Education Questions

 

The Secretary of State was asked—

Arts and Creative Education

1. Mr Don Foster (Bath) (LD): What steps he is taking to promote arts and creative education in schools. [89247]

The Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning (Mr John Hayes): The Government believe that children’s education is enriched through their connection with the beauty provided through the arts. To support this mission, we invited Darren Henley, the managing director of Classic FM, to undertake a review of cultural education in schools and he is due to report shortly. As you know, Mr Speaker, in November we published a national plan for music education worth £200 million over three years.

Mr Foster: I am sure the whole House is looking forward to the Henley review, but does the Minister acknowledge that the expert panel on the curriculum review are concerned that the role of cultural and creative subjects in a broad and balanced curriculum is in danger of being lost? Given the significant reduction in postgraduate certificate in education art and design places and the lack of any cultural subjects in the English baccalaureate, are they not right to be concerned?

Mr Hayes: The right hon. Gentleman will know that the E-bac—the core curriculum that we are developing—is sufficiently small to allow space for all kinds of other activities, including those relating to music, art and culture, as well. Certainly, it is the view of the Secretary of State and the whole Government that enriching a child’s education through their experience of art, music and culture is at the heart of good education.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): My constituency is one of the hotbeds of creative activity with a very high percentage of artists and creative businesses, and the schools have followed that through. However, I know from recent visits to primary schools such as Brook community primary school, which has excellent enrichment through the arts, that they are worried about future funding and are

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already having to make cutbacks in those areas. Will the Minister explain what the Government’s financial policy is to back up the warm words he just uttered?

Mr Hayes: I mentioned in my first answer the commitment we have made to music. The important thing about that commitment is that we have been very clear over the long term about what schools can expect to receive, and that will help with financial planning. The new music education hubs will help to bring this together. That recommendation very much arose from the original investigation we did. Art is not the study of positive reality; in Ruskin’s words, it is “seeking for ideal truth”. It is that spirit that imbues all this Government do.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): Plymouth’s excellent college of art is looking at trying to develop and create a free school aimed specifically at bolstering the arts economy and on improving participation in the arts. Would my hon. Friend be willing to meet me and fellow representatives from the college of art to discuss how it can ensure that aspiration becomes reality?

Mr Hayes: Any meeting with my hon. Friend always adds to my grasp of these matters; of course I will happily meet him. It is clear from his question that he shares our view that having a richer mix of school types will allow the development of precisely the kind of expertise he describes.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Britain is a world leader in creative and cultural industries, but at the moment we are seeing in our schools a reduction in music, art and other teaching. Whatever warm words the Minister offers, what is he going to do about it?

Mr Hayes: The hon. Lady will know, because she is a diligent student of these matters, that this Government established a council specifically to look at the creative industries. I have met that council to discuss how we can work with it to improve links between the creative industries and schools and colleges. She will also know that we have allocated in my area specific funding with that council to develop new courses, new apprenticeships and new opportunities with creative industries.

School Playing Fields

2. Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (LD): What his policy is on the sale of school playing fields; and if he will make a statement. [89248]

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): Playing fields are an important part of a school’s estate, and sport is a critical element of any school curriculum. The Secretary of State’s consent is needed to sell school playing fields under section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. School playing fields can be sold only if they are genuinely surplus, with all proceeds being used to improve sports or educational facilities. The Education Act 2011 also gives the Secretary of State power to direct that, instead of being disposed of, the land should be transferred to an academy or free school.

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Annette Brooke: I thank the Minister for that answer. Will he make sure there is careful scrutiny by both Sport England and his Department of the proposed sale of playing fields at Wareham middle school? There are overwhelming objections locally, including from the district council and the town council, identifying the already overall shortage of playing fields. There is widespread community use of the fields, and there is particular opposition to the site’s being sold for an out of town supermarket and its possible replacement with inferior provision.

Mr Gibb: The short answer is, yes we will. The long answer is that there has not yet been an application from Dorset county council to dispose of the Wareham school playing field. If such an application is made, the Secretary of State’s approval to dispose of the playing field will be required, and he will take advice from the independent school playing fields advisory panel.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): The Minister will know that from 1979 until 1997 the Conservative Government sold off 10,000 school playing fields. After the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, the number went down to just 226 between 1998 and 2010. The national planning policy framework intends to water down restrictions on the disposal of school playing fields, which is like a burglar returning to the scene of the crime. Will the Minister ensure that there is no watering down of the restrictions on the sale of school playing fields in the future?

Mr Gibb: I have just explained that section 77 of the Act is still in force and there is no intention to change that legislation. In fact, in 2011 just eight applications for the sale of school playing fields were allowed.

Youth Services

3. Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of the provision of youth services. [89249]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Tim Loughton): Local authorities have made significant reductions in funding for out-of-school services for young people this year. However, many authorities are prioritising early intervention to help disadvantaged young people, and are working closely with the voluntary sector to maintain open access youth services. In December, the Government published the Positive for Youth strategy, which sets direction and gives examples of how councils can reform youth services, particularly in challenging and difficult financial times.

Tom Blenkinsop: I thank the Minister for his answer. According to Experian, after the Government’s autumn statement the third hardest-hit borough was Middlesbrough. Due to the Secretary of State’s cuts, 13 to 19-year-olds in Middlesbrough will receive 15% less spending per head for youth service provision after the top-heavy cuts imposed on the town. Are they a lesser funding priority than a royal yacht?

Tim Loughton: As I said, many areas have seen some of their spending for youth services cut, but many areas have actually established new smarter partnerships with the voluntary sector, social enterprise and commercial

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organisations. The neighbouring constituency to the hon. Gentleman’s is a beneficiary of a myplace, with investment of £4.5 million from the Government. That is a hub for lots of varied activities for young people to take advantage of, helping them with careers, training and many other things.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): In 2005, when it was Labour-controlled, Northamptonshire county council directly provided its own youth services and managed to reach only 3,000 young people. Now under Conservative control, the council has commissioned its youth services to the voluntary sector; it regularly gets 20,000 young people involved and is one of the authorities with the best value youth services in the country. Will my hon. Friend congratulate the county council on its foresight and good practice?

