Oral Answers to Questions

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Monday 4th July 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho (East Surrey) (Con)
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1. What steps his Department is taking to attract science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers to disadvantaged areas.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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From this autumn, the levelling-up premium will provide early career teachers in maths, physics, chemistry and computing with a bonus of up to £3,000 tax-free annually if they teach disadvantaged children in disadvantaged schools. That is in addition to tax-free bursaries worth £24,000 and tax-free scholarships worth £26,000.

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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Maths skills are one of the surest ways to ensure higher future earnings for students, so I welcome this package; it is the right thing to do to try to get high-quality teachers into disadvantaged schools. I also support the specialist maths schools agenda, which ensuring that aim in a different way. Will the Secretary of State update the House on its progress?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the work that she does to promote maths to girls. I believe she was previously a maths captain—we have a lot to learn from her. We have three great specialist maths schools, with some of the best A-level results nationally. We are on track to have 10 regional maths schools by 2025, including one in Surrey.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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Does the Secretary of State agree that in order really to deliver this provision, we need partnerships with local and regional universities? Does it disturb him that some universities seem to want to go back to the past and only teach science and engineering, and not the arts and humanities? If levelling up is to mean anything, we need universities to be there for local communities.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I know that the hon. Gentleman is passionate about the topic, including through his think-tank’s work. He is right that universities, including the Open University, will play a key role. The work that I have witnessed in the collaboration between further education and higher education—the fungibility of both together—in our institutes of technology is equally important to ensure that we produce different runways from which young people’s careers can take off.

Peter Aldous Portrait Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con)
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2. What steps his Department is taking to upgrade the further education estate.

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Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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4. What steps he is taking to ensure that childcare is (a) affordable and (b) accessible.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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We are committed to improving the cost, choice and availability of childcare. We have spent more than £3.5 billion in each of the past three years in the Department for Education on both education and tax-free childcare. On the childcare element of universal credit, we spend between £4 billion and £5 billion each year. Today, we have announced further measures to increase take-up of childcare support and to reduce the cost and bureaucracy facing both parents and providers.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
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The Secretary of State has described the Government policy very eloquently, but given the soaring cost of childcare and the enormous pressure on parents and, indeed, on the sector, would it not be so much better to introduce a childcare recovery plan to invest properly in the sector, giving it the resources that are needed and substantially increasing the funds available, rather than cutting costs and looking at staff to child ratios? Will he also look again at the funding of specific parts of the sector, such as the excellent maintained nursery sector; we have three excellent maintained nurseries in Reading. Will he also consider an independent review into this important sector?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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On the maintained nurseries, the hon. Gentleman is quite right. When I was children and families Minister, I saw the great work they do. We have announced £10 million of additional support for maintained nurseries. We are investing up to £180 million specifically on early years recovery to address the impacts of the pandemic. That includes £153 million investment in evidence-based professional development for early years practitioners, which are equally important for the sector, because, clearly it is a tight labour market at the moment.

Steve Brine Portrait Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con)
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I thank the Secretary of State and his excellent Minister for their drive for quality in this sector. Those of us on the all-party parliamentary group on childcare and early education will study carefully the consultation put out today, but can the Secretary of State say what discussions he has had with Ofsted regarding the proposed changes to staffing ratios in early years settings that we have heard about today, and when the Department might be able to publish further details of the wider package of childcare reforms that the Minister for Children and Families alluded to on Sky News this morning?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Ofsted has been central to our work and we are consulting on the ratio issue that he mentions. We are also looking closely at childminders, a market that could do with some tender loving care at the moment, and seeing not only how we can help childminders to come into the sector by helping them with fees, but, once they have registered, how we ensure that inspections are proportionate and that they feel they are well rewarded for the work they do so brilliantly.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call shadow Minister Helen Hayes.

Helen Hayes Portrait Helen Hayes (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab)
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Instead of delivering meaningful reform of their broken childcare system, the Government have announced a consultation on allowing staff in early years settings to look after more children. Pregnant Then Screwed reports that four out of five childcare providers said that changing ratios would not be of any financial benefit to their organisation, and only one in 12 said that any cost savings would be passed on to parents. Can the Secretary of State guarantee that this proposal will make a meaningful difference to the cost of childcare for families—yes or no?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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If the hon. Lady reads the announcement and the case study we put forward, she will see that if the cost is passed on to parents, it is about £40. Crucially, however, it is not a silver bullet. This is part of a package of measures we are taking, which includes making sure that the 1.3 million people who are not currently claiming their tax-free childcare, where they can get 20% of their childcare or up to £2,000 paid for them, or the childcare element of universal credit, do so. That will make a real difference to them, as well as the consultation—bearing in mind that the consultation is also about ensuring that we continue the drive for quality that this Government have delivered in the childcare system and that safety is paramount for every child.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) (Lab)
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5. What steps he is taking to ensure that the SEND review provides adequate support for disabled children and their families.

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Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)
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20. What steps he is taking to reform children’s social care services.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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We will publish an ambitious implementation strategy later this year following three important pieces of work: first, the independent review of social care—the MacAlister review—and then the Competition and Markets Authority study on the children’s social care market, and the national panel review of the deaths of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson.

Lyn Brown Portrait Ms Brown
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Many years ago, as a residential social worker, I saw the pain and despair of many children in care, alongside their talents, their ambitions and their amazing resilience. None of this has changed, and we know that the most dangerous and difficult time for a child is the transition into leaving care. Too often services are just cut off and the child is left adrift. Will the Secretary of State promise me today that he will look at what more can be done to provide care leavers with consistent, quality support during and beyond those transitions, enabling them to live with foster families into their adulthood?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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As the hon. Lady will know—and as she probably remembers from when I was Children and Families Minister—we launched the care leaver covenant, which has made a significant difference to many of our young people in care as they transition out of care. There is also the work we are doing to support those 300,000 families who need that additional support. The work of MacAlister will make a huge difference. The hon. Lady knows that we have “staying put” and “staying close” to help those young people as they transition through, but I give her a pledge that we are serious about implementing the MacAlister review.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)
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This weekend, as the Secretary of State will have seen, the Swedish Government announced a review into the profit motive in children’s education. Can he confirm, perhaps with yes or no, that the profit motive must be taken out of the care of our most vulnerable children?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s question. Part of why I mentioned the Competition and Markets Authority review to make sure that the system is working properly is that it is something I am concerned about. I would focus on profiteering rather than profit, because I think people will want to go into this sector to help children, and I do not have a problem with their making a profit. It is excessive profiteering that I am certainly concerned about.

Paul Maynard Portrait Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con)
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Councils from across the country continue to send children and young people on out-of-area placements to Blackpool, often with good reason—to keep those children safe—but they do not notify Blackpool Council or Lancashire constabulary that these children are in the area. Often we find out when it is too late and something has gone wrong. What more can the Government do as part of their review of children’s social services to make sure that out-of-area placements made by councils are communicated to the host areas’ statutory agencies?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My hon. Friend asks an important question, and he will know that we are looking at how we help local authorities to commission and buy places much more efficiently with the regional care co-operatives. There is also the work of the MacAlister review, after which hopefully out-of-area placements will become a rarity, rather than where we are today.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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8. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the variety of literature taught in schools.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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The national curriculum states that pupils should read a wide range of books, poems and plays to appreciate our rich literary heritage and to develop a love for literature, as I did as a teenager. That includes pre-1914 contemporary prose, poetry and drama, Shakespeare and seminal world literature. Schools have freedom to select texts meeting those criteria.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that caution is needed with books that encourage a child to question their biological sex and to believe they were born in the wrong body because of gender nonconformity and not conforming to society’s stereotypes? Parents should be able to see what is being shared with children, whether in lessons or the school library.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I want to be clear: parents should know what their children are being taught in school. There are clear requirements on schools about providing parents with information about their school’s curriculum. We appreciate that parents have particular concerns about gender nonconformity, which is why we are developing very clear guidance for the frontline for schools to be able to deal with that issue.

Dean Russell Portrait Dean Russell (Watford) (Con)
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9. What steps his Department is taking to help support students with their mental health.

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Kate Osamor Portrait Kate Osamor (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op)
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T1.   If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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On 7 June, day two of Arriva’s bus strikes in Leeds, a group of year 10 pupils at the John Smeaton Academy in Leeds faced a dilemma. They had an exam, but their school bus was not running. What is more, they live in a hotel 4.2 miles from the school—that is because they are resettled Afghan refugees. They woke up very early and walked the 4.2 miles to school so that they could sit their exams. Those children are exemplary students. They are very welcome in Britain, and their example should inspire us all and shame those whose striking has jeopardised young people’s futures.

Kate Osamor Portrait Kate Osamor
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The Secretary of State has suggested that it would be unforgiveable for teachers to go on strike. What is unforgiveable is that teachers’ pay has fallen by a fifth in real terms in the past 12 years of Conservative rule. At the same time, they have been crushed under an unsustainable workload, hurting mental health and wellbeing. It is no wonder that seven in 10 have considered quitting in the past year. Will he commit to giving teachers the above-inflation pay increase they so richly deserve?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I do not think that any teacher would want to strike after the damage that covid did with students being out of school. In my evidence to the pay review body, I talked about wanting to deliver almost 9%—it was 8.9%—for new teachers this year and a 7.1% uplift next year to take their starting salary to £30,000 a year. My recommendation for more senior teachers was 5% over two years.

Gary Sambrook Portrait Gary Sambrook (Birmingham, Northfield) (Con)
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T4. The Minister will know that I have been hugely concerned about the state of special educational needs and disabilities services in Birmingham for quite some time, and the recent damning report only confirms the fears of parents whose children are on long waiting lists for education, health and care plans, and concerns about staff being told that they are too busy to respond to emails. Will the Minister assure me and parents and children back home in Birmingham that he will be doing everything possible to ensure that SEND services, which look after our most vulnerable children, are improved in Birmingham?

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Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)
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Last week, the Secretary of State’s flagship Schools Bill was left in tatters as he pulled 18 out of 69 clauses. Will he explain whether that was because he was bamboozled by his officials, he did not understand his own legislation, or he planned it all along? Or was it just the incompetence that we have all come to expect?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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At least I am not missing in action. If the hon. Lady had looked at the detail of my White Paper rather than attempted to play politics with it, she would know that I always promised a review of clauses 1 to 18 because we are taking what is in contract with multi-academy trusts and putting it in statute. I have now launched that review to ensure that we get it right so that clauses 1 to 18 come to this place and the Bill gets through to deliver the outcomes that we all want to see for all children.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
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That really is quite hard to believe.

Parents will know that the cost of care is skyrocketing, yet even the Children’s Minister himself—the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Colchester (Will Quince)—admitted that the changes the Government are considering are

“not going to significantly change costs”.

Labour has already set out how its children’s recovery plan would tackle this vital issue and provide immediate help to families now. What will it take for the Secretary of State to find some fresh ideas that actually address this growing crisis?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The hon. Lady again misses the point. The package is not just about the ratios. It is about looking at how we encourage and grow the childminder market, how we ensure the 1.2 million parents who are eligible to get tax-free childcare make that claim and, of course, how we support teachers, both in our brilliant maintained nurseries and across the system, to do much more for the children we want to see them deliver for.

Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Neil Hudson (Penrith and The Border) (Con)
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T6. Currently, 16 to 18-year-olds must legally continue education or training but are not entitled to transport. That penalises young folk living in rural areas such as Alston Moor, where the nearest college is 20 miles away and public transport is poor. I have started a petition calling for fair post-16 transport. Does the Minister agree with my petitioners that transport should not be a barrier to accessing education? Will the Government address the problem through legislation?

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Andrew Percy Portrait Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con)
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T8. It is now over a decade since I worked with the new Conservative North Lincolnshire Council to introduce the Imagination Library free book gifting scheme for all under-fives. Now, with nine out of 10 local children signed up and nearly 1 million books delivered in that period, our year 1 phonics screening shows that children who receive the free books are doing better at school than their peers who do not. Will the Secretary of State, or any Minister, engage with my local council to look at the benefits of the scheme more widely?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Indeed, the Secretary of State will engage with my hon. Friend on his passion for this subject. He knows we are investing £17 million in the Nuffield Early Language Intervention programme to improve language skills in reception-age children who most need that help. I would just like to also take this opportunity, because I know—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Come on, I’ve got to get through these questions. I call Mike Kane.

