Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:01 pm on 8th March 2017.

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Photo of Suella Fernandes Suella Fernandes Conservative, Fareham 6:01 pm, 8th March 2017

I agree entirely. The facts and figures and the behaviour in our economy since the referendum reflect the strength and resilience of our consumers, our economy and our businesses. That is laying the ground for a successful future as we leave the European Union.

My second point relates to education and skills. Education is the engine of aspiration and one of the core reasons that I am a Conservative. I believe in self-improvement, personal responsibility and hard work. This Conservative Government have notable achievements, such as 1.8 million children now being in good or outstanding schools. Of course, the job is not done. Much of that success can be linked to the free schools revolution. Today, we have seen £320 million of capital investment to create new free schools and extend this success story, which is empowering teachers and improving standards in schools. Some 70,000 new school places will be created following today’s announcement.

As someone who co-founded, set up and now chairs a free school, I am a fan of them. I have seen in the three years in which I have founded and chaired Michaela Community School, in an area of deprivation in inner-city London, how our teachers have been freed to pioneer new teaching methods and how they have gained more power and autonomy over their spending, curriculum and teaching methods. We are seeing fantastic results.

Free schools work. They perform above average: 28% of free schools inspected by Ofsted have been graded outstanding, compared with 14% of those maintained by the council. Free schools are popular among parents: secondary free schools attract, on average, 3.5 applicants per place, compared with 2.3 applications to maintained schools. Free schools are not just for the middle class: two thirds of free schools have opened in deprived areas. They are also cost-effective, as the National Audit Office found recently. Free schools signify a revolution in education, liberating teachers and communities to deliver high quality, high expectations and high standards for their children.

That leads me to selection and grammar schools. We know that grammar schools also work very well, with 90% of them being good or outstanding. The Select Committee on Education has examined considerable evidence of their effectiveness in achieving high progress rates for their children. In the Netherlands, selection takes place at 12 and it does better than us in the PISA tables, which shows that selection is compatible with good results. The Sutton Trust has showed that there would be no adverse effect on non-grammar schools and ResPublica recently commissioned an independent study that showed that a grammar school would have a transformative effect on a deprived area like Knowsley.

I am a Conservative because I believe in aspiration, in rewarding effort and in fairness. The Budget reflects those values and I am pleased to support it.