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My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to introduce this debate on the important contribution of high-quality education to the economy. I am grateful to noble Lords who are taking part today, and I am humbly aware of the breadth and depth of experience and knowledge around the Chamber. I am particularly pleased to see that two noble Lords are making their maiden speeches today. I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Lords’ Interests, including my role as chair of Ofsted.
It is a very pertinent week to be holding this debate. On Tuesday the OECD published its PISA league table of global education. The UK stayed pretty static in the rankings, stubbornly hovering in the lower section of the top half. The focus on education in a number of Asian economies is well documented. Rather less discussed is the remarkable improvement in standards in other countries, including Poland and Estonia.
We must do better; but we must also not be pessimistic. There are reasons to believe that our schools and colleges will continue to improve. Indeed, there are lessons to be learnt very close to home. We do not have to go to Helsinki or Shanghai to understand how children—especially disadvantaged children—can get a better education and a better start in life. However, it would be equally foolish to minimise the scale of the challenges we face. According to the OECD, a quarter of all adults in the UK between the ages of 25 and 64 have minimal levels of numeracy and literacy, compared to 14% in Sweden, 12% in Canada and 11% in the United States.
No country that wants a dynamic economy can afford to neglect the quality of its education, and no country that is serious about its education can afford to neglect the full range of its educational provision: from nursery through school to college, university and beyond. Weaknesses in one will affect the quality of the next, and the earlier they occur, the greater the negative impact and the harder they will be to rectify. The economic opportunities for the poorly educated are few, and getting scarcer.
Three things in particular hold this country back: the gap in attainment between well-off and poor children; the alarming regional variations in the quality of our schools, especially with regard to teaching and leadership; and the weakness and irrelevance of much vocational education.
Our educational problems start early in life and have a lot to do with the way we tackle—or, more precisely, fail to tackle—disadvantage. At the age of five, children from low-income backgrounds are already 19 months behind their better-off peers. By the age of six, low-ability children from well-off homes outperform brighter children from poor families. So it continues through primary and secondary school. Just over a third of pupils on free school meals get five good GCSEs—27% behind the rest of the population.
The problem is now particularly acute among poor white children. For example, Bangladeshi children on free school meals used to lag behind their peers; now 59% of them achieve five good GCSEs, the national average for all pupils, whether or not they are on free school meals. Barely 30% of white children from low-income families manage the same. This matters because a quarter of all children without five good GCSEs end up being NEET—not in education, employment or training—within two years. Those with no qualifications have a greater than 50% chance of becoming NEET. It affects the economic prospects of the whole country.
This “tail” of underachievement is longer and bigger in the UK than in many of our international competitors. Canada, for instance, which has comparable demographics and income inequality, has half the proportion of children in its “tail” that we do. If the Canadians can do more for their disadvantaged children, surely so can we.
London stands out, although other areas are improving as well. Bluntly put, 20 years ago London’s schooling system was a basket case. Inner London’s GCSE results were a third of the national average. Schools were chaotic, with poor behaviour and inadequate teaching. Now the results are above the national average, even though the city still has some of the worst deprivation in the country. London has well qualified and committed teachers and great head teachers. Among disadvantaged children, the bottom 1% in London now match the average score of their peers in the rest of the country at GCSE.
If London were analysed in the PISA rankings separately, as Shanghai is, it would undoubtedly be much higher up the table than the UK. What happened in London was a combination of political focus and professional determination. London Challenge backed those head teachers who focused on achievement regardless of background, who never accepted excuses and who never gave up. It did not support those willing to let things drift.
The London Challenge team also encouraged heads to share good practice and the intelligent use of data and, crucially, to challenge each other. It benefited from other far-sighted initiatives of the time, such as many of the first sponsored academies and the first cohorts of Teach First and Future Leaders. Through a combination of practical steps, persistence and strategic imagination, it succeeded—and when the challenge formally ended, the system continued to improve and work in the same new way.
Interestingly, Andreas Schleicher, director of the PISA programme, would highlight many of the features I have just described in London as the core features of successful countries in the PISA study. He speaks of the core elements: capacity at point of delivery, with great teachers and leaders; zero tolerance of failure; well targeted resources; a commitment to raising attainment; and confidence for all. He also highlights the importance of time devoted to learning. One extra hour of maths a week leads to three-quarters of a year’s extra progress at GCSE, and underlines that autonomy with accountability is a must—we cannot have one without the other.
If London succeeded against the odds, other regions can succeed, too. As things stand, the variability in performance of many schools outside London is frankly alarming. In the north-east, for instance, less than a third of teaching was judged good or better last year by Oftsed; in London, it was over three-quarters.
Last month I visited schools in Hull and Grimsby. I met great new heads turning around schools, but their biggest challenge was not the children, or indeed the teachers any more, but raising the aspirations of parents and the community, and convincing them that education matters. That is tough when the jobs that used to be there have gone and have not been replaced.
It would be a mistake, however, to think that only economically challenged areas have problems with their education. The south-east, for instance, had the highest attainment gap in the country between children receiving free school meals and children not receiving free school meals—33 percentage points. In 30 schools in West Berkshire, not one free school meal pupil managed to get five good GCSEs. Relatively affluent areas may be educating some of their children well, but they are not educating all their children well.
The quality of much of our vocational education, too, lags far behind that of many of our international competitors. We must develop the skills base we need for this century rather than the last. Some of the Government’s recent initiatives are welcome. The move to require youngsters to study maths and English to 18, if they fail at 16, recommended by the Wolf report, was overdue. The introduction of graded apprenticeships in partnership with top employers will bolster the credentials of a vital training option. The move to fund apprenticeships through employers rather than providers should end some of the perverse incentives in the current system.
I welcome, too, the increase in the number of apprenticeships announced by the Government last month, which builds on the work done in this field by the previous Government. However, we would be foolish and premature to indulge in too much mutual backslapping. Are we collectively bold enough and comprehensive enough in this area? We do not yet have a vocational system that rivals our international competitors. Vorsprung durch Technik is not a phrase that was minted in Thurrock, Woking or Hull. Until we have an English equivalent, perhaps we should put the champagne on ice.
Too many training courses and apprenticeships still fail to deliver employable skills, too many are of short duration and too many cater to adults over the age of 25 rather than youngsters. Many of these are still, in effect, on-the-job training programmes for existing employees rather than genuine apprenticeships.
Although the numbers have declined slightly over the past year, we still have more than 1 million NEETs in this country. Indeed, it is unnerving to note that the proportion of 16 to 18 year-olds who are NEET has been roughly static for almost 20 years—at around 9% to 10%. That figure is an appalling indictment of successive Governments, a dreadful waste of the country’s talent and a personal tragedy for millions of young people. I will put those bare statistics in some kind of human context. In a recent survey, 40% of NEETs said they did not feel part of society, 36% felt that they would never get a job; and 37% said they rarely went out of the house.
Reforms of vocational education have to address not only the nuts and bolts of the issue—what apprentices should learn, who should provide it and whether it is relevant to employers and the local economy—but must also have legitimacy with those they seek to help. Crucially, will they get youngsters out of the cycle of little hope of a job or even of a place in society?
I have another concern about vocational courses. Until we make vocational training an alternative, sought-after and prestigious route into higher education and employment, we will never succeed in rebalancing our economy or harnessing the full potential of the next generation. Our country must become as proud of its vocational education as the Swiss and the Germans are of theirs.
If we are to do that, we must grapple with an uncomfortable truth. Vocational training is too often seen as the consolation prize: the route we urge young people to take if they have failed to shine academically. That must change. Vocational and technical training and education must be judged on its own merits, and not dismissed like some ill favoured child, always doomed to disappoint.
Apprenticeships and vocational training will always suit some children of all abilities and backgrounds, because that is where their natural potential lies. Unfortunately, in this country that technical potential usually is identified only in children from low-income families. Remarkably, it seems to be entirely absent in the children of the middle and upper classes. Has it been bred out of them or are we refusing to see what our prejudices will not let us see—that some children learn best by learning practically?
I have to say that I think the situation has worsened since the turning of polytechnics into universities. Institutions offering high-quality technical and vocational courses are something of a gaping hole in our academic landscape. The challenge for our country is not only to equip those disadvantaged youngsters with the key skills they lack—and that employers want—but to break the automatic assumption that decrees that a vocational education is a second-rate education for the poor and disadvantaged. When we see Cabinet Ministers or even, dare I say, your Lordships, boasting that their son or daughter has bagged an engineering apprenticeship at BAE rather than a place at Balliol, perhaps we will know that we are making progress.
The lesson from Shanghai this week is this. That city region is engaged in a systematic, long-term project as a way to transform its economy. As Andreas Schleicher says, you can see, from the Minister down to the classroom teacher, that this is their future. They believe that education is the great equaliser. That is why they make it prestigious to teach in a tough school.
We know what it will take in all parts of our country to move the goalposts: investment in preschool, recruitment of good quality teachers, continuous development, excellent leadership, a focus on numeracy and literacy and skills for life—and, above all, a determination to develop the potential of all students, not just the high-performing ones. These things are doable. If the disparities in our education system can be addressed, the economic gains will be immense.
Nothing is ordained; all it takes is will and persistence. If they can do it, so can we.
My Lords, I must first apologise for my husky voice. My advice to all your Lordships is: do not come near me, you might catch it.
I am very pleased to be speaking in this debate for two reasons: not only is it an important debate but I shall hear the maiden speech of my old friend Stephen Sherbourne—now my noble friend Lord Sherbourne. We go back 40 years, when I was the most junior Minister in Ted Heath’s Government and he was a political adviser. Stephen has spent his life trying to make Conservatives more intelligent, better read and perceptive. You might think that this is a hopeless task; it is certainly thankless, and I look forward to his maiden speech.
The reason why this debate is important is that there is total dysfunction between the needs of British industry and commerce and the educational system of our country at all levels. At university level, with the skills gap by 2020, British industry and commerce will need 850,000 STEM graduates, including in computing. It will be 300,000 short; 45,000 short each year for the next seven years. When it comes to levels 3 and 4, the advanced and foundation degrees, it will need more than half a million. The FE college system cannot possibly meet that need in that time. The reason why it cannot meet it is that if a student starts at FE college at 16, it takes him two years to get to GCSE in engineering, computing or the built industry. At 18, with that qualification, he goes off for a job. If you start at 14, by 16 you will have a BTEC or a good GCSE in a technical subject. You then go on to level 3 and level 4, but the conversion rate of FE colleges to levels 3 and 4 is the lowest in Europe, so that is a major problem.
Then we come to the school system. We have nearly 1 million unemployed youngsters today. That is a disgrace and a shame. All Secretaries of State, including me, have tried to do something about it. Michael Gove is trying to do it by increasing the quality of maths, English and science teaching. Good luck to him; I wish him well but actually, we have all failed and I must bear some responsibility for that. There are 1 million people today who, after 11 years of free education, cannot get a job in our country. We must do something about that, and that means a fundamental change to our education system.
We can see the demands of industry. Last week, we had a meeting with Allan Cook, the chairman of WS Atkins, one of the largest consultancy firms in Europe. He said that we are short of 4,000 railway engineers. Talk to anybody in Cisco or Microsoft and they will say that they are tens of thousands short of computer scientists for their own business and for their clients.
Last week, I had a meeting with the food processing industry, which I do not know very well. It is today short of 100,000 technicians. This week, your Lordships probably saw our Prime Minister opening a college in China sponsored by Jaguar to train young engineers. He will have the chance to open a university technical college in Coventry next year, which Jaguar is supporting because the schools in Coventry just do not produce youngsters who want to work in Jaguar. It has put in for a second one in Solihull because the schools in Birmingham are simply not producing the youngsters who want to work in Jaguar, one of the most successful companies in our country.
We have to do something about this. Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, put his finger onto it earlier this year. He said that we need more specialist colleges for 14 year-olds. This is what university technical colleges are. I think many of your Lordships are aware that they are the new colleges, for students age 14 to 18. They have a demanding day. They start at 8.30 am and go on till 5 pm. They have shorter holidays. For two days of the week the youngsters, the girls and the boys, are making things with their hands—designing things, working in teams and problem solving—and the rest of the week they are doing their GCSEs in English, maths, science, a foreign language and history or geography.