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Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con)
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I hope my right hon. Friend will see this book I have here, “The Children’s Inquiry” by Liz Cole and Molly Kingsley, about the damage to children during lockdown. The number of ghost children is still rising: it has risen by 100,000 to 1.7 million absent children. I know my right hon. Friend set up the Attendance Alliance Group, but the fact is that we need to get those children back to school, and the numbers are rising. What will he do to ensure those children get back to school in September?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to the Chair of the Select Committee. Those are not just ghost children; they are flesh and blood. We must make sure that we do everything in our power to get them back into school. The national register will identify where those children are, so that we can really focus on that.

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David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that improving the quality and depth of technical qualifications is vital to our levelling-up agenda and also to helping everyone improve social mobility?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Yes I do. The more runways that we can build from which people’s careers can take off, the better.

Sarah Owen Portrait Sarah Owen (Luton North) (Lab)
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T9. I am sure that I am not alone in hearing worrying reports of faith-based bullying and sexual harassment in schools. If this week has taught us anything, it is that we need to lead by example. Will the Secretary of State tell us when the Department for Education’s own bullying and harassment policies were last reviewed and updated?

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Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) (Lab)
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T10. The National Education Union has calculated that teacher pay has fallen by a fifth in real terms since 2010, while average teacher salaries are at their lowest in more than 40 years compared with average earnings across the economy. Despite that, the majority of teachers look set to be offered a 3% rise—a real-terms pay cut. Teachers in Durham deserve a proper pay rise. How on earth can the Secretary of State justify not giving them one?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady. We will wait to see the work of the pay review bodies. We have submitted our recommendation, and we will wait to hear what they say about it.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con)
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At a roundtable at Heathfield Community College last week, the Secretary of State’s adviser and I heard a number of great ideas from a group of headteachers and governors. One was that there is surely a need for the proposed parents’ pledge, to outline not only what parents can expect from teachers but what teachers can expect from parents. Would that idea help us to help teachers teach?

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Ben Everitt Portrait Ben Everitt (Milton Keynes North) (Con)
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With the school holidays cantering up to us, can my right hon. Friend confirm that helping parents with the cost of childcare is a key priority for his Department? What impact does he expect the decision to pay up to 85% of the cost of childcare for those on universal credit to have, as opposed to the 70% that was provided under the previous regime?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The purpose of the important package announced today is to ensure that parents on universal credit, or the tax-free childcare element, claim what is rightfully theirs. We are spending between £4 billion and £5 billion on helping parents with childcare.

Stella Creasy Portrait Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op)
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Ministers keep telling us that it is important for parents to claim the tax breaks for childcare. Last year the Government spent just £150,000 on advertising them, saving the Treasury £3 billion. What additional funding has the Department secured for advertising child tax credit spending?

Child Protection

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Thursday 26th May 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Written Statements
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Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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Today, the independent national child safeguarding practice review panel published its national review into the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson.

The murders of Arthur and Star shocked the nation. It is incomprehensible that anyone could harm a child in this way.

I want to thank Annie Hudson, the chair of the panel, and her team for their hard work and commitment in setting out the learning from these horrific incidents. Arthur and Star’s extended families did as much as they could to protect them. Being involved in this process and reflecting on what happened must have been incredibly difficult. I want to thank the children’s families for their contributions to today’s review and the insights they have provided while grieving for their huge loss. I am also grateful to professionals across Bradford and Solihull for their engagement with the review. It is only through these open and honest conversations that we can truly learn from what has happened.

No Government can legislate for evil, but the panel’s recommendations look to address the problems that they have seen across child protection services, and to make such terrible incidents as rare as possible.

The national review pays tribute to the many professionals across our country who carry out effective child protection every day, whilst recognising that the child protection system needs to be strengthened. To this end, the panel has made local recommendations for safeguarding partners in Solihull and Bradford as well as eight national recommendations to strengthen delivery of child protection services.

I am committed, with colleagues across this House, to acting on these recommendations. No time can be wasted in learning from these tragedies, and I assure the House that we will do all we can to deliver significant improvements to child protection services.

We have already taken strong action in both Solihull and Bradford to drive up the quality of services. In Solihull, I commissioned a joint targeted area inspection, served an improvement notice, provided additional funding, and deployed an expert improvement adviser. Alongside this, the local authority has established an improvement board to drive progress and ensure multi-agency working between the police, health and the local authority to keep local children as safe as possible.

In Bradford, we are establishing a new children’s services trust. Evidence shows trusts can turn around failing services, delivering the care that every child deserves. This approach has worked well elsewhere, notably in Sunderland which improved from inadequate to outstanding in three years. Today I am delighted to announce the appointment of Eileen Milner as the chair of the new trust. Eileen is an experienced leader with a strong track record and will be working alongside our commissioner in Bradford, Steve Walker, and the council, to improve these critical services for children and families in Bradford as quickly as possible.

My Department’s broader investment in local authority intervention and improvement is already paying off: 53% of authorities are now rated good or outstanding, up from 36% five years ago. 42% more children in need are now living in local authorities which are rated good or outstanding than in 2017.

Yet system change on a national scale is needed. On Monday, we announced the publication of the independent review of children’s social care, led by Josh MacAlister. The recommendations align with those outlined in the independent review into children’s social care and look to address the problems that they have seen across child protection services and make such terrible incidents as rare as possible.

As the panel’s national review states, data and information sharing are essential to keeping children safe, and sadly weaknesses in information sharing hindered professionals’ understanding of what was happening to Arthur and Star. This is why we will take action to drive forward, from the independent review of children’s social care, three data and digital priority areas, ensuring local government and partners are in the driving seat of reform. Following the review’s recommendation for a data and technology taskforce, we will introduce a new digital and data solutions fund to help local authorities improve delivery for children and families through technology. More detail will follow later this year on joining up data from across the public sector so that we can increase transparency—both between safeguarding partners and the wider public.

My ministerial colleagues and I are fully committed to improving the national co-ordination of child protection. Today we have written to all safeguarding partners to emphasise the important messages contained in the national review and put out a call to action to take forward these important recommendations. Together with my colleagues across Whitehall, we will also form a new child protection ministerial group, to ensure that safeguarding is championed at the very highest levels. We are also developing further our offer of support to safeguarding partners and will clarify roles and responsibilities through guidance.

This is challenging and complex work, and I am sure colleagues across the House will agree with me that the vast majority of those working in child protection go to work each day to try to make things better. No one deserves to be the subject of abuse and harassment, let alone such conscientious, committed and capable professionals doing all they can to protect children from harm.

I will consider the recommendations from the panel’s national review and those from the independent review of children’s social care and respond in full before the end of this year when we will publish a bold implementation strategy incorporating the recommendations.

I am committed to driving forward progress with those across all safeguarding agencies to protect children, and with colleagues across Parliament as well as those with lived experience of the care system, to deliver reform.

I know that people in Solihull, Bradford and far beyond are deeply troubled by the findings of these reviews. I want to assure people across the country that this Government will not shirk our duty of keeping children safe, that the lines written in these reviews will be poured over, and steps will be taken to make sure lessons are learned so that we do not find ourselves here again.

[HCWS64]

Oral Answers to Questions

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Monday 23rd May 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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23. What steps his Department is taking to invest in education in low-performing areas.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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I am sure that the whole House will join me in sending our well wishes to the Minister for Higher and Further Education, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan), as she is fighting covid and, I am sure, will defeat it.

To help all pupils to achieve their potential, I have increased core schools funding by £4 billion, which is a 7% increase in cash terms per pupil this year, in 2022-23; and I have directed—flexed—£2.6 billion of that funding towards low prior attainment children through the national funding formula.

Scott Benton Portrait Scott Benton
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The additional funding that schools in Blackpool receive through our status as an opportunity area and an education investment area will make a real difference on the ground. However, headteachers often raise with me the problem of digital exclusion when pupils are at home due to a lack of IT equipment, which obviously puts pupils from lower-income families at a comparative disadvantage. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that pupils from low-income backgrounds do not lose out due to digital exclusion?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his excellent question. I am working to ensure that every school has access to high-speed broadband connectivity by 2025. Priority schools in education improvement areas will be able to access our £150 million programme to upgrade their internal network infrastructure. During the pandemic, as my hon. Friend highlighted from his teachers’ point of view, many children did not have access to technology for learning at home, so we provided devices, wi-fi and data to disadvantaged students to support digital inclusion at home.

Julie Marson Portrait Julie Marson
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I am supporting my Bishop’s Stortford constituents’ “Turn on the Subtitles” campaign to improve children’s literacy across the board, but particularly in low-performing areas. Raj Chande, the director of Nesta’s “A Fairer Start” mission, said that the campaign’s evidence is compelling, and it has Nesta’s seal of approval—an important endorsement. Therefore, what plans does my right hon. Friend have to invest in the campaign by reviewing its mass of evidence, and will he encourage parents and children to turn on the subtitles?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I have set out in the White Paper that we share the commitment to raising literacy standards, as I am sure the whole House does, and we want to ensure that all children can read fluently and with that understanding. I thank Henry Warren and Oli Barrett MBE for their commitment to improving literacy levels, and they have championed that campaign. It is a choice for parents and guardians whether their child watches television and whether they do so with the subtitles on, but it certainly makes a difference in the Zahawi household.

Paul Holmes Portrait Paul Holmes
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Does the Secretary of State agree that as well as funding, data and transparency matter so that we can monitor things, act quickly and see that the plans that we have announced are working to improve schools right across Eastleigh?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I never tire of saying that data and transparency are our greatest allies in improving educational outcomes. We are absolutely focused on delivering against the ambitious targets that we have set for skills, schools and families, and on holding ourselves in the Department against them. Sharing our plans and performance data is a key lever to drive rapid improvement through the complex system that we oversee in education. I have committed to publishing a delivery plan setting out what we will achieve and a performance dashboard showing progress, and I want teachers and school leaders to do the same on behaviour, absenteeism and, of course, standards.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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Does the Minister agree that the future of children’s education in the now city of Doncaster has never been brighter due to the excellent steps taken by this Government, the fantastic schools in Don Valley and the roll-out of my role models project on the ground, which shows young people all the career opportunities? With that in mind, will the Minister agree to come to Don Valley and see for himself the good work that is being done?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My hon. Friend is certainly a role model in how he has celebrated Doncaster becoming a city. I am delighted that the role models project is connecting schools in Don Valley to local professionals; it is inspiring and informative for young people to hear about the career journeys of role models and to learn about all the excellent career opportunities available to them in Doncaster. I look forward to joining my hon. Friend and seeing the project for myself.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
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Does the Secretary of State agree that any increases in funding for schools should be spent on teaching and learning, not on propping up failing energy companies? In an average primary school, £30,000 more—the cost of a teacher—is being spent on energy. What is the Secretary of State going to do about it? Will he include nurseries and early years settings in his assessment?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The 7% increase on last year, in cash terms, that we secured at the spending review for this year includes significant additional funding that allows us headroom, but the hon. Lady is right to highlight the point. Energy represents about 1.4% to 1.5% of schools’ budgets, but because of the energy spike, schools that are out of contract have seen that proportion increase to 7%, 8% or 9%. We are keeping a close eye on the matter. The one message that I would like the hon. Lady and every other hon. Member to take away to their schools is to get in touch with us if they are close to coming out of contract, because we can really help.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
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May I take the chance to congratulate Stockport children’s services on their “good” Ofsted rating?

I am really concerned at the lack of progress in educational attainment, particularly at secondary level, in schools in parts of my constituency across Stockport and Tameside. What action is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that all parents have the choice of schools with good performance and that children have the opportunities that a good education can bring?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I know that the hon. Gentleman and I share the same passion in what we want for every child. I do not believe that children in Stockport are less talented than children in South Kensington; they have just not had the same opportunity of a great teacher in every classroom in every school. I am determined to deliver that through the White Paper.

I join the hon. Gentleman in celebrating the inspection result for Stockport children’s services; they have done a phenomenal job. I hope that he will be in the Chamber for the statement by the Children and Families Minister—the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Will Quince)—about Josh MacAlister’s very important review, which has been published today.

