With permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will make a statement regarding the latest phase of our education recovery programme.
Helping our children recover from the impact of the pandemic is an absolute priority. Pupils, parents and staff have all experienced disruption, and we know that continuous actions are required to help recover lost learning. That is why we have already made provision available to support children to catch up. As a result, a quarter of a million children will receive tutoring this year who would not have been able to access it beforehand; over half a million pupils will be able to attend summer schools; and schools have access to both a catch-up and a recovery premium to enable them to assess what will help their pupils catch up on lost learning and to make provision available to ensure that they do so.
The evidence we have shows that disadvantaged children and those who live in areas that have been particularly hard hit by high covid rates, such as the north-east of England and Yorkshire, are among those whose learning is most likely to have been affected. We have always been clear that we will continue to take the action that is required. That is why we continue to pledge significant packages of investment and targeted intervention to help them to make up on their lost learning. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sir Kevan Collins for his contribution to these efforts, his thoughts and his inputs over the past few months.
Last week, I announced the details of the next step in our efforts to ensure that children and young people catch up after the disruption of the pandemic and to support our ongoing education recovery plans. We have announced an additional programme of extra help and support, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, which focuses on areas that we already know are going to be most effective. They are high-quality tutoring and more effort, more work and more programmes to support great teaching. This brings our total recovery package to more than £3 billion. The lion’s share of this new money—£1 billion of it—will fund a tutoring revolution, delivering 6 million 15-hour tutoring courses for schoolchildren and the equivalent of 2 million 15-hour courses for 16 to 19-year-olds who need additional support to catch up. Year 13 pupils will also have the option to repeat their final year where this is appropriate.
The evidence shows that one course of high-quality tutoring has been proven to boost attainment by three to five months, so additional tutoring will be vital for young people in recovering the teaching hours lost in the past year. This represents a huge additional teaching resource, putting it among the best tutoring schemes in the world. It means that tutoring will no longer be the preserve of the most affluent but will instead go to those who need it most and who can get the most benefit from it. Schools will be able to provide additional tutoring support using locally employed tutors, and that will build on the successful national tutoring programme, which is on target to provide a quarter of a million children with tutoring in its first year.
I can also tell the House that it is not just data that shows us that tutoring works; we are seeing the positive impact on children at first hand. As we go around the country, speaking to children in different schools, we hear how it is helping them to learn, to catch up and to achieve the very best of themselves. We hear time and again how these activities are helping young people to make up for the time they lost through not being in school. It is also giving them the increased confidence and self-esteem that they develop through the extra tutoring and the extra attention.
I have said that we are determined to fund these catch-up activities based on the evidence of what works, and the next stage of our recovery plan will include a review of time spent in school and college and the impact that that could have on helping children and young people to catch up. Schools already have the power to set the length of the school day, but there is a certain amount of disparity in approach across the sector. I know it is not just the Government who are thinking about the length of the school day; it is an important issue with so much catching up still to do. When that is the case, I question whether it is justifiable that some schools send their children home at 2.45 pm when others keep them in for much longer. The findings of the review will be set out later in the year to inform the spending review, and a broad range of reforms and changes to our school system will be set out.
I said that we would be concentrating this huge investment on two areas that we know work, and the second of them is to give our teachers more professional support. Teachers have done so much for children in the pandemic. Now it is time for us to do even more for those teachers. An extra £400 million will be made available to help provide half a million teacher training opportunities across the country, alongside professional development for those working in early years settings. We will make sure that all of them can access high-quality training, giving them the skills and tools to help every child they work with fulfil their potential.
Of that funding, £153 million will provide professional development for early years staff, including through new programmes that focus on key areas such as speech and language development for very young children, and £253 million will expand existing teacher training and development to give schoolteachers the opportunity to access world-leading training, tailored to whatever point they are at in their careers, from new teachers to aspiring headteachers and headteachers themselves.
We know from numerous studies that the most powerful impact on a child’s learning is made by the teacher in front of them in the classroom. By investing in our teachers, enabling them to grow professionally and develop their skills, we invest not just in them but in every pupil in every class. It is worth adding that we have not lost sight of our main aim, which is to provide world-class education for every child, whatever their background, and to set them up with the knowledge and skills that they need to fulfil their potential and look forward to a happy and fulfilling life. The recovery package will not just go a long way to boost children’s learning in the wake of the disruption caused by the pandemic, but help bring down the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers that we have been working so hard to get rid of for so long.