These colleges have proven to be very popular. We are very proud of them. Seventeen are open; 27 are waiting to open. We are assessing, together with my noble friend Lord Nash, 11 at the moment. This year there will be 3,000 students in the colleges; next year there will be 9,000; in 2015 there will be 15,000. When they are all fully operational, over four years, there will be more than 30,000 students. This is making a contribution. Indeed, the Prime Minister is a fan of these colleges, and said recently that every major town in the country should have one. The number depends on how you define “major town”, but it is somewhere between 200 and 300. We need that sort of number to create the sort of opportunities for young people for the jobs that they will have.
I would like to thank my noble friend Lord Nash personally. Having come from business, he understands the importance of good technical and practical training in any business. I also thank the Secretary of State, Michael Gove. Sometimes he is said to be not very keen on these colleges. On the contrary—I had a meeting with him last week, and he said that he is a fan of UTCs. In the House of Commons this week he said that they are an excellent innovation, and he wants more high-quality UTCs. This is an all-party programme. These colleges started under the previous Labour Government, when I won the support of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. The Labour Party is still very committed to supporting this; the Liberal Democratic Party committee on this matter has also supported it. This is an initiative that will not change if there is a change of Government. It is very important that there should be some stability in this area.
One of the things we found is that when English and maths are taught under the same roof as a technical subject, there is a dramatic improvement in English and maths. At the JCB Academy, it was forecast that the youngsters would get to only 50% having Level C in maths. After two years, they got 85%. There are astonishing improvements of 30% to 40% in the basic subjects because the youngsters suddenly realise the basic subjects are not taught in a separate classroom; it is intrinsic to all their work, and it is leading to jobs.
One of the proudest things we have as a target is that, when we have leavers at 16 and 18, we will have no NEETs. So far, of the two colleges that have had leavers at 16 and 18 every youngster has got a job, got an advanced apprenticeship at 16, gone on to study A levels and BTECs, got a hired apprenticeship at 18 or gone to university. Very few schools in our country can say that they have achieved that, so we know that we have a successful model. We also know that we get attendance rates of 95% from an average comprehensive intake. We take children with special educational needs and those who have free school meals. Very few schools can say that they have a 95% attendance.
In conclusion, I will read a letter from a young student at Central Beds UTC. He was not asked to write this letter, but he wanted to encourage Ministers and the Government to be enthusiastic about this subject. He is called Morgan. I have not met him. He says this:
“After (underachieving) failing my first year at a standard sixth form, I made the best decision of my life and started fresh at UTC. My grades have rocketed from D’s and E’s to A’s and B’s (in mathematics and physics), and I’m currently achieving D*D*D* in the BTEC course which has set me well on my way to attending a top university such as Bath, Bristol or Loughborough to study an engineering design masters degree”.
He went on:
“It’s not like school, we don’t get spoon-fed information to pass our exams, we have to put the effort in to get something out. And I believe it is more than possible to pave your way to your dream career from this UTC, as we are given the opportunities needed to proceed to the next stage of life, be it an apprenticeship… an engineering firm or a degree at university, the college will help you get there”.
We need more Morgans. We need hundreds more Morgans. We need thousands more Morgans. We need tens of thousands more Morgans. It is up to us all to realise this, because, otherwise, we will let down British industry and the prosperity of our country will be weaker.
My Lords, this debate is timely. This morning, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is making his autumn Statement. He is widely expected to announce yet more cuts to funding for higher education and research, and it is for that reason that I want to focus my remarks on the implications of his statements for higher education.
I have spoken many times on the contribution made by higher education to economic growth and I was delighted to see the pithy and convincing briefing sent to us by Universities UK, my former employer. Other noble Lords across the House will, I know, reinforce many of these comments, as have my noble friend Lady Morgan and the noble Lord, Lord Baker.
However, fine words or arguments can have no effect if resources do not shore up policy. While we do not know the detail of these cuts or how they will be allocated, reports have suggested that that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has to find more than £1 billion in additional savings. There have been fears, reported in the
, that this would mean that the Government would breach the principle of a science ring-fence, making cuts of as much as £200 million. I hope that that will not be the case.
It also appears likely that the Higher Education Funding Council will have to find additional savings from within an already tightly constrained budget. These cuts would be in addition to those announced in this summer’s spending review. At that time, the Government said that cuts to HEFCE funding would be at least £45 million and that there would be no inflationary uplift for the science budget. This is serious. I have said previously that the Government should be congratulated on their relative protection of investment in higher education, and particularly in research, despite the pressure to cut expenditure. However, public funding for teaching has been dramatically reduced and it now looks like it will be reduced still further. It is not widely understood that research budgets lost 13% of their value during the last spending round as a result of the fact that they were maintained in cash terms rather than in real terms. Projections suggest that, because the science budget has again been held in cash terms rather than in real terms, the budget will lose a further 10% of its value during this spending period. Will the Minister confirm that this is indeed the case?
Any new cuts would exacerbate that position. We know that the UK already spends less on research than many of our competitors. We have made relatively little progress towards the Lisbon goal of spending 3% of GDP on research and development. We spend 1.8%, below the average of both the EU and the OECD. We are holding our own in international terms because we have a highly efficient research system. In fact, it is the most efficient in the world when measured by citations per pound spent. Meanwhile, HEFCE now has very little funding available to support teaching. Support is restricted to high-cost and vulnerable subjects, which are likely to continue to be protected. There is some limited support for specialist institutions and taught postgraduate courses, and funding to support widening participation.
This last strand, of widening participation, looks increasingly vulnerable, which is a shame because the student opportunity funding underpins the kind of long-term and collaborative work which universities do to encourage children from primary school upwards to think about higher education generally, not just applying to their own institution. It acts as a lever for additional investment by universities and philanthropists. It is hard to see how the funding council can shoulder cuts without doing some damage to long-term national priorities. Clearly, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has to balance its budget, but overspending on student support and loan subsidies, including to support the rapid growth of private providers, is starting to squeeze out long-term investments, which should be high priorities for a Government committed to fostering strong economic growth. While national investment in research is critical to our future economic competitiveness, as today’s debate has again made clear, it should not be achieved at the expense of investment in education. After all, the most important form of knowledge transfer from universities is in the heads of the graduates that they educate.
There is so much evidence of the link between education and the economy and I will not repeat the arguments already made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, and the noble Lord, Lord Baker. It is worth emphasising, however, that around 20% of GDP growth in the UK from 1982 to 2005 can be attributed to graduate skills accumulation, according to government figures. The same study estimated that a 1% increase in the share of the workforce with a university education raises the level of productivity by up to 0.5% in the long run. Many of our fastest growing sectors depend on high concentrations of graduates, including the creative sector, which needs graduates from a range of disciplines including the arts and humanities as well as the sciences.
Our research base increasingly supports innovation in businesses from the very large to the very small. Collaboration between university and business is a considerable success story in the UK. So if the Government want long-term economic growth and an economy that will remain competitive with fast-growing economies with rapidly growing skills levels, we cannot afford to stand still, let alone go backwards.
Instead of driving forward, we seem to be constraining growth. Capital investment has been limited. Universities face strict limits on the numbers that they can recruit and perhaps numbers may be restricted again next year. There is no plan for growth and there is unlikely to be one until the system of loan funding is sorted out. It is simply too expensive to allow for growth in student numbers.
Part of the answer has to be in encouraging the development of diverse modes of study, including more online and flexible study. We have seen the number of part-time enrolments drop by a staggering 40% since 2010. Studies by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, Universities UK and others have pointed to the need to address this decline to meet the rapidly changing skills needs of employers. We should also be concerned about the decline of taught postgraduate enrolments by UK-based students. The noble Lord, Lord Leitch, in his seminal report published in 2006, described postgraduate skills as one of the most powerful levers for improving productivity but a number of factors are combining to pose a real challenge to postgraduate education, which has received insufficient attention from government. We cannot afford to be complacent. As President Obama put it:
“The nation that out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow”.
Deficit reduction is of course a priority but education is precisely the wrong place to cut if you want to balance the national budget.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, for initiating this important debate at such an opportune moment. Two days ago the OECD’s PISA education rankings were published, showing that the UK is flatlining in maths, science and writing.
If we want a 21st-century workforce, we have to ensure that our young people are equipped with the necessary skills, drive, motivation and ambition to succeed. Unlike previous generations, there are fewer employment opportunities for those who do not have the necessary talent and aspiration. With free movement of labour across the EU, unless we train young Britons properly, such opportunities will undoubtedly be filled by young European counterparts.
At the turn of the century we were building massive infrastructure projects in Liverpool, including a cruise liner terminal, the Arena and Convention Centre and the Liverpool ONE retail and leisure development. We could have dealt with Liverpool’s unemployment problems at a stroke but, sadly, at a local level we did not have the required skills and competencies. Locally created jobs were therefore filled from outside.
Getting schooling right in order to provide for the needs of business and industry is essential. So why are we flatlining, given that our educational spending—we are ranked eighth—is one of the highest in the world? Why are other countries able to forge ahead? Countries that understand this dilemma are preparing their young people for the future. If we are not careful, as we know, nations such as China, Singapore, South Korea, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Canada will win the global race and leave us languishing behind. However, we cannot and should not make carbon copies of their education systems. Frankly, I do not want our young people doing the 11-hour day of a South Korean pupil, nor do I want the rote learning approach of China. I will always remember visiting a Chinese primary school in Xi’an and watching the children chanting and collectively performing in a robotic way.
However, we can learn broad lessons from these high-performing countries. All of them, without exception, have some key shared elements: qualified teachers who are both highly trained and highly valued, and school leadership that, again, is highly trained and experienced and of only the highest calibre. There is constant high quality continuous training for professionals in schools, plus excellent parental involvement. Staff have only the highest expectations of the pupils, regardless of background and IQ. Interestingly, in Shanghai not only are school leaders and teachers well supported but only the best teachers get promoted. All of them have personal development plans that include mentoring and observation throughout their careers.
I want our children to be numerate and literate and to be given first-class science teaching, but I also want them to continue to be immersed in the other opportunities that a broad-based curriculum offers. The reason that we have some of the most creative pupils in the world is that the visual and performing arts that are available in our schools are second to none. This, in turn, has led to a world-beating creative industry in the UK. Yes, we need to develop language in schools, and I applaud the Government for introducing modern foreign languages in primary school.
Sports need to be part of our school offer, with children given opportunities to experience different sporting activities, while the traditional subjects—history, geography and so on—are part of developing the well rounded, articulate, thoughtful citizens who should be the hallmark of our education system. Of course, special educational needs provision needs to be second to none, with early identification and intervention.
It is possible to turn schools and schooling around but still keep those gems of our educational entitlement that have kept our uniquely British system so special. The changes in London over the past five years, where passes in GCSE results have gone from 40% to over 60%, show that change is possible. In my own city, Liverpool was the worst performing of the core cities, and now it is the best.
Another important issue, which shows that we must ensure that no children are left behind and is often not talked about, is that of our summer-born children. It can affect our rankings, our school performance and, of course, the summer-born children themselves. Research and evidence has shown that summer-born children have a 25% lower attainment at key stage 1; 20% of summer-born children are less likely to go to university; and, staggeringly, 50% of summer-born children are likely to be diagnosed as having special educational needs. In a week in which we have been looking at international comparisons, it is interesting that the 19 OECD countries with different starting dates show that later formal education helps to reduce birth-date effects.
I cannot resist reminding the House about Finland, which is always held up as a shining example by people from all parties. Yes, Finland is great, and it has well trained teachers and head teachers, but children start school at the age of seven, there are no tests until they are 16, there are no league tables, and teachers—wait for it—are required to train for five years and have a master’s degree.
Finally, there is another element that we should strive for, which is perhaps the hardest of all: political consensus on our educational goals. I was mindful of my noble friend Lord Nash’s comments in the Chamber on Tuesday when he was reading the Statement on the PISA results. He said that we should stop throwing stones at each other. My goodness, I thought, he was right. Let us get that political consensus, and give our schools the chance to breathe and flourish. I promise your Lordships that we will then shoot up in those important world rankings and build on the unique ethos that is special to the British schools system.