Tim Loughton: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning such an example of good practice. Frankly, I do not care who the provider is; it is the way they provide the service and whether they are providing the services that young people want at the time they want them. It is about the quality of the service. They may not be able to do it in Labour-controlled Middlesbrough, but apparently they can in Northamptonshire and I congratulate them on it.

Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab): The new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has warned that gang crime is now a significant problem in half of all London boroughs, and similar issues affect cities across the country. Good youth work is critical to a successful strategy to tackle gangs and youth violence, yet not only are youth services being reduced, as the Minister has just told us, but the National Council for Voluntary Organisations warned last week that the charitable sector is facing a £1 billion shortfall and many small community youth organisations, including the Stephen Lawrence centre, are at risk of closure. What assessment has the Minister made of the contribution of reduced capacity in council and community youth services to a successful anti-gangs and youth violence strategy?

Tim Loughton: The hon. Lady is right to raise the problem of gang culture. The Government take it very seriously. The Home Secretary chairs an inter-ministerial group on gangs, on which I represent the Department for Education, but I have to say that some of the very best anti-gang projects I have seen around the country—including in London in places such as Croydon, with “Lives not Knives”—involve the voluntary sector working in partnership with the local authority. They are going into schools working with the victims of those crimes and their families, spreading best practice and saying, “Not in my name”. The very best response to the troubles we saw in the summer was from young people coming together with voluntary organisations, saying, “Not in my name will this sort of violence happen,” and coming up with constructive and positive examples. That is why Positive for Youth is such an important part of the Government’s policy.

Primary School Places

4. Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con): What estimate he has made of the number of additional primary school places needed in the next decade. [89250]

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The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): Most local authorities are forecasting an increase in primary pupil numbers over the next five years. Based on data published by the Office for National Statistics, the school-age population is expected to rise during the rest of the decade. My Department will continue to provide capital funding to meet that need.

Alec Shelbrooke: Will my right hon. Friend outline to my constituents in Elmet and Rothwell the proposals that are in place for the excellent primary schools in the area, should they need to expand to meet the predicted increase in school numbers?

Michael Gove: My hon. Friend is fortunate to have many outstanding primary and secondary schools serving his constituents, and those will be able to expand under the changes that we have made to the admissions code. We have also increased the amount of money available to meet what is called basic need—the growth in primary school places—and we have done so by making efficiencies from the old Building Schools for the Future programme, which, while nobly conceived, was often poorly executed.

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) (Lab): The Secretary of State will know that in London the demand for extra primary classes is acute—64% of all the additional places required across the country are in London. How can it therefore be right that in the basic needs allocation London got only a third of the funding available when it has two thirds of the need?

Michael Gove: The hon. Lady, as ever, makes an effective case on behalf of her constituents. We looked at the original formula that we inherited for the allocation of money to areas where population growth was forcing schools to expand. We changed it, in consultation with London Councils and the Mayor of London. The new formula that we used was fairer to London, and it was welcomed by Jules Pipe, the mayor of Hackney, on behalf of London Councils, and by the Mayor of London, but no formula is ever perfect, and we continue to look to ensure that Lewisham students can continue to benefit.

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): The Secretary of State will know, I hope, that the vast bulk of the new entrants for primary school allocations in Peterborough for September 2012 are foreign children whose first language is not English. In his ongoing review of funding, will he concede the resource implications of that and assist a small number of local authorities, such as Peterborough, that face serious teaching and resource allocation issues for children whose first language is not English?

Michael Gove: My hon. Friend has bravely and rightly drawn attention to the fact that inward migration flows have had a particularly strong effect on his constituents. On the current changes to education funding, upon which we are consulting, we propose to include additional funding for those schools that have a significant number of students who have English as an additional language.

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): How many primary school places could the Government fund with the money that the Secretary of State has

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proposed be spent on a new royal yacht? Does he regret his rushed decision in 2010 to abolish the Labour Government’s primary capital programme and would it not have been better to have reformed that programme to focus on the serious shortage of primary school places?

Michael Gove: The hon. Gentleman should have been careful to look at the charts and to navigate out of rocky waters, because the letter that I wrote to the Prime Minister on 12 September clearly stated that I agreed, of course, that the project for a royal yacht—the Future Ship Project 21st Century—was one where no public funding should be provided. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has once again allowed himself to be misled. I support that project because it would provide opportunities for disadvantaged youth from across the country to learn new skills and to take part in exciting new adventures. It is typical of the unreformed elements—

Mr Speaker: Order. I am extremely grateful to be educated by the Secretary of State, but I do not think that the yacht will provide additional primary school places, which is the subject matter under discussion.

Stephen Twigg: Indeed, Mr Speaker. The Government have found £1.2 billion for new places, half of which is being spent on new free schools. Although 90% of the extra places that are needed by 2015 are in primary schools, the majority of the new free schools announced late last year are secondary schools. Instead of his dogmatic and ideological preference for his pet project, would it not make more sense to allocate the whole of that £1.2 billion to meet the serious shortfall in primary school places?

Michael Gove: I am grateful for your advice, Mr Speaker, but I always try to answer the questions that I am asked by the hon. Gentleman—I know that that is sometimes a novel approach, but I believe it to be right.

It is also right to remind the hon. Gentleman, as he reminded the readers of The Observer on Sunday, that the last Labour Government wasted money on Building Schools for the Future. As a result of eliminating that waste, we have made £500 million available this year, and £600 million next year, for primary school places for which they never provided. They failed to look ahead and navigate a way through hard times, and now that there is a captain at the helm who knows in which direction to take this ship, I am afraid that we need less rumbling from the ratings who want to mutiny below deck.