This is the next stage in what will be a sustained programme of support, building on the landmark £14.4 billion uplift in core schools funding that was announced in 2019 and the more than £3 billion in addition that has been announced so far for recovery. As the Prime Minister said last week,
“there is going to be more coming down the track, but don’t forget this is a huge amount that we are spending”.
For that reason, I commend the statement to the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. However, I am sorry to say that its lack of vision and ambition lets down our young people. Our children’s futures, and the future of our country, depended on the Government getting the education recovery right, but the Secretary of State, and indeed the whole of the Government, have failed to rise to the challenge. They have failed the school leaders, teachers and staff who last March adapted overnight to deliver remote lessons, while hand-delivering workbooks and food parcels to families. I pay enormous tribute to the staff who did so much to support our children and who continue to do so.
The Government have failed the parents, who have thrown themselves into the task of home schooling and supporting their children’s learning. Most importantly, the Government have failed children and young people, who were promised that their education was the PM’s No. 1 priority. They have been betrayed by a Secretary of State who has let them down once again and by a Prime Minister who will not lift a finger for them when it comes to a row with the Chancellor about prioritising the investment needed in their future. That comes after a decade in which successive Conservative Governments have delivered the largest cut to school budgets we have seen in 40 years.
I was frankly embarrassed to hear the Secretary of State proclaim that the funding announced last week will deliver a revolution, when what his Government announced will amount to just £50 per pupil for the next three years, compared with £1,600 in the USA and £2,500 in the Netherlands. It will deliver less than one hour of tutoring a fortnight for children who have missed more than half a year of being in school in person. Getting tutoring right is important when schools have said that the national tutoring programme is too difficult and too inflexible to use, and when it has so far reached less than 2% of pupils, but taking that programme out of the hands of experts and giving it to Randstad, a multinational outsourcing company, is not the right answer to schools’ concerns about reach and quality. They fear the contract is being handed out on the cheap. Can the Secretary of State confirm reports that the contract value is £37 million less than originally offered? Will he confirm that that is to cut costs, to the detriment of our children?
While tutoring and investment in teacher development featured to a degree in last week’s announcement, what is really noticeable is how much is missing. Where is the bold action needed to boost children’s wellbeing and social development, which parents and teachers say is their top priority and which is essential to support learning? Where is the increased expert support to tackle the rise in mental health conditions among young people? Where is the targeted investment for those children who missed most time in class, struggled most to learn from home and were left for months without access to remote learning? Where is the funding needed for the pupil premium to replace the stealth cut to school budgets that the Government imposed when they changed the date of the census?
The Secretary of State says that this is just one step on the road, but the Government’s own catch-up tsar Sir Kevan Collins, a highly respected education expert, says action is needed now to protect children’s futures, so why is the Secretary of State waiting? Last week’s announcement fell so far short of what Sir Kevan had recommended that he resigned on Wednesday evening, ashamed to have his name connected to such pitiful proposals. He said the Government’s response was too small, too narrow and too slow. He was appalled by the lack of ambition and vision—a lack of ambition that betrays the optimism and aspirations that children and young people themselves have for their future.
Last week, I was proud to publish Labour’s children’s recovery plan—a plan that would deliver the investment Sir Kevan has said is essential and which recognises that children and young people are excited to be back with their friends and teachers, and hungry to learn and prove their potential. Our responsibility as adults is to match the ambition children have for their own future. That is why Labour’s bold plan proposes new opportunities for every child to play, learn and develop. When we say, and when the Leader of the Opposition says as he did last week, that education is Labour’s top priority and that Labour wants this to be the best country in the world to grow up in, unlike the Government, we actually mean it.
The hon. Lady talks about vision. Let us be blunt: the Labour party has opposed every single one of the education reforms that this Government have brought forward, with the one exception, I believe, of T-levels. Every time that this party and this Government strive to drive quality and standards, making sure that there is discipline in the classroom, what does the Labour party do? It turns round and looks to the press releases of the unions and their paymasters. This party believes in delivering a revolution and change in what we actually do. That is why we have always delivered a laser-like focus on what benefits children, what makes a difference and what means that a child will be able to get a better job on leaving school. That is what this party does. The Labour party merely parrots what the union paymasters ask it to do.