My Lords, as a bishop I find myself standing up regularly in unfamiliar buildings, usually with long and distinguished histories, holding forth to people whom I barely know. I do this every Sunday when I visit one or two of the more than 400 churches in my diocese. Rising to speak in this House evokes a certain level of apprehension. On the day of my introduction I managed to break rule one by standing up at the point when the Lord Speaker had risen to her feet. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, said to me afterwards that he could see that I was starting out as I intended to continue: causing havoc. In the coming years, I trust that I will not create a great deal of havoc, but will perhaps make a modest contribution to the deliberations of this House.
I am conscious that my predecessor but three, Archbishop Robert Runcie, made a very significant contribution here. I recall also that his predecessor as Bishop of St Albans, who was bishop for just over 24 years, reportedly spoke only once in the time that he spent in this House, and that was to argue for the welfare of pit ponies in the coal mines—not a subject that evokes a great deal of passion in the highways and byways of Hertfordshire today. My arrival has been greatly helped by the generous welcome of Members of the House, and the unfailing courtesy and support of the staff, for which I would like to record my sincere thanks.
I was brought up in the countryside. As a young man my father was a farmer, and I look forward particularly to engaging with issues of land, countryside and rural affairs. I have also lived in two multicultural communities in the Midlands, one of which was Walsall, from where Morgan, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, came, and I hope to draw on something of my experience of multicultural and multifaith communities.
I am glad to make my maiden speech in this debate on the contribution of high-quality education to economic growth. I live next to one of the oldest schools in the country. This is St Albans School, founded before the Norman Conquest by Abbot Ulsinus in the year 948. Over the years, it has produced many notable alumni, including the only British-born pope, Nicholas Breakspear, otherwise known as Adrian IV, Professor Stephen Hawking and several Members of this House. The diocese that I have the privilege to lead covers the counties of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, Luton and parts of Barnet. As well as many independent schools with a Christian foundation, we have 135 church schools serving their local communities. None of the church schools in my diocese is deemed “unsatisfactory”; 18% are graded “satisfactory” and the remaining 82% are either “good” or “outstanding”. I want to pay tribute to the work of head teachers, governors, teachers, parents and school staff who work so hard to produce schools of such excellence.
Detractors of church schools sometimes claim that our excellent academic results are because we have creamed off the best pupils. The facts do not support that assertion. Our schools are spread across a wide range of neighbourhoods, and we are proud to have schools in some of the most difficult and challenging communities. The national data produced in the Department for Education’s 2013 school census show that 15% of pupils at Church of England secondary schools are eligible for free school meals, which is the same as the average for non-Church of England schools. The same census reveals that we serve almost exactly the same proportion of black and minority ethnic pupils as non-Church of England secondary schools do.
I will share one story, which I hope will illustrate our concern and our commitment well, and which takes us to the very heart of today’s debate on education and the economy. Northfields Upper School in Dunstable, later Northfields Technology College, went into special measures in 2006 and there was a change of leadership to give it a fresh start. Sadly, it was decided that the school should close, but on
The improvement in academic standards was not immediate, but has been steady and impressive since 2009. Over the past four years, attendance has increased from 87% to 93% this year. The percentage of pupils achieving five A* to C grades, including English and maths, has risen from 23% in 2009 to 40% this year. Our partnership with the University of Bedfordshire has generated a tangible rise in the aspirations of its pupils, with increasing numbers of students considering the possibility of going on to higher education. I am glad to acknowledge publicly the huge contribution made by the head, Tom Waterworth, and his team to achieve such a change in four years. That is a success story of which we are rightly proud.
It is too early, however, to know exactly what difference that dramatic improvement in exam results will make to economic growth in Dunstable. Certainly, everyone loses out if we cannot translate academic success into productive outcomes. Andreas Schleicher, already quoted by several noble Lords in this debate, makes the depressing assertion in his comments on that international survey that young English adults aged between 16 and 24 are some of the lowest-ranking in literacy and numeracy in the industrialised world. He concludes that deficiencies in our school system over a lifetime will lead to an unbelievable £4.5 trillion loss in economic output. In bald economic terms, that is the equivalent of living in a permanent recession.
Having said all that, I will pause and ask what we mean by the phrase “high-quality education”. Not one of us can dissent from that, but what does it mean in practice? What is its personal, social—and, dare I ask, spiritual—content as opposed to its crude cash value? I ask that because although we need to ensure that our pupils achieve academic success, education must surely be much more than that. In classical Greek culture the concept of paideia constituted a holistic understanding of education for body, mind and soul. That vision was picked up and developed by Cardinal Newman in his seminal work The Idea of a University, published in 1852. In today’s world, where so much stress is placed on individuality and the need for every person to realise their inner self, education plays a vital role in developing a sense of social responsibility and the need to contribute to civil society and the common good. If education is to be truly “high-quality”, surely it will also produce people with a rich emotional hinterland, whose souls have been expanded as they have explored the arts, music and literature.
I am also concerned, as we think about education, about the young people whose mental or physical health problems mean that they struggle in mainstream education. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Storey, for highlighting that area a moment ago. It is good to have high standards, and in our diocese we are proud of several leading academic institutions such as the Universities of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cranfield and the Royal Veterinary College in Potters
Bar. Our attention is instinctively drawn to those, but finally, I will mention one small project in the University of Hertfordshire.
In partnership with HCS Careers and GB Sports Coaches, the university has organised, for the sixth year running, a two-day event for 14 to 19 year-old students from special needs schools. The purpose of that unsung annual event, which sadly never achieves headlines, is to enable those young people to meet people who work in business and industry to help them develop appropriate skills and grapple with issues of employability. With the right support, many of them are also able to contribute to economic growth.
I hope that we will ensure that every part of our education system is given help and support so that all our young people, whatever their academic ability, are equipped to make their contribution to the flourishing and thriving of our nation.
My Lords, it is an honour for me to follow the eloquent maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans. I hoped that he might speak about the schools in his diocese. I noted that in St Albans are Abbey Primary School, St Michael’s Primary School and the Townsend School. I was pleased that he chose to speak about the schools in his diocese. I am sure that this experience will be helpful in many future debates on education in your Lordships’ House. I welcome him warmly to the House. Contributions from the Bishops’ Benches are always listened to with great interest. I hope that we may hear from the right reverend Prelate on many future occasions.
The noble Lord, Lord Storey, referred to Finland. I recall the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, returning from a visit to Finland and looking as though a light bulb had gone on above his head. He said that they educate their teachers there. I hope that the current revolution in the training of teachers here does not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is good to get in different talents, but there has been a revolution in the curtailing of teacher training and we need to be careful that that is not harmful.
Little mention has been made so far of the importance of early years, although the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, spoke about it. High-quality early years education is crucial. China recognises this and invests heavily in it. We need to make the right investment in early years if we are to have good outcomes later.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, referred to NEETs. The Government have recently introduced an amendment to the Children and Families Bill which deals with this. It allows young people who wish to do so to remain with their foster carers until the age of 21. This will undoubtedly impact on the number of NEETs. This approach has been evaluated in 10 local authorities, and those young people staying with their foster carers past the age of 18 were twice as likely to continue in education. I welcome the step that the Government are taking. I also note the contribution made by the previous Government in setting up these pilots, which has made this possible.
I note what the Minister said in yesterday’s debate on the PISA Statement. He spoke about the importance of involving parents in their children’s education and his shock that, at the first attempt, only one parent was persuaded to attend a number of parents’ evening events in the Pimlico Academy’s catchment area in south London. I hope I understood him correctly.
I want to speak about the importance of involving parents in their children’s education and the contribution that this can make to the nation’s economic recovery. I remember the importance of my own father to my education. I recall sitting with him in his library. He was in his armchair; my sister and I sat on the floor with our backs against the radiator. I would be reading an encyclopedia of science or animals. She would be reading The Lord of the Rings. I remember him reading Kipling’s Just So Stories to us. Later, I recollect him taking me to the theatre and to other events. To my mind, my father’s example and encouragement were the most important elements in my education.
The evidence also points to this. Parental education is the most significant indicator of their children’s likely educational success. If the parent has a degree, the child is likely to get a degree. Academics agree that the most important influence on educational outcomes is what happens in the home, not in the school. It can be very difficult to get into the home, but that is where the most difference is made.
The great primary school heads I have had the honour to visit all adhere to the principle that engaging the local community—and parents in particular—is vital. On a visit to Lent Rise primary school in Slough, I was told by the head teacher that her area had a high level of Traveller families. When they could not write, the mothers of the Traveller children were glad to leave their mark on their sons’ homework to testify that they had sat down for half an hour to do that work. The head teacher had thus engaged those parents who were not able to write but still felt proud to be involved in their child’s education.
Dr Andrea Warman, when she was a senior policy offer at the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, developed a paired reading training package for foster carers. This took account of the difficulties that many foster carers had had in their own education and made a virtue of them. Working with experts from the Maudsley Hospital, Dr Warman was able to help foster carers reflect on their own struggles with literacy and thereby become empathetic educators of their foster children. The evaluation not only showed that their child’s reading had galloped ahead because of the daily reading with their foster carer but strongly suggested that the relationship had become stronger and the placement more stable.
Coming to my conclusion, and bringing us back to the economy and bridging the skills gap, five years ago I visited an event organised by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education. The venue was the City of London’s Guildhall. Visitors were seated at round tables with parents and their children. In the course of the morning we had the beautiful experience of hearing how parents who had failed at school had been drawn into education as their child began at nursery or primary school. Educators might stand at the primary school gates and get hold of parents as they came in so as to encourage them to get into literacy and numeracy. We heard parents who had been addicts speak about their growing confidence as they gained qualifications in numeracy and literacy. We heard from a mum about the pleasure she now took in doing her homework while her son studied and being able to help him with his studies. We heard from young people how powerful an encouragement it was for them to see their parents setting an example for them and being able to take an informed interest in their studies. Parents spoke about their new confidence, which enabled them to gain other qualifications such as a driving licence. Just two months ago I returned to visit NIACE. My noble friend Lady Howarth of Breckland had chaired an inquiry for the association, and the occasion was the launch of its report, entitled
. Once the Children and Families Bill is completed, my noble friend will be seeking an opportunity to debate her report. In the mean time, I commend it to the Minister and to your Lordships.
Family learning benefits the economy because it is the best way to motivate children to learn, because it equips parents without qualifications with qualifications, and because it strengthens family relationships. It is arguable that the single greatest drag on our economy is family breakdown. I would be grateful if the Minister would write to me about the Government’s policy for family learning. Has the need for family learning been quantified? Has the contribution it might make to the employability of those currently without basic skills been assessed? Lastly, is his department developing a full response to the recommendations of the NIACE report? I look forward to his reply.
My Lords, many noble Lords have spoken about education in schools, which clearly, with a long tail of almost 1 million NEETs, is absolutely vital to our children and grandchildren. However, like my noble friend Lady Warwick of Undercliffe, I want to talk about the importance of education at university level, but from rather a different angle. I declare an interest as chancellor of BPP University. BPP are the initials of the founder of a fine training company, but now stand for the Business and Professional University. My noble friend Lady Morgan of Huyton emphasised in her speech the importance of technical education for economic growth. We at BPP, and I as the chairman of BPP Holdings Ltd long before we acquired degree-awarding powers—which we did in 2007, acquiring full university status this year—always thought that the end purpose of education must be to enable people to find a job and the life that will please them and give them a decent standard of living. Coming from a training background, as we do, we have always believed that. Yes, of course there are cultural purposes to university education, but for us the outstanding purpose has always been to enable our graduates to get into good, well paid jobs, because all else can stem from there.
I need to talk about the university a little in order to make my point. We have 9,000 students on seven campuses around the UK, with two in London and five in the regions. Some 3,000 of the students are undergraduates, which is a new departure for us. We teach very successfully the core business subjects, mostly accountancy and law. Some 65% of our students are female, and 96% have a job or are in further training within six months of leaving us. Our graduates make a major contribution to economic growth both directly and indirectly. They do so directly because we have a great many students at the graduate level from overseas, which helps to level up the balance of payments as well as spreading the reputation of the UK overseas. The indirect but vital contribution to growth is that the reputation of the UK as a good place to do business depends on having a corps of well trained, professional lawyers, accountants, actuaries and other business specialists. The City of London could not be the force that it is, contributing 20% of GDP, without its highly skilled lawyers and specialist accountants. Businesses all over the UK depend for their stability, and thus their ability to grow, on the efforts of their finance directors and the support of properly trained commercial lawyers.
