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Department for Education

Part of Supplementary Estimate 2018-19 – in the House of Commons at 4:59 pm on 26th February 2019.

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Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton Minister of State (Education) 4:59 pm, 26th February 2019

I do not have much time, so if my right hon. Friend will forgive me, I will not.

My hon. Friend Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown raised the issue of exclusions. We are not complacent, but I should point out that the number of exclusions reached a peak in 2008. Layla Moran raised a specific issue about local schools and academies. I think it is a mistake always to blame structures, but I understand her underlying point about accountability, which is so important.

My hon. Friend Tim Loughton—although he was corrected slightly by Meg Hillier, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee—raised the important issue of children’s social care. He drew attention to the key role that early years education and care play in the eventual outcomes for young people. He made a predictably powerful speech. I worked with him when I was in the Department of Health, and I am extremely pleased to see him continuing his excellent work, albeit from the Back Benches. I know he has also been a champion for his local schools and their funding, as indeed has my hon. Friend Will Quince, who reiterated similar issues. He raised one thing that has long been a bugbear of mine: the need for more certainty in budgets. He mentioned three-year rolling budgets, but whatever it is we are talking about something that gives organisations certainty.

I have already met Karin Smyth and she raised the issue of inequality and social mobility and the importance of local industrial strategies. She, like the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, highlighted the need for us to have an articulate and adequate clear vision for further education. I am sure she is aware that Bristol is one of the five cities in our “5 cities” project trying to increase diversity in apprenticeships. I met a woman recently in Bristol who demonstrated exactly what can be achieved through apprenticeships. [Interruption.] She was a single parent, and I am sorry hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench find this amusing, but I found it very moving: she had been unemployed for 10 years and had a small child, and because of that project she had got a level 2 apprenticeship and was really proud of what she had achieved, and proud that her daughter was now proud of what her mother was doing.

My hon. Friend Richard Graham has been a huge champion of further education and rightly pointed out the need for much greater emphasis on levels 4 and 5; we are looking at that at the moment. He also recognised the need to increase the number of people undertaking qualifications at that level.

I know Emma Hardy always tries to be helpful and it is always a pleasure to hear her contribution, and she rightly pointed out the inequalities that exist from those with sharp elbows fighting those tribunals.

We are investing an additional £1.6 billion in schools this year and next over and above the funding confirmed at the 2015 spending review. This significant additional investment means core funding for schools and high needs will rise from almost £41 billion in 2017 to £43.5 billion in ’19-20.

We recognise the cost pressures that schools, nurseries and further education are under, but the Government have achieved a huge amount since 2010: 1.9 million more children are being taught in good or outstanding schools; the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils has shrunk by 10%; a record proportion of disadvantaged students are going to university; and we now have a truly world-class technical education offer through T-levels and high quality apprenticeships. There is massive reform in apprenticeships which has a life-changing impact. There has also been £100 million into the national retraining scheme, a partnership between the Government, the TUC and the CBI.

I am a lucky Minister to be able to contribute to debates that are often so well considered and passionate and I will never cease to be grateful to all those involved in education at every level. We all want the same thing: that whoever you are, wherever you are born and whoever you know, everyone has the chance to get on in life, and get a rewarding career and a job.

We on the Government Benches will not play party political games with education, but put children, young people and adults and education first and foremost, and we will not shirk the difficult decisions sometimes needed to make sure we achieve that end. Party political rhetoric has no place in a debate like this; it is, as many Members have said, the outcomes for those we serve that matter.