At every stage in our recovery plans over the last 12 months, we have set out investment worth over £3 billion aimed and targeted to deliver the very best results for children. We recognise that children have missed out, but we have made sure that where we spend that extra money, it will make a real difference to children. We have looked closely at what will deliver for those children, and that is where we have focused our investment, and that is what we will continue to do.
As we move forward over the next few months, we will face significant challenges. We talk about the school day. We have seen too many schools going down a route of restricting the things that children can do—restricting the things that they could benefit from doing. The school lunch hour is being increasingly restricted to a school lunch half-hour. We want to ensure that, as we carry out this review, we look at all the options, so that children benefit not just from better academic attainment and extra support in English and maths, but from enrichment and the other activities that they can get from being at school. I very much hope that the Opposition will support that, but I very much doubt that they will; they have always failed to support any reform or any change that delivers real results for children.
I thank my right hon. Friend for securing the £3 billion for catch-up; it is a significant amount of money. Does he agree that the heart of levelling up must be education and getting young people to climb that ladder of opportunity?
What more evidence is needed to convince the Treasury to implement Kevan Collins’ proposal to extend the school day? Do we need pilot programmes? Do we need evidence from the 39% of pre-2010 academy schools that successfully implemented longer school days? Do we need more from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, as extra school activities have been seen to increase numeracy by 29%, or from the Education Endowment Foundation, which has shown that extending the school day increases educational attainment by two months? Will the Secretary of State bring about longer school days and complete the programme that he started once the comprehensive spending review has been completed?
I share my right hon. Friend’s views: there is a body of evidence that can be collected that shows that extra time in the classroom can deliver real benefits for pupils. It is about getting the combination right. As we have seen from the evidence, parents are very concerned about what their children have missed out on in terms of English and maths. We want to see how we can boost those subjects, as well as some of the additional enrichment activities that go on in schools.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and I are working with some of the great sporting bodies in this country to see how we can bring more enrichment activities into schools. A number of schools have piloted something called session 3, which enables them to run these activities as additional add-ons to the school day, delivering real benefits to children. I think of Thomas Telford in my neighbouring county of Shropshire, which has pioneered the scheme and delivered real benefits to children not just in terms of sporting activities, but in terms of academic activities. We want to compile this evidence as we approach the spending review to see what interventions deliver the best results for all our children.
Many students have suffered greatly during covid and the lockdown. Many children in large families in overcrowded flats have had no access, or very limited access, to computers and the internet, and have therefore lost out massively on educational opportunities. I am very unclear as to how they will be helped with the very small amount of money that the Secretary of State has offered. A total of £50 per pupil is nowhere near what is needed to help these young people catch up on the hundreds of hours of education that they have lost over the past year. Will he please look at it again?
Will the Secretary of State also assure me that the money being spent on tutoring will be paid only to qualified tutors who will be carefully selected and vetted by local education authorities, so that we do have the best possible educational opportunities for all our children, and particularly for those who come from the poorest families in this country?
I know that the right hon. Gentleman, like all of us in the House, cares passionately about the education of all children. I can assure him that there will be high-quality tutors as part of the scheme. That is very important to us, because we want to ensure that children are getting the very best, and the way to do that is through the quality of tutors. We are not planning to do that monitoring through local education authorities, but part of what we are doing, as we have outlined, is enabling schools to take on tutors themselves.
I would be happy to sit down with the right hon. Gentleman to talk through some of our proposals and what we are looking at doing. Tutoring has been the preserve of the affluent classes, as he will have seen in his constituency for many, many decades. The children from less affluent parts of his constituency in Islington will not have had that same benefit. Affluent families have always seen the benefit that tutoring has brought their children, and we do not want this to be something that is purely their preserve. I would be delighted to sit down with him and talk through what we are doing, what we are aiming to deliver and how we believe this will improve the lives of children, especially those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.
As we recover, improving school standards in Stoke-on-Trent remains more important than ever, and it is vital that all young people can reach their full potential, especially those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. I thank my right hon. Friend for the support he has given to our plans for a new free school in my constituency. Will he also support our plans for an education challenge area in Stoke-on-Trent, to help all our schools continue to drive up standards?