Special Needs

5. Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West) (Con): What recent progress his Department has made in implementing the proposals in the special needs Green Paper; and if he will make a statement. [89251]

7. Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): What recent progress his Department has made in implementing the proposals in the special needs Green Paper; and if he will make a statement. [89253]

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Sarah Teather) rose— [ Interruption. ]

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Mr Speaker: Order.

Sarah Teather: When all that has settled down, we have established a number of local pathfinders to test the best ways of implementing the key reforms, and are providing support to local authorities in developing local provision for children and young people with special educational needs.

We will publish a response to the consultation on the Green Paper shortly. This will set out the progress we have made and the next steps in taking forward our reforms.

Charlotte Leslie: Given that two thirds of the August rioters have special educational needs—a rate well above the national average—and that a disproportionate number have been subject to school exclusions, what steps has the Minister taken to ensure that if a child is subject to permanent or repeated exclusion, they are assessed for special educational needs, so that if such needs exist they are catered for and met, and we can ensure that children such as those involved in the rioting can do basic things such as reading?

Sarah Teather: I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I know that she feels strongly about this issue, which she discussed with me when we were consulting on the Green Paper. The whole purpose of what we are trying to do with the Green Paper is to focus better on early intervention. She will be aware that, in particular, we are ensuring that the forthcoming guidance on behaviour and exclusions makes it clear that a multi-agency assessment should be carried out if a pupil displays behaviour that does not respond to normal classroom management techniques. We have asked Charlie Taylor to do work specifically on alternative provision and attendance, and all those issues are relevant to the matters raised by the hon. Lady.

Peter Aldous: While the Warren and Ashley schools in Lowestoft provide first-class education for pupils with special educational needs, research by Ambitious about Autism shows that 85% of adults with autism are not in full-time employment. Will the Minister set out what she is doing to improve the transition from education to work for special needs pupils?

Sarah Teather: Again, trying to make sure that we have better transition is something on which the Green Paper and our response will specifically focus. That is why are changing the statementing process. A new education, health and care plan running from nought to 25 ought to enable us to think about outcomes and plan right from the beginning—not just as an afterthought when young people reach 16. We should focus much more on outcomes right from the beginning. In addition, there are a number of projects that the pathfinders are doing for us that look at transition. The Green Paper also highlights our proposals for supported internships, which might make a real difference here.

Ian Swales (Redcar) (LD): Partnerships for Schools says that Kirkleathamhall special school in my constituency has problems with access, temperature, lighting and ventilation; most of the teaching spaces are too small,

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and the full curriculum cannot be provided to secondary- age pupils. Will the Minister meet me to discuss this unacceptable situation?

Sarah Teather: I would be very happy to meet my hon. Friend.

Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall) (LD): In her answer to the original question, my hon. Friend referred to pathfinders. How will the information that she obtains from them be shared publicly, and how will it inform her work towards legislation in that area?

Sarah Teather: We are trying to go through a process of active learning so that the lessons from the pathfinders do not go into a black box and are not looked at again, but are shared with other local authorities. Local authority groups have come together, so it is not necessarily the case that individual local authorities are working in isolation, but are working with parents’ groups and charities on the ground. We are keen to learn the lessons that they are looking at, and we will make sure that that informs our legislation in future.

Children in Care

6. Mrs Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab): What steps his Department plans to take to improve outcomes for children in care. [89252]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Tim Loughton): The Government are thoroughly overhauling the care and adoption system to improve the lives of looked-after children. We have issued revised care planning guidance, and foster carers and adopters charters. The Prime Minister has announced a package of new policy interventions, including the publication of performance tables. We want to see more stable, high quality placements, whether through adoption, fostering or in a children’s home because final outcomes for too many looked-after children have been unacceptable for too long.

Mrs Glindon: Placement stability is imperative for good educational and life outcomes for children in care. With swingeing cuts to social services nationally, what measures is the Minister putting in place to assure the House that we will not see a culture of commissioning the cheapest care, regardless of quality?

Tim Loughton: I think the hon. Lady will find that one area of local government spending which has been safeguarded more than others is the safeguarding of vulnerable children, and it is absolutely right that it should be. The most expensive thing is the expense of failure. The bureaucracy that surrounded safeguarding for too many years meant that too many social workers, rather than spending time out there helping vulnerable children, were spending their time in front of computers, filling in processes and forms. We are doing away with all that through the Munro review and through the work that is going on with Martin Narey and others on adoption and on children in care. We need to make sure that children in the care system, through the advantages that we are now giving them through the pupil premium

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and many other means, have a better chance of catching up and closing that gap, which has been scandalous for far too long.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Given the huge amount of public money invested in children in care, does the Minister share my concern that too many people leaving care are leaving with very poor educational outcomes, which reduce their life chances further? Can we avoid another generation of children in care having the state as the worst parent of all?

Tim Loughton: My hon. Friend raises a good point, which is why at every stage of the journey of that child who comes into care, we are giving them a leg up and additional support. They will automatically all qualify for the pupil premium to give them a chance of catching up with children who are lucky enough to come from their birth family’s home. We are giving them advantages on the replacement for education maintenance allowance. We are giving special bursaries for those few—too few—who go to university. We need to close that gap, and we are giving them priority access to some of our best schools as well. If we can get them better education by giving them that leg up, they stand a better chance of being able to compete with the rest of their cohort in this country, and that has taken far too long.

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab): Stability is crucial for securing better outcomes and adoption has been a key focus for the Government to date, but what steps is the Minister taking to promote, transparently measure and publicly acknowledge success in increasing not just adoptive placements, but much needed permanency for all looked-after children through special guardianship, long-term fostering and kinship care?

