Free School Meals

Rachael Maskell Excerpts
Tuesday 7th May 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

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

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

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

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

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

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts.

We have heard how 900,000 children from low-income families are not in receipt of free school meals and about the adequacy of what many children are receiving, not least if they take a packed lunch—they are not being nutritiously fed throughout the day. In fact, only 1% of packed lunches reach nutritional standards. In York, that is very much the case. We have about 4,000 children who are entitled to be in receipt of free school meals, but only about 3,000—about 75%—actually receiving them, because we do not have auto-enrolment. I urge the Government to join up the data so that we see eligibility following through to receipt of free school meals. It can be done, it must be done, and it will ensure that those families are well served.

I want to talk in particular about York Hungry Minds. York has the lowest-funded upper-tier local authority in the country, yet, as a Right to Food city, it prioritised feeding hungry children when Labour came to power in the council last May. City of York Council put the first £100,000 into Two Ridings Community Foundation as a vehicle for sourcing and independently funding the programme. It then called for city partners, including in industry and business, as well as individuals from the community, to boost that fund.

The pilot that York is engaged in is based in two schools: Westfield, where there are already far better healthy lunch choices for the children at key stage 2; and Burton Green, which is investing in breakfast for children. The results are already incredible. Starting in January this year, the research piece by the University of York will follow the pilot through to the end of the year. Researchers are already seeing an improvement in attendance—an issue that the Government are wrestling with at the moment—and far better engagement in learning. These are the early seeds of what it means to have a full stomach and to be able to work in such an environment.

I really do congratulate those involved in the project, but we need to ensure that the funding continues and is available for roll-out across our city. That is certainly the ambition of the Labour council, but we need the support of Government. I am delighted that Labour is so committed to ensuring that children start the day with a full stomach. We know the difference that will make for them.

This is not just about what happens for a child in school; it is about resetting the life course inequality that we see across our society. We want to address that by ensuring that children are well fed. That inequality results in differentiations in exam results, in where children move on to, and ultimately in the career choices that they can make and in their incomes. If we are to break intergenerational inequality, that small measure of having high-value, highly nutritious meals at the start of the day—and, I trust, rolling into the middle of the day too—is so important. That can be the game changer that families need.

However, we need to evaluate as we go, and that is why I congratulate the University of York on its investment in not only the project that I described but in looking at child hunger. It is evaluating the difference that the project will make to the lives of those children by looking at how much healthy food is going to them as a result of the menu choices; by looking at the amount of food waste, which is another important factor; and by looking at any changes in readiness to learn, in absence due to ill health or in school attendance. Looking at the data, which I trust the Minister will do, will strengthen the opportunity to roll out these programmes.

It is also important that the programme looks at the stigma around the provision of free school meals. We must remember that no child wants to be differentiated because of the income level or socioeconomic disadvantage their family experiences.

Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Hodgson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

One of the reasons that John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby, who authored the school food plan, said that they included recommendation 17 on universal free primary school meals is that, when they looked at the evidence, the children who improved the most when all the boats rose were those who were already entitled to free school meals. The only thing that had been removed was the stigma. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is very important?

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend knows so much about this subject and could not make a more powerful point. We need all young people who have hungry stomachs to be able to engage, and taking away the stigma not only gives those children confidence but ensures that the issue of hunger is addressed.

I would like to quickly reinforce some of the points that colleagues have made. It is important that we make sure that thresholds rise and are appropriate, and it is important that people can enrol in the holiday activities fund if their eligibility changes over the holiday period, rather than having to wait until the beginning of the new year. It is possible to do that, and I trust that the Minister will.

Oral Answers to Questions

Rachael Maskell Excerpts
Monday 29th April 2024

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

3. What recent assessment her Department has made of the adequacy of SEND provision.

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

11. What assessment she has made of the adequacy of SEND provision.

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

Having undertaken a review of the special educational needs system, we published our improvement plan last year. Provision is regularly reviewed through school and local area inspections by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission. We also collect and review data on education, health and care plans, including on timeliness and volumes, and on capacity in special schools, SEND units and resourced provision.

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

My hon. Friend is a great champion of children with SEN and he is absolutely right. Labour’s ideological obsession with private schools means that it will even charge children in an independent special school 20% VAT for their needs. That will make it harder for those families to afford the provision they need and drive up demand for places in state special schools. It is just another example of the mess Labour would make of our education system.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
- View Speech - Hansard - -

The inequality in the funding formula is driving inequality for children with SEN. In York, we are seeing not only the lack of placements that are needed, but staff being laid off because of an inadequacy of funding. We know that the number of children with SEND is growing exponentially in York, so will the Minister not only review the funding formula to ensure that it is fair, but give local authorities the power and provision to provide for the future needs of our city?