It is fair to say that my hon. Friend has an enormous appetite for more and more investment in his constituency. If it had not been for his campaigning, his constituency certainly would not be getting the free school that will be built to deal with the needs there and to ensure that we continue to raise standards. I am already working with him and his colleagues, as well as the leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Councillor Abi Brown, on how we can deliver higher-quality education providers in the city of Stoke-on-Trent. I would be happy to continue that work, building on the opportunity area in the city of Stoke-on-Trent, on how we can reinforce the already good work and accelerate it over the coming months and years.
The Department for Education has reported that a decade of progress on reducing the attainment gap has been eradicated in the last year, yet the Government seem to be under the impression that catch-up can be achieved on the cheap. By failing our nation’s children now, we will pay a high price in the future, with growing inequality, lower productivity and poor social mobility. We cannot afford to get this wrong, so will the Secretary of State urgently address the meagre funding set aside in this recovery plan?
As the hon. Gentleman will have heard me say in my statement, we are very much targeting the interventions at those areas that will deliver the most impact on children across his constituency and right across the country. It is the latest stage of a rolling investment over the last 12 months, already amounting to over £3 billion, plus over an additional £1 billion that has gone to schools to support them with covid measures. We very much plan to continue to make that investment in education over the coming 12 months, as we have been doing over the past 12 months.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating those schools that adapted rapidly to the virtual and hybrid world and taught extensive timetables sticking to exam syllabuses? What more can be done to spread best practice, while offering targeted support for those schools that faced special difficulties?
My right hon. Friend absolutely hit the nail on the head; the children who benefited most were those in schools that kept a clear focus on supporting children with a strong and rich knowledge-based curriculum. That has very much been based on the reforms that have been rolled out by this Government over the last 11 years. There are sometimes siren calls to reduce the standards and quality of our curriculum and what is taught, but that most disadvantages children from the most disadvantaged areas. I reassure my right hon. Friend that every action we take will be about reinforcing the evidence as to what actually works and how we can benefit children, including through tutoring, driving up teacher quality and ensuring that teachers have the right materials, support and training to deliver the very best for their children.
The hon. Lady sort of points out that we are very grateful for the work that Sir Kevan has done. Some of the key elements have been done working side by side with him—for example, the tutoring and the driving up of teacher quality and standards, which are very much at the heart of this package. As we look to the future and the comprehensive spending review, we are very much looking at how we can drive that third element—the element of time in the school day—and best use it to give children from all backgrounds the best advantage.
I thank the Secretary of State and his colleagues for the recent £50 million investment in a new high school at Tarleton, which means we can get rid of dangerous and delipidated buildings. But levelling up also means that we must close the attainment gap between rich and affluent pupils and those who come from slightly more disadvantaged backgrounds. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that South Ribble will benefit from this multi-billion-pound investment not only to catch up on the time that we have lost during the pandemic, but to help close that gap?
I am sure that all my hon. Friend’s constituents owe her a great debt of thanks for all the campaigning she did to get the refurbishment of and investment in the new school in her constituency. She is absolutely right about the need to close the attainment gap; it is vital. However, achieving that is not about lowering standards in schools, nor saying that children should have a lower-quality academic curriculum or teaching. It is about driving those standards up and ensuring that children—whatever background they come from and whichever school they go to—get the highest quality academic support, tutoring and attainment. Tutoring is such an important part of helping all our constituents.
The level of Government investment in education recovery announced last week fell woefully short of the £15 billion needed according to the Government’s former education recovery commissioner Sir Kevan Collins, who has now resigned from his post. It remains so in the light of the Secretary of State’s statement today. The National Education Union has described the Government’s investment as “paltry” and has quite rightly asked:
“Where in these plans is the funding for extra-curricular activities to support children and young people to regain their confidence in their abilities and talents? Where is the funding for drama and music, sport and skills development?”
Will the Secretary of State go back to the Chancellor and urge him to invest more so that schools can run fully funded extracurricular clubs and activities to boost time for children to play and socialise after months away from their friends?
I am sure that the hon. Lady is very aware of the holiday activities and food programme that we rolled out across the country at Easter, as well as the continued expansion of our scheme into the summer. She is obviously also aware of the work that we have done on the recovery premium, which we have been putting in to support schools in additional work.
