Oral Answers to Questions

Duncan Baker Excerpts
Monday 11th March 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
David Johnston Portrait David Johnston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I appreciate that it must be very frustrating for the hon. Lady, who genuinely cares about childcare, to be in a party that cannot be bothered to come up with a plan for it and has had to ask someone else to write it one because it cannot think of one. On her specific issue, as I said, we are working with every local authority to ensure that they have the places that they need for all children.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

20. Whether her Department is taking steps to ensure that initial teacher training courses include early identification of autism.

David Johnston Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (David Johnston)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Department for Education recently reviewed the mandatory initial teacher training core content framework, alongside the early career framework. Particular attention was given to the needs of trainees and early-career teachers when supporting pupils with special educational needs.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker
- View Speech - Hansard - -

That was a very useful response, for which I am very grateful. I recently brought my ten-minute rule Bill to the House, which was specifically about mandating autism training in the initial teacher training framework, because we all know that early identification is vital. If education staff all had autism training right from the start, we could put in place a system so that autistic children receive support very early on in their school career. Will the Minister assure me of the steps that he has taken to include autism training specifically in initial teacher training, and meet me again to discuss supporting my ten-minute rule Bill?

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is running a strong campaign. From September 2025, initial teacher training and the early career framework will contain significantly more content on supporting pupils with special educational needs, including autistic pupils. We have committed £12 million to the universal SEND services programme, which has so far given training to more than 135,000 professionals regarding autism awareness, but I am happy to meet my hon. Friend again.

Oral Answers to Questions

Duncan Baker Excerpts
Monday 29th January 2024

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend makes a very good point: there are 2,408 independent schools across our country, many of which provide special educational needs support and excellent education in particular specialties. If those schools were subject to increased taxation, that would make provision more difficult. We will have to assess what that would mean.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

A number of colleagues have mentioned initial teacher training. Perhaps they and the Secretary of State should look no further than tomorrow, when my ten-minute rule Bill comes before Parliament—a Bill that aims to increase and ensure there is autism training for all teachers. Will the Secretary of State back it?

Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome my hon. Friend’s work in this area. Initial teacher training courses must equip trainees to meet all the teachers’ standards, including standard 5: that teachers must

“have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils”,

including pupils with autism. Through the delivery of our improvement plan, we will develop new practitioner standards to support frontline professionals, including a standard on autism. I look forward to my hon. Friend’s working with us.

Oral Answers to Questions

Duncan Baker Excerpts
Monday 17th April 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Robert Halfon Portrait The Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education (Robert Halfon)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very happy to write to the hon. Gentleman to explain that, over the past year— 2021-22—we increased apprenticeship starts by 8.6%, as I mentioned earlier.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

T7. I was pleased to see a commitment in the SEND improvement plan to train up to 5,000 level 3-qualified special educational needs co-ordinators and teachers to ensure that children identified as having SEND can thrive in school. Does my hon. Friend agree that expanding this training and working to make it a mandatory part of all training for teachers and co-ordinators will improve the baseline assessments looking for SEND markers in those entering school.

Claire Coutinho Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Claire Coutinho)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Early identification of SEND is vital, which is why we are training 5,000 early-years SENCOs and reforming initial teacher training and the early-career framework for teachers in later stages of education.

Suicide Prevention and the National Curriculum

Duncan Baker Excerpts
Monday 13th March 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher) for bringing and leading such an important debate on the introduction of statutory suicide prevention teaching in our current RSHE curriculum. There have been many powerful contributions this afternoon, but none more powerful than having 3 Dads Walking actually with us in this Chamber. I also thank Mike, Tim and Andy for their incredible work on this campaign. Mr Owen is a fellow Norfolk man, although not from my constituency, so it is a great privilege to represent our county for him this afternoon, along with my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (James Wild) beside me. Their efforts have clearly not gone unnoticed, and they will have a huge and significant impact on children and young people in future.

I thank those in my constituency, particularly the many mental health campaigners who I speak to, and Caroline Aldridge, who I know will watch the debate. She lost her own son to mental illness and she has done so much for others. I have also spoken to many others who have told me about their personal experiences and the tragedy of losing a child to suicide. I am honoured to participate in the debate on their behalf.

James Wild Portrait James Wild (North West Norfolk) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to 3 Dads Walking, including Tim, who is from west Norfolk. They have raised money and, vitally, raised awareness of the issue and of the support that exists by getting us talking about it today. The Government have rightly committed to a review, which I welcome and which I know the Minister will consider carefully. Does my hon. Friend agree that it should hear directly from 3 Dads Walking and others who have been directly affected by suicide to inform its decision?