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

York is in our safety valve programme to provide support with the financial challenges it has. It has seen a 27% increase in per-head funding in the last three financial years. We review the funding formula every year. The biggest complaint people have is the historic factor, which is difficult to reduce quickly because there are children receiving that provision at the moment.

Oral Answers to Questions

Rachael Maskell Excerpts
Monday 11th March 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
David Johnston Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (David Johnston)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. We are taking a number of actions to increase the number of people who adopt and foster, and to support kinship care as well, but I would be happy to discuss this matter with him further.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Many of the children with special educational needs, mental health challenges and childhood trauma who are not in school in York are not able to access their education because of insufficient estate and placements, and because of the environment and specialist personnel. What are the Government doing to ensure that every area has a workforce plan and an estates plan, and the funding to match?

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

Through our special educational needs and disabilities and alternative provision improvement plan we are taking a whole range of actions. That has included increasing the number of special school places by more than 60,000 since this Government came to power, as well as training a lot more special educational needs co-ordinators.

Oral Answers to Questions

Rachael Maskell Excerpts
Monday 29th January 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

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

Yes, I can give an assurance that we are going through all the details and assessing each instance on a case-by-case basis. I know that all hon. Members are keen to know what will happen, and they will have the answers very shortly.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

The changes in the visa rules for international students and their dependants are having a significant impact, not only on the number of students coming to universities such as the University of York, a Russell Group university, but on these universities’ finances. Universities will have to make significant cuts if this visa programme reaches fruition. Will the Minister meet vice-chancellors and the Home Office, together, to talk about the impact this is having?

Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have regular conversations with vice-chancellors and the Home Office on this issue. However, as I say, our target has been more than 600,000 students and we have well surpassed that, and 36% of university researchers come from outside the UK. We have a proud record on international students and that will continue.

Oral Answers to Questions

Rachael Maskell Excerpts
Monday 11th December 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

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

I thank my right hon. Friend for her question. That is exactly why we are developing a new NPQ for SENCOs, which will launch in autumn 2024, and are inputting into the standards for teacher training to ensure that everybody has an understanding of how best to support children. There are now a lot of children with special educational needs, and we all need to know how to support them better.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

From my citywide consultation of parents of children with SEND, it came to light that the particularly harsh and punitive disciplinary processes being exercised in schools are having a very harmful effect on many of those children. Will the Secretary of State or the Schools Minister meet me to discuss a particular multi-academy trust in my constituency where those processes are having a very negative impact on young people?

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

I am very happy to confirm that the Minister for children and families will be happy to meet the hon. Lady.

Core School Budget Allocations

Rachael Maskell Excerpts
Tuesday 17th October 2023

(8 months ago)

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

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

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

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

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

The funding allocated for local authorities is ringfenced. This is an allocation and calculation issue—it is not that they have received the money—and we corrected it as soon as the error was made. Any Labour Members in the same position would have reacted in precisely the same way that I have.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

This blunder is going to cost schools in York dear. We are already in the bottom 20 in the country for school funding and in the bottom third for high needs. I had a meeting with parents on Friday night, and 150 of them were in tears and on their knees about the SEN funding. The formulas are just not working in areas where there is low funding. Will the Minister bring forward the fair funding formula to ensure that children in my constituency with SEND have fair funding allocated to them?

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

I understand the hon. Lady’s points, and I share the concern of parents with children with special educational needs and disabilities. We do want to make sure that local authorities are properly funded for children with those special needs, which is why we have increased funding for high needs very significantly over the past few years. Over £10 billion is now allocated to local authorities for those children. If we look at the national funding formula, we see that 10.2% of the formula—£4.4 billion—is on the basis of deprivation factors, and 17.8% is allocated on the basis of additional needs. These are very significant sums both in the national funding formula for mainstream schools and the extra money we are giving to local authorities for high needs.

Higher Education Reform

Rachael Maskell Excerpts
Monday 17th July 2023

(11 months ago)

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

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are continuing to close that gap, and we have made unbelievable progress—more in the last 13 years than ever in this country. We will continue to make sure that working class people get access to all high-quality routes into the workplace.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

The Government should address the reasons why some courses are struggling, not the consequences. Higher education funding is in crisis, and that is having an impact on the function of universities, not least the post-1992 universities. Will the review by the Office for Students look at the higher education funding model? How will it address the real symptoms that she is talking about?

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

The hon. Lady makes an interesting point, but at the moment the OfS has 18 providers under investigation for poor quality. There are many more providers, and we have a standard fee. It will look at contextual aspects such as demographics, socioeconomics and mature students. It looks at all that in context, but there are 18 providers out of a much larger number.

