Improving Education Standards

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:53 pm on 29th November 2018.

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Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford 12:53 pm, 29th November 2018

I would be happy to do so. I cannot claim I would add much to it, but perhaps I would learn a lot from it.

I am going to conclude, because I have detained the House for long enough, but I wish to make two final points. First, as has been mentioned, out-of-school activities, whether conducted by teachers or by others, are essential. We could be talking about clubs, which have been given a hard time in the past few years, but in my constituency are now largely run by churches and other voluntary organisations. We could be talking about sports clubs—we have some excellent sports clubs in my constituency. We could be talking about music and drama—I have some excellent youth theatre groups in my constituency. We could be talking about outdoor activities, which I have great passion for, having run a Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme for a number of years in London, or about young enterprise. That is just to mention a few, but they are essential. Whether they are conducted within schools or outside them, by teachers or by others who are committed to young people, we have to ensure that they are supported.

Unless young people have those opportunities—all young people, including those whose parents find it difficult to take them, and not just those whose parents want them to go—they will miss out on so much in this great country of ours. I am fortunate to live in Staffordshire, where, as my hon. Friend Sir William Cash knows, we are within an hour or two of some of the most beautiful countryside on earth. Indeed, we live among some of it, let alone within an hour or two of it. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend Amanda Milling is looking at me and wants to me to mention Cannock Chase, so of course I will. It is beautiful, and a lot of outdoor activities take place there.

The final point I wish to make is a serious one about exclusions from school. There has been a sharp rise in Staffordshire and, I believe, in other parts of the country. I can understand why that happens—schools and teachers are under a lot of pressure, and if they find that young people are being disruptive for whatever reason, including pressures at home, excluding them becomes an option that, if not easy, is perhaps easier than it has been in the past. First, I do not believe it is right that schools should be put in that position, and I am not blaming the schools for it. Secondly, it is putting a great deal of pressure on pupil referral units and other places, including parents at home.

I ask the Minister to address that point. I ask her to look at the issue of exclusions nationally and ensure that when Ofsted assesses pupil referral units, it ensures that they are not judged against standards they find impossible to maintain. In Staffordshire, we have pupil referral units that are being asked to provide more and more time per pupil, and I fully agree with that, but they are being asked to do so with limited resources. That results in more antisocial behaviour. In Stafford, it has resulted in attacks on teachers, who are being put into danger. As a result, they have to take action, which means reducing the time per pupil again, then they get attacked by Ofsted by not having sufficient time per pupil. I would like the Government to look into that, because it is a very serious issue. I am not sure whether it is peculiar to Staffordshire, or whether it happens across the country—