that academies admit children with special educational needs on a level
playing field, who have extended the Freedom of Information Act to academies, and who are ensuring that vulnerable children at last receive the opportunities they deserve. It is those on this side of the House who are at last trusting teachers and head teachers to do what they have yearned to do for 13 years-to take control of the education system and to transform it in the interests of all our children. For those reasons, I invite the House to reject the Opposition motion.
Mr Speaker: Order. A large number of Members want to take part in the debate and, as usual, time is our enemy. I have therefore decided to reduce the length of Back-Bench speeches from seven minutes to a maximum of six minutes from now on.
Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): I support the Opposition motion. The Secretary of State evaded interventions from me and from several others on the Labour Benches after he said that we were "angry" that the coalition Government were introducing a pupil premium. May I inform him that the Labour Government had a pupil premium? I do not know if it was as well worked through as it should have been; it was an early policy introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett) that was absorbed and no longer ring-fenced when Charles Clarke became Secretary of State. There was a pupil premium, but I would challenge the Secretary of State. He knows that the Opposition want more resources to follow people from deprived backgrounds. If he is honest with the House and in his intellectual engagement with the debate, he also knows that the most difficult thing is to find a method of ensuring that the money tracks the right people.
The Secretary of State will find it difficult, as we did with Sure Start children's centres. We started, as he knows, with 500 in the 500 most deprived communities, but we then discovered that that left out most of the deprived children in our country so we moved the number up to 3,500. One of my concerns-and a concern of Members on both sides of the House when they talk frankly in private-is that we might see a drastic cut in the number of children's centres, based on the idea of going back to the original intention of having 500, which would exclude most children from deprived backgrounds. That has a parallel in the pupil premium. The Opposition are arguing that the way in which the Government propose to introduce the premium means that it will fail to reach the children who are most deprived, because it is not well crafted. We understand that it is difficult for any Government to ensure that such methods work.
The one thing in the Opposition motion that I found difficult to swallow was the mention of ideology. I honestly fail to see what the Government's ideology is. I do not see a consistent theme running through their education policy. There are bits and bobs of ideas, some of them refreshing and interesting, but when it comes to others I, and other people who have been in education for a long time, do not understand where they are coming from or where they are leading us.
As Chair of the Select Committee for nearly 10 years, I found it refreshing when a Minister came before the Committee and said that the reason for introducing a policy was that it was evidence-based. One of the most refreshing things about Tony Blair in his 1995 conference speech, in his Ruskin speech in 1996 and when he put that speech into operation in 1997, was that he was both pragmatic and open to evidence-based policy. We saw that across a raft of policies, but when the Committee looked at how policies evolved, we found that when Ministers left the evidence base they got into trouble.
The present Government seem to be basing their whole education policy on something called the big society. Many people have talked to me about what the big society means. It is very difficult to find out. What is the big society? Is it localism? It is a funny sort of localism that jumps over and disregards locally elected education authorities. That is a very different kind of localism.
How do we know that people who want free schools represent the community? We have already heard evidence that there have been some strange bids. I am not sure that the answers we heard today about faith schools were entirely convincing.
Graham Evans: Before the general election, Labour Members supported co-operative schools. Can the hon. Gentleman tell me the difference between the co-operative schools project and the Government's free schools project?
Mr Sheerman: I was, and am, a great supporter of co-operative partnership in academies. I was a great supporter of academies, but I understood exactly what the argument for academies was under the previous Government. Under Tony Blair, it was to take first 200, and then a further 400, schools where everything else had been tried; they were usually in areas of great deprivation and everything that had been done to try to raise standards had failed. We introduced academies where we thought it was worth trying something because nothing else had worked, but now the academy model has been inverted. It is no longer about where schools are failing and real help is necessary for kids, who get only one chance for education-where we need to act quickly because we cannot wait for a laggardly local authority to get its act together. We now have a system in which any school can become an academy, and I am not sure what its theme, goal or arrival point is.
The big society does not seem to be a substitute for evidence-based policy, or to involve a clear notion of where we are going with education policy. I shall illustrate that with just one point. My concerns are not only about Sure Start and early years, but also about the fact that there is now seemingly an end to the choice that was opening up. There was real choice in our schools-the apprentice route, the skills route through the diploma, or the academic route. That opening up, with the possibility to cross over, was very refreshing, but it seems to have been killed by the new Government.