Jamie Stone Portrait Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)
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You will understand, Mr Speaker, how disturbed I was to learn that Highland Council schools have been ranked as the worst in the whole of Scotland for numeracy and literacy among P1, P4 and P7 pupils. These children are our future. We used to be proud of Scottish education. Will the Government share their best practice with the Scottish Government so that this scandal is sorted out?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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That is concerning, I have to say, because although education is devolved, we care about the whole United Kingdom. I am very happy to share our work through the education White Paper and the education Bill, and what we are doing on skills, with T-levels and the lifelong learning entitlement. I worry that Scottish children are being let down. It feels as if Scotland is in freefall down the league tables of the programme for international student assessment.

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
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I am more interested in the Government’s record on academic inequality than in their rhetoric. The annual review of education by the Institute for Fiscal Studies reveals that since 2010, the most deprived secondary schools have suffered a 14% cut in spending, while for the most affluent schools the figure is just 9%. The new national funding formula makes the disparity worse. The Government’s 10 years of further education cuts also fell harder on poorer students. We all know that the Government stand against aspiration for deprived children and are increasing inequality, as those figures show. Why do they not at least have the courage to admit it?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The hon. Gentleman makes some powerful points, but they are completely misguided. He speaks with great passion, but without looking at the evidence before us. The past 12 years demonstrate that schools have been on an improvement journey. When we came into office, only two thirds of schools could achieve a good or outstanding rating; the figure is now 86%. My predecessors’ work on skills has taken investment in the skills agenda up to £3.8 billion. When we talk to teachers and school leaders around the country, they know that the White Paper will deliver great outcomes for every child. We have set our ambitions high for children all over the country; we know how to get there, and we will deliver.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokesperson, Carol Monaghan.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
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I was sorry to hear about the Minister for Higher and Further Education, the right hon. Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan), and I wish her a speedy recovery.

I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will join me in wishing all the young people throughout the United Kingdom who are currently sitting their national exams the best of success.

The Secretary of State has praised private schools, including Eton, for building free schools in places such as Oldham, which, according to him, need that investment in education. Can he confirm that it is now Government policy to rely on private school investment where Government funds have been lacking?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I completely agree with the hon. Lady that we should send our congratulations to the brilliant teachers who have delivered the 650,000 pupils who have taken their key stage 2 standard assessment tests this month. Students began taking their A-levels and GCSEs last Monday, and 3 million individual test scripts have been returned for marking. That is a great achievement after two years of being stuck with covid.

The hon. Lady asked about funding. This Government will be putting £56.5 billion into our school system. We have a plan, which is well evidenced, for delivering a great school with a great teacher for every classroom in the country. Scotland has no plan, and is in freefall in the international league tables.

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Gareth Bacon Portrait Gareth Bacon (Orpington) (Con)
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3. What steps his Department is taking to help ensure political impartiality in schools.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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The law is clear that schools must remain politically impartial. I know that colleagues on all sides of the House relish going into schools for hustings during elections. Children need to learn about the yellow team, the blue team, the red team and the green team, but I recognise that some issues can be challenging to deal with, so my Department has recently published clear, comprehensive guidance to help teachers tackle sensitive issues in the classroom in a politically impartial way.

Gareth Bacon Portrait Gareth Bacon
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In April this year, members of the National Education Union claimed that it was somehow impossible to teach history in a balanced manner. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that some children are at risk of being indoctrinated by political activists masquerading as teachers? Will he bring forward powers in the new Schools Bill to strike off those who repeatedly fail to comply with impartiality guidelines?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Our knowledge-rich history curriculum requires teaching methods of historical inquiry. We should be teaching children how to think, not what to think, including how evidence is used rigorously to make historical claims and discerning how and why contrasting arguments and interpretations of the past have been constructed. Our guidance supports this, and schools already have powers to take disciplinary action where teachers repeatedly breach their legal duties.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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4. What recent steps his Department has taken to ensure that condition improvement fund allocations reflect the needs of schools and pupils.

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Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab)
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5. What progress his Department has made on developing an alternative student finance product for Muslim students.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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We remain committed to delivering alternative student finance, and we are currently considering if and how it can be delivered as part of the lifelong loan entitlement.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms
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It is estimated that 4,000 Muslim students a year do not go into higher education because there is no finance available that is compatible with their faith. David Cameron promised to fix this nine years ago. A good deal of work was done, but it seems to have run into the sand in the past few years. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for reaffirming the Government’s commitment to delivering on David Cameron’s promise, but can he give us an indication of how much longer Muslim students will have to wait?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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We will provide a further update on alternative student finance as part of our response to the LLE consultation, which closed earlier this month.

Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes (Clwyd South) (Con)
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6. What steps his Department is taking to limit student loan interest payments.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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Monthly student loan repayments are based on income, not interest rates, meaning that no one will see their monthly repayment increase due to interest rates. From September, we have reformed the student loan system so that new borrowers will not repay more in real terms than they originally borrowed—that is fair.

Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes
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The level of student loan interest rates is of great importance to students, past and present, in my constituency, half of which is in the new city of Wrexham. Will my right hon. Friend provide further detail on how we can apply a sustainable downward pressure to student loan interest rates in future?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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That is an important question, and I fully recognise the concerns of students and their parents about increasing interest rates. I am looking actively at how we can mitigate that, and we will be setting it out shortly. I emphasise again that no one’s monthly repayment will increase due to higher interest rates, which is an important point to make when people’s budgets are tight.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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The House will be in shock that Question 7 has been withdrawn.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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Violence against women is unacceptable, and we must pursue a zero-tolerance culture. I have written to the Office for Students to make clear my view that it should make tackling sexual misconduct a binding condition of universities’ registration. I have also launched a pledge that commits universities to not using non-disclosure agreements to silence victims of sexual harassment. Fifty-three providers have so far made the pledge, and we expect many more to follow.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson
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We are far from zero tolerance at the moment. As a parent of two daughters who have attended or are attending two different universities, I have seen that universities are not safe spaces. Research shows that between two thirds and three quarters of female students, and 70% of female university and college staff, have experienced sexual violence.

The president of the University of Roehampton’s students union has been in regular contact with me about incidents there and about how the local police’s hands are tied because sexual harassment is not a crime, so they cannot take action. There are many factors. Will the Secretary of State go further and commission a review of sexual violence on campuses across our country and take more action to make our campuses safe?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Universities UK published a report a couple of years ago assessing the sector’s progress on tackling gender-based violence, harassment and hate crime. It showed some progress had been made, but only 72% of responding institutions had developed or improved the recording of data on harassment. I need them to go much further, and we will keep everything on the table. I am determined that we get to where the hon. Lady and I both want to get. I am the father of a nine-year-old girl who will one day go to college or, I hope, take a degree apprenticeship. A zero-tolerance culture must be delivered.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con)
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10. What progress he has made on helping to protect freedom of speech in education.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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The Government maintain our commitment to the protection of free speech and academic freedom in universities with the reintroduction of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill following the Queen’s Speech on 10 May.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes
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As the Secretary of State says, it is right and just that we are in the vanguard of the fight for free speech. As the Bill that will ensure that progresses through the House, the backdrop against which we debate it is disturbing, with universities continuing to use the Equality Act 2010 to elevate the fear of disturbance or distress above the ability of free speech to inspire, enthral and move the academic agenda forward. The case of Dr Sarkar at the University of Oxford is a recent sad example, but it is by no means exceptional. Will the Secretary of State, before the Bill reaches the statute book, conduct a review of free speech policies at universities, and, if necessary, issue fresh guidance to ensure that academics and students in those universities can speak freely? [Interruption.]

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I shall attempt to be pithy, Mr Speaker.

The Government and I are clear that issues such as antisemitism are abhorrent, but universities and students’ unions must balance their legal duties, including freedom of speech and tackling harassment. The Bill will place duties directly on students’ unions to secure freedom of speech for staff, students and visiting speakers. No one should fear expressing lawful views.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin (Bedford) (Lab)
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11. What steps he is taking to reform early years services and childcare provision.

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Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock (West Suffolk) (Con)
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14. What steps his Department is taking to help improve (a) early identification of, (b) teacher training in and (c) support for pupils with dyslexia and other neurodivergent conditions in primary schools.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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Our ambition, which I know my right hon. Friend shares, is that we will level up opportunities for all children and young people. That is why I have published the Schools White Paper and the SEND and alternative provision Green Paper, which sets out our plans to better identify children at risk of falling behind and then provide them with the support they need. That includes those with neurodivergent conditions

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer and for the work that he has done. The White Paper and the SEND review have gone down very well, but they are about the direction of travel; we need to get to the destination. Will he confirm the need for a universal approach to screening for neurodiverse conditions and will he also congratulate those who are doing good work already such as those at Laureate Community Academy in Exning in Newmarket, which I visited earlier this month?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Will Quince), will be hosting a roundtable meeting this summer to discuss the different approaches being taken around the country, where I hope we will learn from some of those people—as my right hon. Friend knows, I will always be the evidence-led Secretary of State. Early intervention is important, and the SEND and alternative provision Green Paper will deliver that. Moreover, the parent pledge in the Schools White Paper is a lever for teachers to identify those children with dyslexia and dyspraxia and to put that help in place.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con)
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15. What steps his Department is taking to support pupils who fall behind in maths and English.

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Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con)
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16. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of his Department’s steps to help return severely absent pupils to school.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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My schools White Paper and new attendance guidance set out how we expect schools and local authorities to support severely absent pupils so that they can attend regularly. We also recently launched a live data trial for schools, trusts and local authorities, enabling them to target support at pupils who need it most.

Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon
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My right hon. Friend rightly says that he is driven by the data, and I thank him for the work he is doing to try to get these children back to school. The Centre for Social Justice suggests that 13,000 children in critical exam years were severely absent in the autumn term 2020, and FFT Education Datalab suggests that 5% of pupils were severely absent from September to May this year. What data are the Government collecting on children in exam years who have been severely absent, and what is being done to bring them back to school and to ensure that they get targeted tuition through the catch-up programme?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am delighted to confirm that, as my right hon. Friend knows, we are bringing forward legislative measures to establish a local authority registration system, but that is for the future. Those GCSE, AS-level and A-level students sitting exams this year have been given advance information to help them focus, and to give them the confidence to come in and take exams this year. We are also working to make sure that the alliance of national leaders across education is doing everything it can to deal with persistent absenteeism, and to make sure that all children are in school, which is the best place for them to be.

Mark Fletcher Portrait Mark Fletcher (Bolsover) (Con)
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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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The United Kingdom’s education export was estimated at over £25 billion in 2019. I am delighted that 132 Education Ministers from 110 countries around the world are in town today to join us at the Education World Forum this week.

We all want to congratulate all those students sitting exams. Hundreds of thousands have already sat their exams, including 650,000 taking key stage 2 standard assessment tests. I am sure the whole House will join me in wishing them very well.

In the platinum jubilee year, 4.5 million primary school children in schools in England and Northern Ireland will receive a hardback book, as will those in schools in Scotland and Wales who opt in. In some homes there are no books, and those children will take home this beautiful book about Her Majesty’s reign and the Commonwealth.

Mark Fletcher Portrait Mark Fletcher
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last week I received an email from a parent on Holbeck Avenue in Bolsover, saying:

“There is no 6th form available at The Bolsover School and so pupils wishing to do A levels have an expensive bus ride in order to get anywhere. For instance it costs around £650 a year if your child is successful to get a place at St Mary’s High School in Chesterfield and the choice of courses at Chesterfield college are quite limited.”