Education is, without doubt, one of the big legacy issues from the pandemic, so I welcome my right hon. Friend’s pledges to invest billions of pounds and millions of hours, and his determination that we should use evidence of what works. We know that education is not just about moments of time, but about timeless moments. Our outdoor learning and education centres are experts in creating those experiences for children and young people. Centres such as Marle Hall in Llandudno Junction stand ready to help them to catch up and make up that lost ground. Will my right hon. Friend therefore give consideration to including outdoor education centres and residential stays as part of the delivery of his education recovery plan?
We can certainly look at that very closely. I know my hon. Friend worked incredibly hard to ensure that our outdoor education centres were included as part of the lifting of restrictions so that children are now able to access those outdoor education centres residentially as well as for day visits. We can certainly look at that consideration in future plans.
Aidan from my Weaver Vale constituency has been shielding with many of his friends over the pandemic owing to his health and additional educational support needs. He deserves the very best education and needs that additional support. Will the Secretary of State agree to meet me about his particular case?
Of course I will meet the hon. Gentleman. Would he be kind enough, prior to the meeting, to send some more details about Aidan and some of the challenges? I would be very happy to meet him.
All the research shows that money we spend in the early years has the biggest impact throughout the time a child spends in formal education. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that the £153 million of investment in early education, intending to provide early years practitioners in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner and across the country with world-class and evidence-based professional development, reflects the high priority we should place both on the current generation of young students and on the legacy for generations of students to come?
As always, my hon. Friend makes a very thoughtful point. The challenges for children in early years have, proportionately, been very great for them. This is why we wanted to target this significant investment in the early years sector, recognising the importance of it not just in helping children who are in those early years settings today, but in leaving a very positive and lasting legacy in driving up standards and actually giving practitioners in the sector the very best tools to do the job for future generations.
Educational recovery spending is £1,600 in the US and £2,500 in the Netherlands, but with this Conservative Government it is just £50 per pupil. With an old Etonian, Bullingdon boy Prime Minister, a Chancellor whose old school’s fees are in excess of £40,000 per year and an overwhelmingly privately educated Cabinet, it is no surprise that working-class kids across the country are being failed. I ask the Education Secretary, if he truly cares about the education of all children: will he fund their futures with a £15 billion recovery plan, investing in children, schools and teachers, as demanded by the National Education Union, the Labour party and, it is reported, his very own education recovery commissioner?
As a comprehensive lad who went to a good and decent comprehensive school in Scarborough, at the very heart of everything I do I actually want to make sure that children, like the children of so many friends I went to school with, do incredibly well. We recognise that doing that is not about reducing standards; it is in fact about driving up standards in every school across the country. We are not here to make excuses for failure like the Labour party—the Labour Government—did when it was in power. We saw before this pandemic that real change and difference was being made with a closing of 13%—13%—in the attainment gap in primary schools, and that was on the back of clear policies that deliver results for children. I am afraid I have to tell the hon. Lady that all these changes were opposed by her party, and they were very much opposed by the National Education Union, which very kindly supplies her with suggestions as to what to ask. I would happily provide her with the opportunity to sit down with the Minister for School Standards, my right hon. Friend Nick Gibb, who has done so much to drive up standards in the school system. He can talk to her extensively and explain what he found after many years of Labour neglect and how we have gone about transforming that and making real sustained improvements over the past 11 years. I will make sure we can get that in the diary. It will probably be four hours for us to cover the first session.
During a recent visit to Greenpark Academy in King’s Lynn, I heard from Mrs Graver, the headteacher, about how important the provision of speech therapy was for the most disadvantaged pupils in normal times, and how covid has made that need even more pressing. Can my right hon. Friend clarify that schools can use catch-up funding for extra therapy sessions, and how this welcome package will increase capacity and access to these vital services?
I thank my hon. Friend for asking such a thoughtful question on an issue that affects constituents across the board. Speech therapy is important, and I know from having had the experience as a child of having to go through speech therapy—as has my daughter —how important those interventions are at a very early stage to help children. I am pleased to clarify that that support is accessible as a result of the recovery premium. If he would be happy to do so, I ask him to send details of the school through my private office, and we will be able to put that clarification in writing if it would help his school.
I start by thanking all the teachers and non-teaching staff—all the school staff—for the tremendous work they have done in supporting the children in my constituency of Blaydon to get on with learning. It has been a tremendous effort. The Secretary of State has come out with some fine words about the recovery plan, but what it amounts to is £50 per child, and that simply is not enough to make a real difference and produce the catch-up that the children of my constituency need. What will he be doing to persuade the Chancellor to come up with some more money for education?