Mr Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con):
It is a great pleasure to take part in the debate, although I must express some disappointment with the opening speech by the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), the shadow Secretary of State. It lacked a
contribution on how to improve our school system. There were improvements in our education system under the Labour Government; there is no question about that. In general, we have a motivated and high-calibre teaching work force, although of course they too could do with further improvement. There was nothing constructive in the right hon. Gentleman's speech.
When a party is thrown out after 13 years in government, there is a real opportunity to think again. One of the first things Labour Members should do is put their hands up on some of the issues. For Labour to have presided for 13 years over a widening of the gap between the educational outcomes for rich and poor, and a widening of the gap in the overall educational performance of the UK against its key competitors, is not something about which to be complacent or self-satisfied. Collectively, as a political class-although I was on the Opposition Benches-we failed to turn the vast increase in expenditure on education under the previous Government, and the political will that existed then, into sufficient progress for the poorest in our society, which one would have hoped would be delivered by Labour, and for the country overall.
Wrestling with the issues of bringing about improvement in our education system is what we should all be involved in, rather than trying to score points, especially as it is likely that the coalition Government and this Parliament will run for some years. Every party, not least the Opposition, should be dealing with the real issues, and should have a platform for improvement.
Mrs Jenny Chapman (Darlington) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman speaks about the good will of the Opposition and their desire to reduce inequality in education. Is it not true, however, that we do not yet know how successful our expenditure on reducing such inequality might be because, for example, children who started in a Sure Start centre when those first opened in my constituency are not yet 16, so we do not know what choices they will make?
Mr Stuart: The hon. Lady makes a fair point. Many of those initiatives, such as Sure Start, are being supported by this Government. The hon. Member for Nottingham North (Mr Allen) has been an ardent champion of early intervention and has helped Members in all parts of the House to recognise the need to intervene early in order to make sure that children arrive ready for school, and that they have a decent vocabulary so that they can engage with learning. There is merit in what the hon. Lady says, but even the most ardent supporter of the Labour Government would hardly suggest that the improvements that were wished for have genuinely been delivered.
I am pleased to follow my predecessor, the highly distinguished former Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), who said that he could not see an ideological base. I hope it is a practical evidence-based approach by the Government. It is clear that they believe that giving greater trust, responsibility and control to front-line professionals is more likely to lead to an improvement in standards than central prescription, however well-meaning. It is as obvious to me as the River Jordan that that is the key insight of this Government.
We must ensure that that process is well thought through, that we support front-line professionals, that capability is developed where it does not currently exist, and that it is put in place in time to match any withdrawal of support from local authorities or others who may previously have delivered it.
Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): The hon. Gentleman is speaking about the Government's wish to push more resources towards the front line, but in his opening remarks the Secretary of State talked about some of the most intractable areas of poverty and deprivation in the UK. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that directing resources to the front line and reconfiguring budgets alone will solve those problems, or that bigger, bolder schemes such as education maintenance allowances are required to tackle the deep-rooted poverty that causes that deprivation?
Mr Stuart: That, too, is a fair intervention. This is not the Government's sole policy area. They are also considering doubling the size of Teach First over the next three years, and have been in negotiation with Teach First about that. The essence of improving education standards is higher-calibre, better supported, better motivated, better led teachers in the classroom. That is what it is all about. That is the prism through which we should look at every decision that we make-which is why I welcome the Teach First approach.
It is not necessarily contradictory, though I can see that it may look hypocritical, to talk about reducing central prescription on what teachers may have, on the one hand, and on the other, raising the bar to those whom the state supports to go into teacher training so that the people coming in are better qualified.
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) is right to ask those questions. Tools alone will not deliver. What is needed, and what we have heard from head teachers and from the profession over the years, is that too much prescription, too much teaching to the test, too much narrowing of the curriculum-in other words, too much of what want on under the previous Government-took away the joie de vivre and the empowerment of front-line professionals. If we can bring that back, plus Teach First, put the tools in place, encourage ever better school leadership and school governance, which I hope the Select Committee will examine over time, we can move our education system on to a higher plane, and deliver what Members in all parts of the House want.
Knockabout-trying to suggest that Tories eat babies, or whatever those on the Opposition Front Bench seem to suggest-is not helpful. I believe that everyone in this House, regardless of party, came into politics because they would like to create a more just and fair society. This is not only about social justice. The forces of globalisation, which we cannot stop, and the suggestion in the Leitch report that there will be fewer and fewer jobs for people who do not have skills, make it an absolute economic necessity that we improve the skills of our young people. In response to the hon. Member for Darlington (Mrs Chapman), the truth is that we failed to make the progress that we should have done, and this Government feel that autonomy, plus their other measures, represent a better way to achieve that.