At BPP I think that we can be rightly proud of our contribution not least because, as I should make clear, we are the only private, for-profit university in the country. But we are not the only people in the business. We believe that we are the most successful at placing our graduates in employment. A lot of universities teach law on a more theoretical basis, but we believe that students need to be taught by people who have worked in the profession. Some 80% of our tutors come from that background. The UK could do with more courses like this. I personally am particularly interested in the undergraduate-level courses that enable people of any age to move quickly into a position where they are useful and employable. There are definitely not enough of such courses, particularly for the capable young person who does not quite know what they want to do, but knows they want a decent job in a good business.
We have only 3,000 undergraduates so far but, private and profit-making business or not, we are able to charge fees of £5,500 a year for the three-year course, which is substantially less than for most law and business courses. The reason we can keep the fees down is that we do not have a conventional university structure. We sweat our assets and our buildings are hardly ever empty. Also, we have extremely flexible staff. We attract the services of excellent people by offering them what is essentially very well paid shift work on a part-time basis. That is a far cry from the leisurely programmes that I enjoyed as an undergraduate but it is very effective, and I believe that our universities could do much more to make their students more employable by teaching them for longer and better without risking the loss of the enjoyable university experience.
A new departure for us is that we believe that it is possible to deliver degrees that will get our students into good jobs on the basis of two years’ study. This is a work in progress but last week I was able to award degrees to some of the first graduates under the scheme. Those students are paying fees of £6,000 a year because the course is that bit more difficult to teach. On the other hand, however, they are getting a very economical degree because they pay only two years’ living fees, and it looks as though it will be very popular. Since most of our undergraduates are in their 20s, rather than 18 years old, this is of great importance, although it will also be an attractive offer to those aged 18. It will suit those people who did not quite work out what they wanted to do when they were 18, which must be a lot of them.
I believe that our model of using tutors who have worked in the relevant industry, determined and almost full-time university education, along with the very careful mentoring of students and a concentration on using assets so that higher education can be cheaper, could be spread more widely to other institutions. I regret very much something that has not yet been mentioned in the debate, which is the passing of the polytechnics, or rather their translation into universities. The polytechnics used to provide excellent technical training, which became diluted and a bit overly academic as they turned into universities. We are more on the model of a polytechnic than much of what is now being offered. I believe, I am afraid, that turning polytechnics into universities was a retrograde step for the country.
BPP University is a product of cross-party agreement. We were authorised under the Labour Government, who wanted to expand the provision of higher education and make it more varied and interesting, and we have been authenticated and given full degree-awarding powers following our review in 2013—so I am glad to record that this is not a controversial party political matter. We believe that it is a model for the future, and I would like to see more of it. I always say that I was badly taught at Cambridge, and that it was not until I met BPP and its training model that I realised what really good teaching looked like.
My Lords, I should like to start, if I may, by thanking everyone in this House for making me feel so welcome. Your Lordships from all parts of the House, the officials, the attendants and the police—everybody has been immensely helpful. I also want to thank my noble friends Lady Seccombe and Lady Jenkin of Kennington, who have helped me navigate my way around this place, both procedurally but also geographically, which is important for someone with a really bad sense of direction. I want to reassure my noble friend the government Chief Whip that if she ever finds me looking confused in a corridor, it will not—I hope—be to do with government policy.
I chose as part of my title Didsbury in the City of Manchester because that is where I was born, brought up and educated. I chose it also for a second, somewhat paradoxical reason—paradoxical because I have spent most of my working life in London. But I am conscious of the metropolitan bubble that so many of the commentariat seem to inhabit. For me that is best summed up by John Humphrys, introducing the weather forecast on the radio, saying, “It’s raining over Broadcasting House. What’s it doing in the rest of the country?”. Didsbury will be, for me, a constant reminder that London is not the centre of the universe.
I have been advised that it is customary in a maiden speech to talk briefly about one’s career before entering this House. I am not sure that in my case “career” is quite the right word. It has always felt more like snakes and ladders—but it has been my good fortune that there have been rather more ladders than snakes. I have been a teacher, and I was a trainee banker. I never got beyond “trainee”—and bearing in mind the banking crisis, I do not think I was alone in that. I have worked in business and for a manufacturing company, and for over 20 years in the world of communications. But I have also had the great privilege of working with three politicians whom I greatly admire—my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding when he was Industry Secretary, my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne when he was Conservative Party leader, and Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street in the 1980s.
I now turn to the subject of the debate, and I want to focus on one specific area—the need for our schools to turn out more students who can speak and understand a foreign language. My noble friend Lady Sharp has great expertise in this area. Why does this subject matter? The UK trades with more than 200 countries, and most of them are non-English speaking. Three-quarters of the world’s population do not speak English. Many people have English as a second language, but what arrogance to think that other people should learn our language rather than our learning other people’s languages. Arrogance, real or perceived, is not helpful in a competitive marketplace.
Of course, the most obvious practical benefit of knowing a foreign language is that you can communicate in the language of the people with whom you are doing business. But there is another important point: speaking the language of another country also opens the door to an understanding of that country—an understanding of the culture and of the mindset. That must surely give you a competitive edge when you are trying to clinch that deal or sign that contract.
A few months ago the British Chambers of Commerce conducted a survey. Two out of three businesses that were thinking of exporting saw language as a barrier, and the vast majority of businesses did not speak a foreign language well enough to conduct business in the buyer’s tongue. This is not altogether surprising. For years now, language learning in our schools has been in decline. For example, this year the number of students who took French at A-level was 50% lower than the number 10 years ago. Of all the A-levels passed by state-funded students, those in modern languages—all modern languages combined—represented less than 3%. It was, I am afraid, a mistake in 2004 to remove compulsory language learning at key stage 4, for 14 to 16 year-olds. I welcome the various steps being taken to try to reverse this trend.
From next year it will be compulsory for children in primary schools to be taught a foreign language. We know that it is much easier to absorb the sounds of new languages when you are young, and more difficult when you are older. I speak from experience: I am learning Italian, and have been doing so for many years. I want to draw attention to one practical point here. I am thinking of children leaving a primary school where they have been taught, say, Mandarin or Spanish, and then finding themselves in a secondary school that teaches French and German. It is very important for there to be co-ordination between primary and secondary schools. The introduction of the English baccalaureate is another important advance, and EBacc is already having an impact on the numbers taking a modern foreign language at GCSE. Let us hope that continues.
I have two final points to make. Of course pupils need an understanding of grammar, and need to be able to translate the written word. But as we all know, oral skills are vital, so that they can speak the language with some confidence. Secondly, as our trade with non-European countries expands, the learning of non-European languages becomes ever more important. This echoes what the Prime Minister was saying in China yesterday.
All this is a long-term process, not least in ensuring that we have enough skilled teachers in modern languages. These are the challenges for the Government of the day and for our schools, so I very much hope that the House will have the chance to come back to this subject at a future date.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury, on his maiden speech. He was, as he said, head of office for Edward Heath, political secretary to Lady Thatcher, and chief of staff for Michael Howard—now the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne. This not only reveals a wealth of political experience but suggests excellent diplomatic skills. Perhaps the Government should send him to Geneva, too. The noble Lord’s speech showed his erudition and fluent style. He also confessed to a bad sense of direction; I assume that that is geographical rather than political. I am sure that the whole House will look forward to his future contributions on this and other subjects.
I am pleased to take part in this debate and I thank my noble friend Lady Morgan for initiating it. The Minister has completed Committee stage of the Children and Families Bill, which I can see was a real marathon. He will know that I am not part of the education cohort in this House. I hope he does not think that I am a fraud. I worked at the Institute of Education, University of London, for 33 years and, dare I say it, for the National Union of Teachers for one year after leaving university. At one time, I was even a regular contributor to the Times Higher Education Supplement. However, it is 13 years since I left the institute and I hope that I can offer some perspectives on previous attempts to improve teacher training and to recognise different ways to enter teaching.
Higher education is a significant employer in the UK, with equivalent to 1.2% of the workforce in employment. In some towns, it is one of the biggest employers, bringing an important boost to the local and regional economy. Together with student spending, it can make a big difference to the prosperity of an area. Looking at it another way, a town such as Rhyl in North Wales, where I spent last weekend, has severe unemployment and deprivation. Even Marks & Spencer has moved out. Rhyl would benefit enormously from one of the UCTs suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Baker. Higher education depends increasingly on the income from overseas students. Anything that the Minister can do to emphasise the importance of removing barriers to their entry will be very welcome on all sides of the House.
It is not just about income for universities; it is that good universities are part of a global community. I have chaired appointment panels for hospital consultants. All the best candidates belong to worldwide professional associations, have published abroad and have studied abroad. If we lose that intellectual impetus, it will have a devastating effect on our world standing. I should have said that although I am not directly involved in education any more, I am still a member of the board of the Birmingham University Business Advisory Group. The university has important links to West Midlands business and the business school is participating in the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Young, with the Association of Business Schools to establish business schools as a single point of entry into universities for small- and medium-sized enterprises. Birmingham Business School is also picking up the recommendations in Sir Andrew Witty’s recent review—October 2013—of universities and growth, in which SME engagement is a keen component.
In 1968, when I turned up at the Institute of Education as a junior administrator, the first word I learnt was pedagogy—the science, profession or theory of teaching. It was and still is part of the Institute of Education’s DNA. The director was the great Lionel Elvin, who was a member of the Robbins committee. More significantly from my point of view, he was a member of the McNair committee, which brought teacher training colleges under the aegis of universities.
There were huge changes during my time at the Institute of Education. I do not have time to elaborate on the good work that was done in encouraging the recognised university teacher status for college of education lecturers and in university validation of teacher training courses. In the 1970s, we had a mature entrants system whereby 600 students a year were admitted to teacher training on the basis of their experience. Former service men and women, those returning from the former colonies and those who had pursued another career were interviewed and tested for suitability. I have lost count of the good things that were done and were swept away as government policy changed.
Of course, there were bad things too but the Institute of Education is still a world-class institution doing exactly what it did 45 years ago—pedagogy. I urge the Minister to visit the Institute of Education to see the great work that it does. He may know that the noble Baroness, Lady Shephard, presides over the council of the institute. Although I have not consulted the institute about this, I would not have dared to make the suggestion without consulting the noble Baroness, which I have done.
In reading the impressive background material produced by the Library, I was struck by the different elements that were mentioned as drivers for economic success. We can all pick and choose the bits that suit us best. However, the World Bank report, Education Quality and Economic Growth, laid great emphasis on cognitive skills as an important driver. I looked it up in the dictionary and a summary would be “acquiring knowledge that involves the processing of sensory information and includes perception, awareness and judgment”. The report acknowledges that the quality of the teacher in the classroom is paramount, that it is difficult to use simple measures to identify a good teacher, be it experience, education or certification, as there is no proven correlation, and that therefore the institutional structure of the school must provide,
“strong incentives for improving student achievement”.
I expect the Minister has strong sympathies with those elements of the World Bank report but it is perfectly possible to reach different conclusions based on the report.
If cognitive skills are paramount, it is essential that we equip our trainee teachers with the science, profession or theory of teaching—not just sitting next to Nelly. We know that leadership is the key to a good school. Schools can turn around because of a great leader even with the same teachers and building. I ask the Minister: what extra investment is being put into continuing professional development, particularly on leadership skills? Parental support is important but how do we support those children who will never have adequate parental support? While autonomy for schools may seem to be the ideal, we should acknowledge the downside. I wonder how much time is spent on number crunching, promoting good employment relations and resisting attempts by some parent governors with no home to go to from trying to take over the school. I am not saying that there is one good system. No Government have solved the inequality of educational opportunity in this country, although some have tried. We should be intolerant of low standards and poor leadership but we should be honest enough to acknowledge that our elitist system is part of the problem in perpetuating disadvantage and inequality.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, for introducing this important debate. It has particular relevance for me at the moment, given the practical projects that I am working on in east London that are focused on education, enterprise and economic growth. One of the great strengths of this House is that it allows those of us who have a life outside the corridors of Westminster to make a contribution from what some would call the real world.
