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Written Question
Apprentices: Vocational Guidance
3 Feb 2021

Questioner: Joy Morrissey (CON - Beaconsfield)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to to encourage students to take up (a) nursing apprenticeships and (b) other vital vocational apprenticeships following the covid-19 outbreak.

Answered by Gillian Keegan

Apprenticeships will be more important than ever in helping businesses to recruit the right people and develop the skills they need to recover and grow in light of COVID-19.

To help employers offer new apprenticeships, as part of the government's Plan for Jobs, they are now able to claim £2,000 for every new apprentice they hire under the age of 25, and £1,500 for new apprentices aged 25 and over. As set out by my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at Spending Review, we have extended the eligibility period for these incentives until 31 March 2021, continuing our support for employers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Nursing apprenticeships offer a high-quality work-based route into the profession, in addition to the established higher education route. There is now a complete apprentice pathway from entry-level through to postgraduate-level from Nursing Associate at Level 5 to Registered Nurse at Level 6. Other standards available include District Nurse and Community Public Health Nurse. A full list of apprenticeship standards can be found here: https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/apprenticeship-standards/?.

In the first quarter of the 2020/21 academic year, there have been 560 starts on the ‘Registered Nurse – Degree’ apprenticeship standard and 1,660 starts on the ‘Nursing Associate’ apprenticeship standard.

In August 2020, the government announced a new financial package worth £172 million, to support employers to increase participation in nursing degree apprenticeships over the next four years. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) estimate this will enable 2,000 nurse degree apprentice starts in the 2020/21 academic year.

We are working closely with DHSC, employers and stakeholders to make sure the NHS is fully supported to recruit the apprentices it needs to deliver high-quality care.

To encourage students to consider nursing and other vital vocational apprenticeships, we are promoting apprenticeships in schools through our Apprenticeship Support & Knowledge programme. This free service provides schools and teachers with resources and interventions to help better educate young people about apprenticeships.


Written Question
Schools: Coronavirus
18 Jan 2021

Questioner: Joy Morrissey (CON - Beaconsfield)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether the primary focus of Government school policy is the interests of parents and pupils during the national lockdown.

Answered by Nick Gibb

The Department recognises that face to face education is best for children’s mental health and for their educational achievement. The Department has resisted restrictions on attendance at schools since the first lockdown but, in the face of the rapidly rising numbers of COVID-19 cases across the country and intense pressure on the NHS, we need to reduce all our social contacts wherever possible. Limiting attendance during the national lockdown will support the reduction of the overall number of social contacts in our communities.

During the period of national lockdown, schools will remain open to vulnerable children and young people and the children of critical workers only. If critical workers can work from home and look after their children at the same time, then they should do so. The Department expects schools to work with families to ensure all critical worker children are given access to a place, if this is required, to enable them to provide vital services. The Department encourages all vulnerable children to attend.

Schools should also continue to offer wraparound provision, such as breakfast and afterschool clubs, for those children eligible to attend school so that parents and carers who are critical workers can continue to work.

All primary schools, secondary schools and colleges in England are now expected to provide remote education for the majority of their pupils and students, with the exception of vulnerable children and young people and the children of critical workers, who can attend school or college in person. Where vulnerable children and young people and children of critical workers do not attend school, we expect schools to provide them with remote education.

The Department has updated the remote education guidance for schools and colleges to clarify and strengthen expectations while on site attendance is restricted, drawing on our evolving understanding of best practice in remote education. With most pupils now having to learn remotely and schools having made huge progress in developing their remote education provision, it is right that we increase the expectations on what pupils receive so that we mitigate the impact of children being out of school. The Department’s expectation for remote education provision has also been updated in this guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/remote-education-good-practice/remote-education-good-practice.

The Department knows this will be a challenging time for pupils and their families. On 8 January we published guidance, “What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges”, to provide parents with the latest information: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/951035/210108_Parents_Guidance_vF.pdf. The Department will continue to review the restrictions on schools, colleges and universities and will ensure that children and young people return to face-to-face education as soon as possible.


Written Question
Primary Education: Coronavirus
18 Jan 2021

Questioner: Joy Morrissey (CON - Beaconsfield)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps the Government is taking to ensure that primary schools, identified as a lower transmission risk, can reopen to all children as soon as possible.

Answered by Nick Gibb

Head teachers, teachers, and staff of schools, nurseries and colleges have been doing an extraordinary job to remain open, keep schools safe, and provide education for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. On 7 January, the Department published further guidance which sets out what schools will need to do during this new period of national lockdown. The guidance is available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/950510/School_national_restrictions_guidance.pdf.