Tim Loughton: The hon. Lady is right to flag up the importance of permanence. As far as I and the Government are concerned, there is no hierarchy of care here. It is what is the most appropriate form of care for that individual child. For most, it is foster care. We need more good quality foster care placements. For others, it is a residential children’s home. We need more good quality placements. But for others—a small number—adoption is the best form of permanence, as are special guardianship orders. I believe there are more children in care at present for whom adoption has not been considered and for whom it would be the most appropriate course of action, which is why we are spending so much time on making sure that we have an adoption system that is fit for purpose in the best interests of those children.

Human Trafficking

8. Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): What steps his Department is taking to raise awareness in schools of domestic and international human trafficking. [89254]

The Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning (Mr John Hayes): Tackling human trafficking is a key priority for the Government. Last October the Department for Education and the Home Office issued updated practical guidance on safeguarding children who may have been trafficked. This will help practitioners,

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including school staff, identify children who may have been trafficked and find support and advice. Schools may also cover human trafficking within personal, social, health and economic education if they judge that topic to be relevant to their circumstances.

Mr Bone: I congratulate the Government on what they have done so far, but there are a number of non-governmental organisations and charities which would like to go into schools to make pupils aware of human trafficking, the evil of modern-day slavery, and particularly internal trafficking within the United Kingdom. Would the Minister welcome such moves?

Mr Hayes: My hon. Friend has a noble record on this subject, as co-chairman of the all-party group alongside the hon. Members for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) and for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman), and the former Member, Mr Anthony Steen. My hon. Friend’s suggestion is most welcome. He is right. I wrote in 1998 that there is no doubt that human trafficking is today’s slave trade and that we will not rest until it is dealt with. I will write to charities as my hon. Friend suggests and invite them to do precisely what he proposes.

Mr Speaker: I am sure we would all in any case have remembered the precise phrasing of what the Minister of State wrote in 1998, and I cannot imagine why he would suppose otherwise.

Lisa Nandy (Wigan) (Lab): Despite efforts to improve awareness, many trafficked children still wrongly believe that their trafficker is their friend. Given that the Minister has rejected the idea of guardianship for trafficked children, can he tell me who is able to instruct a child’s lawyer in cases where the child is too young, too confused, too traumatised or too afraid to do so themselves?

Mr Hayes: The hon. Lady will know that local authorities retain their responsibilities in this regard and, indeed, allocate a responsible person to deal with such children. I am aware of continuing doubts and problems concerning children being re-trafficked. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone)—he was too polite to mention this—wrote to the Secretary of State on this subject only a couple of days ago. We will look closely at bringing what the Department does into line with Home Office and local authority practice. We should not rest until this matter is addressed, and we will not rest until children are freed, victims are protected and those who trade in pain and persecution are made to suffer.

Special Schools

9. Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): How many special schools have converted to academies in (a) North Wiltshire constituency, (b) the south-west and (c) England since May 2010. [89255]

The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): Special schools became eligible to apply for academy status in November 2010 and to become academies from 1 September 2011. There are 16 special schools now open as academies in England, four of which are in the south-west, and of these, one of the first to become an academy on 1 September 2011 is in North Wiltshire.

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Mr Gray: The Secretary of State is absolutely right to praise the Springfields academy in Calne, one of the very first special schools to achieve academy status, but does he agree that, although in Wiltshire we have a very helpful and supportive local authority, elsewhere it might be much more difficult for special schools to achieve academy status? What can he do to remove the slightly tortuous and bureaucratic process that the Springfields academy had to go through in order to make it easier for other schools in the same position?

Michael Gove: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the case of the Springfields academy, which is an outstanding school that does wonderful work for children with behavioural, emotional or social difficulties and those on the autistic spectrum. I am also grateful that the local authority has been so constructive. As he points out, some local authorities are not so constructive. We are working, gently but firmly, with all local authorities from London and elsewhere to ensure that their schools see the benefits of academy status.

Claire Perry (Devizes) (Con): There are other mainstream schools in Wiltshire that would very much like to become academies. St John’s school in Marlborough, of which I am a governor, has been trying to become an academy for over a year. The Department has been very helpful in the process, but as we approach the last furlong it feels more and more like wading through treacle. Is there anything I, the other governors and the staff can do to get to a decision so that we can move forward with the programme?

Michael Gove: No school is better governed in Marlborough, or indeed in Wiltshire, than St John’s. As a result of my hon. Friend’s impassioned advocacy, I will ensure that the necessary posteriors are kicked.

Child Care

10. Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of the effect of reductions in central Government funding on the provision of out-of-school child care. [89256]

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Sarah Teather): Local authorities have a statutory duty to ensure that there is sufficient child care locally to meet the needs of working parents, particularly families with disabled children. We want local authorities to keep parents informed about how they are meeting this duty. We are consulting on whether an annual report would enable parents to hold their local authority to account for the availability of suitable child care.

Nic Dakin: One in 10 child care providers reports that they might have to close in the coming year. How will the Government ensure that working parents are not abandoned or left facing significantly higher costs?

Sarah Teather: There are duties on local authorities to ensure that sufficient child care is available. I remind the hon. Gentleman that substantially more money— £760 million—is going into child care, particularly in early years for disadvantaged two-year-olds. That is new money that goes to disadvantaged areas in particular, where we know that there has historically been some difficultly in relation to early years settings.

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Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab): Hard-working parents are being hit by a triple whammy with regard to child care costs: they are getting less support to pay for it because of the cuts to tax credits; costs are creeping up; and places are disappearing because of cuts to local government and the removal of ring-fenced funding. What assessment have Ministers made of the impact of their choices on parental employment, especially among women, as well as on child poverty?