With that thought in mind, I thought it helpful to share with noble Lords two practical projects that I am working on in east London that are seeking to make the link between high quality education and economic growth. The first is the St Paul’s Way Transformation Project. Here, I must declare an interest as director. Seven years ago the CEO of Tower Hamlets Council, the health service and the social housing company asked me to intervene in St Paul’s Way. There had been a murder and considerable violence in a housing estate 800 yards to the north of Canary Wharf.
Arriving at St Paul’s Way for the first time, I was not surprised to find that the school was failing and in special measures, with only 35 families applying per year. Police cars, angry black youths with dogs and a frightened head teacher hiding behind a large fence greeted me. The school was defined by a silo culture. It had no relationship with the two warring housing estates around its perimeter, nor with the health centre next door and its 11,000 patients. Some school staff, among them Oxbridge graduates, actively fostered an agenda of isolationism, convinced that the school stood separate from the world of business. Few pupils had walked 800 yards down the road to visit Canary Wharf.
Over the past six years I have worked with partners to create an entrepreneurial narrative for this street. The lead directors in each key public body, their middle managers and the leaders on the street have all embraced it. The results speak for themselves. A new £40 million school now sits on the demolished 1960s school site, complete with the first Faraday science centre in the country. This year, over 1,000 families applied for a place at the school. Exam results continue to rise year on year; the 2013 Ofsted inspection rated the school outstanding in every category; 60% of the sixth form this year gained a place at a Russell Group university; and a bridge programme provides pathways for the most talented students into Oxford.
However, rising exam results are not enough to secure a future for these students. Reading Latin at an Oxbridge college will not guarantee these students a job at the end of an expensive degree; reading engineering will. Professor Brian Cox, a patron at the school, reminds us that we are short of 1 million engineers in the United Kingdom. With that in mind, I have worked over the past two years with Brian to run an annual science summer school at St Paul’s Way. This year, 250 students attended the school for two days in their summer holidays to listen to presentations by leading scientists, engineers and medics from across the world. Speakers included those working on the Higgs boson at CERN, the commercial director from Virgin Galactic, the engineer designing the next Mars Rover and the vice president of the Royal College of Physicians, Professor John Wass, who is also a patron of the school. The event was sponsored and part-hosted by Siemens, which opened its Crystal building in the Royal Docks to participating students and staff.
The theme of the science summer school was how to ensure that Britain becomes the best place to do science and engineering in the world. The answer lies in St Paul’s Way and places like it. A new campus is growing there that connects education, science, enterprise, business and research through practical activity. An example of this is the Wellcome Trust sponsored licence, recently won by the school, which will engage its science students in undertaking real DNA research into diabetes, focused on the 11,000 local patients. The only fly in the ointment is that those same patients are currently being prevented from moving into a new £16 million health centre that currently stands empty across the road from the school because of an NHS bureaucratic impasse.
Without doubt, high quality education has changed the lives of the students of St Paul’s Way Trust School and it is essential for our economic growth to further this country’s reputation for academic excellence. Education, however, must not stand alone from business and enterprise. Education is not just about reading books; it is about translating theory into practical activity.
Following my experience of working with the education sector for the past 30 years, I have a few observations. First, education must step outside text books and the classroom into the street and engage with the real world. Secondly, high exam results do not automatically equip students with relevant life skills. Like the noble Lord, Lord Sugar, and many other members of this House, I left school at 16 and developed successful businesses and organisations. School children desperately need to learn life skills, and often these cannot be taught in a classroom.
Thirdly, the often unconscious bias against business in the classroom needs to be addressed. Teachers are uncomfortable with their students trading and earning money in school. They are uneasy when you speak to them about profit margins and exploiting market opportunities. Unless this is addressed, the contribution of education to economic growth will be muted. Fourthly, an over-academic approach can be antithetical to the risk-taking involved in business and entrepreneurship. Too often, especially in government, we risk paralysis by analysis. Fifthly, practical experience and a track record of achievement should complement academic qualifications both in school and in the workplace.
As new science and technology businesses follow Tech City, BT, iCITY and Siemens on to the Olympic Park and across the Lower Lea Valley after the Olympics, there is a real opportunity to link high quality educational achievement with the development of practical skills that are needed there. The announcement yesterday that UCL and the V&A are moving into the park is a major piece of this jigsaw, and we thank the Government for supporting it. In the Royal Docks I am, with partners, starting to build a new secondary free school. This school, through a massive regeneration project, will explicitly link an isolated local community with the employment and enterprise opportunities present in ExCeL, the forthcoming Chinese ABP development, the new India Centre, City Airport and the Silvertown partnership, and here I must declare an interest. However, this will be successful only if the young people involved see that education is about innovation, enterprise and business as well as about reading, writing, and arithmetic.
I ask the Minister: what practical steps should be taken to navigate the blockages at the new health centre across the road from the school in St Paul’s Way? An educational opportunity, with significant economic implications, is being lost because of a bureaucratic impasse. I would be happy to meet the Minister to explain both the opportunity and the difficulties. In my experience, innovation needs both engagement and leadership, not bureaucracy.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the council of Nottingham University. We have heard two good, interesting maiden speeches, which have been a huge contribution to this wide-ranging debate.
Economic growth is fundamental to raising living standards and to social improvement. High-quality education is critical to that growth, right throughout the education years. It is crucial that those involved in each stage of education, from school to vocational training—an area in which I recognise the substantial work of the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, who has achieved far more outside Government, some may consider, than he achieved in it—and through to universities not only talk to but work with each other in the best interests of our young people. I shall touch on those stages of education in my contribution.
Innovation drives productivity improvement and growth. This is especially true for an economy such as that of the UK, where we cannot rely on moving resources from low-productivity activities such as agriculture into higher productivity activity. Universities are critical in driving innovation. They do so in at least three ways. The first is through talent development, not only through undergraduate and postgraduate education, but in executive education and CPD. Many of our successful business leaders across all sectors demonstrate that. However, too many of our citizens are missing that opportunity, either of vocational training or of academic training in universities.
The second way that universities drive innovation is through fundamental and translational research. This helps create new products, new services and new ways of doing things. At Nottingham for instance, Sir Peter Mansfield began fundamental research on MRI, which was then licensed to transform imaging and diagnosis worldwide. Nottingham has also contributed to 3D printing, food security, satellite tracking and carbon capture, all of them important to the UK’s economy both today and in the future. We need highly educated members of our community to carry through that kind of development.
The third way I have chosen to mention—there are others—is the spinning out of new companies. Again, these are developed from the cutting edge of research, not just at Nottingham but at many of our best universities. This has been a hugely successful contribution to the UK economy. This third aspect involves academia working with a wide range of companies, many of which are household names such as AstraZeneca, BAE Systems, E.ON, the Highways Agency, GSK, Rolls-Royce, Romax, Unilever and Boots, with its home in Nottingham and its close links to the founding of the university. They help bring the best of business and academia together.
The role that universities play in the growth of our economy was clearly demonstrated this week, with the Prime Minister’s welcome trade mission to China including a number of vice-chancellors, including Professor David Greenaway of Nottingham. They have gone to a part of the world that has already been covered in this debate and where there is a driving thirst for, and a commitment to, education in a way that we have perhaps not seen. However, that brings with it a downside. There is a question about the roundedness of the individual children coming through that system—their ability to solve problems and their cognitive skills. Nevertheless, that ambition is feeding through to the numbers coming through university. We see it in the China campus that Nottingham has at Ningbo and, indeed, in Malaysia. Those students are a great challenge to us and to our economy because of that thirst for education.
The economic role that universities play in their regions and in driving new technologies has been highlighted recently by the report commissioned by the Government and produced by Sir Andrew Witty, a leading businessman in this country, who is a former student and now chancellor of Nottingham University. The report makes recommendations to the Government on the need to leverage that role that universities play in the regions, in order to be more effective. In his reply, can the Minister tell us where the Government are in their thinking on responding to that report?
In addition to their economic role, universities play a crucial part in building the social capital in the communities where they are embedded, through their contributions to school improvement, healthcare and community engagement and through their involvement in local hospitals. This includes working directly with schools at primary level—it has to start at a very young age—and involves not only academics but students themselves going into those schools as role models to say to young people, “You can do it; I have done it”.
Launched in January 2011, Nottingham Potential is working to address the mismatch between relatively low local achievement, which we have in Nottingham, and progression to level 3 study. All the projects are rooted in the national curriculum, with very strong messages about aspiration and self-esteem. It starts with activities with seven year-olds and continues right through their education. In partnership with IntoUniversity, its activities take students into schools as role models. It holds events on the university campus and aims to make youngsters think that university can be for them and that getting there is achievable. It aims to lift their confidence and horizons and, as has been mentioned, the horizons of their families. So much of this goes back to the home. The local link between the wider community and universities is important to both parties and to our future as well. It is important in breaking down the social barriers which still substantially exist in young people thinking of going to university.
A debate about the role of universities and economic growth would not be complete if we did not recognise the importance of our higher education sector as an exporter and as a contributor to soft power. It is one of the most successful parts of the UK economy in terms of overseas trade, bringing in students and fees from around the world—something like £7.9 billion in 2009. In addition, there is this soft power: the impact of having so many international students learning for their degrees and then going back to their countries. Quite a number of them end up as leaders in their own countries and still carry affection for their alma mater, which benefits the UK in the long term.
I thank my noble friend Lady Morgan for listing and obtaining this debate, and I compliment her on the content and breadth of her opening address and the very thought-provoking statistics that she gave us.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, for initiating this important debate. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Sherbourne, for his extremely interesting maiden speech, in which he attributed to me a particular interest in modern languages. I assure him that, although I chaired the all-party group yesterday, I am not a specialist in modern languages. Rather, I share his interest and the view that we, as a country, are the poorer because we do not put more emphasis on people being able to speak foreign languages. I am very anxious to see that we encourage the study of modern languages in our schools.
I am an economist, not a language specialist, and first came to be interested in the relationship between education and growth when I worked in the National Economic Development Office at the end of the 1970s. I came across the work that an economist called Sig Prais, whose name some noble Lords may remember, was doing at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. I remember in particular a study that he did of two engineering companies involved in machining, comparing a German and a British company. As it happened, they both used exactly the same type of German machinery, which had been installed at the same time—there was no difference in the capital equipment used by the two companies. Nevertheless, productivity in Germany was twice that of the British firm. He wanted to know why productivity was so much higher in the German firm so he began unpeeling, if you like, the skins of the onion.
He discovered that the main reason why productivity in Britain was so low was that the machinery was down for a lot of the time and not being used. Why was it down? Because the build-up of iron filings in the machinery grew to such an extent that the machines just gave up the ghost. Why did this not happen in Germany? Because every Friday afternoon, the apprentices in Germany stripped down the machines, cleaned them all up and cleaned away all the iron filings. The machines therefore worked practically all the time and were never down. Why did this not happen in Britain? It was because there were no apprentices to do the work. They used to have to call the engineer, just as you do when the Xerox machine breaks down; and, just as when the Xerox machine breaks down, the engineer could not always come the next day. The machine might well be down for two days while they waited for the engineer to come along and fix it.
In Germany, on the whole, the operatives who ran the machines were sufficiently trained to be able to repair the machines on the spot if and when they broke down. Why could we not train British apprentices or operatives in the same way? It was discovered that they had tried to train them but the training programme involved an element of mathematical training. On the whole, the British operatives had not got the basic maths to be able to cope with the fairly elementary training programme that was required. The result was that the British organisation, so to speak, meant that we were the poorer for it.
This led me to have a very considerable interest in this link between education, productivity and economic growth. Quite clearly, these things were very important. That was 30 to 40 years ago and since that time we have taken on board and understood the message mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Baker. We have seen a series of educational initiatives of one sort or another since then that have tried to address that particular problem, including all the initiatives on apprenticeships of one sort or another, which perhaps are beginning to pay off. However, there is a very real question as to why, 30 to 40 years later, and knowing the importance of it, we are still lagging in these PISA studies.
One answer is that, of course, others have been moving faster than we have. Another answer is that we should not neglect what we have achieved over that period. The noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, spoke about the number of young people achieving five As to Cs at GCSE; but it is not just that. We have quadrupled the number of young people in universities; we are turning out many more graduates than we were at that time. Something like 12% of the age cohort went through to university; it is now 40%. There are many achievements that we can think about.
