Access to Education: South-East Northumberland

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 21 February 2024.

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Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck 2:30, 21 February 2024

I thank my hon. Friend again for his intervention, which had a number of questions. You are an excellent Chair, Mr Henderson, but there are only a few people here in Westminster Hall. [Interruption.] Ah, Jim Shannon has just arrived.

It is really important to recognise the situation that my hon. Friend described, which is part of what I wanted to discuss here today. This issue is about giving all children equal opportunity and equal choice in schools that their parents went to or where their friends up the street are going to. Children in the same street are going to different schools.

This issue is all about trying to better the educational lives of young people in our constituencies. It is difficult. The constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth is very similar to mine: both have areas with high populations and lots of little areas on the outskirts with much lower populations, and that presents problems. Regardless of party politics, parental choice in education is an incredibly reasonable ambition, but until all parents are able to exercise parental choice it will remain only an ambition.

In recent years, my office has been dealing with an increasing number of cases relating to children who are not able to access their school of choice. That is not because they have sought to access schools in distant communities where they do not have any ties—indeed, as I mentioned before, the schools they are now unable to access are the ones their parents and grandparents attended. If someone was at one school, the next school used to follow; it was a generational thing. But that has been smashed to pieces by the new rules that have come into place for pupil allocation numbers, or PAN.