School Places

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th September 2018.

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Photo of Mary Robinson Mary Robinson Conservative, Cheadle 12:00 am, 10th September 2018

What steps his Department is taking to increase the number of good school places.

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

We have committed £7 billion to the delivery of new school places between 2015 and 2021, on top of our investment in the free schools programme. We are on track to create a million places between 2010 and 2020.

Photo of Mary Robinson Mary Robinson Conservative, Cheadle

Today, Laurus Cheadle Hulme, a newly built, state-of-the-art free school, opened its gates to a new cohort of students. Initially, it will provide 210 year 7 places. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the free schools programme is a hugely important part of the delivery of good schools in Cheadle and beyond, and will he join me in wishing those at Laurus Cheadle Hulme the very best of luck on their first day?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

I certainly do and will. This is one of the 53 free schools that have opened this month, bringing more good-quality places and more choice for parents. I congratulate the team at Laurus Cheadle Hulme on the school’s opening and look forward to hearing of their successes in the years to come.

Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

How many staff in the Secretary of State’s Department are working on free schools?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

Many different teams in the Department for Education work directly or indirectly on free schools, because they are an important and integral part of our school system.

Photo of William Wragg William Wragg Conservative, Hazel Grove

Will my right hon. Friend encourage the Stockport local education authority to support calls for a new stand-alone primary school in the Marple area of my constituency, to meet rising demand, rather than cramming new places into sites that are already full?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

I am not in the position to judge between those two points directly, but I very much agree with my hon. Friend that there are different ways to achieve expansion. Of course, the bulk of the expansion of school places comes from expanding existing schools, but there is also the possibility to create new schools through the free schools programme. The deadline for the next wave of free school applications is 5 November.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Labour, Chesterfield

A few years ago, Brookfield Community School in Chesterfield was an outstanding local authority-run school. Because of the financial pressure the Government put on the school to become an academy, it has done so, but just a few weeks ago it was rated as “requiring improvement” and the academy arrangements have now been sacked. Will the Secretary of State recognise that outstanding schools can be run by local authorities and academies, drop the ideology, and let schools stay as local authority-run if that is what they want to do? The ideology hurts parents, pupils and teachers.

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

I have always recognised—and said as much—that we can of course find excellent education provision in a number of different models, as well as academies. Overall, the academies programme has been a great force for good. Something like half a million pupils are now studying in sponsored academies that are rated good or outstanding, and those academies typically replaced underperforming schools.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Conservative, North West Leicestershire

Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the fact that 91% of all the new school places created between 2016 and 2017 were in schools that were rated either good or outstanding?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

I very much agree with my hon. Friend on that; of course, he has a new and particular interest in and concern about the future of the next generation, and I congratulate him on that. It is very important that we are creating a million new school places this decade—that is the biggest expansion in school capacity for at least two generations. It is vital that we do that in good and outstanding schools, where possible.

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

Last time at Education questions, I highlighted the damning evidence from Ofsted’s own figures that showed that it rated schools by deprivation, rather than by the quality of teaching and learning. On Friday, we learned from the Public Accounts Committee that Ofsted does not listen sufficiently to parents and has failed to provide accurate information to Parliament. Does the Secretary of State now agree that Ofsted is not fit for purpose and that it is time for root and branch reform?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

I do not agree with that. Ofsted does a very worthwhile and high-quality job, which is reflected in the fact that, for parents, Ofsted reports are the second most significant piece of information about schools, after only location. People trust the judgments that they get from Ofsted, and it is the only body that is in a position to make an overall judgment on the quality and breadth of education, alongside the results.