Education Settings: Autumn Opening

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:47 am on 2nd July 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education 11:47 am, 2nd July 2020

I congratulate the hon. Lady on her new role. I very much look forward to working with her on some of the great challenges that our nation faces over the coming months as we focus on the recovery for our education sector after this pandemic.

I assure the hon. Lady that it is important that the curriculum is full, broad and balanced and includes the arts and humanities, sports and so much else, because we recognise that to give children the best opportunity to succeed in life, they have to have that breadth of curriculum. We should not be seen to be dumbing down or reducing it. We have to give children choices; it is good for their future attainment and life chances, and for their mental health as well. They should have that breadth that is so vital for them to succeed.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the importance of those children with special educational needs and how we need to support and help them. We have seen some brilliant examples, especially in some of our special schools, which have gone so far and above in terms of help not just for children but for parents at this most difficult and challenging time. As all schools return, it is vital that it has to be clear that education, health and care plans are properly adhered to by local authorities. That is why we have got to have the proper and full return of those obligations that local authorities have to be held to.

I assure the hon. Lady that there is new money for the covid catch-up fund. We are looking forward to sharing more details on that with schools and will be looking forward to working with schools, as we have been working with the Education Endowment Foundation, to make sure that that money is properly channelled into the areas that are going to make a real difference to children.

It is right that everyone in the House recognises the challenges and the significant loss that children have suffered as a result of not being in school. That is why we have to bring all children back into school at the earliest possible opportunity. Equally, it is about making sure that the £1 billion is properly spent. That is why £350 million of it is being specially ring-fenced to make sure that it is going to children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. It will be focused on the evidence-based actions that we know will make a difference for those children.

In terms of consultation, we have and will continue to consult widely within the sector. We have established a school stakeholder group with the Trades Union Congress and other unions, but, more importantly, we have had a much wider dialogue with people, not just trade unions. We have consulted many other stakeholders and, most importantly, those who are delivering education on the ground. That is something we have continually been doing ever since the moment we had to close schools, and we will continue to do so as we move forward.