Improving Education Standards

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 1:27 pm on 29th November 2018.

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Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Conservative, Harborough 1:27 pm, 29th November 2018

One thing we can do to improve standards in schools is to stamp out bullying. I wish to start by talking about an incident in Huddersfield involving a young Syrian refugee, Jamal, and the appalling bullying that he has suffered. Members from all parties will have been appalled by what they have seen. I was particularly appalled because it happened literally two minutes’ walk from where I grew up. I encourage the Minister, in her winding-up speech, to talk a little about that incident and about what the Government are doing to stamp out bullying. I shall come back to the point about order in schools, which is really important. When I saw the video, I was reminded of too much of the disorder that I saw in schools when I was growing up there. It is the same kids and the same problem, and it is important for the agenda of improving standards in education. The one positive thing that I can report is that since the news of this appalling incident went online, people have raised more than £100,000 for the family in a crowdfunding campaign. Some other goods things have happened, such as the Huddersfield Town goalkeeper inviting Jamal to a match. A lot of people are coming together to demonstrate that people in this country are not idiots and are actually kind to refugees and welcome them here.

Much of my speech will be about some of the things that we could change or do differently in education, and I shall start with some positive things. I wish to pay tribute to some important people in the Labour party who have driven the agenda in respect of improving school standards. I pay particular tribute to Andrew Adonis, whose magnificent book on reforming England’s education is an absolute must-read. I was reminded of that book the other day when I read a piece by an education academic slating an unnamed school in, I think, London. This school, it is rumoured online, is Mossbourne Academy, which was used by Andrew Adonis as an example par excellence of what Labour’s academies agenda had achieved. The school, Hackney Downs, had been a failure factory—a disaster area—for working-class kids for generations and it was turned into one of the highest performing schools in the country. This cowardly academic attack on the school, which is not named so the school cannot respond, is full of cod-Marxist jargon. It slates a school that has clearly turned around the lives of thousands and thousands of working-class kids and given them many more opportunities than they would otherwise have had. It was just an appalling piece for Cambridge University to have published.

Let me turn to some of the positives in the education reform agenda. The proportion of pupils in good or outstanding schools, which has already been mentioned, has increased from 66% to 86% since 2010. Good things such as the national fair funding formula have been introduced. In my Leicestershire constituency that is particularly welcome as, historically, it has been very underfunded. Total school funding is going up twice as fast as the national average over the next two years—the first two years of the formula—which is very welcome.