Timpson Review of School Exclusion

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:34 pm on 7th May 2019.

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Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education 5:34 pm, 7th May 2019

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. I agree with her, of course, that we need the education system to be resourced in the way that it needs to be to have good outcomes for every child, with every child being able to live up to their full ability. I also agree with her about the links between different public agencies and, indeed, the whole of our society in helping to support some of these children.

The hon. Lady asks about improving and funding alternative provision. The high needs budget has risen significantly in the past few years. The proportion of that which has gone to AP has stayed broadly the same. As she will know, the cost-per-place in AP is considerably higher than it is in mainstream. The quality of AP is also typically higher. We know from Ofsted reports that we have a percentage in the mid-80s for the number of AP settings being rated as good or outstanding. I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the amazing people who run some of these AP settings and the staff who work in them. The key to continued improvement in AP is getting more high-quality people to want to work there, which is a theme we will have to come back to again and again.

The hon. Lady asks whether we have a proposed approach on accountability. She will not be surprised to hear that we have talked about a number of potential approaches. Obviously, I think that some have more potential than others, but I am also conscious that there is a big risk of unintended consequences when we change anything to do with the system in education—she will have seen that. We need to get this right, which is why I have committed to working closely with the sector to make sure we co-design the system.

The hon. Lady also asks about off-rolling and whether schools would be held to account for off-rolled pupils. Off-rolling is not legal. It should not be happening, and we need to make sure it does not happen. Some people say that there are shades of grey and it is not always clear what is allowable and what is not, so we will tighten up the guidance to make sure that there is far less room for interpretation and it is clear when it is allowable for a child to be moved out of school and when it is not. Through Ofsted, and the new framework, a spotlight will be shone on cases where it is believed that off-rolling may be taking place.

The hon. Lady talks about the gap between Ofsted inspections. Of course a number of different triggers can lead to an Ofsted inspection happening more quickly, and it is right that Ofsted has that range available to it.

I agree with the hon. Lady that every child deserves an excellent education that fosters ambition and helps them to make the very most of their potential, whether they are in mainstream or AP. If they move from one to the other, what happens at that moment might make the biggest single difference to the entire rest of their lives.