I want to make some brief remarks about Building Schools for the Future. My predecessor, the hon. Member for Huddersfield, who is chatting at the moment, knows full well that there is not the evidence to show that capital investment in schools leads to educational transformation. There is a link, but it is pretty small. Obviously, we all regret the fact that we cannot have brand-new schools where schools are not in an ideal state, but under BSF the allocation of money was out of proportion to the benefit given. Under this Government, more money will be spent on capital in schools in this Parliament than in the first two Parliaments of the Labour Government. Let us keep this in perspective. We need to recognise that nobody wants children to be in a school that is not in a good condition, but equally there is no evidence to show that the building itself, however inspiring the children may initially say it is when it opens, leads to the educational transformation that is at the real heart of improving outcomes, particularly for the poorest.
I should like to touch on the education maintenance allowance, which many other Members have mentioned. In the case of the EMA, unlike BSF, there is material evidence to show that it has helped young people from certain backgrounds to stay in education. I hope that Ministers will take that evidence very seriously and ensure that whatever they put in place does not artificially stifle that opportunity for people.
On the move from the current position to autonomy, we need to consider issues such as school sports trusts. I hope that Ministers, while generally believing in giving autonomy to schools and passing it down, will be careful to ensure that transitional arrangements, and sometimes funding, are in place so that things of value are not unnecessarily lost before they grow again from the grass roots.
Most of all, what we must have for this country is aspiration-aspiration to raise standards overall, and aspiration in believing that we can do so much better. So far, the shadow Secretary of State has been far more of an expert on health than on education, but I hope that he can start to express that Blairite aspiration of looking upwards, improving and challenging all the time, rather than simply defending the status quo, which is indefensible as it stands.
Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart). I welcome the measured tone of his remarks, particularly his final comments on the education maintenance allowance and school sports partnerships.
It is incumbent on Members in all parts of the House, but particularly Labour Members, to respond to the Secretary of State's challenge on continued inequality in education. It is clearly a scar on our society and our economy that someone's social background is still such a key determinant of how well they will do later on in life. However, I would appreciate it if he would acknowledge the serious efforts that Labour in power made to enact reforms that would make a difference to the situation, not least the academies programme. The Labour version of the academies programme was very much about dealing with deprivation and struggling and failing
schools in some of the poorest communities. The record in those academies since they were established over the past decade has been overwhelmingly positive and successful.
The education maintenance allowance also provides an excellent example of a Labour programme that has made a real difference, with more young people from poorer backgrounds achieving higher qualifications as a result of it and, crucially, more young people from those backgrounds staying on into higher education than happened previously. There is no question of Labour Members abandoning reform, and we now have an opportunity to consider the reforms that best take forward our principles in seeking a more equal society in future.
I want to address a couple of the specifics in the motion moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham). Labour's record on capital investment is an overwhelmingly positive one. It is a matter of concern that while the average cut in capital investment by Government Departments over the next period in the comprehensive spending review is 28%, the average cut for schools is more than double that, at 60%. That has real implications in constituencies such as mine. Schools that were going to benefit from wave 6 of Building Schools for the Future were let down in the summer and are still waiting to see what will happen in future. Liverpool city council has taken the sensible approach of trying to devise a plan B, and I urge the Secretary of State and his officials to work closely with Liverpool so that we can have such a plan. In the summer he gave an undertaking that he or one of his Ministers would come to Liverpool, and I repeat the invitation so that we can work together to secure the very best capital support for schools in my constituency and across the rest of Liverpool.
The principle behind the pupil premium is good. There is a genuine problem, which the hon. Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) mentioned, with pockets of deprivation in otherwise affluent areas. Sometimes, local government fails to redistribute funds to ensure that the affected schools get the money that they deserve. Our concern, as my right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State set out, is whether the pupil premium is to be additional money, and particularly whether schools in constituencies such as mine will directly lose out as a consequence of its introduction. Liverpool has the highest level of deprivation in England, and we need to ensure that our funding is properly protected so that we can build on the remarkable improvement in standards in Liverpool's schools since 1997.
Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab): My hon. Friend is discussing the pupil premium eloquently. Would he like to comment on a situation in my constituency? During the general election campaign the Liberal Democrat candidate was championing the pupil premium, at the same time as the Liberal Democrat council was closing schools in the most deprived areas.