Secondly, we should realise that it takes time. Within the Sure Start initiatives we have put a lot of emphasis, particularly in terms of trying to cope with the issue of the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged, on early start and early years education. Your Lordships should remember that those who were in Sure Start when we had the expansion of that in the early 2000s are only just 15 now. We need to be watching the achievement of our 15 year-olds. Back in the 1970s, the Americans had a programme called Head Start that did precisely the same. They wrote it off after 10 years but discovered, 25 years later, that it had had a major influence on the young people who had benefited from it. It takes time for these programmes to work their way through.
Thirdly, we should recognise that it takes two to tango. In my preparation for this debate I was interested to see the work from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. It pointed out that there is a demand as well as a supply side. It is not just the Government funding apprenticeships and so forth; we have to look at what industry is doing and see that there is a demand. I am conscious of the fact that, in two respects, the UK lags behind here. One is that industry fails fairly considerably in its spending on research and development. The second is that, similarly, although it spends £49 billion a year on what it claims to be education and training, much of that goes to high flyers and a lot of it is concerned with the wages of those concerned.
What do we need? Above all, we need consistency. The noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, mentioned that in London the message is one of success, in some senses; we have managed to turn it round. However, if I look only at vocational education, I see the failure of the number of initiatives we have had over this course of time—TVEI, TOPS, WOPs, academic or vocational GCSEs, vocational A-levels, diplomas—and a failure to pick up, for example, on the Tomlinson report. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Baker, on UTCs, which are a very good answer to this. At long last, we have achieved something there. Nevertheless, there has been total inconsistency. On teacher training, the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, mentioned how important the quality of teaching is. Yet what have we done? We have turned the whole thing upside down, just when we were beginning to achieve something.
I echo so much the plea made by my noble friend Lord Storey that there should be consistency. As the noble Lord, Lord Nash, mentioned on Tuesday, we should stop throwing stones at each other. There is political consensus on what we want to achieve. We ought also to try to create political consensus on how we achieve this and commit ourselves to pursuing a programme consistently over 10 or 20 years, not chopping and changing.
My Lords, it is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to take part in this debate. I am fifteenth or sixteenth and I have not heard a contribution with which I have not agreed, at least in part—especially that of the noble Lord, Lord Storey, who struck so many chords with my life that I want to congratulate him on what he said.
I have just two points to make from my experience. The best thing would be to start at the day, 75 years ago, when I ran from my school, Todds Nook in Newcastle, with a piece of paper in my hand. I said to mum and dad, “Mam—I have passed the exam”. I was in an elementary school and this was an exam to get into a secondary school. Dad laughed and mam cried. In those days, dad was on the dole from 1930 to 1939, when the war broke out; they knew that it was impossible for me not to leave school at 14.
Later on I took an exam to go to a technical school—Atkinson Road Technical—and I passed that; but there was no way of going. When I left school at 14, as most people did, I took any job that I could and made my way in life. One of the things that has always niggled me is that many people earn the right by their own abilities to make progress but are denied being able to make that progress as a result of their economic circumstances. Does the Minister have any statistics that would help me to understand the difference between 1934-35 and 2013? The question really is whether there is any record, or attempt to haveusb a record, which shows that there are people who, due to economic circumstances, leave school—for instance, at the age of 16, now—when they are capable of going on.
During the war I was very badly wounded preparing for D-Day. During that period I sat 30 examinations—I made a count the other day—and passed them all, for the Workers’ Educational Association, the National Council of Labour Colleges and the Co-operative Union. Then the Open University came along. At the Open University, you start off with a registered number and a letter. The very first year was “A”; I am a “B” student, so I go back a long way. I am deeply grateful to the Open University.
I want to say that the Government need to be very careful. In producing the education we need, they rely on the goodwill of the teachers, the parents, the community and industry. Of course, there are highs and lows. One of the features of this debate has been that no one, as I recall, has tried to make party-political points. We are all conscious that this is a very serious matter. Not just the lives of the individuals are concerned, but the lives of their families and, collectively, the lives of everyone in our country. I believe that the Government should pause before they become too dogmatic in driving forward their political objectives. When one analyses the stalemates that arise between the teaching profession and the Government, one cannot help but conclude that there must be a better way of doing things. I want to hear something from the Minister on the relationships between the teaching profession and the community.
Tomorrow I am going to a school in Edmonton, which is slap-bang in the middle of a large council estate. It is called Latymer school and it is the best in the area. I am going along there to have Christmas lunch with the staff and pupils. A few years ago, I was invited to present the prizes, and I was pleased to do so. I was well received and someone said, “That was a very good speech”. I said, “Who else have you had?” and they said, “Last year we had Boris Johnson”. I said, “How was he received?”. “Oh, we all laughed all the way through his speech”. I said, “What did he say?”. They said, “We can’t recall what he said but we laughed all the way through his speech”. A laugh and a lightness of approach are probably helpful.
Year after year, Latymer school produces 20 pupils who go to Oxford or Cambridge. It has a basis in the community and the esprit de corps that it manifests is sought after. But one has to be careful. When I was the MP, I would get requests from people who said, “Ted, I want my boy to go to Latymer school and he has been allocated somewhere else”. I would say, “All I can do is write a letter and say that you’ve been to see me and ask if there is any way in which this can be looked at again”. Then I would see them in Edmonton market and they would say, “Ted, my boy got in”. A year later, I would see them in the market again and say, “How’s your boy doing?”. “Oh,” they said, “He’s had to leave the school”. I said, “Why?”. They said, “Because it was too tough”. Beware what you think you will need or want because if you get it, it may not be what you need or want.
The record of Latymer school is not replicated everywhere, but it is a first class school. I remember one of the first times I went there, Norris McWhirter was testing the school orchestra, which was attempting to break the record for playing for the longest time. I was there after they had been playing for 30 hours and they got into the Guinness Book of Records. That is the kind of school that it is.
The Government need to be very careful not to alienate teachers, who are the greatest asset that they have, or the community, because you are not dealing with adults but with the lives and the prospects of children, who deserve the best possible consideration.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, on initiating this timely debate. We have had two very good maiden speeches, and I thank the noble Lord and the right reverend Prelate for their contributions.
Most of the world has had a difficult a time in the past few years, but now the economy is doing well, not just here but in the United States, Europe and Japan. Britain is ahead of the rest of the world and it is time to look at how we can sustain that momentum.
First, I declare an interest as chancellor of two universities: the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Westminster. I know at first hand the role that accessible quality education plays in economic regeneration. The opportunity to participate in education and gain skills must be available to all. This is what will grow the economy and ensure that we have a skilled workforce ready to meet the challenges ahead.
Other countries are accepting this challenge. The Government of India have set a target to have 40 million students in higher education by 2020, when it is forecast that India will supply 12% of the world’s graduates. China is expected to produce 29% of all higher education graduates by then. I am glad that the Prime Minister had exchanges with students from both countries on his recent visits.
Higher education is now a bigger industry in the United Kingdom than the aircraft industry, agriculture or even the pharmaceutical industry. Universities generated £59 billion of the UK’s output in 2009, during the first year after the recession, and created 670,000 jobs, either directly or indirectly. Yet the UK is still ranked by the OECD in seventh place for the skills level of the general population, which indicates that we need to provide more resources for adult learners. We know also that despite a 30% increase in participation in higher education by young people from less advantaged backgrounds, we still have some way to go to ensure that our economic recovery benefits from the creativity and entrepreneurialism of people from all walks of life.
As the only university in the Black Country, the University of Wolverhampton is committed to the regeneration of the region and providing the educational opportunities that I speak of. However, universities such as Wolverhampton are facing significant funding cuts that will affect their ability to provide these opportunities. Funding for teaching and widening participation must be protected to ensure that we maintain and grow our skills base across all parts of the population. In the Black Country alone, 80,000 more graduates are required to bring the region close to the national average. This is not unique to the Black Country. Many parts of the country have the same needs, and those future graduates ought to come from the regions that need them.
In the past, research and science budgets have been protected, while teaching and widening access funds have been cut. This needs to change. Research is not the only or the most effective way to grow an economy. Developing the workforce of today and the future is crucial to economic development, and we must enable all who can benefit from higher education to have an opportunity. This provides concentrated and embedded economic growth across the country.
The British model of higher education prepares students well for jobs. At the University of Westminster we welcome students of 150 nationalities, and we are working hard to upgrade it to world-class status. Today, the university is a world leader in photography, film and media, and is ranked 19th in the QS world rankings. It has probably the best complementary medicine department in Europe, as well as a very successful department of biomedical sciences.
London continues to attract many of the most able international students, but the challenges posed by changes to our immigration system mean that the numbers are falling in comparison with those of the
United States, India and China. This is affecting our higher education market, which is currently valued at £5 billion to the UK economy and is forecast to rise to £16.9 billion by 2025. Therefore, we must remove students from the net migration target, as most are here for only a short time.
The number of higher-level skilled jobs is set to grow over the next decade. By 2020, more than 80% of new jobs will be in occupations with high numbers of graduates. Hence students completing a UK degree will be more valued than before.
Like Andrew Witty, I believe that economic regeneration should not be an add-on to the core business of a university; it should be intrinsic in all that it does. At the heart of course development and design, and of research and development, must be the driving force of meeting the needs of our economy. But public funding, especially for teaching, needs to be protected. Only by doing so will we provide the innovation and skills base that we need to sustain and, more importantly, grow our economy.
My Lords, I begin by expressing my dismay at the obtuseness of many of the analyses that attempt to quantify the economic benefits of increased expenditure on our education. Such studies are well represented in the literature, emanating from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. They are typically cast in the form of economic cost/benefit analyses. The costs are expenditures, both public and private, that are entailed in seeing an individual through the ultimate stages of their education. The benefits are in the form of a discounted flow of cash representing the present value of the individual’s enhanced lifetime earnings. The balance is termed a net lifetime benefit, and the sum of individual benefits, aggregated over the set of people in question, is deemed to be the net economic benefit. There is an implicit suggestion here that the per capita net benefit thus derived is a meaningful measure of the returns to be expected from a marginal increase in the expenditure on a particular form of education. It is suggested that this should provide the appropriate guidance for governmental educational policies.
We should, of course, expect much more from education than the individual financial rewards that it might generate. The economic benefits of an educated working population surely extend far beyond the realm of personal finances. This is notwithstanding the fact that, in economic accountancy, it is deemed to be appropriate to measure all benefits in terms of the eventual increases in the incomes of consumers.
We also have to contend with what economists describe as the problem of externalities; economic benefits and the other effects of the education of individuals accrue not only to themselves but also to others. The problem of externalities is commonly known as the fallacy of composition. The fallacy arises when the whole of something cannot be identified with the sum of its parts.
There is another more fundamental methodological criticism that I should like to aim at the studies that I have mentioned. The studies that purport to account for the levels of personal or national income commonly employ regression analyses. These attribute the value of a dependent variable, which is income in these cases, to a linear combination of various measurable factors, which are weighted by numerical coefficients. There is an unspoken assumption that these factors are amenable to independent variation, achieved perhaps by the intercession of some governmental policy. Thus, for example, it is asserted in one of the documents of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, that,
“a 16 percentage point increase in those educated to degree level could lead to more than £1bn annual savings in reduced crime costs in the UK”.
That is an instance of what is described in philosophical jargon as a counterfactual conditional. It is a statement that asserts that if realities were other than what they actually are, then such-and-such a consequence would ensue. The difficulty here is in the need to invent a plausible alternative reality. The alternative reality would comprise not only the 16% increase in the numbers of graduates; there would be many other accompanying circumstances. There could plausibly be an increase in the unemployment of the graduates, which might lead them to commit crimes. If this speculation sounds silly, it is no sillier than the original proposition.
There are many other instances that could be cited of spurious quantification expressed in quasi-mathematical language. They are certain to bamboozle many readers who lack the confidence to gainsay them. An example of dubious quantification that is dominating the current debate on educational policy is the list of the so-called PISA rankings on national educational achievements that has been published by the OECD in recent days. The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has been using these rankings to berate his predecessors and his critics. On closer examination, the PISA methodology appears to be seriously flawed. However, a cursory glance at the rankings indicates that they are, to a significant extent, inversely correlated with the degrees of inequality in the countries concerned.