Does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State share my passion for ensuring post-16 education in the Bolsover constituency?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend and I met on 9 May to discuss access to the full range of post-16 education in his constituency. I asked my officials to look into the matters raised at that meeting. I know my hon. Friend is a champion of this issue and has looked at the evidence, and I will write to him very shortly.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call shadow Secretary of State Bridget Phillipson.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)
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The Schools Bill gives the Secretary of State sweeping powers over the operation of our schools. Does that mean that he recognises that the Government’s approach to school improvement over the past 12 years has failed?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Quite the opposite. The hon. Lady clearly does not follow the evidence. If she looked at it, she would see that families of schools in high-performing multi-academy trusts have delivered better outcomes for their students. Whether they are Church of England schools, Catholic schools or grammar schools, they are all joining us on this journey, and I invite her to do the same.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Headteachers are telling us they are having to cut back on staffing, school trips, and even pens and paper. As costs soar and the national insurance rise comes into effect, the Secretary of State is still failing to invest in our children’s recovery. Experts have lined up to tell him the damage his inaction will cause, not just to our children’s future but to Britain’s future success. What will it take to convince him to put our children first?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I do not know whether the hon. Lady was listening when I talked about the 7% cash increase in the budget for schools this year compared with last year—that is £4 billion going to our schools. By 2024 we will be investing £56.5 billion in education. Of course money makes a difference, but if she visits Hammersmith Academy she will meet a great leadership team who are delivering for their students—60% of whom get the pupil premium—because leadership matters. I wish her luck in her leadership campaign.

Suzanne Webb Portrait Suzanne  Webb  (Stourbridge)  (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T4.   Apprenticeships are a terrific opportunity for those with learning difficulties, due to the vocational nature of the training, but we need more such opportunities. Where there is a surplus of funding from the apprenticeship levy allowance, will the Minister consider directing it at incentivising smaller companies to provide apprenticeships, thereby ensuring parity of opportunity for those with learning difficulties, such as those with 22q11 deletion syndrome?

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Mr Gullis, I told you to be short, but you obviously cannot. Secretary of State.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The Schools Bill will protect grammar schools. However, we have 165 grammar schools, and 90 of them are already playing their part in those families of schools in multi-academy trusts. We have a system with 22,000 schools. I mentioned Gary Kynaston’s brilliant leadership of Hammersmith Academy. My hon. Friend should go and have a look at Michaela and what Katharine Birbalsingh has done there. That is—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. Come on, let us be fair. Both of you have lined these comments up—that is great—but it is topical questions; they are meant to be short and sweet. Do not take advantage. It is not like you, Secretary of State; you are too nice a person.

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Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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Last Friday was the 36th anniversary of the rebel amendment in the House of Lords proposed by Lady Cox, which banned the indoctrination of schoolchildren with partisan political views. Does the Secretary of State accept that the concept of anti-nuclear education, and of anti-imperialist education, which led to that ban, are to be compared with the concepts of vicious identity politics and of the decolonisation of subjects, which rightly fall foul of the legislation he cited?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

My right hon. Friend raises a very powerful point, and he is quite right: children should be taught how to think, not what to think.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T8. According to the Child Poverty Action Group, 27% of children in the UK are living in poverty, which equates to eight in a classroom of 30. A classroom with hungry children is not an environment that is conducive to good learning, so what discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Chancellor to plan emergency interventions to tackle such shocking levels of child deprivation and inequality across these islands?

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Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Church of England and the Catholic Church run a third of schools in England. How does the Secretary of State plan to improve that partnership even further for the benefit of all children?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The Church of England and the Catholic Church have been partners on the journey of the White Paper. They are already making ambitious plans to deliver what we all want to see—great schools where children get a great education in the classroom wherever they live in the country.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

When a child experiences deep trauma, it can escalate their vulnerability and can display itself in many ways, including harm to themselves and others. Early intervention is key, but when residential placements are required, it is inexcusable when there are no places available locally or nationally. How will the Secretary of State rectify that as a matter of urgency?

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Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab)
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Does the Secretary of State support the chair of the Office for Students’ endorsement of Viktor Orbán, including his approach to academic freedom in higher education?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I support the chair of the Office for Students for all the work that he is doing to improve outcomes for students in our universities.

Ian Levy Portrait Ian Levy (Blyth Valley) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Blyth Valley is at the forefront of the green industrial revolution, but we need to ensure that our young people are equipped to fill the skills gap in those industries. We need local jobs for local people, so will the Secretary of State visit to see how we can link schools and industry to deliver for young people?

Making Britain the Best Place to Grow Up and Grow Old

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Monday 16th May 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Hansard - -

It is a great honour for me to open this debate on the Loyal Address. In Her Majesty’s jubilee year, I want to thank her for her dedication and service to our country, the Commonwealth and all its people. That includes young immigrants arriving on these shores, who feel her warmth and generosity; of course, some of them end up as her Ministers. I also thank Prince Charles and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, for opening Parliament on her behalf.

During Her Majesty’s 70-year reign, this country has been the best place in the world to grow up and grow old, yet during these seven decades the British people have overcome major challenges, time and time again. We have just lived through what I am sure you will agree has been an incredibly difficult period, Madam Deputy Speaker. After years of sacrifice by people up and down the country, this Queen’s Speech focuses our attention exactly where it should be—on the future.

The future, full of promise, will not be without its challenges, both at home and overseas. Our country needed a Queen’s Speech that rises to the scale of the challenge we face, and we have delivered it. Our communities needed a Queen’s Speech that keeps them safe, secure and prosperous, and we will deliver it. Our constituents needed a Queen’s Speech that shows them that the door of opportunity is always open to them, and we will deliver it. Our relentless focus is on delivery, delivery, delivery.

Before I outline how our legislative programme will make sure that this country remains the best place to grow up and grow old, I reaffirm this Government’s solidarity with the people of Ukraine. I am pleased to say that all Ukrainian children and young people arriving in the United Kingdom have the right to access state education while in the UK. With memories of my own childhood, leaving Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and building a new life here, I know how important education is to helping young people integrate into their new communities.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State is absolutely right to say that there is no better place in the world to live than this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—always better together. Can he confirm that through the Government’s policies and this Queen’s Speech, every step will be taken to ensure that every child in this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland achieves academic success; to improve the health system for every person who is on the waiting list; and to help every elderly person who depends on a better income for energy, food and heat?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I think the hon. Gentleman speaks for the whole of Northern Ireland when he says that the focus has to be on the education, healthcare and public services that the people of Northern Ireland so badly need.

Not only do we need to make sure that Ukrainian refugees are well integrated, but we need to give them the same skills that we are giving our children, so that they can take on the challenges of the future.

Not only do we need to make sure that Ukrainian refugees are well integrated, but we need to give them the same skills that we are giving our children, so that they can take on the challenges of the future. I want to take this opportunity to commend schools and local authorities across England for rising to the challenge of welcoming and supporting children arriving from Ukraine, and offering thousands of them a school place, in the same schools that are at the heart of our plans to level up. One of the first Bills introduced this Session, in the other place, is the Schools Bill, which will deliver a stronger schools system that works for every child, no matter where they were born or live in our country. It will work alongside close to £5 billion of investment in our ambitious multi-year educational recovery plan, investing in what we know works: teacher training; tutoring; and extra educational opportunities, including of course extra hours for those who have the least time left in education—the 16 to 19-year-old students.

The evidence is clear that our plan is working and the recovery is happening, with primary pupils recovering about 0.1 months in reading and 0.9 months in maths since the summer. Combined with our £7 billion cash increase in the total core schools budget by 2024-25—this is compared not with 10 years ago but with 2021-22—this means we are giving schools the resources they need to focus on student outcomes. It is money that will help schools increase teachers’ pay, including by delivering on our manifesto pledge of a £30,000 starting salary. This is money that will help schools deliver resources for students and meet inflationary pressures in these uncertain times.

However, there is more to do, because too many children leave primary school unable to meet the expected standards in reading, writing and mathematics, despite the remarkable progress in the past decade. Through our Bill, 90% of primary school children will achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by 2030, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas, which need the most help, will have increased by more than a third. To meet our ambitious targets, the Schools Bill will go further, taking steps to make children safe and addressing standards in attendance, with this all underpinned by a fairer and stronger schools system. Because our best multi-academy trusts—those families of schools—are delivering improvement in schools and in areas where poor performance had become entrenched, by 2030 we want all schools either to be in a strong multi-academy trust or to have plans to join or form one.

David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State is making a powerful point. Is he aware that in my area the strong Odyssey Trust for Education, which runs the successful Townley Grammar School for girls, is already ahead of the game on this one and has taken over the failing Erith School and made it King Henry School, and is determined to make it a great success?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I certainly am aware of the Odyssey Trust for Education, and indeed it is exactly that passion for transforming young people’s lives that we need on this journey; I know that that school and many other grammar schools—I believe it is 90 of the 165 grammar schools—have already joined those families of schools and will do the same.

Our ambitions are for all children, including those with special educational needs and disabilities, who may need additional support, to reach their potential. The SEND and alternative provision Green Paper, published in March, sets out our ambitions for children and young people with SEND. Our proposals will build a more inclusive and financially sustainable system that delivers the right support in the right place at the right time for every child and young person. We want to establish a new single national SEND and alternative provision system and are investing now to secure future sustainability for that system. We have also set out clear roles and responsibilities, and of course accountability measures, for everybody working in the SEND and alternative provision sector. That includes the new national and local inclusion dashboards to give a timely, transparent picture of how the system is performing across education, health and care, which is what parents have asked us to do.

Children and young people are the future of our country, but they cannot succeed if they are not safe and secure at home. That is why under my stewardship the Department for Education has been laser-focused on families. With strong families, we can make a fairer society, one in which children can escape the quicksand of disadvantage. With strong families, we can help to ensure that every child can grow up happy and of course with that vital opportunity. We are taking steps to strengthen families. We are funding 75 local authorities—half of England’s local authorities—with the highest levels of child deprivation to create family hubs and transform that support for families. Our investment includes a focus on babies, children and families in the early years, with funding for breastfeeding, parenting and parent-infant mental health services. Where families need more help, we have expanded the supporting families programme so that up to 300,000 families with more complex needs can work with a key worker to help to resolve problems.

Mary Robinson Portrait Mary Robinson (Cheadle) (Con)
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Safety is at the heart of what so many parents think of when they send their child into these settings, and I welcome the family help. Last week a child died in a nursery in my constituency, and I send my heartfelt condolences to the family. It must be a heartbreaking time. Ten years ago two other constituents lost their child, Millie, in a nursery. Dan and Joanne Thompson set up Millie’s Trust in her name, and now Millie’s Mark accredits staff in nurseries who have paediatric first aid training. Does my right hon. Friend agree that safety in nurseries and other childcare settings is vital and that paediatric first aid is vital so that members of staff know how to deal with these emergencies? Would he join me in—

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. A lot of speakers are trying to get into this debate, so interventions need to be very brief.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend on Millie’s Mark, and of course child safety in nurseries is vital and non-negotiable. I am grateful to her for bringing that accreditation to the House’s attention.

As I was saying, where families need additional help we have expanded the Supporting Families programme so that those 300,000 families with more complex needs can work with a key worker to help to resolve problems.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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Will the Secretary of State give way?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I will just make a bit more headway, then I will take the hon. Lady’s intervention with pleasure.

To improve the lives and outcomes of children with a social worker, we need to make fundamental changes to the current system. I look forward to seeing the recommendations from the independent review of children’s social care—the MacAlister review—which will be published in the coming weeks. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve outcomes for children and families. This Government are acutely aware of how important childcare is to both children and their mums and dads. In each of the past three years we have spent in excess of £3.5 billion a year on our early education entitlements, and we will continue to support families with their childcare costs. At the spending review last October we announced additional funding for early years entitlements worth £160 million in 2022-23, £180 million in 2023-24 and £170 million in 2024-25 compared with the 2021-22 financial year.

Providing quality childcare is vital for children to develop from the earliest opportunity, but there is another point to all this. We know that women are the most likely to shoulder high childcare costs. The aim of the Government’s universal credit childcare offer is to support parents for whom paid childcare is a barrier to work to overcome that barrier. This works alongside tax-free childcare, helping parents return to work and making sure it pays to work. For every £8 that parents pay into their childcare account, we add £2, up to a maximum of £2,000, in top-up per year for each child up to the age of 11, and up to £4,000 per disabled child until they are 17. Overall, the Government have spent more than £4 billion on childcare each year for the past five years in the United Kingdom through childcare offers led by the Department for Education, tax-free childcare and employer-supported childcare. Addressing the issue means that women can, if they wish, go back to their careers. That is fair to them and it is good for business and the economy.

Our long-term economic success will turn on our ability to nurture and utilise talent, including that of new mothers. Human potential—human capital—is the most important resource on earth. To steal a phrase from my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon), the Chair of the Education Committee, we are determined to build a skills-rich economy. We are committed to delivering those skills through massive investment in and reforms to skills and further education provision.