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and I agree entirely. It is imperative that those with personal experience help to shape any future review and legislation that comes forward about the issue.

Mental health and mental health illness is a personal yet often isolating journey, despite the increased openness of conversation on that issue, which affects one in four of us throughout our lifetimes. Early intervention can make an astounding difference to the lives of those suffering, especially children and young people. When researching for this debate, I was devastated to learn that one in six children aged five to 16 were identified as having a probable mental health problem in July 2020. That number is likely to have risen since.

A survey by YoungMinds found that suicide rates for young people aged 15 to 19 rose by a third between 2020 and 2021—from 147 to 198. Despite those staggering figures, about 70% of children and adolescents do not get appropriate interventions at an early enough age, which begs the question of how we can begin to overcome that.

As many hon. Members have said, one of the answers is to implement this change in our national curriculum. Since September 2020, RSHE has been a statutory part of the curriculum, yet suicide prevention, taught in a safe and age-appropriate way, is only optional. I am pleased that the Government, too, see the incredible value in supporting mental health, but I believe that a review of the RHSE curriculum is the right step to provide consistent mental health support across all schools nationally. Introducing statutory suicide prevention teaching in schools would not only target the group most affected by suicide—the under-35s, as we have heard many times this afternoon—but make sure that our children and young people are equipped as they move into adulthood.

According to research, one in three mental health problems in adults can be attributed to childhood experiences, with higher rates of depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety disorders presenting in later life. Educating our children on mental health will surely only serve to benefit them later. Moreover, mental health teaching within structured school lessons will have incredible benefits through early intervention to prevent suicide, normalise mental health, as many have said, and encourage conversations with support systems, whether that be parents, teachers or external agencies such as Mind or Papyrus.

Furthermore, where better to start following Papyrus’s three key principles—support, equip and influence—than in the classroom? Teaching, of course, should be preventive, and extra care should be taken to signpost a source of support. Promoting positive mental health in schools, however, and putting in place support, including by working with external bodies, is a positive way forward. I have always believed that schools should have trained mental health first aiders within their staff, because the suicide figures that we are seeing today and have spoken about are too high. The wider support is there to provide suicide prevention teaching in schools, and I think this should be considered for implementation.

To conclude, supplying consistent mental health teaching across all schools nationally is a necessity. Although the Government have in the past said that they will be taking forward proposals to train designated senior leads for mental health in schools by 2025 and to fund mental health awareness training, the review of the RSHE curriculum to include suicide prevention should continue to be a priority for the Government. I think it should be brought in as quickly as possible.

Oral Answers to Questions

Duncan Baker Excerpts
Monday 16th January 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I take special educational needs very seriously, as does the Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing. It will be published very soon, so there is not long to wait. I am sure the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) will be delighted with the improvement plan, which we will publish very early in the new year.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

T2. My constituent Hayley Turner is an inspirational campaigner for special educational needs, which she has improved enormously across the whole area. Evidence shows that early diagnosis and autism interventions are paramount to ensuring that children get the help they need. Hayley now uses her experience to help many others in the community. What are the Government doing to help neurodevelopmental services and to recruit educational psychologists?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. May I suggest that the hon. Gentleman knows this is topical questions? You cannot just go on and on. We have to get through the questions for everyone’s sake.

Oral Answers to Questions

Duncan Baker Excerpts
Monday 28th November 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On the first part of the hon. Gentleman’s question, I could not have put it better myself. International students add enormous value. As I mentioned in my previous answer and in the Westminster Hall debate we had a couple of weeks ago, we have met our target of 600,000 students a year early—before 2030—and that remains our target. By 2030, that will mean £35 billion-plus in exports.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I am concerned about the provision of music in state schools. A report by the British Phonographic Industry states that the provision has decreased dramatically in recent years. It estimates that

“30% of state schools have seen a decrease in curriculum time for music, or a reduction in the number of qualified music teachers.”

Can my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State assure me that the Government recognise that, and update me on the steps that her Department is taking?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The 2021-22 academic year saw more than 86,000 hours of music teaching in secondary schools—the highest number since 2014. They were taught by more than 7,000 music teachers in secondary schools—the highest number since 2015. Schools should provide timetabled curriculum music of at least one hour a week. We have published an excellent model music curriculum that schools can lean on to help to deliver that.

