Improving Education Standards

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

Alert me about debates like this

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

I will always be grateful to the hon. Gentleman for opening doors for me. He did ask who I worked for, and I was pleased to say, “The people of Harborough, Oadby and Wigston.” When MPs start to look younger, perhaps it is a sign that one is becoming more mature and statesmanlike. As I said, school funding is going up in Leicestershire, and going up twice as fast as the national average, which is hugely welcome.

The early years agenda has not been neglected. We will have spent a record £6 billion by 2020, covering: the 30 hours free offer, which will be very helpful to many people, the tax-free childcare and, particularly, that extra free childcare for disadvantaged two-year-olds.

In addition to those headline reforms, there have been many other less visible, but hugely important improvements in our schools. One of them has already been mentioned. I believe that it was an important and positive reform when the Government ended the right of appeal against exclusion because that helped to protect teachers and helps those pupils who want to get on and learn from disruption and violence. I have every sympathy with Labour Members who say that we must improve pupil referral units. I started my contribution by talking about bullying and order in our schools. However, I hope that the Government will not backslide and do anything to weaken schools’ ability to maintain order.

I had a lot of sympathy with some of the comments of Vicky Foxcroft and of my hon. Friend Jeremy Lefroy. We must improve provision for those who could be in a pipeline towards prison. I have visited prisons and worked with the homeless. It is absolutely true that some of these people’s careers begin with school exclusion. However, this must not come at the expense of increasing disorder for those who want to learn. Young people do have agency and need to behave responsibly. I am afraid that I do not agree with the idea of a zero exclusions policy, or taking away schools’ freedom to exclude altogether.

Another important reform that is perhaps less visible—