If this is not the way to guide and to evaluate our educational policies, then what other methods should we pursue? I propose that we should take a narrative approach, which should be informed by a detailed knowledge of past and present circumstances. This would dwell on past successes and failures. We should allow ourselves some modest self-congratulation, but the principal aim should be that of avoiding the pitfalls already encountered and of overcoming the enduring failures. This is far too big a task to attempt in a brief speech, but I can at least talk briefly of some of my own perceptions.
I believe that we must go back at least to the Butler Education Act of 1944 in order to explain the current status of education in Britain. The Butler Act proposed three different types of secondary school: grammar schools, secondary technical schools and secondary modern schools. The technical schools were intended to foster the scientific and technical education that would sustain our industries, thereby enhancing our economic growth. However, they never materialised. This was partly on account of a lack of resources and a lack of teachers who had skills in the relevant areas.
The technical schools were also opposed by some trade unionists who felt that they would encroach on the apprentice system.
Within this tripartite system, there was an order of merit. Grammar schools, which were to have an academic orientation, would take the brightest of the students; secondary technical schools were to take those of middling ability; and secondary modern schools were to take those who by and large were destined for menial industrial labour. As it transpired, there was no provision in the middle ground for training that was both academic and technical. The legacy of that deficiency has endured to this day. In particular, we have no meaningful system of technical apprenticeships. We seem nowadays to be intent on using a revived system of apprenticeships mainly to obtain placements for young people who might otherwise be unemployed. The reaction of the Labour Party to the socially divisive system of grammar and secondary modern schools was to create comprehensive schools to cater to all students together. However, the comprehensive schools have never satisfied the need for a technical education,
The philosophy of outsourcing that has been adopted by many British companies has led them to regard technical skills as commodities that can be purchased on the open market. They have failed to train and nurture people with the skills that they depend upon, and consequently in many cases the firms have rendered themselves technically incompetent. The problem was well illustrated in a speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp.
At this juncture, I remark that British culture has fostered some decidedly anti-intellectual sentiments. In certain quarters there has been contempt for teachers. There are echoes of such contempt in the pronouncements of the current Secretary of State for Education. Michael Gove has threatened a more rigorous system of school inspections that will weed out incompetent and underperforming teachers. He has also proposed to give head teachers and school governors arbitrary and unbridled powers to determine the remuneration of their staff. It seems that the visitations of the Ofsted inspection regime are to be redoubled at a time when teachers are liable to be afflicted by a plethora of governmental educational initiatives. It is such interference by successive Governments and the derogation of the teachers’ skills that has been responsible for many of the problems in the educational sector.
People work best when they have ownership of the processes that they mediate and when they are able to maintain their self-respect. Under such circumstances, they are liable to work with enthusiasm and to perform beyond the formal call of duty. It is remarkable that our teachers have been so steadfast in the face of so many onslaughts.
My Lords, I hope that I will be forgiven for not following my noble friend on the counterfactual conditional, although I enjoyed much of his other analysis.
Yesterday, my noble friend Lady McIntosh had a question at Question Time about the fact that education is more than just about its economic impact. The whole House, I think, would agree on that, though it is important that we have this particular debate to focus on those aspects.
I congratulate my noble friend Lady Morgan not only on acquiring this debate but on the nature of her analysis, which was realistic, non-political and, importantly, hopeful. I start where she started. If we are to get more out of the investment that we make in education, we have to look more at what happens in early years. Yes, in terms of economic benefits, universities make a great and increasing contribution to exports and earnings, but if we are to get all of our population to the state where they have self-satisfaction, can play a part in society and can be of economic benefit, we must start early. The most significant statistic that my noble friend used was that, at the age of five, many children are 19 months behind the average. That is a desperately serious situation that we have not properly addressed in the past.
We must think in terms of not just formal education but of getting those children off to a better start and of the factors that will determine what they can do for the rest of their lives. That is one reason why I am very proud of what the previous Labour Government did in Sure Start—helping very young children to socialise, interact and co-operate with others and to have confidence and self-respect, all of which will determine their progress later.
As others have mentioned, it is particularly important that we get parents involved. We have to break the cycle of parents who have themselves not got a lot out of education being unable to engage in the system and therefore their children being significantly disadvantaged. Everyone who has been involved in education, at whatever level, knows that when you have parental involvement, you have better behaviour and achievement and everyone finds life an awful lot easier. Incidentally, that is one reason why I have favoured home-school contracts for many years.
It is important to get parents involved in another respect. In education debates we hear a lot about providing opportunity, which is right, but we face one difficulty that no Government have been able to overcome: motivating the non-aspirational. We sometimes talk as if it is a clear choice that individuals sit down to make: “I will be aspirational” or, “I will not bother taking that opportunity”. We need to understand the fears that can inhibit people’s aspirations: the fear of entering an unknown world, the fear of moving away from the security of their family and friends. I think back to some of those films made in the 1960s, where young students from the north were going down to universities in the south and being dislocated from their families. That fear and feeling of, “It’s not for us”, is still very much there in many areas, and we must find new ways to tackle that. What my noble friend said about London was interesting. There may be things that we can learn from there, but it is a serious problem.
An article in the Telegraph today shows that some towns and cities have nine out of 10 residents with high qualifications but some towns have only four out of 10 with the same qualifications. I cannot believe that that reflects an innate ability in one place but not in another; I think that it is to do with aspirations, motivations and confidence. Until we find out how we can crack that one, we will have real difficulties because we are dealing with people whose expectations are not high, and I am not sure that we are doing enough to raise them.
Secondly, echoing what has been said so far, we must value teachers and head teachers and provide them with the training, support and mentoring that they need. Mention has been made of Finland. I am not sure that that is the complete answer, but we should value and respect teachers not just by words; we need action as well. By action, I mean inaction on occasion, because the Government should not overprescribe what teachers should be doing. I think that nearly everyone agrees that we need a national curriculum, but that means different things to different people. I recall, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Baker, does, discussion about what a Secretary of State should recommend as the 10 books that all children should read. I was shadow Secretary of State at the time, and it was very tempting to name your 10 books, but Secretaries of State should resist that temptation—it is not their job to do more than have a prescriptive framework.
Thirdly, I want to mention examinations. We have to ask the basic question: what is the purpose of the testing? Is it to assess and assist the child’s progress; is it to look at the added value that that school is providing; or are we creating hurdles and just using tests for league tables? I draw the Minister’s attention to what the Chief Scientific Officer said yesterday: that the risk in education is always that exams are the tail that wags the whole education dog.
Finally, briefly, I am surprised that no one other than the OU graduate, my noble friend Lord Graham, has mentioned the Open University. It teaches us many things. It shows that many people who did not succeed on the conventional path can succeed later. The majority of its students do not have qualifications for conventional universities. It can also teach us different teaching methods. I am pleased that the vice-chancellor is with the Prime Minister in China, because there is a lot of scope there. The Open University is showing how, through its FutureLearn programme, new techniques can be used to teach people but also to draw them into education by giving them taster courses, not least those based on the BBC programme, “The Frozen Planet”, which encourage them to take up a theme, do courses and get into education. We must look at new ways to get people into education and then keep them in.
My Lords, I should like to declare an interest as the pro-chancellor of Lancaster University and a former director of the University of Cumbria, and as a member of Cumbria County Council, in which capacity I will probably be knocking on the door of the noble Lord, Lord Nash, quite soon.
It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate introduced by my noble friend Lady Morgan of Huyton, with whom I worked in No. 10, which now, I fear, seems a bygone era. It has also been a very good debate. It is a great privilege to hear the noble Lord, Lord Baker, speak. In Cumbria, we are very excited by the creation of one of his university technical colleges. It was also a great privilege to listen to the maiden speeches by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, and particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury. Although we have been on opposite sides of the political fence, he has made a distinguished contribution to public service in his lifetime. I share his view that London is not the centre of the universe.
We also heard an excellent veteran speech by my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton, to offset the maiden speeches. His experience reminded me of the absolute political commitment that we ought to have to education. My mother left school when she was 14 for exactly the same reasons as he had to, and went to work in a confectioners for five bob a week.
I want to make four propositions in this debate. First, education has contributed to economic growth, is contributing and has the potential to contribute much more. Having heard a little of what my noble friend Lord Hanworth said, I hesitate to talk statistics, but I looked to the excellent authority of David Willetts, who has written a very good pamphlet called Robbins Revisited. He argues in that that 20% of UK economic growth in the past quarter-century has resulted from the increase in graduate-level skills, and that a third of the increase in UK labour productivity in the decade before the financial crisis was due to the growing number with university degrees. Economic growth is not the only benefit that better education brings. He cites research that says that people who are well educated are more likely to be members of a voluntary organisation; likely to be more tolerant; less likely to suffer depression; less likely to drink a lot—I am not sure about that; less likely to smoke; less susceptible to criminal activity; and more likely to live longer. Those are all good things.
He also cites evidence that education leads to less cost in public spending. Indeed, the net lifetime benefit to the Exchequer of getting someone through university successfully is, according to David Willetts, £260,000 to the Exchequer for a man and £315,000 for a woman. Perhaps the Minister can explain why, in the light of this compelling logic, today the Chancellor has announced cuts in public spending that affect the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and prevent those economic potential gains being realised.
The second argument I will make is that we have in Britain a huge problem of two nations in education, which we have to overcome. That is what the recent PISA studies show. We have, on the one hand, a combination of great academic standards, wonderful universities and world-leading research, and, on the other, average standards that are too low and regional divides between success in London and failure in northern cities. We have huge deficits in vocational qualifications and skills that Governments have failed to tackle over decades. We have a deplorable position of leadership in Europe on the question of NEETs—young people not in education, work or training of any kind.
I do not think one should play politics about this. This is a huge national problem. I do say, however, that, in response to the PISA studies this week, I thought the Secretary of State for Education—for whom I have respect because he is a man with genuine commitment to equal opportunity—demeaned himself by trying to turn the PISA results into an attack on Labour’s record in office in those years. Labour inherited an education system that was in crisis in 1997. Yes, we got some things wrong. We had perhaps too many targets and perhaps the wrong targets. Perhaps getting rid of languages as a requirement in 2004 was a mistake. All Governments get things wrong. What we got right, however, was a 74% increase in spending per student below university level in those Labour years and an increase in higher education spending per student of 38%. Let us not play politics with education. Let us recognise that we have these underlying problems.
My fear about the present coalition’s policy is that, although there are aspects of it that are very attractive, the problem of the two nations may be made worse. I will give a few examples. One of the good ideas in the coalition policy is the pupil premium. When you look, however, at what is happening in teaching, autonomy in schools should not become an excuse for hiring loads of unqualified teachers. That will not improve the quality of teaching; nor should the proposals to reform the system of teacher education be rushed. The Government are right to want a lot more apprentices. Yes, there is a need for more apprenticeships, and the previous Government, I think, got things wrong on Train to Gain. I am quite willing to admit that. However, I looked at a recent report from the Boston Consulting Group—this is not a Labour think tank, this is the Boston Consulting Group—said that, of the 240,000 new apprenticeships created in the past two years, 58% were low-level and 75% went to people over the age of 25 who were already in work. It looks to me as though this is not a dramatic breakthrough in skills education but another form of employer wage subsidy. We have progress to make on apprenticeships.
That is also the case in higher education. My noble friend Lady Warwick talked about the decline in part-time students and mature students, which is a great shame. The noble Lord, Lord Paul, mentioned how migration policies threaten the future of our universities. I think the Government may have the wrong priorities. For instance, I am sure that, in the other place today, there will be a lot of applause for the married couple’s allowance and the universal free school meals. Would it not, if you were seriously interested in educational opportunity and that was your principal objective, have been better to spend that money on children’s centres and early years?
Our education policy needs a rethink, on a cross-party basis, to try to establish consensus. We need to make institutional changes to our education system that will withstand changes of Government. We need to make systemic change to raise quality, not just fiddle around at the edges. We need to raise the status, as Labour attempted, of the teaching profession. We need a new system of post-16 funding. I think the Labour Government experimented with an individual learning account and it went wrong, but we need something like that. We also need a new, more settled approach to higher education.