Budget Resolutions

Duncan Baker Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a privilege to respond for the Opposition as we conclude our debate on last week’s Budget.

Politics is about priorities, and that has been made crystal clear in not only today’s debate but the Chancellor’s Budget. The economic recovery is far from secure; the cost of living is soaring; supply-chain chaos is putting businesses under strain; and the big challenges that face our country and, indeed, our planet need leadership.

I thank all my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Benches, who have spoken with such passion on behalf of their communities and their constituents in challenging this inadequate Budget. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Bootle (Peter Dowd), for Bradford East (Imran Hussain), for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova), for Norwich South (Clive Lewis) and for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue). I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Gareth Thomas) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz). I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle), for Nottingham East (Nadia Whittome), for Sheffield, Hallam (Olivia Blake), for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah), for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), for Ilford South (Sam Tarry), for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), for Liverpool, West Derby (Ian Byrne), for Bedford (Mohammad Yasin), for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi), for Leeds East (Richard Burgon), for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel), for Newport West (Ruth Jones), for Wirral West (Margaret Greenwood), for Jarrow (Kate Osborne) and for Luton South (Rachel Hopkins). Sadly, it was a little bit quieter on the Government Benches today and they ran out of Members who were willing to defend their out-of-touch, high-tax, low-growth Budget.

Let me start with the verdict of Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies on the outlook for living standards. He said:

“This is actually awful… High inflation, rising taxes, poor growth keeping living standards virtually stagnant for another half a decade”.

As we have come to expect from this Government, Ministers fail to accept any responsibility, working harder on their excuses than on solutions. It now costs £15 more than it did last year to fill an average car with a full tank of petrol; heating bills have already gone up by £140, with more rises to come; and the cost of a typical family food shop is set to increase by more than £180 next year—assuming that people can find everything they want on the shelves. Almost everything is more expensive, yet the Budget has only made matters worse.

The Resolution Foundation has highlighted how, by 2026, taxes will reach an additional £3,000 per household compared with when the Prime Minister took office. The Chancellor could have cut instead VAT on domestic heating bills to zero for the next six months, as we urged. Labour’s retrofitting plan would have helped to bring 19 million homes up to standard, cutting heating bills by an average of £400 a year. These are practical ideas to support pensioners and families through the long winter months ahead.

We all know that Ministers are making the cost-of-living crisis even worse for 6 million people with their cut to universal credit. It is appalling to remove £20 a week from people who already have so little, yet it is also so revealing. We welcome the change to the taper rate, but let us be clear: while the Government give with one hand, they take far more with the other. Six million households were hit by the cut, yet fewer than a third of them will get anything from the change. The Budget does nothing to help millions of hard-pressed families who are working hard on modest incomes and face a cost-of-living crisis this winter, and there is nothing for pensioners who are worried about skyrocketing gas and electricity bills.

The reason why the Conservatives are increasingly a high-tax party is that they have been a low-growth Government, and that will continue. The Budget confirmed anaemic medium-term growth forecasts, with growth falling to an average of 1.5% in the final three years of the forecast. There is no plan for growth—not now, not next year and not for the past 11 years.

The Government have again missed another target on research and development spending, which is central to boosting our economy. As the OBR reported, the measures announced at the Budget make no material difference to the path of business investment. Real wages are on course to be lower in 2026 than they were even before the global financial crisis.

This Budget needed to support British businesses, as they will power our economic recovery, and this Government were elected on a manifesto committed to fundamental reform of business rates. In fact, the last four Tory manifestos have promised action on business rates, and every time they have failed to deliver. The Treasury started the review last summer and it has failed even on its own terms. Businesses were promised real change, not tinkering at the margins. The challenge facing our high streets is real and it will not disappear. In fact, it was the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury who once wrote in 2018 that he was also very frustrated by the then Conservative Chancellor’s failure to abolish business rates. He wrote:

“We need to do better, and this means the Chancellor has to up his game. Too often since his appointment, he has shown a tin ear to the concerns of precisely the sorts of people the Conservative Party ought to be championing.”

He said that the Chancellor had a duty to listen and to act. That is absolutely right. We have a new Chancellor, but the same old problem. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should have a word with his boss to try to sort this out. Labour will do what this Chancellor and his predecessors have failed to do: we will replace business rates with a fairer alternative fit for the 21st century, levelling the playing field with the online competitors.

