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

I am grateful to the hon. Lady, as she has managed to put the point that I was trying to make more clearly than I was able to.

Opposition Members and my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford have already touched on the issue of funding for sixth-form colleges. Clearly, there is a very odd shape of funding—there is this drop-off at sixth form. On the productivity in our schools and the bad consequences of that, I think sixth-form colleges are actually our most efficient type of school. They achieve the highest results, even though they do not benefit from the £1 billion a year internal transfer within schools as school sixth forms do. It is sort of obvious why they are so effective: instead of having an A-level class with two people in it, there are classes with 30 kids in them, like the classes in the college that I attended. If we changed funding for sixth-form colleges and that stage of education more generally, it would help to level the playing field, and I think we would see a lot more sixth-form colleges.

I have probably detained the House too long already, but if it is acceptable to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will mention two last things. We have already touched on the issue of smartphones and social media. There is so much potential to improve education. I know that the new Minister at the Department is passionate and is pushing the exciting things that are going on in edu-tech. But it also has the potential to disrupt and cause problems in our classrooms. I am a strong supporter of the idea already mentioned and the work that is going on in the Science and Technology Committee on the effect of smartphones and social media on young people’s mental health. I am a strong supporter of having a national campaign to limit and control the use of smartphones in class. There is an excellent London School of Economics study based on a randomised control trial that shows that there is a substantive increase in GCSE performance in schools that introduced a ban on smartphones in class. I agree with the Government that we should not have a one-size-fits-all national policy —I do not think we should do exactly what France has done—but I would love to see a national campaign to help schools to put in lockers and to adopt other policies to get smartphones out of the classroom, because they can be distracting in class and they are also sometimes distracting at home. Children arrive at school tired because they have been on a Snapchat streaks feature until 1 o’clock in the morning. There is lots of bad practice by our social media companies which are aiming to addict and to take up young people’s attention.

I think that I have covered all the things I wanted to cover in my speech. I am incredibly grateful to the various hon. Members who helped me to get through it.