Schools: Nottingham

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:18 am on 12th July 2017.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education) 11:18 am, 12th July 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I congratulate Lilian Greenwood on securing this important debate, and I congratulate her and Alex Norris on their contributions to it. I acknowledge the successes in school improvement in Nottingham that the hon. Lady highlighted. If we look at the data, we see that there have clearly been improvements in phonics results, EBacc results and in key stage 2 results.

The Government want to ensure that every pupil receives a world-class education, regardless of their background or where they live. We have made significant progress. England outperformed the rest of the United Kingdom in the OCED’s most recent PISA science assessments. The attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their more affluent peers has shrunk by 7% at key stage 4 and by 9.3% at key stage 2 since 2011. There are now 1.8 million more children in schools that are rated good or outstanding than there were in 2010. In Nottingham, that translates into nearly 8,000 more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010.

However, the pace of improvement in some parts of the country, including Nottingham, is still not good enough. Only 80% of schools in Nottingham are rated as good or outstanding, compared with the national position of 89%. There is still underperformance in some schools in Nottingham compared with the rest of the country.

For example, in 2016, 75% of Nottingham’s pupils reached the expected standard in phonics, compared with 81% nationally and 87% in Newham—one of the most deprived parts of the country—but I am pleased that the phonics results in Nottingham have increased year on year, with 48% passing that check in 2012. In Nottingham, 50% of primary school children in key stage 2 achieved the expected level in reading, writing and mathematics, compared with 53% nationally and 62% in Newham. At key stage 4, 16.8% of secondary school pupils in Nottingham achieved the EBacc combination of GCSEs, compared with 24.7% nationally and 31% in Newham.

I remain as concerned about school standards in Nottingham as I was when I met the directors of education for Nottingham City Council and the regional schools commissioner in November 2015 to discuss how they intended to raise standards. Our ambition is for a school system that prevents underperformance, helps all schools to improve and extends the reach of high-performing schools and headteachers. That is the key to delivering more high-quality school places across the country and accelerating the pace of improvements throughout the country, including in Nottingham.

To succeed in that, we have targeted investment in the school system to support those schools most in need, and to support the development of teachers and school leaders, particularly in the most challenging parts of the country. For example, we have established a new fund, the strategic school improvement fund, which provides £280 million over two years to target resources at those schools most in need of support. That will help those schools that are struggling to improve to drive up standards and improve pupil attainment. Working at a local level, key partners will bring together local intelligence to help inform applications and ensure that funds are directed at identified improvement priorities that meet local needs.

Working with schools at a local level is also an important part of our strategy to deliver more good and outstanding school places. Our eight regional schools commissioners are pivotal to driving up standards locally, brokering schools into strong multi-academy trusts, and challenging and supporting those trusts to raise standards where they are not performing effectively.

Multi-academy trusts play a key role in harnessing the support of our system leaders and are helping to turn around some of the more challenging schools right across the country. Bluecoat Beechdale Academy, which serves a deprived community in the Bilborough part of Nottingham, was judged good by Ofsted in February this year. Ofsted noted that pupil progress is now improving rapidly. Djanogly Strelley Academy in Nottingham was also judged good by Ofsted in February this year, which is a significant turnaround from 2013, when its predecessor school was judged inadequate.

When we are not satisfied that the progress an academy is making is good enough, we will take decisive action, including re-brokering it to a new sponsor.