Improving Education Standards

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:10 pm on 29th November 2018.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education) 12:10 pm, 29th November 2018

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered improving education standards.

Since May 2010, the Government have been determined to drive up academic standards. Our overarching objective has been to ensure that every local school is a good school with a rigorous curriculum, higher standards of reading and maths, and with GCSE and A-level qualifications that are on a par with the qualifications used in the best performing countries in the world. Our drive has been to close the attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their more advantaged peers.

In 2010, just 66% of pupils were attending schools judged by Ofsted to be good or outstanding; today, that figure is 84%. We focused on improving behaviour in schools by clarifying the powers that teachers have in the classroom, by scrapping the absurd law that Labour had introduced requiring 24 hours’ written notice for detention for a pupil, and we prevented headteachers’ decisions over expulsions from being undermined by giving them the final say over the return of a pupil. We clamped down on poor attendance and increased the fines for parents who failed to send their children to school. We expanded the academies programme to allow any good school, including primary schools, to opt for the professional autonomy that comes with academisation, and we expedited the route to sponsored academy status for those schools that were seriously underperforming.

There are now over half a million pupils in sponsored academies rated good or outstanding—those schools typically had been chronically underperforming, so that means over half a million pupils receiving a better education. Such schools include Great Yarmouth High School, which was judged inadequate by Ofsted in 2016. It converted to sponsored academy status in 2017 and was taken over by the multi-academy Inspiration Trust with a new headteacher, Barry Smith. Within a year, the school had been transformed. In May this year, Nicholas Marshall, an academic from Sheffield Hallam University wrote:

“Numerous teachers and support staff alike mentioned that the standards of pupil behaviour in the predecessor school were appalling and dangerous and how they had felt threatened. This was not now the case.”

He went on to write:

“The support staff…recounted stories in the predecessor school of large groups of students running around the school and disrupting learning, with adults being treated with gross disrespect and threatened.”

That has all changed. Ofsted now reports that bullying has declined and that lessons take place in a calm and orderly environment.

In 2017, the predecessor school, Great Yarmouth High School, had a Progress 8 score of minus 0.57, in the bottom 12% of schools nationally, with only 6% of pupils achieving the EBacc at grade 4 and just 30% achieving a grade 4 or above in English and maths. Now, just a year after conversion to academy status, Great Yarmouth Charter Academy has 55% achieving a grade 4 or above in English and maths in its provisional GCSE results, and it intends that to rise further still.

At Downhills Primary School in Haringey in 2011, just 63% of pupils were achieving the expected standard in the old SATs in reading, writing and maths combined, compared with the national average at the time of 79%.[This section has been corrected on 12 December 2018, column 2MC — read correction] The school was judged inadequate, and in 2012, became a sponsored academy in the Harris Federation multi-academy trust. This move was bitterly opposed by the National Union of Teachers, but today, the school is judged as good by Ofsted, 78% of its pupils are achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in the new more demanding SATS, compared with the national average of 61%, and 82% of its pupils are reaching the expected standard in the new reading SATs.