Face-to-face education is best for children’s mental health and for their educational achievement. The Department has resisted restrictions on attendance at schools since the first lockdown but, in the face of the rapidly rising numbers of COVID-19 cases across the country and intense pressure on the NHS, we need to reduce all our social contacts wherever possible. Limiting attendance during the national lockdown will support the reduction of the overall number of social contacts in our communities.

During the period of national lockdown, schools, colleges and wraparound childcare and other out-of-school activities for children should allow only vulnerable children and young people and the children of critical workers to attend. All other pupils and students should not attend and should learn remotely.

The Department will continue to review the restrictions on schools and will ensure that children and young people return to face-to-face education as soon as possible.


Written Question
Remote Education: Buckinghamshire
18 Jan 2021

Questioner: Joy Morrissey (CON - Beaconsfield)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect of school closures on children with limited or no broadband connectivity in Buckinghamshire.

Answered by Nick Gibb

The Government is investing over £400 million to support access to remote education and online social care services, including securing 1.3 million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people.

This includes over 750,000 laptops and tablets that were delivered to schools, trusts and local authorities by the end of last week.

Laptops and tablets are owned by schools, trusts or local authorities who can lend these to children and young people who need them most, during the current COVID-19 restrictions.

All schools in Buckinghamshire have been invited to order their allocation of laptops and tablets and to request connectivity support. As of the 12 January, 834 devices have been delivered directly to Buckinghamshire local authority. Devices have also been allocated to academy trusts that have schools in Buckinghamshire.

The Department has partnered with the UK’s leading mobile network operators, such as EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone, to provide free data to disadvantaged families, which will support access to education resources, including Oak National Academy, and other websites.

Families will benefit from this additional data until July 2021. Schools can request free mobile data uplifts via the Get Help with Technology service.


Written Question
Students: Coronavirus
1 Dec 2020

Questioner: Joy Morrissey (CON - Beaconsfield)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that students receive value for money as their contact hours are reduced in response to the covid-19 outbreak.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

As I set out in a letter to MPs on 9 October and in a letter to Vice-Chancellors on 2 November, the government’s clear and stated expectation is that, whether providers are delivering face-to-face, online or blended provision, they must continue delivering a high quality academic experience that helps all students achieve qualifications that they and employers value. If there are concerns, the Office for Students (OfS) has the powers to act. The OfS has made it clear that higher education (HE) providers must continue to comply with registration conditions relating to quality and standards, which set out requirements to ensure that courses are high-quality, that students are supported and achieve good outcomes and that standards are protected.

The OfS has published information on quality and standards for providers, providing practical guidance on how best to ensure students continue to receive a high-quality academic experience. This guidance sets out that providers should make all reasonable efforts to provide alternative teaching and support for students that is at least broadly equivalent to the provider’s usual arrangements. The OfS will keep this guidance under review to ensure it remains relevant to the developing circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has also published a series of guides to support providers to secure academic standards and to support student achievement during the COVID-19 outbreak.

HE providers must continue to comply with their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010, ensuring that education and learning is accessible to all students. When making changes to the delivery of their courses, providers need to consider how they support all students, particularly the most vulnerable, to achieve successful academic and professional outcomes.

The OfS is taking very seriously the potential impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on teaching and learning and is regularly engaging with all registered providers. It is actively monitoring those providers which have moved provision predominantly online due to COVID-19 restrictions to ensure: that they maintain the quality of their provision; that it is accessible for all; and that they have been clear in their communications with students about how arrangements for teaching and learning may change throughout the year. The OfS is also following up directly with providers where they receive notifications from students, parents or others raising concerns about the quality of teaching on offer, and requiring providers to report to them when they are not able to deliver a course or award a qualification. If the OfS has concerns, it will investigate further.

The OfS is also monitoring the position across the sector, for instance, through polling of student views. Where appropriate, and in response to issues raised through that monitoring, it will issue further advice to the sector.

Students have rights under consumer law that they may be able to rely on if they are dissatisfied with their provider’s response to COVID-19 outbreak. In the first instance, students should speak to their provider to see if they can resolve their issue. We expect student complaints and appeals processes to be operated flexibly, accessibly, and sympathetically by providers to resolve any concerns. If a student at a provider in England or Wales is not satisfied with their provider’s final response, they should go to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, which has published guidance on this issue.