I feel as if I spend most of my ministerial career having the pleasure of asking Chancellors for more money. The right hon. Member for North East Durham had that experience many times when he was in government.
I would like to gently correct the hon. Lady. The figure that she mentions is not the correct figure, because we have actually made multiple commitments on catch-up funding over and above that. So far we have committed more than £3 billion. I would also like to join her in thanking all the teachers who have done such an amazing job all the way through this pandemic and have done so much work and put so much effort in. I have seen it with my own family members, who have been making their own contribution, whether as teaching assistants or as teachers themselves. We want to continue to build on the interventions that really work—interventions that I genuinely believe will deliver significant benefits for her constituents in Blaydon, because they are all aimed at delivering the best outcomes for children.
As another proud comprehensive school-educated Conservative Member, may I prick further the prejudices of Zarah Sultana? My right hon. Friend has rightly focused on academic catch-up and the role of teachers and professional educators, but we know that lost classroom time has impacted on the mental health, physical health, socialising and team activities of thousands of children. Given the undoubted importance of the huge army of volunteers mobilised to help with the vaccine roll-out, how will other young people and volunteers be used to help with extramural and summer school activities? They could include, as I suggested last year, undergraduates, gap-year students, National Citizen Service recruits and youth leaders. They could also help with outdoor education centre and residential experiences, which are so important as part of that catch-up as well.
When my hon. Friend entered the Department for Education back in 2010, he was probably very conscious of the fact that state schools sadly lacked the education standards in private schools. As a result of our reforms—reforms that he himself led—we have made such a difference over that time. We want to do that in enrichment activities as well, because we recognise that while this is about the academic, it is also about the confidence that we can give to young people in terms of building their belief in themselves.
That can be done through additional activities in school that may happen in the lunch hour or after school, such as the most brilliant Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme, which I want to see significantly expanded throughout our state school system. It can also be done through combined cadet forces, once the preserve almost purely of private schools but which we have massively expanded. We to continue to build on these things, because we recognise that they give a direct benefit for children. On the holiday activities programme that we will be rolling out, we have been working very closely with local authorities so that they are able to bring in volunteers from all backgrounds—obviously properly Disclosure and Barring Service-checked, and quite rightly so—in order for them to be able to help and assist as part of that programme.
It seems clear to everybody apart from the Government that, as noted by Kevan Collins, £22 per primary school pupil is insufficient. Less than two hours of tutoring per pupil every two weeks will not be sufficient. Is the Secretary of State saying that Kevan Collins asked for too much money? Is he saying that the £3 billion that the Government have put in is sufficient? Why does he think that he knows better than Kevan Collins?
We are doing a comprehensive plan, and there has been over £3 billion over the past year. We recognise that there continues to be more to do. That is why we are doing a review of how the school day can be best used as we work up to the comprehensive spending review. Every undertaking that we have made as part of this has been based on the evidence and what we believe is going to deliver the best results for pupils.
My right hon. Friend knows a lot about tutoring having done much of it himself. I look forward to seeing in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, maybe in a year’s time, payments that he has received for all the tutoring he has done for state school children up and down the land, bringing a quality, an eloquence and a panache that has been missing from education as a result of his not being involved in it over the past few years.
My right hon. Friend is right that we need to ensure that there is high quality in everything we do on tutoring. That is why, as we have rolled out the national tutoring programme, we have always emphasised the need for quality tutors who are able to deliver, because that is what will bring the biggest benefits to these children.
I join my hon. Friend Liz Twist in thanking teachers, support staff and parents, who, certainly in my North Durham constituency, have worked tremendously hard in very difficult circumstances. They tell me that they know the kids who need the help, but what they need is the finance to be able to put those plans into action. Sir Kevan Collins laid out a very ambitious programme for catch-up. The Secretary of State mentioned the north-east as an area that is being adversely affected, so can I urge him to keep arguing for that extra funding? Without it, this will not be about levelling up but about a disadvantage that will continue not just this year but for many years to come. The life chances of children are going to be permanently damaged, and we cannot afford to do that.
I slightly rechristened the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency to North East Durham. I am not sure whether that was a boundary change in advance, or something like that, so I do apologise.