In conclusion, we will succeed as a country only if we improve our educational quality. The greatest national resource that we have for our future is the unfulfilled potential of so many of our young people. We need a national consensus if we are to achieve that.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, for proposing this debate on such an important topic. She is an experienced and passionate advocate for education, from her time as a geography teacher in the early 1980s to the work that she has done as a member of the board of trustees of the Teaching Leaders charity, chair of the board of trustees of Future Leaders and chair of Ofsted.
I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans and my noble friend Lord Sherbourne on their maiden speeches. Both spoke passionately, incisively and eloquently, and I am sure that we are all looking forward to hearing them speak on many more occasions. I also thank all noble Lords for their valuable contributions.
As the excellent charity ARK, one of our high-performing academy sponsors, which I know the noble Baroness advises, has stated, education is one of the strongest determinants of future income and social mobility. Young people with university degrees have double the earning capacity of those who leave school without qualifications. The noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, spoke about the underachievement “tail” of particularly poor children. We all know that many of our children are brought up in chaotic home lives with no systems, no structures and a background of generational worklessness. As I think noble Lords know, and I think there is consensus on this across the House, the only way in which we can break this cycle is through education. The tail is why we are changing the basic accounting measure for schools from a rather simplistic five A* to C grades, including English and maths, to a progress measure across eight subjects so that all pupils, whether they come to school performing poorly or highly, are measured on the progress that they make.
The noble Baroness also mentioned London Challenge, to which I pay tribute, as a model of collaboration. The academies programme is the structure that we are using for school-to-school support in local clusters in regional locations. A local collaborative structure is the only model that we feel works. I was delighted to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, say that people work best when they have ownership of the processes that they are running, which is exactly what our academy programme is all about.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans mentioned that 82% of the schools in his diocese are good or outstanding. As I am sure he knows, that puts his diocese in the premier division of dioceses. I am extremely grateful to the Diocese of St Albans for its sponsorship of the All Saints Academy. I also pay tribute to church schools generally, which consistently outperform local authority-maintained schools and outperform on community cohesion.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, and other noble Lords have said, this debate is particularly timely as the latest PISA international comparison results were published earlier this week. These results showed that, having tumbled down the PISA tables in the first decade of this century, we have broadly maintained our pretty average, mid-20s standing out of 65 countries. For the sixth largest economy in the world, it is clear that there is a lot more that we have to do if we are to give our children the ability to compete in an increasingly competitive and diverse international market.
These results follow the shocking findings of the recently published OECD’s adult skills survey, which showed that we came joint bottom out of 24 countries in numeracy and 21st out of 24 in maths. We were the only country in the surveyed group whose school leavers’ grandparents are better educated than they are. There is a similar story with TIMSS and other statistics.
It is clear that countries with successful education systems have faster rates of economic growth, as the noble Lord, Lord Paul, referenced. A study by Hanushek and Woessmann in 2012 suggested that if the UK halved the then 50 PISA-point gap between us and Finland, it would result in a 6% boost to the level of UK GDP by 2050, worth around £90 billion in today’s money.
There is evidence that education is increasingly important across the world. Graduates are good for growth and good for the economy; the noble Baronesses, Lady Warwick, Lady Cohen, Lady Donaghy and Lady Dean, referred to the success of our university system. Looking across developed economies, a study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research shows that countries that increased their share of graduates in the workforce saw labour productivity grow faster, as the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, referred to. In the UK, we estimate that roughly one-third of the increase in labour productivity between 1994 and 2005 was attributable to the accumulation of graduate skills in the labour force. In other words, a substantial share of the UK’s economic growth over this period was related to the expansion of higher education.
The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, referred to the graduate premium. Office for National Statistics data show that the average income for graduates levels out at £35,000, compared to £22,000 per annum for those with A-levels and £19,000 for those with merely GCSEs.
The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, and the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, referred to funding. I must remind the House that we inherited a particularly parlous state of finances in this country and we have had some very difficult decisions to make as we seek to rectify the financial situation while protecting education budgets extremely well, particularly in relation to schools. As a result of our tighter financial controls, and as the Chancellor has today announced, the economic prospects for the country are looking up substantially.
While education is critical in building human capital, it is also important for short-term and medium-term growth. Our £18 billion capital investment programme to build new schools is stimulating construction activity across the country and supporting jobs. Free early years education for 1.3 million three and four year-olds—that is 96%—is enabling more parents to work. Education is worth around £17.5 billion to the UK export sector. My department spends almost £60 billion on education and children’s services.
However, it is not just about spending money, it is also about value for money. I am delighted to be able to tell the House that we are now building schools at half the cost of that under the Building Schools for the Future programme, more quickly and more fit for purpose. We are also running the Department for Education far more efficiently and, by 2015, will have halved the cost of running the department in real terms from just over £500 million to around £300 million, and we will have a far more efficient and effective organisation as a result.
Our ambitious educational reforms are influenced by international evidence on what works. Successful school systems prioritise the quality of teachers over the size of classes; they attract the best people into teaching; and there is greater autonomy and accountability—I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, and Sir Michael Wilshaw for the highly effective work that Ofsted does in this regard.
High-performing systems have curriculum standards that set clear and high expectations. The relationship between early education and better student outcomes is strongest in countries that offer early education to a large proportion of the population. The amount spent is less important than how those resources are used.
Pupils’ socioeconomic background still plays too big a role in attainment in England. The impact of parental education on literacy and numeracy is stronger in England than in most other countries. According to the Sutton Trust, boosting the educational outcomes of children from less educated families to match the UK average could be worth around 4% of GDP, or £60 billion, to the country’s economy.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel and the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, spoke about the importance of engaging parents in their children’s education. I could not agree more. Unfortunately, many parents, however hard they try to engage, are so badly educated and so immersed in worklessness that schools today have to do so much more to replace the lack of support that children get at home. The evidence is that children from middle-class families will hear different words millions of times more than children from poorer families, which is why we are focusing so much on improving early years and primary education.
We know that education is crucial to a child’s future success. Not only is that true in respect of the labour market but educated people are healthier, more innovative, less likely to commit crime and more likely to be involved in volunteering.
Our education reform programme is based on raising attainment across the board and narrowing gaps. We are prioritising the most disadvantaged children through additional funding for early years and the pupil premium; setting higher expectations of the quality of teaching and standards of education; giving our teachers more scope to make the right decisions; holding schools and colleges to account for the outcomes that they secure for their disadvantaged pupils through a robust accountability system, which I have already mentioned; and creating opportunity for more innovation in the schools system, giving head teachers more freedoms in maintained schools and driving forward growth in the number of free schools, UTCs and studio schools.
As the noble Lord, Lord Baker, mentioned, we now have 42 UTCs open or due to open. These are creating opportunities—or will do when they are full—for 30,000 young people to train as the engineers and scientists of the future, playing a crucial role in England’s long-term economic growth. In this, they are teaming up with employers such as Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls-Royce, Siemens and the National Grid. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Baker, for his tireless, relentless and energetic determination to drive this programme and to the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who is not in his place, for getting this programme off the ground in the first place.
We also have studio schools. There are now 28 open, with 13 more due to open shortly. They bring together academic and vocational education and employment, with over 400 employers, including M&S, Sony, Barclays and the BBC as well as many smaller businesses, involved.
My noble friend Lord Sherbourne set out another crucial factor in the future competitiveness of our children—modern languages. He highlighted many of the reforms that we have made in this area and made a compelling case for these changes, and I thank him for it. As he said, the English baccalaureate is already encouraging more young people to take a language at GCSE level. The increase is 16% in 2013 in pupils taking MFL at GCSE. Studying languages is about choice and we are making £3.1 million available in funding for Routes into Languages, a consortium of universities working together with schools and colleges to enthuse and encourage people to study languages to support a new three-year student demand-raising programme. Through the free schools programme we have opened the Bilingual Primary School in Brighton, which is delivering the curriculum in both English and Spanish, and the Judith Kerr Primary School in Southwark, where the curriculum is being delivered in both English and German, while in pre-opening there is the Bromley Bilingual school, which will teach French and English through immersion, and the Marco Polo Academy, which will teach English and Mandarin using immersion methods.
I thank my noble friend Lord Storey for his encouraging words about what we are doing about languages in primary schools. Strong and robust vocational education is essential for the future. More and more young people are taking vocational courses; we have seen a 200% increase over the past 10 years. As my noble friend Lord Baker said, the fact that we have such a high number of NEETs, stubbornly stuck at around 1 million, has to change. We need to repair the broken link between qualifications and training between British industry and employers and universities. The most able students must have confidence that the vocational qualifications are of the highest standard.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, spoke about the importance of raising the status of vocational courses, and that is why we commissioned the report by Professor Alison Wolf on vocational education. We have followed all her excellent recommendations. We have already reformed vocational qualifications at 14, we are in the process of consulting on reforming 16-to-19 vocational qualifications and we have introduced Techbacc. In the past, skills training has been bureaucratic, top-down and complex. The funding of the system has been done through large numbers of people rather than focusing on value. Successive Governments have made the education system for vocational qualification accountable to funding bodies instead of to their customers, learners, businesses and the wider local community.
Under this Government we have ended top-down bureaucracy in FE colleges and supported a massive expansion in apprenticeships programmes, which we are focusing on making of higher quality and of longer duration. However, none of this means anything unless our young people are engaging with education, and we are planning to spend £7.4 million in 2013-14 to fund an education and training place for every 16 or 17 year-old who wants one, and we are raising the participation age.
Our higher education system is a huge success story, as a number of noble Lords have mentioned. We attract large numbers of international students and researchers who bring revenue, expertise and stimulate growth. Our strongest universities are among the best in the world. Education is a valuable and growing export sector worth about £17.5 billion in 2011. About 26,000 international students at over 1,200 UK independent schools contribute £685 million in fees, and around 1.4 million pupils studied at nearly 3,000 British schools overseas, contributing nearly £10 billion in fees. There is a strong overseas demand for educational products and services, including support in building, staffing and inspecting overseas schools. There is also growing interest in developing technical and higher vocational skills.
In the summer we published our education export strategy, which will ensure that British schools, universities, colleges and education businesses continue to stay ahead in the global education market worth about £1 trillion. The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, talked about the Institute of Education, which I would be delighted to visit. I was delighted to hear the noble Baroness refer to the World Bank report mentioning the importance of acquiring knowledge and the processing of information, which is why we are increasing the content in our curriculum. I was also delighted to hear her mention the importance of providing incentives so that the stronger teachers can get better paid, which is what performance-related pay is all about. I am beginning to sense the makings of a consensus across the House on the future of education, and perhaps we can begin to see the end of the stone-throwing era.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, about the importance of raising aspirations for our pupils, particularly those from less privileged backgrounds. The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, talked about those films in the 1960s. I can particularly remember one with Tom Courtenay. I cannot recall what it was called but it made a vivid impression on my mind.
We must open the door to education much wider for employers. As the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, said, we must provide our pupils with a clear line of sight to the workplace. I have been struck when talking to students about their work experience and visiting places of work; talking to people from the workplace has raised their heads and their ambitions. I look forward to meeting him to see if we can unblock the logjam to which he referred.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Graham, that schools should widen their connections with the local community. In my own school we have an active programme of raising aspirations, engaging with community voluntary groups, professions and businesses, which has had a remarkable effect on the aspirations of the children.
The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, talked about prescription and the freedom to teach. As the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, knows, one of the things that we in this Government have been very strong on is being much less prescriptive. We have had many conversations with Ofsted about how teachers should teach so that they can teach in the way that they think is best to make progress for their pupils.
Ensuring that all our children receive the best educational outcomes is a priority not just for me, my department and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education but for the whole country, and I am sure that there is consensus across the House about this. In concluding, I again congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans and my noble friend Lord Sherbourne on their excellent maiden speeches, and I am grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, for allowing us to discuss these most important matters.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for taking part in today’s debate, which has been engrossing. I especially thank the right reverend prelate the Bishop of St Albans and the noble Lord, Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury, for their excellent maiden speeches. I am sure that we all look forward to hearing more from them in the future.
I have been struck by the breadth of knowledge and expertise in this House but also by the real experience that so many Members of this House have. We do not do too much stone-throwing here; we seek consensus and ways to try to move educational standards forward in a way that will help economic growth.