We have already embarked on revolutionising the post-16 education sector, transforming apprenticeships, driving up quality and better meeting the skills needs of employers through more flexible training models. We have launched T-levels, boosting access to high-quality technical education for thousands of young people, and, of course, creating our skilled workforce of the future. I pledge to the House that I will make T-levels as famous as A-levels—watch this space. In the previous parliamentary Session, we successfully passed the Skills and Post-16 Education Act 2022 to do just that. That Act, alongside our wider reforms, including an additional £3.8 billion investment in skills over this Parliament, rightly places employers at the heart of the skills system, supporting our ambition for everyone to be able to access the training that they need to move into highly skilled jobs. There is, of course, a crucial role for our universities in making sure that our country remains the best place in which to grow up and, given the link to future earnings and opportunities, to grow old.

We will bring forward further legislation through a higher education reform Bill to ensure that our post-18 education system promotes real social mobility, is financially sustainable and will support people to get the skills they need to meet their career aspirations and help grow the economy.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Secretary of State for what he is saying, but will the Bill address the injustice that Muslim students face? At the moment, they cannot access student loans. Suitable loans were promised by David Cameron in 2014, and they are still waiting. Will he address that?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I made that pledge to the Education Committee a few weeks ago. We are looking at how we deliver on that.

As I was saying, we will introduce further legislation through the higher education reform Bill to ensure that our post-18 education system promotes real social mobility and, as the hon. Lady has just said, is financially sustainable.

Alongside that, we are meeting our manifesto commitment to challenge any restriction of lawful speech and academic freedom. The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill will strengthen existing freedom of speech duties and will directly address gaps within the law, including the lack of a clear enforcement mechanism.

For both universities and technical education, one of the most important policies that we are implementing as part of the Skills and Post-16 Education Act is the paradigm shifting lifelong loan entitlement. A new and flexible skills system, it will provide people with an entitlement equivalent to four years of post-18 education, to be used over their lifetime in modules or as a whole, and is worth £37,000 in today’s money. We are writing a new chapter—no, we are writing a new book in skills education. The entitlement will give people the ability to train, retrain and upskill in response to changes in skills needs and employment patterns. In a dynamic economy in which sectors can be crushed and reborn in double time, that has to be our priority.

The world is different now from how it was when I entered the world of work and business. It is different now compared with when I became an MP 12 years ago. We must not only keep up with a changing world but lead the change, and the Queen’s Speech lays out how we will do that. As I said at the start of my speech, we are focused on delivering against the ambitious targets that we have set ourselves across skills, schools and families, and on holding ourselves to account against them. The sharing of our plans and performance data is a key lever to drive rapid improvement through the complex systems we oversee.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State talks about skills, which are so important. Does he recognise the real crisis we face with skills in the health service, and particularly the number of people we lack as regards the prevention and treatment of cancer? Will he and his friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who is sat next to him, consider the amendment on the Order Paper in my name, which calls for a strategy to tackle the cancer backlog? More than a third of my constituents with cancer are waiting more than two months for their first treatment.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s intervention and have a couple of things to say in response. First, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care will address this, but I know that his priority—his laser-like focus—is on dealing with the backlog. There is also investment in Cumbria and the University of Cumbria for clinical training and the needs of the hon. Gentleman’s constituents.

As I said at the start of my speech, I am focused on delivery. I am passionate in my belief that performance data is a key lever to drive rapid improvement through complex systems, whether in education or in health. On transparency, as we did with the vaccine we will do the same again with education and health. I have committed to publishing a delivery plan setting out what we will achieve and a performance dashboard showing progress so that the House and the country can hold us to account. I have already written to all schools stating that we will publish data on the uptake of the national tutoring programme this summer. Many schools have helpfully given us access to their attendance data, and I am conducting a trial over the coming weeks to share that data back in a way that prompts helpful actions in schools and local authorities.

The spirit with which our education sector responded to the pandemic demonstrated why this is the best country to grow up in.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State is talking about the best place for young people to grow up; will he explain why not a single placement of special provision for children at risk is available throughout the country, as my constituent is experiencing right now?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The hon. Lady raises an important point. That is partly why the MacAlister review of children’s social care is so important. I shall say more on that in the coming weeks.

Let me return to praising the incredible spirit of our education frontline: those brilliant teachers, school leaders and, of course, support staff—we must never forget the support staff—demonstrated why this is the best country to grow up in. We see that spirit across our public and private sector, including, of course, in the work of the national health service with our great vaccine companies, which has led the way in protecting lives and livelihoods in the battle against covid. Thanks to the astonishing roll-out of the vaccine and booster programmes, we were the first European nation to protect half our population with at least one dose and, thanks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the first major European nation to boost half our population, too.

Following the unprecedented challenges placed on the NHS by covid, we will spend more than £8 billion from 2022-23 to 2024-25, supported by the revenue from the health and social care levy, to clear the covid elective backlogs. But we must be honest: our NHS faces long-term challenges too, including an ageing population and people increasing living with multiple long-term conditions. At this critical moment, we must seize the opportunity to put our healthcare system on a more sustainable path for the future, while meeting the immediate urgent recovery challenges. The Health and Care Act 2022 has created the structures for that sustainable future.

At the same time, as my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary will outline later, we will publish draft legislation to reform the Mental Health Act so that patients suffering from mental health conditions have greater control over their treatment and receive the dignity and respect that they deserve. I know that the NHS is an institution that makes people proud to be British. I and this entire Government share that sentiment, which is why we are safeguarding its sustainable future.

In closing, this was a Queen’s Speech filled with substantial policies, not least those that give young people the education they need to succeed in life; policies that will provide more rungs on the ladder of opportunity, and opportunity for older people who want a chance to learn and retrain; policies that put skills at the heart of our economy to unleash its potential; policies that back our public services so that they can deliver what our country needs; policies that sustain the truth that this is the best place in the world to grow up and grow old.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Education

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Thursday 31st March 2022

(2 years ago)

Ministerial Corrections
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
The following are extracts from the statement on the Special Needs and Disabilities Review on 29 March 2022.
Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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That is why we are today announcing £1.4 billion—the first tranche of the £2.6 billion—for up to 40 new settings, which will see additional provision going into the system so that parents have the confidence that the provision will be there for their child.

[Official Report, 29 March 2022, Vol. 711, c. 713.]

Letter of correction from the Secretary of State for Education:

An error has been identified in the response to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Munira Wilson).

The correct information should have been:

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

That is why we are today announcing £1.4 billion—the first tranche of the £2.6 billion—and plans for up to 40 new special and AP free schools, which will see additional provision going into the system so that parents have the confidence that the provision will be there for their child.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Today, we announced the first tranche of £1.4 billion out of £2.6 billion for up to 40 specialist and AP settings.

[Official Report, 29 March 2022, Vol. 711, c. 717.]

Letter of correction from the Secretary of State for Education:

An error has been identified in the response to my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden).

The correct response should have been:

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

Today, we announced the first tranche of £1.4 billion out of £2.6 billion for up to 40 special and AP free schools.

Education

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Wednesday 30th March 2022

(2 years ago)

Ministerial Corrections
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
The following are extracts from the statement on the Schools White Paper on 28 March 2022.
Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I remind the hon. Lady that there are now 217,000 teaching assistants in classrooms, a 6,000 increase since 2010.

[Official Report, 28 March 2022, Vol. 711, c. 582.]

Letter of correction from the Secretary of State for Education, the right hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi).

An error has been identified in the response given to the hon. Member for Lewisham East (Janet Daby).

The correct response should have been:

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I remind the hon. Lady that there are now 271,000 teaching assistants in classrooms, a 6,000 increase since last year.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My hon. Friend raises a really important point. The frontline—the 461,000 teachers and 217,000 teaching assistants—and the support staff and leaders in our education system have gone above and beyond to make sure that schools reopened, stayed open and dealt with omicron.

[Official Report, 28 March 2022, Vol. 711, c. 588.]

Letter of correction from the Secretary of State for Education, the right hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi).

An error has been identified in the response given to my hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Dr Spencer).

The correct response should have been:

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend raises a really important point. The frontline—the 461,000 teachers and 271,000 teaching assistants—and the support staff and leaders in our education system have gone above and beyond to make sure that schools reopened, stayed open and dealt with omicron.

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Review

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Tuesday 29th March 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement about our mission to level up opportunities for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in England. Before I do, I want to praise my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Will Quince), the fantastic Minister for Children and Families, who has been supported by my hon. Friends the Members for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe) and for Wantage (David Johnston). I thank them for the level of engagement they have had with Members across the House, as well as with many wonderful people from across the SEND and alternative provision system. I also thank all those working in early years, schools and colleges, including specialist and alternative provision, for their dedication to service in the face of ongoing covid difficulties. I am sure my gratitude will be echoed across the House.

This review has been shaped by children with special educational needs and disabilities and in alternative provision, by their families and teachers, and by the committed workforce across education, health and care sharing their experiences and stories. I send them huge thanks for their openness in sharing emotional, and sometimes difficult experiences with us. We have listened, and in response today I am publishing for public consultation the Government’s “Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and Alternative Provision Green Paper.”

In schools in England alone there are 1.4 million pupils with a diverse range of special educational needs, and too often they do not get the support they need. In 2014 we made far-reaching changes to support children with special educational needs and disabilities, and their families—indeed, in 2016 I was the Minister for Children and Families. Those reforms gave critical support to more children, but in reality the system is not working as it should. Too often decisions about support are based on where a child lives, not on what they need, and many have lost confidence in the system. On top of that, the alternative provision system is increasingly used to support children with special educational needs, but the outcomes for many of those children remain shockingly poor. We have therefore considered alternative provision within this review.

Despite unprecedented investment through a £1 billion increase in high needs funding, taking total funding to £9.1 billion in the coming financial year on top of the £1.5 billion increase over the last two years, the system has become financially unsustainable. Local authorities are in deficit and overspending on their dedicated schools grant, with total deficits now standing at more than £1 billion. The publication of the Green Paper is long-awaited, and I am proud to announce that our proposals will build a more inclusive and financially sustainable system, where every child and young person will have access to the right support, in the right place, at the right time.

To meet our ambitions, and the ambitions of so many children and their families, we propose to establish a new single, national special educational needs and disabilities and alternative provision system across education, health and care, setting clear standards for how children and young people’s needs are identified and met. To enable effective local delivery, we propose establishing new statutory SEND partnerships, bringing together education, health and care partners with local government, to create a local inclusion plan. That plan will set out how each local area will meet the needs of children in line with national standards. We will also clarify the roles and responsibilities of every partner in the system, with robust accountabilities to build confidence and transparency.

Locally and nationally published inclusion dashboards will capture and track metrics to drive system performance, and mean that areas respond quickly to emerging local needs. Data and transparency are our allies on this journey. Parents should not need to fight the system; the system should be working and fighting for them. The proposed changes will help parents to know exactly what their child is entitled to, removing their need to fight and guaranteeing them access to mediation, leading to better, earlier and more effective interventions for their child.

I will always be on the side of children and parents. Wherever possible, I want our children to be educated close to home, near to friends and within local communities. Frustratingly for families, that is not happening consistently enough. Today, building on the schools White Paper published yesterday, we are committing to improve mainstream education through early and accurate identification of need, through high-quality teaching of a knowledge-rich curriculum, and through timely access to specialist support, where needed. Change will be underpinned by the increase in our total investment in the national schools budget. As set out in last year’s spending review, we will invest an additional £7 billion by 2024-25, compared with 2021-22, including an additional £1 billion in 2022-23 for children and young people with high needs.

I recognise the importance of a confident and empowered workforce with access to the best training to support this cohort of children, and many of my colleagues have made representations to me on that. We will consult on the introduction of a new special educational needs co-ordinator national professional qualification for schools and increase the number of staff with an accredited level 3 SENCO qualification in early years settings.

For some children and young people, specialist provision will be the most appropriate place for them to be able to learn and succeed. For those requiring specialist provision, whether in a mainstream or special school, we propose a simplified process. We will support parents to make informed choices by providing them with a list of appropriate placements tailored to their child’s needs, meaning less time spent researching the right school. To prevent needs from escalating, for children with challenging behaviour we want to use the best practice of alternative provision to intervene earlier so that children and young people are supported to thrive, and that the risk of these vulnerable children and young people being exploited or, sadly, involved in serious criminal activities is minimised.