The right hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the issue of children in the north-east of England, as I did in my statement. He is also right to say that teachers will have the best feel as to what will be the best interventions. That is why we have put in extra flexibility through the national tutoring programme to ensure that they are able to use that cash in order to bring in tutoring on-site themselves instead of through the national tutoring programme.
Just to pick up on the right hon. Gentleman’s latter point, this is a programme of things that we are doing, and we wanted to put in place the interventions that can have the biggest effect most rapidly. We know that tutoring can do that, and that is why we have progressed with that part of the programme most immediately. But I must confess that, like all Secretaries of State, there is sometimes a tendency to just want a little bit more, because we are all incredibly ambitious to deliver more for those we represent.
Nobody who has been watching this today would doubt the Secretary of State’s commitment and passion for the life chances of young people. I bumped into a headteacher from my constituency on Friday in Hitchin, and he told me two things he wanted me to bring to the House. The first was that he still needs a bit of time to work out exactly what the interventions for all his children would be and which children would need exactly what interventions. The second was that he is concerned that the catch-up plan, when it comes into force, should be bottom-up, teacher led and individually tailored around each of those individual children. Could the Secretary of State respond on those two points?
We very much want this to be teacher and school led; we recognise that they will have the best understanding of their pupils. That is an important part of this—there are the challenges we have had of many children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and the support they need to catch up, but there are also many children who have learning needs and who have had great challenges in their learning in more normal times, including many in my hon. Friend’s constituency. There has been a significant impact on them. The only way we are able to target them is by giving teachers and headteachers the flexibility to understand what those children have lost and what they have missed out on, to make sure that the intervention is targeted to that child. That is what we will be doing.
The Secretary of State has managed to fail even the targets he set himself. He promised that a minimum of 65% of tutoring provision would reach pupil premium children, but the National Audit Office found that only 44% of those accessing tutoring could be classified as disadvantaged. That failure to provide support for the children who need it most will only further entrench the disadvantage attainment gap. The Secretary of State has admitted that what has been offered so far is not enough, so how much exactly will he ask the Chancellor for when he enters negotiations?
The hon. Member will be aware that the reason we want to expand the national tutoring programme is that the benefits it brings are so incredibly extensive. Yes, many children from disadvantaged backgrounds need that intervention, and they will benefit from it, but there are a lot of other children who have suffered. I am sure she will find in her constituency and across Hull that many children need that additional intervention; it is not just children who are on free school meals.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and the commitment to the £3 billion investment in catch-up funding so far. Will he confirm that it forms just one part of the wider package of support and, further, that his Department recognises the value of outdoor education centres such as Kepplewray in Broughton-in-Furness? Young people’s team building and leadership skills have atrophied over the last year, and such centres play a crucial role in building those skills. Could my right hon. Friend confirm his Department’s support in that regard?
Absolutely. My hon. Friend is right to highlight the amazing work of so many outdoor activity centres in his constituency. Of course, he is particularly blessed with a most beautiful area—I would not say outdoor activity centres are abundant there, but there are many of them. It is really important that they play a part in our education recovery, and we certainly hope that many schools will be looking at that. I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend and other colleagues to discuss in further detail how they can play their role.
Why are the Secretary of State’s powers of persuasion so inadequate that he has been able only to persuade the Chancellor to fund a mere one-tenth of Sir Kevan Collins’s admirable catch-up plan? Do children not deserve a better champion fighting their corner than this Secretary of State and his risible efforts, which are letting children down across the country? If I was marking his homework, I would give him an F for fail.
Some of the students who have missed out most because of the pandemic have been those doing technical and vocational courses. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating staff and students at Buckinghamshire University Technical College on all they have achieved, despite the challenges of coronavirus? Will he confirm that the Government support he has announced will help them to gain the skills that employers are looking for?
From conversations I have had with my hon. Friend I know about the importance of Buckinghamshire UTC to his constituency, and the many youngsters who go there and get such a quality education. I reassure him that the interventions we have announced, and the additional funding, will benefit Buckinghamshire UTC and those youngsters who wish to pursue a brilliant technical education that opens doors to so many opportunities and incredibly high earnings—often much higher earnings than from pursuing a graduate route. Those youngsters will benefit from that, as will all schools across my hon. Friend’s constituency.