Also buried in the Budget documents is a stealth raid on self-employed people, meaning that they will have to pay an extra £1.7 billion over the next five years. Let us never again hear the Tories claim to be the party of business. When the Prime Minister said, “Eff business,” I thought that it was a quip; now I know that it is Government policy. Today’s Labour party will work with businesses. This Government want to blame them. This Government are falling well short of what is needed to address the key challenges facing the country. The Chancellor spent more of his Budget talking about cider than the climate. As the OBR has revealed, stalling action in this crucial decade could double the overall cost to our economy. The insufficient action from the Government is unfathomable.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I have heard some of the contributions from the Opposition this afternoon. I just wonder what planet they are on. We were told that we would have a recession that was deeper than that of the second world war. Instead we have an economy that is rebounding the fastest in the G20. Can the hon. Lady explain how the economy is actually giving us a recovery better than any economist ever predicted?

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me say to the hon. Gentleman that sometimes when the Whips come calling and they have a piece of paper that they would like you to read out in the Chamber, just say no. We have had far, far further to climb because of the massive hit to our economy—the worst of any advanced nation. Much of that, sad to say, comes down to the Chancellor’s resistance to adopting the measures that were necessary back last autumn to control the virus.

Labour has set out our climate investment pledge not only to get us on track with our commitment, but to avoid greater costs in the future and to ensure that we can seize opportunities, too. That means developing our domestic hydrogen sector, greening our steel industry, building the cycle lanes and infrastructure, creating new jobs to retrofit homes, ensuring that electric vehicles and their batteries are manufactured here, and that all our families can enjoy the local environment, clean air and open space. We are ambitious for Britain to lead the world with the jobs and technologies of the future, creating prosperity and opportunity in every corner of our country. Under Labour, we will work with business and trade unions to make this a reality.

Childcare Bill

Duncan Baker Excerpts
2nd reading
Friday 29th October 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Childcare Bill 2021-22 View all Childcare Bill 2021-22 Debates Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for the Minister’s support and I know that he believes passionately in this agenda. Clause 3 seeks to do that by using the power of the Government and of the wider public sector and other partners to promote childcare availability to children who need it most—a modest ask that could make a huge difference to our whole country.

I turn to clause 2—I am approaching the Bill from the bottom up, which may be appropriate in the world of levelling up—which addresses the elephant in the room: what sort of childcare system do we want in this country? Much like clause 3, the clause does not seek to change current provision. I want to be clear about that to all Members present, and I believe we can work consensually on this important matter. I stand here today not to present answers but merely to facilitate a debate, with the support of the Minister and of other colleagues.

Governments of all political parties have been involved in shaping the childcare sector available to families today. From the Sure Start revolution of the last Labour Government to the new family hubs recently announced by the current Government, every Government have left their fingerprints on the sector. I am afraid this has led to a patchwork of provision in which postcodes, rather than local need, may determine services and in which anomalies have unfortunately been allowed to flourish. This does little to close the educational attainment gap, about which I spoke earlier.

Some areas are blessed with maintained nurseries, and Reading is one of those lucky areas. It is a system in which teacher-led provision, maintained by local authorities, provides the early years foundation curriculum in a more formal setting. I pay tribute to the maintained nurseries in my constituency and in other parts of Reading for their excellent work. However, local authority funding is currently challenged and there has been a decline in the number of places available across the country. Some maintained nurseries, luckily not in my area, have closed their doors.

Other communities are fortunate to have well-run provision in the private and voluntary sectors, either independent or linked to a primary school or multi-academy trust. There is a good mix between early years, as a precursor to school, and other long-established community providers that have often cared for successive generations of each family.

Consistency varies across the country and funding arrangements, due to their complexity, can be off-putting. Some two-year-olds may be eligible for free childcare depending on household income or entitlement to certain benefits, such as universal credit or tax credits. People who earn less than £16,000 before tax and are in receipt of tax credits will be eligible for a free place for their two-year-old. If their child is entitled to disability living allowance or personal independence payment, they may also be eligible for a free childcare place at the age of two.

However, everything changes when the child turns three, when all children become eligible for 15 hours of free childcare regardless of whether their parents are working. Working parents may be entitled to an additional 15 hours a week, taking it up to 30 free hours, but these extra hours are available to some other parents depending on household income and circumstances. My description shows how the system is complicated and difficult for parents to understand.