At last year’s spending review, we announced an investment of £2.6 billion over three years, delivering tens of thousands more specialist places and improving existing specialist and alternative provision. Today, I can confirm that £1.4 billion of that funding will be capital spending for high needs for academic years 2023-24 and 2024-25, to help local authorities deliver new places quickly. We cannot wait for the Green Paper consultation; we need to do that now for those with additional needs. That means up to 40 new alternative provision and specialist settings. Taken together, these proposals will improve the special educational needs and disabilities and alternative provision system, delivering the right support in the right place at the right time for children and young people.

Today, I am launching a 13-week consultation on the proposals set out in my Green Paper. This is the opportunity for children and young people, their families, and those working across the special educational needs and disabilities and alternative provision sector to help shape the next stage. We will pay close attention to implementation so that the mistakes of past reforms are not repeated. These reforms are about outcomes, but they are also about fairness: fairness to families who have struggled to get support for their children, to the sector which has gone above and beyond for years, and to children and young people who deserve excellent support to achieve their ambitions. I commend this statement to the House.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)
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I start by thanking the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. Children with special educational needs and disabilities and how we support them are subjects close to my heart, as they are to so many of us across the House. I had sincerely hoped to speak today with optimism and enthusiasm about the review the Secretary of State has set out today, because one in six children in England have a special educational need or disability—five in every class.

Supporting children and learners with special educational needs or disabilities is at the heart of our education system and the work that teachers and school staff are doing every day, and it should be central to the work of Government too. But right now children are being let down. Needs are going unmet. Children are stuck on waiting lists, for occupation therapy to speech and language support. Thousands of families are waiting months for education health and care plans. Children and families are facing a postcode lottery in availability and quality of specialist provision, and parents are increasingly turning to the courts to get the support that is their children’s right.

The system is broken. Parents know it, teachers know it, children know it and the Government know it, too. But we have not got here by accident. The Secretary of State says he is ambitious for young people, but where has that ambition been for the past 12 years? Where was that ambition when he was Minister for Children and Families? The Secretary of State cannot disown the legacy of 12 years of Conservative Governments which has left us with a broken, adversarial and aggressive system that is letting down young people and leaving families in despair.

Against that backdrop, it is hard not to be optimistic about any changes to the system. Early intervention, support in mainstream settings, changing culture, supporting families and making the system financially sustainable—who could object to those ambitions? However, just as we saw yesterday, those ambitions remain sadly hollow: hollow because there is no plan to deliver; hollow because other Government policies are working against those aims; and hollow because children and families are still waiting on a pandemic recovery plan. Too many parents told us that during the pandemic support for their children was removed, was not available and to this day has not been restored.

When Labour says it is ambitious for children, it means every child. Labour’s children’s recovery plan sets out the support it would put in place for children and young people now: mental health support in every school, wraparound activities that support every child’s development, and targeted learning support for the children who need it most. The pandemic was hard on us all, but for children with SEND and their families it was harder still. The long shadow of those months in lockdown is holding children back, so I ask the Secretary of State again when will he finally give children and families the recovery plan they need and deserve? At every school I visit, teachers and staff raise as one of their biggest concerns the broken system facing children with SEND. That is why we all want reforms to succeed: intervention earlier, children’s needs identified sooner and support provided more quickly.

Under the previous Labour Government, children’s centres were also crucial. With millions of families accessing those services, children’s needs were identified quickly and support put in place, but more than 1,000 children’s centres have closed. The family hubs that the Secretary of State announced are a pale imitation of that network of services, yet the evidence is even clearer now than it was then that early intervention and co-ordinated support for families transforms children’s lives. As the Minister is keen to consider the evidence—I know he is—will he not look again at the much wider support and services that families across our country are so desperate to see? Many parents who have had to fight for their children’s support will today also want assurances from him that there will be no compromising on care to cut costs. Can he say when he expects promised additional educational psychologists to be in place supporting children and schools?

Families have had to wait almost 1,000 days since the SEND review was announced for the Government to launch the consultation. Families will wait another 13 weeks for that consultation to close. They will wait longer for a Government response and then again before changes are seen on the frontline. Years have passed since reform was needed and children’s time in the education system is slipping away. Nothing we do in this place can be more important than giving children support to thrive and opportunities for the future, but over the past two years of the pandemic, and the past 12 years of Conservative Governments, all too often our children have been an afterthought. When staff across our schools have been asked to do more with less, they have stepped in and stepped up. They have plugged gaps, taken on more, delivered time and again for the children they are desperate to see succeed. They have put children first and done everything they could. It is long past time the Government did the same.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The hon. Lady talked about recovery; she will know about the £5 billion announced for education recovery. We have consistently prioritised children and young people with SEND, including through additional weighting for specialist settings. The £1 billion of funding that was announced at the spending review to extend the recovery premium over the next two academic years—2022-23 and 2023-24—should be used by schools to prioritise support for children and young people with SEND.

The hon. Lady also spoke about family hubs. I am disappointed that she is not at least giving herself the opportunity to look at the evidence, which is clear, whether in respect of the Harlow family hub that I visited or the one not far from here in Westminster, where she can go—it is probably within walking distance—to see the great work of multiple agencies that are coming together to deliver the most important must-have services to the families towards whom we need to target help. That contrasts with the Labour plan, which sounded great on paper but did not work implementation-wise because it was obsessed with bricks and mortar rather than helping families.

I do not recall any other question from the statement that the hon. Lady made. Suffice it to say that, yet again, as she demonstrated yesterday, there is no plan from Labour.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the Chair of the Education Committee, Robert Halfon.

Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My father, like my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State’s, was an immigrant who came here with very little. He worked hard to send me to private school, but I spent much of my childhood having operations and not being in school. I know very well what it is like to be a child with special educational needs and to have a disability, and I care about this issue very deeply.

I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State is getting a grip on this issue, but it is wrong that it has taken almost three years for this Green Paper to come to fruition. It is wrong that for so long parents have had to wade through a treacle of unkind bureaucracy and that, as the Secretary of State has acknowledged, they have been subject to this awful postcode-lottery provision, whereby they wait for months on end to get the EHCP that they should have. There are not enough trained staff—an issue that I recognise the White Paper looks at.

Our Education Committee report made two key recommendations: that there should be a neutral advocate for parents to help them to wade through the bureaucracy—an idea that I urge the Secretary of State to look at again, so that everyone has a fair chance—and that the powers of the social care ombudsman should be extended beyond the school gates, to make sure that children are properly looked after.

The test for us all will be whether parents soon come to our constituency surgeries—I wish it did not have to take more months of consultation—and we no longer hear the awful stories of the struggles they face, and they no longer have to appeal to their MP to try to navigate their way through the system. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to get this done as soon as possible and to sort it out once and for all, because it is a major social injustice in our education system that children with special educational needs do not have a level playing field.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Chair of the Education Committee; I will always listen to what he and his Committee have to say, because his Committee follows the evidence and works on a cross-party basis.

My right hon. Friend raised a number of important points that the Green Paper attempts to address, although there is of course a consultation. One of his points was about clarity for parents. Our proposal to establish a single national integrated SEND and AP system in England will help to inform parents wherever they live. If they move house, they will be able to find out what they should expect from the system for their child. It will help them to make informed choices from a tailored list of settings. It will strengthen mediation arrangements so that they do not feel they have to go to tribunal and line the pockets of expensive consultants or lawyers. All these things are addressed in the important Green Paper. Part of the work is to ensure excellent provision from the early years to adulthood and to build inclusivity into the system. We will always listen to what my right hon. Friend has to say.

Kim Leadbeater Portrait Kim Leadbeater (Batley and Spen) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Following a number of emotional meetings with desperate families in Batley and Spen, I can confirm that the Secretary of State was absolutely right to say that people have lost faith in the system. Demand for EHCPs has soared, rising by 480% in the past five years, and almost half of all plans are issued outside the statutory 20-week period, which in my view is too long in itself. Why has increasing capacity and ending delays not been a focus of the review?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Increasing capacity came before the Green Paper, deliberately. I did not want to publish the Green Paper and come to the House and say we were going to wait another 13 weeks. Today’s announcement of that first tranche of funding—the £1.4 billion—is all about increasing capacity. There is also, of course, the safety valve that we introduced at the spending review to help local authorities to cope. Over the past three years, the SEND and high-needs budget has increased by 40%, including the £1 billion that we announced at the SR. It needs to be put on a sustainable footing and that is what the Green Paper will do. We will of course always listen to parents, families and those who work so hard in the sector.

Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the Green Paper, the new educational psychologists and the new SENCO qualification, but I was concerned to read that just 41% of regular teachers think they have adequate understanding to support young people with special educational needs. We need to make sure that every teacher has a base level of understanding of all types of learning disabilities and of how different brains work differently—as I know as somebody who is dyslexic and dyspraxic and generally a bit eccentric.

I welcome the fact that Ofsted will have a role in looking at the new local inclusion plans, but will the Secretary of State promise me that he will monitor the new Ofsted framework to make sure that it properly holds schools to account, and that if schools fail kids with special needs, that is reflected in their inspection reports?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is a great champion of those with dyslexia and dyspraxia and has been a great advocate for the need to make sure that every teacher has the required knowledge. I visited Monega school yesterday; a school can be outstanding only if it is outstanding in all areas, including its SEND provision. I will always listen to what my hon. Friend has to say on that.

The White Paper that I published yesterday includes the parent pledge, which is that teachers will identify students’ gaps in reading and English language and share that with parents. That should get us to the place where my hon. Friend wants us to be: one where every teacher feels confident that they have the training to identify dyslexia and dyspraxia and deal with them in the appropriate way.

Olivia Blake Portrait Olivia Blake (Sheffield, Hallam) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Secretary of State for finally publishing the Green Paper, which is long overdue. How will he ensure that when the system is standardised and simplified, standards improve and are not reduced and truly recognise the unique needs of children with complex disabilities?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that important question. We will make sure that the standards and the single national integrated SEND and AP system are co-created with families, specialists and the whole sector, to make sure we get them right.

Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Caroline Johnson (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con)
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My mailbag—much like, I suspect, the mailbags of many other Members—is full of tales from parents who have had difficulty accessing the right care for their children. They say that the process has taken too long and often reaches an unsatisfactory conclusion. Some parents have been pushed into home education to try to meet their children’s needs. Will the Secretary of State reassure me and the House that such things will not happen again once his plan is in place?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I had a similar experience with a parent in my constituency who got so frustrated that they chose to home-school. They do it very well, but nevertheless that should not happen. The single integrated vision for SEND and AP, the greater focus on the mainstream and the emphasis on early intervention should allow us to regain the confidence of parents. I hope that the ability of parents to navigate the system in a much clearer way, without having to research for themselves which provision is most appropriate for their child, will make that difference. Of course, the consultation means that we will continue to focus on parental rights, including through making sure that parents and carers will continue to express a preference as to which school—from a tailored list of settings, across mainstream, specialist and independent schools—they would like their child to attend.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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The Green Paper is welcome; it is better late than never. The Secretary of State will know about my great interest as chair of the Westminster Commission on Autism and because a family member has still not had a proper assessment after 15 years. Families need action now and they need resources, because provision is expensive for local councils and schools. It is expensive, but we have to be willing to pay for it. We will work with the Secretary of State to make his proposals into the finest piece of legislation in this policy area for a generation.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman; he has always been a champion for those with special educational needs and disabilities, not just in his constituency, but around the country. We have continued to provide funding for autism training and professional development in schools and colleges throughout last year and this year. We provided a further £8.6 million to strengthen the participation of parents and young people, including those who are autistic. We are strengthening and promoting the pathways to employment. Supported internships have been a great programme—Premier Inn in my constituency does a brilliant job—with £18 million of investment over the spending review period to increase the number of those who are participating to 4,500 from about 2,500 at the moment.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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If we were to read through the SEND reforms in the Children and Families Act 2014 and the accompanying code of practice, we would see that that is a blueprint for the system that we all want. This review seeks to address the issues with the implementation of the Act and the code of practice. To that end, I suggest that the national standards, which I welcome, should be based around quality rather than a de minimis principle. On alternative provision, will my right hon. Friend say more about how he will use the excellence within alternative provision so that early intervention, which we want to see more of in mainstream schools, can work more effectively?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Of course, we considered very carefully the recommendations from the Timpson review in regard to our recommendations for the AP system and, from that review, we developed our ambitious programme of reforms. The Green Paper sets out how we will improve early intervention and quality AP and learn from what is happening around the country, whether that is in mainstream schools, such as in Dixons City Academy in Bradford, or in some of the excellent work and case studies from the Green Paper of specialist AP that makes a real difference when it is identified early, and the help can therefore be put in early.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD)
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I put on record my thanks to the Secretary of State for briefing me and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Ed Davey) last week on today’s Green Paper and yesterday’s White Paper.