Anne Longfield, the former highly respected children’s commissioner, said in her final speech this year that there is an “institutional bias against children” in this Government, especially in the Treasury. Does the paltry education recovery package that has been announced, and the rejection of the ambitious plan put forward by the Prime Minister’s hand-picked adviser, prove that Anne Longfield was absolutely right?
I know the hon. Lady was not a Member of the House at the time, but since we got rid of Liberal Democrats in Government we have invested far more in education than we were ever able to do when they were there. Perhaps that is a result of having a Conservative Chief Secretary to the Treasury rather than a Liberal Democrat one.
It is the beginning of Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, and I know my right hon. Friend is incredibly aware of how painful a time it has been for many new parents during the pandemic lockdown. For many, a real lifeline was the opportunity to zoom their health visitor and get virtual advice from their GP. With his determination to build the family hubs policy for the Government, will my right hon. Friend take account of that wing of virtual support for families, and ensure that family hubs restores the vital face-to-face support, while not losing sight of the important virtual support that families have found to be a lifeline?
I thank my right hon. Friend for all the work she has been doing with her report, and in setting out an inspiring vision of how we can go that little bit further to help children in the earliest stages of their lives, as well as— importantly—the mothers and families around them. Family hubs is a key element of that, and she is right to highlight the benefits that can be given virtually. We must consider how to expand and grow that concept across the country, bringing many services together, so that those families most in need of support can access it. We must bring health visitors closer to schools, and the Department for Work and Pensions and everything together, properly to support families. There are real benefits to that and real change that we can make. My right hon. Friend outlined much of that in her report, and I look forward to working more closely with her to deliver far more over the coming years.
I know that it would be hard to spot it in what the Secretary of State has said this afternoon, but I have a sneaking suspicion that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer rang him and said, “You know that request for £15 billion? You’re only going to get one and a half”, he was not exactly over the moon. I can imagine some of the words that he might have expressed, and perhaps he would, in private, do so again. Will he please try to ensure that this money, which I think he knows perfectly well is not enough, is just a down payment? The truth is that there are only two routes out of poverty: one is education and the other is employment, and the two are intertwined. If we fail this generation of young people, we will have failed their opportunities for the future. Will he just tell us—he can tell us now; we will not tell the Chancellor—how disappointed he was not to get the full amount that he wants?
The hon. Gentleman is, as always, incredibly eloquent. We are seeing a substantial investment —we have seen that laid out—of £3 billion over the next 12 months, but he asks whether we think further investment will be needed, and yes, we do. Obviously, as he is aware, for every pound that is gained for English schools there is a benefit to Welsh schools too. I am very conscious that ensuring that we get this investment of additional resources into our schools benefits the whole United Kingdom and shows the strength of our being a United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend is right to flag up the importance of ensuring that the interventions that we are taking are actually delivering dividends for children. We have commissioned Renaissance Learning to do extensive tests and continuous assessment to see what the impact is. We saw that when children went back into school, there was an immediate benefit, an uplift and a catch-up. Obviously, we had the additional lockdown, which none of us wanted or foresaw, but we will continue to monitor this incredibly closely, and it will inform further investments that we make to help children, to ensure that the money is being spent wisely and well.
This Carers Week, I am concerned that disabled children are being left out of the conversation on recovery. The needs of every child, not just those without special educational needs, should be considered. How will the Secretary of State ensure that the Government’s covid-19 recovery plans meet the complex needs of disabled children and their families and allow them to heal?
The hon. Lady is right to highlight the importance of that, and I reassure her that it has certainly been at the forefront of my mind and that of the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend Vicky Ford. That is why, as we have worked up the allocations and the formula, there has been a particular tilt towards those schools that are supporting children with special needs, recognising that they have extra demands on their shoulders.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s enthusiasm for making this package of catch-up measures work. In thanking all our teachers and educators for what they have done during the pandemic, does he agree that it will be vital to get those educators to commit to the package—to the extra time that they need to spend in the classroom from the early years right up to university—to make sure that it works?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is very important that we continue to drive the quality of teaching staff, making sure that they are there in the classroom, delivering that world-class face-to-face learning, and that we continue to learn the lessons of how we have driven improvement in attainment. We have seen England rise up the PISA rankings while some nations of the United Kingdom have, sadly, gone the other way as the result of a less thoughtful and considered approach.
I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and for responding to 30 questions in exactly one hour.
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