Sarah Teather: As I just said, substantial new money is going into early years. It is one of the few areas across Government where in fact—[ Interruption. ] It is two-year olds, but that extra money will of course benefit any of those settings that are working with two-year olds, and most of them will be working with two-year olds as well as older children. It is new money, particularly for disadvantaged areas that might not otherwise have taken two-year olds. I wish that the Labour party, instead of just carping, might sometimes congratulate the Government on putting extra money into disadvantaged areas.

 

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): Last Friday I had a meeting with a number of school-based family support workers in my constituency, who are seriously worried about the future of the vital service that they provide. What will the Government do to ensure that such services are not done away with by public spending cuts in constituencies such as mine, where there is a significant amount of disadvantage?

Sarah Teather: It makes sense for local authorities to invest in those areas. That is precisely why we called the new grant the early intervention grant, and precisely why we are now working with children’s centres, for example, to ensure that they are paid by results, focusing on outcomes and on providing the services that the hon. Gentleman mentions, which we know make a real difference.

Teaching Standards

11. John Howell (Henley) (Con): What steps he plans to improve the quality of teaching in schools. [89257]

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): Nothing has more impact on a child’s achievement than the quality of teaching that they receive. We are raising the bar for new entrants to the teaching profession, supporting existing teachers to improve and, where teachers cannot meet the required standards, making it easier for head teachers to tackle under- performance.

John Howell (Henley) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Will he confirm what he is doing to allow heads to remove bad teachers and to check on the past performance of new recruits, given that teaching in four in 10 schools assessed by Ofsted is rated only as “satisfactory” at best?

Mr Gibb: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. All the evidence points to the importance of teacher quality in a pupil’s education. The Sutton Trust, for example, showed that, during one year with a very effective maths or English teacher, pupils gained 40% more in their education, compared with having a poor-quality teacher.

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That is why my hon. Friend is right that from September there will be new arrangements to help schools manage teacher performance and new streamlined procedures for heads to tackle teachers about whose performance they continue to have concerns.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct that the Sutton Trust has done some very good work on the issue, and it has a new challenging report out this very day, but we all know that the first three years of a teacher’s experience are vital in keeping good teachers in, and passionate about, teaching, so could there be more focus on those first three years, when we lose so many good teachers?

Mr Gibb: The hon. Gentleman is right, and his experience as Chair of the Education and Skills Committee has come to the fore. All the evidence shows that teachers are driven out of the teaching profession by poor behaviour, which is why we are focusing so much on raising the standards of behaviour in our schools; and that the best mentoring and continuing professional development for teachers is peer-to-peer, which is why we are creating 100 new teaching schools, focusing on not only training and new entrants to the profession, but on developing CPD and peer-to-peer training.

Free Nursery Care

13. Julian Sturdy (York Outer) (Con): How many disadvantaged two-year-olds will be eligible for free nursery care in (a) York Outer constituency, (b) North Yorkshire and (c) England in 2012. [89259]

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Sarah Teather): We plan to introduce a legal entitlement to free early education for about 130,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds in September 2013, and we will extend this to 260,000 children—about 40% of two-year-olds—from September 2014. From 2013, about 700 two-year-olds in north Yorkshire and 300 in the city of York are likely to be eligible. Funding is available to local authorities in 2012 to enable them to build towards that.

Julian Sturdy: I thank the Minister for her response, but what are the Government doing to ensure that local authorities put in place sufficient funding and, importantly, capacity for the expansion in the eligibility of two-year-olds for free places by 2013?

Sarah Teather: I recognise the hon. Gentleman’s point that building capacity is key in this area, and we announced the figures for the number of two-year-olds who will be eligible in each local authority partly to help local authorities to begin to plan for that. We have put extra money into the early intervention grant to ensure that local authorities are able to build capacity, and we are working with 18 local authorities to conduct trials on how they might increase capacity, looking at examples of best practice so that we can share it with other areas.

Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): The whole House welcomes the Government initiative on that front, but what moves is the Minister making to ensure that the poorest children get the very best nursery education, and not just child minding?

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Sarah Teather: I agree with the premise of the hon. Gentleman’s question. Many child minders are of a high quality, so I would hesitate to sweep all child minders together. Unfortunately, there are issues of quality across the piece that we need to work on. We are consulting on a new basket of measures to ensure that, working with local authorities, we can raise quality. We are aware that there is a particular issue with disadvantaged areas, which often do not have as much choice or as good provision. It is a priority for us to ensure that the two-year-olds who really need this money benefit from it.

Teachers (Administration)

15. Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) (Con): What progress his Department has made on work to reduce the administrative burden on teachers. [89261]

The Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning (Mr John Hayes): The Government are committed to reducing the administrative burden on schools. We have removed the lengthy self-evaluation form, introduced a streamlined inspection framework, removed unnecessary duties and regulations in the Education Act 2011, and cut the volume of guidance issued to schools by a half. We are reviewing all requirements on schools so that they can focus on raising standards, rather than on unnecessary administrative tasks.

Brandon Lewis: Many young people study in FE colleges. Places such as Great Yarmouth college have made great strides forward with clear and decisive leadership. Will my hon. Friend therefore also outline what progress the Government are making in reducing the administrative burden for colleges?

Mr Hayes: I am always reluctant to list my achievements in this House, as you know, Mr Speaker, at least more than is necessary to keep the House informed of the scale and scope of the progress we are making. Suffice it to say that from June 2010, when I let colleges move funding between adult learner budgets, through the reduction in duties imposed on schools by the previous Government, up to the Education Act 2011, which gives still greater freedoms, we have sought to treat further education as grown up, after it was infantilised by the previous Government.

Mr Speaker: I am grateful for the Minister’s self-denying ordinance, given the imperative that answers be brief.

Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): The Government are to be congratulated on reducing administrative burdens on teachers. Does my hon. Friend, and actual friend, agree that the way to improve standards in the state sector is for it to replicate what goes on in the independent sector? We should allow head teachers to hire and fire teachers, select their own curriculum, and select and deselect pupils.