Although the system for three-year-olds does not sound too dissimilar to the arrangements for two-year-olds, I am afraid it is. The eligibility for two-year-olds is aimed at the lowest paid and the unemployed, but the eligibility for the additional 15 hours for three and four-year-olds is for those who work more than 16 hours a week and who have a household income up to £100,000. This means that the additional hours are disproportionately going to the children of wealthier parents who are in work and whose educational development is less likely to be held back. Unfortunately, this extra money is going to those slightly better off families.

My Bill does not propose changing the thresholds, but clause 2 would require the Secretary of State to appoint an independent person to lead a review of childcare schemes across England.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Will the hon. Gentleman give thought to why there is 15 hours of free childcare only in term time, when many people are trying to go back to work and a full-time job requires them to work in the school holidays, too? Why will the Government fund childcare only outside the school holidays?

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point, and the review I propose would, indeed, cover such issues.

Investing in Children and Young People

Duncan Baker Excerpts
Wednesday 9th June 2021

(3 years ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

This Government have spent more than £400 billion protecting the lives and the jobs of the people of this country. We have borrowed £300 billion in just the last fiscal year. The last time we exceeded 10% of GDP was in the financial crisis in 2008, and before that world war two, so forgive the common theme: we must have a degree of fiscal prudence, and the Treasury should have the right to challenge what it is asked to spend in these very difficult times.

The problem is that the adage that children are like vessels—that we fill them up with tutoring and they will be back on track—is only part of the answer. We will spend £1 billion towards a national tutoring programme for disadvantaged students, on top of £1.7 billion for summer schools and mental health support and already £3 billion in catch-up support. We should remember that the very first step of this Government’s road map was getting our young people back into the classroom, because everybody knows the damage that being away from their school does to children. However, children and young people need more than that. They need a varied curriculum—one of breadth. That is why I have fought tooth and nail back in my constituency to get outdoor learning centres open. There can be no better way of ensuring a depth and diversity of learning experiences. Outdoor learning centres are invaluable, and they must be part and parcel of a programme to get children back outside after such an enormous “stay at home” message for so long. We should get them learning outside in the natural environment. What better way is there to support their social and emotional needs?

I am blessed to have many such centres in North Norfolk, and the Education Secretary knows only too well that I have pushed him all the way to get their reopening on the road map as soon as possible. In particular, my constituents Sara Holroyd and Mark Holroyd from Aylmerton Field Study Centre, and Martin Read from Hilltop, have been through the most horrendous of times, unable to take bookings, and have suffered enormous losses due to the absence of firm news on when their businesses can start to accept young people back again.

I therefore wonder whether I can call on the Government to do even more with imaginative schemes for young people. What about embracing the National Citizen Service? That is a golden opportunity not only to get the outdoor learning sector going again, but to get our young people in the outdoors for that valuable and enriching learning experience.

Today, the Prime Minister paid tribute to the fact that it is Carers Week. One of the ways this £1 billion of support must be channelled is to help young carers in our society. I have talked about young carers in this place many times. As a patron of the Holt youth club in North Norfolk, I know just what incredible work Julie Alford, Kevin Abbs and all their team do for the community, as does Carers Matter across Norfolk.

The Holt Youth Project has looked after more than 50 young carers who have suffered disproportionately in the pandemic. Just imagine those children who are looking after a parent who is simply too sick to home school them. Those young people must be given the opportunity of the further support that this package will entail. We already know that young people caring for a parent do not have a normal childhood, and they will undoubtedly have fallen even further behind during the pandemic. I know that the Government will match that fund with those people in society, to help them as an absolute priority, and I commend them for it.

University Students: Compensation for Lost Teaching and Rent

Duncan Baker Excerpts
Thursday 15th April 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have continued to give guidance and advice to students throughout. We wanted to give the maximum period possible to review the data because our objective has always been to get students back as soon as we possibly can. At every stage, we have written to students and communicated with them via universities, but I do get how challenging it is and how disappointing it will be for some students not to be able to resume face-to-face teaching until 17 May.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

It is telling that the first step on the roadmap was education, so we know how seriously the Government take that subject. Will the Minister confirm that the highest rates of transmission among students are in university halls of residence and house sharing, so, regrettable as it is to have to delay the recommencement, it is simply a fact that we have to ensure the safety of this nation and that case rates continue to be suppressed?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government have committed to taking a cautious approach to easing restrictions, guided by the data instead of dates. Encouraging students on non-practical courses to return to in-person teaching will potentially lead to a significant number of students forming new households from across the country—up to 500,000—and enabling this to proceed too early may result in significant, higher numbers of infection and could increase the risk of students having to repeatedly self-isolate, which I am sure none of us would want.