It is a pleasure to open this debate on the spending of the Department for Education in my capacity as Chair of the Select Committee on Education. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for allowing the debate and particularly my colleagues on the Committee who are here in the Chamber for all the work they do alongside the Committee officials.
If we regard the NHS as the guardian of our health, we should regard education as the guardian of our future. Almost every citizen is affected by education. I welcome the positive announcements made by the Department recently, and there certainly seems to be no lack of initiatives from within the Sanctuary Buildings. However, I have some concerns that, across the Department’s remit, funding might be too atomised to be coherent and effective. There is an initiative here and an initiative there.
I am concerned that the Department’s estimate is not strategic enough to deliver the outcomes we need. Let me take, for example, the recent announcement on grammar schools. I am not against grammar schools—I believe in parental choice—but I am not sure why spending up to £200 million over the next two years on expanding grammar schools is more important than spending £200 million on looking after the most vulnerable pupils. We could look after hundreds of thousands of vulnerable pupils with tuition for 12 weeks a year and transform their life opportunities.