Mr Hayes: What we seek is a system driven by demand, pupils who are helped to make informed judgments by the information that they are given, businesses driving the skills system, and head teachers and college

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principals being free to respond to local needs. That is our mantra and it is entirely in line with my hon. Friend’s intentions and ambitions.

General Teaching Council

16. Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the effect of the closure of the General Teaching Council on the ability of teachers subject to disciplinary proceedings or sanctions to seek redress. [89262]

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): The closure of the General Teaching Council for England will have no effect on the ability of teachers to seek redress. The new Teaching Agency will uphold GTCE sanctions and consider whether they continue to be appropriate in individual cases. The right of appeal to the High Court remains the same. Teachers who believe that they have been unfairly dismissed continue to have a right to take their case to an industrial tribunal.

Steve McCabe: I understand that 300 cases that have been referred to the General Teaching Council, including that of my constituent, Sally Craig, will not be heard before the Minister succeeds in winding it up and will not be referred to the new Teaching Agency. What will he do to ensure that those people are not denied natural justice?

Mr Gibb: The purpose of the GTCE and the Teaching Agency is not to provide a right of appeal for action taken locally. That is a local decision. The GTCE’s functions were in addition to the sanctions available locally. We are removing incompetence from the matters that are referred to the Teaching Agency. It will look only at cases of serious misconduct. Cases that do not reach that bar will not be transferred to the Teaching Agency and will not be investigated by it. The GTCE and the Teaching Agency have never been a second road of appeal for action taken locally.

John Pugh (Southport) (LD): Following the Government’s moves to get rid of bad teachers, will the Minister assure me that the scheme will not be used to eradicate eccentric teachers, who are often very good teachers, and impose a grey uniformity?

Mr Gibb: I give my hon. Friend that assurance. We need more eccentricity, not less, in education. There will be a careful filter before cases are heard by the independent panels that report to the Secretary of State.

Domestic Violence

17. Graeme Morrice (Livingston) (Lab): What recent estimate he has made of the number of children living in homes where domestic violence occurs. [89263]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Tim Loughton): The Government do not collect data on the number of children living in homes where domestic violence occurs, but existing statutory guidance, “Working Together to Safeguard Children”, sets out that children who experience domestic violence will need well targeted

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support from a range of agencies, as prolonged or regular exposure to domestic violence is likely to have a serious impact on children’s safety and welfare.

Graeme Morrice: I thank the Minister, but what are the Government doing to address the issue of domestic violence, and how can we reduce the number of children who are exposed to domestic abuse both as witnesses and as victims?

Tim Loughton: The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. I found out about the matter at first hand when I spent a week being a social worker in Stockport. I knew that domestic violence was a problem, but the extent to which it is at the core of many safeguarding issues is alarming for all of us. The use of specialist domestic violence social workers is one way of addressing the problem, and of course the Government produced an ending violence against women and girls action plan last March. The Home Secretary chairs an inter-ministerial group, on which I sit, and we are currently consulting on the definition of domestic violence, which has caused some confusion. The hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to feed into that consultation before it closes at the end of March.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): Linked to domestic violence is honour-based violence. Does the Minister have an estimate of the number of children affected by that horrendous practice?

Tim Loughton: My hon. Friend raises a very important and worrying subject. We need to do more work on it and use local safeguarding children boards to help us join up all the responsible agencies. It is another example of where we need genuine cross-departmental and cross-governmental co-operation and joint planning, and the Department for Education and the Home Office in particular are at the heart of ensuring that we address this really horrific problem.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): I am pleased that the Minister has mentioned the Government’s strategy on ending violence against women and girls. What steps is he taking to ensure that children, and especially boys, are educated about the absolute unacceptability of domestic violence as part of the personal, social, health and economic education curriculum?

Tim Loughton: The hon. Lady makes a very important practical point. One of my roles on the inter-ministerial group is to see what input the Department for Education can have in ensuring that children are aware from an appropriate young age of the problems of domestic violence and are taught respectful relationships as part of sex and relationships education and PSHE. There are things that we can do at home, in schools and with the agencies that are there to help prevent domestic violence, intervene and apprehend people who are responsible for that horrendous crime.

Topical Questions

T1. [89273] James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

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The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): Today, one of the powers contained in the Education Act 2011 comes into effect: teachers will no longer be required to give 24 hours’ notice before imposing a detention on a child who breaks school rules. That is a useful new weapon in their armoury in the constant battle to ensure that all children are well behaved and that all students can learn.

James Morris: What advice would the Secretary of State give to parents in my constituency, where the teaching unions are consistently telling them that if their school converts to an academy or co-operative trust, it will lead to less local accountability and parental control?

Michael Gove: I would advise parents in my hon. Friend’s constituency to listen to their very shrewd and effective elected Member, who has consistently pointed out that academy status means not only more resources for students but greater flexibility for teachers and heads and higher standards all round. It is an increasingly welcome aspect of the political consensus that is emerging around academies that so many Labour Members are flocking to their banner.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): Can the Secretary of State give the House an absolute assurance that neither he nor his special advisers have deliberately destroyed or deleted e-mails relating to Government business that he has sent or received through private e-mail accounts?

Michael Gove: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question. As he will be aware, we changed the information and communications technology curriculum just last week, and many of us were brought up when the old ICT curriculum was in place and may not always have been as handy with the cursor as we should have been. However, every single aspect of communications policy in the Department for Education has been in accordance with the highest standards of propriety, as laid down by the Cabinet Office.

T2. [89274] Mr Rob Wilson (Reading East) (Con): My right hon. Friend may remember our discussions about how to help independent day schools increase the number of places available to our brightest, yet poorest, children. In light of today’s impressive report by the Sutton Trust, will he re-examine my proposals to open up those schools to access based on merit, rather than on the ability to pay?