Stephen Twigg: It is obviously shocking and unprecedented to hear an example of the Liberal Democrats saying one thing in one place and doing the opposite elsewhere. I am certainly very concerned by the example that my hon. Friend gives.
My concern is that there will be a triple blow for the poorest communities, including the one that I now represent: the loss of capital investment through Building Schools for the Future, potential revenue cuts because of the creation of the pupil premium, and the abolition of the EMA.
I wish to address two other specific matters in my remaining time. The first is the impact of the Government's decisions on sports, to which my right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State referred. There has been fantastic work by the Youth Sport Trust and school sports partnerships in the recent period. Moving away from specialist sports colleges is a fundamental error. It is wrong for the academic chances of the kids who go to those schools, bad for participation in sport and physical education and bad for health and the campaign against obesity.
In my constituency is the excellent Cardinal Heenan school, which is a specialist sports college. My right hon. Friend will be delighted to hear that it works closely with Everton football club to promote sport and PE not just in that school but in local primary schools. We need to learn from the positive examples of such schools. I recognise that removing ring-fencing can often be popular with schools in principle, but there is always a fear that if we move away from a national strategy and a targeted approach completely, the original objective of that strategy will be lost and we might see a reduction in participation in sport and PE. That would come at a time when, for health reasons, we need more participation, not less.
My final point is about citizenship education. As a Minister, I was proud to launch that as part of the core national curriculum. I know that the Government are reconsidering the national curriculum, and I should like to make a plea for citizenship to remain a core part of it. Members of all parties can unite in sharing concern about the decline in active involvement in communities and political literacy among young people.
The evidence suggests that the impact of citizenship education has been patchy, without any doubt, but Ofsted has shown that the best citizenship lessons are those taught by teachers with a specialist subject knowledge. My fear is that if citizenship education ceases to be part of the core national curriculum, fewer teachers will train in it and there will be a decline in its quality in our schools. I hope that the Minister who responds to the debate will be able to provide some reassurance that this Government, like the previous one, see citizenship education as a very important part of the curriculum.
All parties can agree that education is important for social justice and for our economic future. There is a real fear that the Government's policies could further widen the gap between the deprived and less deprived parts of the country through cuts in capital investment, the loss of the EMA and the impact of the pupil premium. I urge them to think again in those key policy areas.
Karen Lumley (Redditch) (Con):
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak in this very important debate. Education is vital not only to the future of our children and young people, but to the future of the UK as a whole. Our economy depends on nurturing the best
and brightest talents, and we should ensure that each and every child, no matter their background or social situation, has access to the very best education that we can provide.
I should like to declare my interest in this debate. I am chairman of governors of Vaynor first school, which is one of the largest first schools in the country with 408 pupils. The Secretary of State may remember visiting Vaynor with me a couple of years ago. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from its head teacher. She wrote:
"I could kiss Michael Gove! He has cancelled Financial Management Standards in Schools."
Although it would not be proper for me to echo both sentiments in that statement, I firmly support the Government's move to cancel needless micromanagement. As chairman of governors, I fully understand the issues surrounding fairer funding for our schools. The Government's long-term plans for a simpler funding system are welcome. There is a definite need to tailor funding for schools in each area, not base funding allocation on a complicated and arbitrary system that overlooks local needs.
There is also a large disparity between the funding allocated to similar schools in different areas of the country. It has not escaped my notice that the constituency of the Leader of the Opposition receives per pupil funding of £4,083; the constituency of the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr Denham) receives per pupil funding of £4,265; and even higher is the guaranteed per pupil funding of £4,317 for the constituency of the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson). Redditch, on the other hand, receives only £3,864. The schools of those right hon. Gentlemen who put forward today's motion receive on average almost £300 more than schools in my Redditch constituency.
Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): My hon. Friend makes a powerful point on behalf of the schools of Worcestershire. May I add one more statistic to her figures? There is a £760 per pupil gap in funding between pupils in Worcestershire and the neighbouring authority of Birmingham. Her constituency in Redditch and mine in Worcester include some of the most deprived wards in the country. Both were represented by Labour Members in this House for 13 years, and people in those communities were on a 13-year promise of fairer funding. Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming this Government's intention to review the funding formula? If Opposition Members turn their backs on funding reform, they will be turning their backs on some of the neediest communities in Worcestershire.
