The key to success is strengthening the technical education routes, as I have said. Having longevity in the strategy, as was done in Lord Sainsbury’s work, is absolutely critical in giving us an architecture around which we can now build a strategy and, as we saw in the Budget, in which we can now invest. As the hon. Lady says, it is important to ensure that the whole education system fits together. That is why it is so important, as we create more national colleges and institutes of technology, that we talk with further education colleges—they will be at the centre of all this—and also with universities. Universities of course already offer degrees in areas like engineering, but they can clearly offer more applied learning and more technical education routes for many young people. As she says, we have to make sure that that fits together.
Indeed, we want to increase the quality and availability of higher-level technical education, so that technically gifted students can continue their studies beyond the age of 19. One of our challenges is that not only are the lower rungs of the technical education ladder not as high quality as on the academic route, but there are not really the higher rungs for young people to aim for and to climb successfully. The Government’s new national colleges and institutes of technology will make sure that there are world-class institutions at which to study higher level technical qualifications.
From September 2019, we will introduce maintenance loans for students studying level 4 or higher qualifications at these institutions. This will mean that for them, just as for university students, our best technical minds will not be limited by financial circumstances or place. This approach is just as much about parity between places as it is about parity between people. Nearly three quarters of young people in Barnsley follow a technical path, while less than one quarter do so in Kensington and Chelsea. By levelling up technical education—putting it on a par with academic routes, with reform, investment and focus—we can steadily erase regional inequalities and make sure that the door of opportunity for young people in all parts of the country, whatever education route they choose that fits them, is firmly kept open.
Building opportunity and a strong economy is about having good school places as well as skills. Good schools are the foundation of economic success and social mobility. This Government are resolute in our pursuit of more good school places in every part of the country, especially where they are most needed, to power higher educational attainment. That is why almost 1.8 million more children are in good or outstanding schools compared with 2010. That means, critically, that 1.8 million more young people are getting a better start in attempting to reach their potential. However, 1 million pupils are still in schools judged by Ofsted to be inadequate or to require improvement, so there is more work to do.
Alongside the £5 million a year of investment in skills, the Budget delivers £320 million of investment to fund over 70,000 places in up to 110 new free schools, on top of the 500 free schools we have committed to deliver by 2020. That includes funding for specialist maths schools, building on the successes of the outstanding Exeter Mathematics School, which I had the privilege of being able to visit recently, and King’s College London Mathematics School, which the Prime Minister has visited. Every child in every part of the country needs access to a fantastic school place, so we have to plan ahead and leave no stone unturned in pursuit of those places.