Michael Gove: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend, who has been a consistent advocate for helping disadvantaged children to access excellent schooling. I am encouraged by the work that the Sutton Trust has done, but it is important that we ensure not only that individual children of merit have access to the best schools, but that all children from disadvantaged circumstances have better education. That is why I want to see private schools playing a larger part in the academies programme.

T4. [89276] Graeme Morrice (Livingston) (Lab): The Co-operative Education Trust Scotland and other co-operative education bodies are doing fantastic work

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across the UK to support schools and to embed co-operative enterprise education into their curriculum. How are the Government ensuring that schools promote the co-operative model as a viable option for young people who are thinking about starting their own business?

Michael Gove: First, let me pay tribute to the work of the co-operative movement. Since it started in Rochdale, many of us have been inspired by its achievements. I believe that the academies programme and particularly the free schools programme provide an opportunity for the ideals of the original co-operative movement to be embedded in our schools. The idea that all work together for the good of their community and for the fulfilment of higher ideals is one that Government Members wholeheartedly applaud.

Mr Speaker: I call Mr Adam Holloway. Not here.

Priti Patel (Witham) (Con): The Secretary of State will be aware of the extensive process that parents and schools go through when undertaking testing for special educational needs for children. What advice does he have for parents in my constituency when schools refuse to test their children for special educational needs?

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Sarah Teather): Parents’ views about their child should be central. One thing that we are looking at in the Green Paper is how we can make clearer what should normally be provided in schools and what local authorities should normally provide. It should therefore at least be simpler for parents and teachers to understand whether a child’s needs are greater than those normally provided in the school, and much clearer whether they need a statutory assessment.

T6. [89278] Mrs Linda Riordan (Halifax) (Lab/Co-op): The Prime Minister said before the election that there would be no return to selection at 11, so why are the Government making it easier for grammar schools to expand by taking away the rights of local parents to object?

Michael Gove: We are allowing all good schools to expand. I am an unalloyed fan of all good schools, whether they are comprehensive or selective. No new selective schools will be created under the coalition Government, but all successful schools have the right to expand, and any parent who believes that any school is in breach of the admissions code has an expanded right to complain to the schools adjudicator. Good schools doing a better job for more students: that is what the coalition delivers; I am amazed that the hon. Lady objects.

T5. [89277] Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): Last Friday, I had the great pleasure to visit Paddox primary school in my constituency, which is an outstanding school where significant improvements have been made in recent years. Parents have told me that much of the positive atmosphere at the school is attributable to the drive and ambition of the head teacher, Brenda Oakes. Does the Minister agree that strong leadership provided by head teachers such as Miss Oakes is essential in delivering a first-class education to all our children?

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The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): I certainly agree with that and add my tribute to that school. The early years of a child’s education, when they are learning to read and to become fluent in arithmetic, are key to their success in secondary education and beyond. I would like to pay our tribute to the work that that head teacher is doing. Government Members agree that the autonomy and independence of head teachers, and their ability to run their schools as they see fit, are key to raising standards. That is what all the evidence suggests internationally. That is the drive behind the academies programme.

T8. [89280] Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): As we approach Holocaust memorial day on 27 January, how is the Secretary of State ensuring that lessons from the Holocaust and other genocides, including in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, are taught in free schools, academies and other schools not bound by the national curriculum?

Michael Gove: I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s point. Let me pay tribute to my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls). His decision to increase funding for the Holocaust Education Trust was one of many good things that he did, and I was honoured to be able to honour a pledge I made before the election to secure its funding. The trips that it offers to schools of all kinds help to ensure that we remember, and that that indescribable evil is never repeated. Let me take this opportunity to affirm the importance of all MPs meeting Holocaust denial and relativisation head on. Any attempt to undermine the singular historic evil of that crime is utterly wrong, and we should unite in condemning it.

T7. [89279] Angie Bray (Ealing Central and Acton) (Con): Having opened just last September, the West London free school has had more than 5,000 visits from interested parents, its places are now heavily over-subscribed and it has just applied to set up a new, free primary school. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that all goes to demonstrate just how enthusiastic parents are about these new free schools?

Michael Gove: My hon. Friend makes a brilliant case. The West London free school was attacked and criticised by many on the left of the political spectrum. Fiona Millar said that the idea would never take place. Now it is the single most popular and over-subscribed school in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, providing a superb education of a comprehensive kind for all children. I recommend it to you, Mr Speaker, for the future.

Mr Speaker: I am extremely grateful to the Secretary of State for his helpful advice. I was not asking for his advice, but I am grateful for it anyway.

Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide or commission sufficient youth services, but many of them are not now fulfilling that duty. What will Ministers do to make them fulfil their statutory duty?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Tim Loughton): The hon. Lady is a long and tireless advocate of the promotion of youth services and she

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has rightly pointed to the section of the Education Act 1996 that places that duty on local authorities. We are looking to rewrite that duty and streamline it to ensure that local authorities cannot shirk their responsibility to ensure that positive activities are available for young people in their area, and that it is clearly understood.

As part of “Positive for Youth”, I have said that we will look closely at what activities for young people are going on in local authority areas and I invite young people to ensure that they are auditing the youth offer in their areas and reporting back to the centre. That is part of “Positive for Youth” and I hope that she will encourage young people in her area to do that.

T9. [89281] Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove) (Con): British banks employs hundreds of thousands of people and many of them are hard-working young people. Does the skills Minister agree that it would be a fantastic achievement to see an apprentice in every branch of every high street bank, and what can he do to help achieve this?

The Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning (Mr John Hayes): There are few greater champions of apprenticeships or learning in this House than my hon. Friend, although I notice my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) sitting next to him, and he is just as worthy a champion. Just this week I will meet banks to discuss exactly what my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid) proposes. It is right that apprenticeships are seen as a route into the professions, and we will make them just that.

Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): Stockport council estimates that it is notified of only 60% of looked-after children placed in the borough by other authorities. This is not a problem specific to Stockport and, as the Minister will appreciate, it is very difficult for authorities to plan the provision of resources that will achieve better outcomes for children in care without adequate information. What more can he do to make local authorities meet their obligations?

Tim Loughton: The hon. Lady is right to raise this subject and it is a problem in many parts of the country, especially when children from London boroughs are placed in areas such as my own part of the country. I issued new guidance that came into effect last April, which made it absolutely clear that local authorities have a responsibility to keep children for whom they are responsible for caring as close to home as possible. If children are placed further afield, there must be a good reason, and local authorities must ensure that they maintain the responsibility to monitor how the child is doing. In too many cases, they do not notify the host authority, and I plan to ensure that every authority is reminded of its responsibilities.

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Market Field school is in the neighbouring constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin). It caters for children with special needs from both our constituencies and from the Clacton constituency. Will the Minister agree to meet the three of us to consider why Essex county council’s promise—made by the previous leader to the head teacher, Mr Gary Smith—has not been carried out?

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Michael Gove: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking that question. I hope to speak to the lead member for children’s services in Essex county council later this afternoon and I shall raise the issue with him. If I do not get satisfaction, I will pursue it. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his well-deserved knighthood.

Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Now that the Secretary of State for Education has accepted Bolsover Labour party’s campaign for a new school at Tibshelf—a most unlikely Minister, I agree—will he tell us who will bear the cost, how much central Government will pay and how much the council taxpayer will have to pay?

Michael Gove: The hon. Gentleman has been a fantastic campaigner on behalf of Tibshelf school and, as he has often pointed out in this House, the school has had to be kept aloft by pit props and is not fit for purpose. We want to ensure that the priority school building programme, to which I think he refers, will provide the resources from the Department for Education’s budget, but we will work with the local authority to ensure that we refurbish the school appropriately. I should stress, however, that final decisions on each school in the programme will not be made until at least next month.

Laura Sandys (South Thanet) (Con): I had a very good morning on Friday when I went to two infant schools. Both say that a larger number of children are coming in with speech and communication problems. What measures will we take in response to Jean Gross’s communications strategy, and how will we make it a priority to support those children at a very early age to resolve such problems?

Sarah Teather: As the hon. Lady says, there is a very particular issue with communication problems and ensuring that we identify them early. That is part of the reason I am working closely with colleagues at the Department of Health to implement significant numbers of new health visitors and to ensure that we commission services better. The education health and care plan, which will integrate services, will, I hope, make a real difference to children in that position.

Mr Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West) (Lab): The Secretary of State will be aware of my ongoing correspondence with him about Woodlands school in my constituency, which is held up not by pit props but by equally unsightly and unacceptable scaffolding. It seems that the school will be denied any access to the priority school building programme by an anomalous set of circumstances. It does not need extra places, yet the state of the buildings means that it obviously needs priority status and access to funds, but it has been denied that as more than 30% of the buildings are listed. What can the school do? We are due an answer. May we have it soon?

Michael Gove: When we had to close the Building Schools for the Future programme, it was inevitable that a significant number of schools in urgent need of repair would be just the wrong side of where the line was drawn. I know that in Coventry a number of schools are in desperate need of refurbishment. The

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priority school building programme is designed to ensure that as many schools as possible qualify and we will not be able to make an announcement until next month because we want to be absolutely sure that marginal cases such as this school, as it appears from the information the hon. Gentleman has shared with us, are fairly treated.

Mr Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): The Minister is well aware of my support for steps taken to prepare young people for apprenticeships and the world of work, but is he aware that an arbitrary decision about payments due for academic work undertaken in apprentices’ own time towards their qualification might threaten the ability and willingness of small employers, such as Amazon World in my constituency, to take them on?

Mr Hayes: I am aware of the specific issue my hon. Friend raises. I understand that the problems arose under the stewardship of a Minister in the previous Government, but none the less there are ongoing repercussions and I am happy to consider the specific matters raised by my hon. Friend. He will know that there are now national minimum standards as there is a national wage for apprentices and it is absolutely right that the deal an apprentice gets should be fair and proper.

Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): A university technical college for Dudley would not only transform the education available in the town but help address the skills shortage and rebalance the economy while encouraging young people to pursue careers in high-tech manufacturing. I am sure that the Secretary of State will be as pleased as I am that a bid has now been submitted for the Aston university technical college in Dudley. Will he take this bid from me today and ensure that it is approved as early as possible so that we can get the changes made that we need in Dudley?

Michael Gove: I shall take the bid and look on it sympathetically. I know that the Prime Minister, as a Villa fan, would want me to do everything possible to satisfy the hon. Gentleman.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): Is the Minister as concerned as I am that some teachers in schools today qualified only after re-sitting their basic numeracy and literacy tests on multiple occasions—in some cases, more than 30 times—and what steps will he take to ensure that this is not repeated?

Mr Gibb: My hon. Friend raises an important point. We want to raise the bar for entrants into the teaching profession, which is why we are limiting the number of retakes for those tests, which will be taken before trainees start their course, not at the end.

John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): Following the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), would the Secretary of State like to congratulate the Holocaust Educational Trust, which works tirelessly visiting schools and educating students in the horrors of the genocide of the second world war?

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Michael Gove: “Lessons from Auschwitz” is a model project, and I am so delighted that in the new year’s honours list the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Karen Pollock, received a long-overdue award. She is one of the unsung heroes of British education, and her work has been absolutely fantastic. I

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recommend to all Members the opportunity to attend the forthcoming Merlyn-Rees memorial lecture, which the trust is organising and which will remind us all of the timeless enormity of that evil and of the need to remain vigilant to this day.