The Green Paper mentions that the SEND system is “bureaucratic and adversarial”, “not equally accessible”, and takes a

“heavy emotional—and sometimes financial—”

toll on parents. Parents in my constituency would very much identify with that. People have been waiting three long years for this Green Paper, which is a welcome step forward, but parents, school staff and children alike are dismayed that there will be a further 13-week consultation, with legislation some time after that. The Secretary of State has said that the review has been shaped by parents and teachers, so when will parents in Twickenham and across the country see the impact of the changes?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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It was good to brief the hon. Lady and the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton. The Green Paper has had a warm welcome from the unions the Association of School and College Leaders and the National Association of Head Teachers, with some challenges around implementation and how we do this well on the ground from the Local Government Association. Our work in early years and post-16 education has also been welcomed.

The hon. Lady asks when people will see the difference. The reason why I went to the Chancellor during the spending review and got the £2.6 billion, the additional £1 billion and the safety valve money is that I do not think we can wait until we have a consultation and get to a place where the whole Green Paper is a reality on the ground. That is why we are today announcing £1.4 billion—the first tranche of the £2.6 billion—for up to 40 new settings, which will see additional provision going into the system so that parents have the confidence that the provision will be there for their child. However, she is right: this has been a long time coming, and I will make sure that we move at pace on the further reforms that are outlined in the Green Paper.

Robert Buckland Portrait Sir Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con)
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I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, which builds on the work done by my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Edward Timpson) and others in the Children and Families Act, in which I know the Secretary of State took a close interest when he was Children and Families Minister. However, is not the key point that without health in the room, everything falls down? Despite the best attempts to make that happen under EHCPs, that has not been happening enough, so I welcome statutory provision. Is not the other test that if the Secretary of State achieves anything, it must be a reduction in school exclusions? Too many young people with vulnerabilities and susceptibilities are exploited and end up in the system that I stewarded for a number of years. Can he make this as much an issue of justice as it is of education and health?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I know that my right hon. and learned Friend is passionate about this issue. It is important to remind ourselves that the co-signatories on today’s Green Paper are myself and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and his ministerial team is here on the Front Bench with us. His pledge is that health will look at the local provision and local resources, and of course, we will publish the dashboard. I spoke about data and transparency, and the best way to reform complex systems is through data and transparency. However, we are going further by simplifying the EHCP process, because there is no consistency in that. That also needs to be identified and dealt with, and we will do that. My right hon. and learned Friend is also right to point out that we need to ensure that every school—this is what my schools White Paper dealt with yesterday—is a great SEND school, because we have an equal ambition for children with special educational needs and disabilities as for all the children in our school system.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
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I wonder whether the Secretary of State is slightly divorced from reality and is seeing the school system for what he wishes it was, rather than what it is. In many schools, SENCOs are also full-time teachers, deputy heads, subject leads and, often, the safeguarding leads in their schools. Although the additional training and qualification is welcome, if the SENCOs do not have the time, they are not able to do justice to the role in the way it deserves. Where is the additional funding, resourcing and support to give SENCOs the time to focus as much as they need to on that crucial role?

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Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I respectfully remind the hon. Lady that, in my opening remarks, I mentioned that, in early years, up to 5,000 new SENCOs will go into the school system to be able to do that work, and there is the support that we are putting in, including the £7 billion that is going into the school system, the £5 billion for recovery and the £2.6 billion in certain places. I also remind the House that change and change management are difficult. One area that I looked at, where we perhaps fell over in implementing the very good reforms that were introduced with the EHCPs, is how we deliver that change. I have £70 million going into change management to ensure that we have the resources in place, and I am confident that we can do this well.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
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I welcome the statement, and I have two points to make. First, the fight—time and again, parents talk about the fight that they have had to have with the system. Will the Secretary of State explain how these changes will bring transparency? Secondly, he mentioned that we cannot wait for the Green Paper process to finish, and I have read that he would like to build a further tranche of new special and alternative provision free schools. When will that take place and when can Leicestershire have its fair share?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The changes that I spoke about include the single national integrated SEND and AP system; excellent provision from early years to adulthood; building an inclusive system; a single integrated vision for AP; setting out clear roles and responsibilities; and accountability, because the fight begins when parents are confused, when they do not know who is accountable or where to go, and they feel alone. That is not the way it will be, because they will be able to see—we will co-create this with the sector—what they should be entitled to anywhere in the country. I will wipe out the postcode lottery, which is part of the issue relating to the fight, and set out plans to support effective implementation. One of the lessons that I learned in vaccine deployment is that however ambitious we are, if we do not have the team and have not thought through how we are going to succeed on the ground operationally, we will fall over, and I promise to think that through.

Florence Eshalomi Portrait Florence Eshalomi (Vauxhall) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement, but as Members across the House have highlighted, this is an issue right across the country. I am contacted about it by Vauxhall parents, carers and teachers on an almost weekly basis. Just two weeks ago, a constituent contacted me about his two sons, who are 10 and 12 and have muscular dystrophy, physical disabilities and autism. They have been waiting for over 12 weeks to get support from the local authority. Many local authorities such as Lambeth are without funding.

The Secretary of State outlined in his statement that he is launching a consultation and wants the very same families, teachers and carers to engage with him. Does he appreciate that they are tired? I do not think that they have the energy to engage in yet another consultation, because they are still trying to provide a service for the very children we want to see flourish. How is the Secretary of State confident that he will get the right views to make sure that this works?

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Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady, who I know is passionate about the issue and whose constituency I have promised to visit. She is absolutely right that parents are tired. My promise to them is that what we are doing here, and the consultation, mean that we will get this right—and get it right with them.

I urge the hon. Lady’s local authority to look around. Areas in London such as Barnet and Islington are doing incredibly well in local provision and in the ability to co-create with families what they need. Where the hon. Lady has a point is that that is not uniformly delivered across the country. That is what the Green Paper will do, but we are not waiting for it: in the meantime, we are investing £2.6 billion in thousands of additional places, both specialist and mainstream.

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock (West Suffolk) (Con)
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Publishing this Green Paper within six months of his taking office as Secretary of State demonstrates, alongside the resources that he won in the spending review, my right hon. Friend’s drive and determination in this critical area. I welcome the Green Paper’s focus on early identification of neurodiverse conditions and on the need for more initial teacher training, continuous professional development and support, but will he confirm that he believes that to get that early identification we need universal screening to get the data? It is only by basing decisions on data as well as on teacher observation that we can get the early identification that is so critical and is at the heart of the new Green Paper.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My right hon. Friend and I share a passion for data and transparency. I know that he is looking at the evidence of what really works in the early identification of and screening for dyslexia, about which he is passionate.

The Green Paper is about a whole system review and, together with yesterday’s White Paper and our parent pledge that teachers will identify the gaps in English language, reading and writing and share them with parents, it is our greatest lever to begin to look at how we do this well. I am looking forward to working with my right hon. Friend on the evidence of best practice around the world.

Clive Efford Portrait Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab)
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The request for diagnosis of special educational needs is the beginning of a long battle for far too many families. Local authorities with stretched resources are often pushing in the opposite direction; parents can wait years for EHCPs, and requests for specific schools are often denied by local authorities for financial reasons. That all points to the need for independent advocacy from the very beginning for parents of children with special educational needs. We cannot assume that every parent starts with the same capacity to deal with the minefield of taking their child through EHCPs, and requests for support in the classroom and other support with educational needs. Will the Secretary of State commit to creating an independent advocacy service that supports parents from the very beginning and holds their hand all the way through the process?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s thoughtful question, which the Chair of the Education Committee also raised. Essentially, the Green Paper will make sure that we hold local authorities to account through the new funding agreements, through the local inclusion dashboard, which will provide transparency so that people can see how areas are performing locally, and through the new area inspection. As well as making sure that we do as the Minister for Children and Families did with the written statement of action in Birmingham, we want to learn from the best. Manchester is doing well; Dixons City Academy in Bradford is an excellent example of how this works well; Passmores Academy, a mainstream academy in Harlow, is doing incredible work. We learn from the best and scale it across the system.

Stephen McPartland Portrait Stephen McPartland (Stevenage) (Con)
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I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his commitment to ensure that every child with SEND has the best opportunities and chances in education. Does he agree that many of those children’s needs are met well in mainstream schools by SENCOs and family support workers, but we have to go further and faster to ensure that every teacher has the opportunity, the skills, the support and everything they need to be brilliant teachers of all children with special educational needs?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I could not have put it better myself—my hon. Friend is absolutely right. Our proposals include the national professional qualification, up to 5,000 SENCOs in early years, and getting early identification in place. The schools White Paper and the parent pledge will also drive the thirst for knowledge to ensure that every teacher is confident in identifying the needs of their students.

Meg Hillier Portrait Dame Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

While this is a welcome move, I think that there is an issue with the maths. It does not seem that much newer money is coming in as a result of the Secretary of State’s announcement today. We know that there is an in-built cost to supporting our young people, so perhaps he could be very specific about the money for SENCOs and particularly for one-to-one support workers. Will more one-to-one support workers be recruited? They are critical for many children in making sure that their EHCP is properly implemented.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I know that the hon. Lady is passionate about maths. She will know that over the past three years the overall budget has risen by 40% to £9.1 billion—a pretty big increase. She talks about SENCOs; today we have announced training for up to 5,000 more SENCOs in early years. The important thing to remember is that much of what is in the Green Paper has been produced through consultation with those in the system, with parents and with practitioners. All I ask is that colleagues read it carefully and engage with us on the consultation. It is a true consultation, because I want to get this right.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement. Having been a special adviser in the Department when the SEND review was launched, I remember it well. I am really glad that the public consultation is happening. It has also been great to see extra funding in the past couple of years.

I recently visited Villa Real School, a special school in my constituency. One issue that the school faces is that it was built for a smaller number of pupils than it now has because of the rising need for special school places. Will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss the school? Will he also look at the capital building programme? It is essential that as part of the review we deliver the places needed for children in the environment they wish to be educated in.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I will happily meet my hon. Friend. Today, we announced the first tranche of £1.4 billion out of £2.6 billion for up to 40 specialist and AP settings.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby (Lewisham East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Parents and carers find it extremely stressful when there is a lack of school places, and a lack of choice of places, for children with special educational needs. In the meantime, it is the children who really suffer. It has been brought again to my attention that the exclusion rate for children with SEND is disproportionately high. That is just not acceptable. Can the Secretary of State say how that will be addressed in his review and what he will do?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The hon. Lady’s final point is absolutely right. The plans for supporting parents will lead to much greater transparency and improved choice through more local inclusive mainstream provision. The combination of the schools White Paper, the Green Paper and the children’s social care review that Josh MacAlister is carrying out for me will allow me for the first time, working with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to knit together a system that really delivers for parents and delivers clarity on what they should be getting for their child, wherever in England they live.

Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie (Stroud) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am losing my voice—I apologise for that—but I wanted to contribute because these proposals are so important for parents in my constituency who have been battling for this, and also because our schools are so committed to children with special educational needs. I welcome the news that there is to be a new special school in Stroud.