Oral Answers to Questions

Rachael Maskell Excerpts
Monday 17th July 2023

(11 months ago)

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

We are confident that the behaviour hubs programme is helping schools to create calm, understanding and positive environments by spreading best practice. The behaviour hubs programme is being evaluated and impact assessed. We will publish an interim report in 2024. I would be delighted to discuss those findings with my right hon. Friend.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Last week I introduced by ten-minute rule Bill on bullying and respect at work. It is not just children who experience bullying in the school environment but teachers and other staff. Will the Minister look at my Bill, which will establish a legal definition of bullying at work and a route to employment tribunal to protect the people who are looking after our children in our schools?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have not seen the hon. Lady’s Bill, but I would be happy to take a look and have a discussion with her.

--- Later in debate ---
Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome my hon. Friend’s question. We have spent £15 billion since 2015 on repairs and maintenance of our school estate. We intend to announce any successful appeals from the latest condition improvement fund round this month, as CIF typically opens for applications each autumn. Eligible schools with an urgent condition need that cannot wait until the next round may of course apply for the urgent capital support.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

T9. The mental wellbeing of young people and children is really important. Last week, I met staff from Ebor Academy Trust and our mental health trust to talk about how better provision can be put in place. Labour has committed to ensuring that we have mental health professionals in our schools, but in this school it was the teaching assistants providing most of the care. How are we ensuring that teaching assistants are properly rewarded?

Oral Answers to Questions

Rachael Maskell Excerpts
Monday 12th June 2023

(1 year ago)

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

My hon. Friend is right that students should get their papers marked. I have been discussing these issues with Universities UK, which says that they will affect a minority of students, and a lot of universities are ensuring alternative markers. Students have recourse to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator if they feel they are not getting the service that they have paid for with their student loan.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

On Saturday, I attended an inspiring conference hosted by Bootham Quaker School, where about 120 year 12 students from across the world had come together to determine the purpose and future of education. Does the Secretary of State agree with them that we need a renewed vision for education, taking into account what education achieves for communities, countries and the planet we share, rather than just its personal benefits?

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

The hon. Lady raises a number of important points. First, sustainability is an important part of the curriculum. Secondly, we want our young people to be able to succeed. In a global jobs market—a global trading market—they need to have the best education possible. Our schools are rising in the international league tables for maths and reading standards in PISA, PIRLS and TIMMS—the programme for international student assessment, the programme in international reading literacy study and the trends in international mathematics and science study.

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities: Specialist Workforce

Rachael Maskell Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd March 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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

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

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

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

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

It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Mr Sharma. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) on leading today’s debate and concur with all comments made by colleagues across the room.

It is a fight, and it is always a fight, to get the right support in the right place at the right time—that is what parents have consistently told me. That is why we are here today. We have serious concerns about the timing of the Government’s proposals. Already, we are hearing about a specialist workforce group being set up, but it will be two years before we see that workforce plan delivered. On top of that, we have the training time to get those specialists in place to provide the support for young people, and timing is of the essence.

Time is of the essence for parents in my constituency, too. I think about the parents who came to see me because their child goes to specialist provision in the morning, but in the afternoon, is left to play with Lego; or the child who was confronted in their school environment because they did not make eye contact, and was told off and given detention for not doing so; or the parents whose child, who has autism and is non-verbal, despite meeting all the thresholds for an EHCP assessment, has been denied that assessment by their local authority. Children miss out time and again.

Let me speak about one child whose needs were not recognised in primary school. We raised our concerns frequently, but the teachers did not identify his dyslexia and memory and processing issues until the last term of year 6. He did not get the right support and fell further and further behind. His experience of school was horrendous: he had self-esteem issues by year 2 and signs of anxiety in year 3, and he told us that he would rather die than go to school in year 4. In years 5 and 6, the impact of his school experience was huge. Thankfully, he has now had the opportunity that he should have had when he started school, or even pre-school. It is always a fight for parents.

I am also here to fight for the workforce. It needs to be recognised, organised and supported. We are creating family hubs, but we had Sure Start. We brought people together across the professions to work together and wrap the services around the child. We need to reinstitute that. Labour did it, and we will do it again, because we know the importance of that inter-working.

I particularly want to speak up for teaching assistants, who are at the forefront of providing day-by-day support to young people. They know their children and are attuned to their needs. However, in a school in York, their contracts have been reduced to just term-time working, rather than full-time. They are therefore not able to afford to go to work any more. Teaching assistants should be recognised as the professionals that they are for the skills that they bring, and they should be rewarded with the pay they deserve. They work incredibly hard, giving children confidence on a day-to-day basis. Many children with special educational needs identify with their teaching assistant more than anyone else, and yet they are on minimum wage, term-time contracts. It is frankly disgraceful. When the Minister puts a workforce plan together, I ask her to put teaching assistants at the forefront and to recognise the professional skills they bring in supporting children at their time of need.

Virendra Sharma Portrait Mr Virendra Sharma (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call Robin Walker. As he is the Chair of the Education Committee, I will relax the four-minute time limit.