Improving Education Standards

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 2:46 pm on 29th November 2018.

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Photo of Gordon Marsden Gordon Marsden Shadow Minister (Education) 2:46 pm, 29th November 2018

I hear what the hon. Gentleman has to say, but the fact is that we know that 10,000 people are off-rolled. At this stage in the proceedings, I think that we need to bell the cat, but I take his point.

Jim Shannon rightly drew attention to the different system in Northern Ireland, including the results in secondary school qualifications, and his concerns about small schools having to buy basic materials.

Finally, the hon. Member for Hendon talked about the diverse nature of his constituency and, very interestingly, about outer-London issues and tier 2 visas. I had the privilege of living in Golders Green for two years as a postgraduate. I am not sure whether that is in his constituency, but it is very near it, so I understand what he said about the difference between the Brent Cross and west Hendon areas, and I know, even after a long period, that those differences remain.

Educational standards are a priority across all ages and all sectors. They are not made in a day, but young people must be able to have a good start in life. That is why we need to focus on those early years, yet this Government have a hugely patchy record in that area. I am afraid that the Schools Minister did not even mention early years in his speech. My colleagues the shadow Education Secretary, my hon. Friend Angela Rayner, and my hon. Friend Tracy Brabin have tirelessly argued against this Government’s record. Research by the Sutton Trust shows that over 1,000 Sure Start centres have been lost since 2010. More centres are operating on a part-time basis and the number of services has fallen. Parents are paying the price for that and for the Government underfunding the 30-hour offer. According to the Pre-school Learning Alliance, only around one third of childcare providers are delivering 30-hour places completely free.

On Sure Starts, in my constituency in Blackpool, where we have had huge cuts in local government funding, we have had to bear the brunt of this. I remember a Sure Start in Mereside where I met a young woman three times: the first time, she was using the Sure Start; the second time, she had graduated to being an assistant at the Sure Start; and the third time, she was training to be a primary school teacher. That sort of progression has been lost in the hollowing out of Sure Starts by the Government.