I agree with my hon. Friend. I urge the Government to ensure that funding is fair and that schools across the country have equal access to the piggy bank. I also welcome the Government's plans for the pupil premium and the £2.5 billion that has been found in these difficult economic times to support educational development of the most disadvantaged pupils. That shows a real commitment by this Government to reduce the attainment gap and ensure that each and every school pupil reaches their potential. However, we must ensure that the pupil premium goes to those who are most in need, and I urge the Government not to
overlook the pockets of deprivation that exist in Redditch and Worcester, the constituency of my hon. Friend. Will the Government clarify how the pupil premium will reach those pockets of deprivation?
Finally, I should like to say a few words about standards in schools. I should like to see standards raised in Redditch over the course of this Parliament. I firmly believe that the Government should focus on school standards-not just in a few schools but in all our schools. We need to ensure that teachers are free from the increasing bureaucracy and incessant form filling so that they can concentrate on teaching our children.
When I meet teachers and head teachers, one of the first things that they mention is the endless amounts of paperwork that they have to deal with. We need to move away, and stay away, from the bureaucratic procedures imposed on our school system and make sure that it is replaced by teachers spending more time with pupils. I received another e-mail yesterday, from another head teacher in my constituency, who wrote:
"Just to say I applaud the Government for abolishing this bureaucratic burden on schools. It is good to finally have a Government that listens".
On that note, I will finish my contribution. We in Redditch are trying hard to improve our schools and get the very best education for our children. I applaud the Government's proposals and hope that all hon. Members will make their schools and our nation's children their top priority.
Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): I welcome the contribution of the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), the Chair of the Select Committee, and his comments about the importance of investment in improving attainment and standards, but it is also important to recognise that the previous Labour Government not only put in the money but achieved results. I did not recognise the hon. Gentleman's characterisation of what happened. GCSE results and others improved, and there was a big increase in further and higher education results.
My family was fortunate enough to have access to Sure Start when a centre opened where we lived. It benefited not just my family but the other families who used it. They told me in great detail the difference that it had made to the younger children, when compared with older children who had not had such an opportunity in a Sure Start centre or in any other pioneering family centres that preceded it. The difference can be seen many years later in the attitudes, behaviour and achievement of the younger children, who are now teenagers, compared with their slightly older brothers and sisters, who had no such support in the early years. I know from that evidence the importance of Sure State to children who live in deprived areas, which explains people's concerns about Sure Start's future.
The Secretary of State did not answer the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) made about concerns regarding the future of Sure Start, but perhaps he will do so in his closing remarks. I know from my experience and that of many others who have benefited that, of all the previous Government's achievements, the improvement in the quality of lives and the outcomes for children and families, just through Sure Start, is beyond measure.
The education maintenance allowance benefited many young people who stayed in education. Indeed, the Liberal Democrats suggested in their manifesto that they understood that. They promised to support the EMA, as did the Conservatives, because they saw the improvement in staying-on rates, and the predicted decline by some organisations in staying on of 10% or 12% is worrying. In Sefton, 80% of young people receive EMA, and from talking to them I know the number who say that they will not bother going to college any more without the £30 or £50 a week is frightening. I hope the Government reconsider the limits they are placing on support to young people.
I asked the Secretary of State about the pupil premium, about which the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Library make similar points. The rise in the numbers of children going to school means that, despite the pupil premium and the increase in the overall money for schools, the real-terms effect is a cut for 87% of secondary schools and 60% of primary schools. That cannot be what the Secretary of State intended, and the impact on areas of deprivation, to which the hon. Member for Redditch (Karen Lumley) referred, is worrying.
I accept that we need to look after people in pockets of deprivation in the more affluent areas, but it is important to ensure that people in the larger areas of deprivation, such as those in Merseyside and our other large cities, are protected. Unless we do that, the outcomes and many other aspects of life for children who most need our help will decline significantly.
Graham Evans: My constituency is on the periphery of Merseyside and Cheshire. I want to address the needs of those in pockets of social deprivation, which you have just brushed aside. Those numbers add up. I appreciate, and have a lot of sympathy with, the issues that you have in Merseyside-indeed, I support your case-but you cannot ignore those numbers because when you put them into the comprehensive-
Mr Speaker: Order. First, the hon. Gentleman should not, by now, be using the word "you". Secondly, interventions should be brief, not mini-speeches. Other Members are waiting to contribute to the debate.
Bill Esterson: I shall close by addressing that point. I did say it is important that we look after those in pockets of deprivation, but it is crucial issue that we do not do so at the expense of much larger areas where, historically, we have had to invest money to support people because of the extreme deprivation.
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