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that he will work to eradicate the various financial penalties that schools suffer when they take on more SEND children? Some of them constitute very strange and up-front costs. Will he look into the way in which the league tables are communicated, to ensure that schools that are looking after children with more complex needs are not treated unfairly for doing so?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for making it here today, and I am glad that her voice is holding up. I can absolutely reassure her. A couple of weeks ago, I visited Highfurlong SEN school in Blackpool, a brilliant specialist school which is doing incredible work. Some of the children there have end-of-life EHCPs. Some came in unable to walk and are now walking, and, of course, learning as well. We will learn from the best, but we also want to ensure that schools are not penalised for doing the right thing.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A quick read through the Green Paper did not reveal much reference to higher education. I hope that that does not reflect a lack of ambition for these children. May I ask the Secretary of State specifically about the current procurement exercise relating to the disabled students allowance? How can he assure the House that it will not lead to a loss of expertise and understanding of the equipment and services needs of disabled students?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I hope to be able to write to the hon. Lady giving her those details about the Green Paper, but suffice it to say that we have tried to look not just at early years provision but at the whole system, including further and higher education. The increased investment in supported internships has worked very well. When I was Minister for Children and Families, I visited West London College, which was doing brilliant work with L’Oreal, and I spoke about my own constituency and the work that was being done there with Premier Inn. I want to see the number of enrolments rise from 2,250 to 4,500. Supported internships give young people a fulfilling career, and give employers great employees who are loyal and strongly committed to their businesses.

Laura Trott Portrait Laura Trott (Sevenoaks) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Secretary of State and his ministerial team for the emphasis that they place on this vital area. In Sevenoaks and Swanley—and in the rest of the country—EHCP referrals shot up during the pandemic, and the extra money will help greatly in that regard, but can the Secretary of State confirm that where backlogs remain he will consider providing extra resources, and that he will monitor the position centrally, so that I can go back and say to the families in my constituency that these agonising waits are over?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

Part of the reason why the Chancellor was so committed to this area and made £2.6 billion available—as well as the £1 billion that took the budget up to £9.1 billion—is that we knew we needed to put additional capacity into the system now, rather than waiting until after the consultation and the Green Paper. We are also providing £300 million for a “safety valve” to help local authorities with a deficit of about £1 billion.

Mike Amesbury Portrait Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not going to join in the festival of patting the Secretary of State on the back at this stage—

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am disappointed.

Mike Amesbury Portrait Mike Amesbury
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

After 12 years of Conservative government, we are seeing what is almost a scorecard of failure. Nevertheless, I will give the Secretary of State and his team the benefit of the doubt. What guarantees can he give that, for instance, a child with dyslexia who requires specialist equipment will be given that equipment quickly, that it will be fully funded and that it will not be about ability to pay?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

The drive behind the Green Paper is to ensure that we deliver across the board for every child with dyslexia, dyspraxia or autism, and that the system is sustainable and works for both the family and the child. The national SEND and AP single system will enable parents to see what they will get if their child has dyslexia. That will, I hope, give them a much better experience than what they are having today—which, as we have heard from many Members, is a big fight.

Steve Brine Portrait Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Not surprisingly, there are some excellent proposals of real substance in the Green Paper. I think they will give people hope. I also think it important that the Secretary of State said people should not need to fight the system, but the truth is that, when it comes to access to child and adolescent mental health services in my area, people would love to be able to get hold of the system, let alone fight it. As a result, early diagnosis is often missing and children are falling further down the list, which means that the need for intervention becomes significantly more acute.

I am pleased to see that Health Ministers are present. The Government recently announced the My Planned Care website to keep patients up to date on their wait for NHS treatment. Many parents tell me that they are often instructed not even to ask about the wait that they face. Should not parity of esteem between physical and other conditions demand the inclusion of the wait for CAMHS on that site, not just so that parents can see what the national standard is, but so that they can see exactly where their child stands and how long they will have to wait?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his characteristically thoughtful and well-evidenced question. The Green Paper contains a commitment from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to local inclusion dashboards, providing transparency so that parents can see the position locally. It is all well and good having a national view, but parents want to know how they and their child, and the rest of the family, are affected. This transparency will mean reform of the system, and CAMHS delivering what parents and children really need. Early identification is important. The long wait is adding cost to the system in many ways, and disadvantaging children in doing so. The Health Secretary has also given a commitment that those in the health system will look at resources and provision to ensure that we deliver consistency throughout the country.

Marsha De Cordova Portrait Marsha De Cordova (Battersea) (Lab)
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I know from my own experience how important it is to receive the right support at the right time, and I hope that when the Secretary of State is carrying out his consultation he will make a special effort to engage with parents and families of children who are blind and partially sighted. Surely, however, the purpose should be to ensure that we get the decision right in the first instance. We know that, in 95% of cases that go to tribunals, the finding is in favour of the parents. The Secretary of State referred to a new system of local dispute resolution through mediation, but how will adding a new process make the experience of families simpler?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I know that the hon. Lady is a passionate champion for blind and partially sighted people. We will ensure that we consult them, as we have done already in formulating the Green Paper.

When things go wrong, parents will continue to have the right to redress. The proposals we have presented today are intended to resolve issues earlier. Parents will still be able to go to tribunals if they want to, but we are proposing to strengthen mediation overall so that we improve relationships locally and bring quick resolution. If we all agree that that early intervention is important, it is only right that we do this. We are of course consulting on mandatory mediation. There is evidence that all these measures work and that they improve the system, which is why I am launching the 13-week consultation.

James Wild Portrait James Wild (North West Norfolk) (Con)
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I know from visits to primary schools in my constituency—and the Green Paper underlines this—that the most common special need that people have in respect of speech and language therapy is access. Given the importance of communication skills to young people’s development, may I ask how the proposals in the Green Paper will improve access to those vital skills?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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As I have said, both yesterday and today, the combination of the schools White Paper and the parent pledge—whereby teachers identify gaps in reading, writing and speech and share that information with parents—will be the catalyst to ensure that early identification is working. Our work with the Department for Health and Social Care means we can create a system that, when it comes together, truly delivers for children and for parents.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
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I appreciate the Government’s honesty when they talk about the vicious cycle of late intervention, low confidence and inefficient resource allocation. Sadly, that is very much the experience of my constituents who have needed to access these services, so I appreciate the ambition to try to get away from that. My concern is similar to that expressed by a couple of Conservative Back Benchers about the lack of detail on the interaction with the health service, particularly when it comes to tier 4 CAMHS children who are in real crisis. What reassurance can the Secretary of State give us that those children will be helped as part of this initiative?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The hon. Lady raises an important point. Part of my ambition and that of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is to ensure that we knit together a system that delivers both elements, and I hope that the standards will provide clear guidance on when a child or young person needs that EHCP. We are simplifying the EHCP process overall to ensure that we improve efficiency, make it frictionless if we can, and reduce waiting times, including through standardising and digitising the EHCPs. One thing parents have told me is that if they move address, they suddenly have to make themselves familiar with a whole other EHCP. The work with Health will, I hope, make a real difference.

Ruth Edwards Portrait Ruth Edwards (Rushcliffe) (Con)
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Last week my constituent Holly and the National Deaf Children’s Society came to see me to discuss the need for better support for deaf children in school. In particular, they highlighted the incredible difference that their teacher of the deaf had made. Can my right hon. Friend outline how the Government will invest in teachers of the deaf, so that all deaf children can have more regular access to the brilliant support they provide?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I know that my hon. Friend is a great champion of children who are deaf. When I was Children and Families Minister, I saw at first hand the incredible work that the stakeholders and charities do in this area. I want to see best practice, and we will ensure that we learn from the best and see how we can scale this up throughout the whole school system. The White Paper and the Green Paper will give us the opportunity to knit together a system that delivers for deaf children in our education system.

Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab)
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The success rate for parents at appeal is indicative of a system that is completely broken. Of course, parents should not have to go to appeal to get the education that their children deserve, and they should not feel that they have to fight every step of the way, so I hope that what the Secretary of State has announced today will begin to change that. I want to ask about getting children to school in the first place. The Secretary of State will be aware of reports over the weekend of a real crisis in special educational needs transport because of rising fuel prices. What will he do to address that issue?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that the success rate at tribunals is symptomatic of a system that is failing, which is why this Green Paper is long overdue, as I said earlier. We are keeping a close eye on school budgets, because energy prices are volatile and transport costs are going up because of energy costs. Energy costs are about 1.4% or 1.5% of the budget—the big spend is obviously on wages—but nevertheless, if energy costs are going up by 100%, that will put on additional pressure, so I will keep that closely under review and ensure that we work with the schools system. We have the £7 billion funding, of which £4 billion is front-loaded for this year and next, but I assure him that I will keep a close eye on this.

Brendan Clarke-Smith Portrait Brendan Clarke-Smith (Bassetlaw) (Con)
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As another dyspraxic Member of Parliament, I wholeheartedly thank the Secretary of State for his excellent Green Paper today. My constituency has many excellent mainstream schools, and also specialist schools such as St Giles in Retford. When parents choose a school for their children, they generally look not only at reviews from other parents but at the Ofsted reports. Can my right hon. Friend assure us that Ofsted will continue to play that key role in transparently assessing the performance of our schools, including SEND provision, so that parents can make an informed choice on what is right for them and their children?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My hon. Friend is a great champion of those who have dyspraxia, and he has real in-depth knowledge of the sector, as was discussed yesterday in the statement on the schools White Paper. He is right to say that Ofsted will continue, and from early years, all children will be taught a broad ambitious knowledge-rich curriculum and also have access to high-quality extracurricular activities. A school cannot be outstanding unless it is outstanding in its SEND provision as well.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab)
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The Secretary of State talked about the importance of early intervention, which many organisations that I work with, such as the Child Brain Injury Trust, are keen to ensure happens and that support is given. More generally, can he talk more about the local SEND partnerships and how parents can have a voice and a say in them?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. In that partnership, we are proposing to ensure that parents are an important part of the local SEND plan, as we have seen in the best co-created plans in those areas around the country that I mentioned earlier, such as North Tyneside and Manchester.

Alicia Kearns Portrait Alicia Kearns (Rutland and Melton) (Con)
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I am so grateful to my right hon. Friend for his work on this, and also to the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Will Quince), who is unable to be here in the Chamber today. Too many parents in my constituency come to me broken by the system. They are tired of fighting and particularly tired of going to court. How will the system help with those issues? Will my right hon. Friend also take into account the difficulties of provision in rural areas and in small unitary councils, for which this can be a heavy and difficult cross to bear?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My hon. Friend speaks with passion and probably pain from having to consult those parents who have fought and feel that they are sometimes let down by the system. We have to ensure that the system works equally well in rural areas. Lincolnshire, for example, co-created the local system. It brought families and stakeholders in and said, “Look, we have got £50 million. How should we spend that to make sure the provision is the best we can make it?”

Daisy Cooper Portrait Daisy Cooper (St Albans) (LD)
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The Secretary of State has said that decisions about support are too often based on where a child lives and not on what they need. That is the problem facing children in St Albans and across Hertfordshire. The reason is that the Government’s flawed funding formula for SEND is based on historical spend, not current need. This has produced the problem that SEND people in Hertfordshire get only £549 per head, compared with the neighbouring authority of Buckinghamshire, where the figure is £823 per head. That is a whopping 50% more. I met one of the Secretary of State’s Ministers in December and he committed to look at the specific anomaly of Hertfordshire once the Green Paper was published. Now that it has been published, will the Secretary of State confirm that his Department will look at this specific issue in Hertfordshire, and will he write to me in the coming weeks to outline what steps the Department is taking to tackle this anomaly?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Yes, I will write to the hon. Lady. I also want to remind the House that the national funding formula is where we are moving to, to ensure that there is fairness in the system for all schools, including special schools.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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Having the right support in the right place at the right time is undoubtedly the correct approach to this. As part of the welcome consultation that my right hon. Friend has announced, will he ensure that his Department reaches out to charitable and private sector providers such as Autism Early Support at the Circle Centre in Middle Claydon in my constituency, not just to look through the lens of the excellence in provision that they supply, but to learn about the challenges, particularly in getting the right support to children in rural communities, who often have to travel considerable distances to get the SEND support they need?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I can certainly give my hon. Friend the assurance that we will reach out to them.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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Parents are battling and children are struggling every day in York, in that tug of war between the services, the available funding and the available practitioners. I was disappointed that the proposals do not contain a workforce plan covering the comprehensive range of services needed, including speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychological services and CAMHS. In the consultation, can the Secretary of State put a focus on workforce planning and ensure that at the end of that consultation, a workforce plan is published alongside the Government response?