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Extended Schools

4. Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): What progress she is making with her proposals for extended schools; and if she will make a statement. [66206]

The Minister for Children and Families (Beverley Hughes): More than 6,000 schools are engaged with the extended schools development programme. The strong engagement of schools and local authorities means that we are making good progress towards our target of all schools offering access to extended services by 2010. The early evaluation that we have carried out demonstrates that extended services can have a positive impact on the attendance and motivation of pupils, enhance children's and families' access to services and, if well managed, relieve pressure on teachers' workloads.

Helen Goodman: I am most grateful to the Minister for that report on the excellent progress that is being made on the extended schools programme. Every day, children need the opportunity to play and to relax. Is she aware of the work being done by the National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries to encourage games clubs in schools, with lots of ideas for outdoor games, card games and board games—every kind of possibility—and what is she doing to support such activities?

Beverley Hughes: I agree with my hon. Friend that particularly, but not exclusively, for young children, play is a very important part of the concept of extended activities in schools. Indeed, the prospectus that we published made it clear that we want play to be an important aspect. Children should not just have study support and curriculum-focused activities at the end of the day; we want them to relax and unwind in a secure and stimulating environment. Schools will be talking to parents and children as they plan what is required for their extended activities, and I am sure that parents will want that to happen. Because extended schools activities are about working in partnership with other organisations, and not schools doing it themselves, I am sure that the National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries will have a big part to play in ensuring that extended activities can include play.

Sarah Teather (Brent, East) (LD): The Minister will be aware of the Headspace survey that suggested that 37 per cent. of head teachers had no intention of offering the extended schools scheme. Does she think that that might be because the money provided by the Government is enough only to pay for one extra teacher per school?

Beverley Hughes: No, I do not. We are on a journey with extended schools. As I said, more than 6,000 schools are working with us directly to provide extended services. The baseline survey that we conducted at the outset showed that approximately 95 per cent. of secondary schools and
 
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87 per cent. of primary schools already offered extended activities after school to some extent. There is therefore a great deal of interest and commitment. Extended activities help schools to maximise the attainment of their children and support parents in doing that. Schools that have provided extended activities for some time are convinced of the benefits. I am sure that, as we develop the programme, that will be the case for all schools. The money provided—£840 million so far—is for start-up costs. Schools need to ensure that they sustain activities and we will support them with a charging regime to ensure that they do.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): What assurance can the Minister give that the £840 million will go to schools and not be tied up in local education authorities? What assessment has been made of the extra burdens on head teachers, teachers and school governors of implementing the project?

Beverley Hughes: A significant proportion of the £840 million goes directly to schools, with the remainder going through local authorities. Schools will receive a substantial amount of money directly from the Department to support the development. The money is not for supporting activities in the long-term, but for the development of such activities.

We commissioned research from Manchester university on the impact on schools, and there has been an interim report. One finding is that if the project is managed in the right way, it reduces the burden on teachers. By that I mean that provided that head teachers do not take the view that they have to do everything themselves—we do not want them to take that view—but garner the support and opportunities offered by other organisations in the locality, including voluntary organisations and child care providers who want to work with them, the impact on schools can be beneficial in releasing teachers for their core job, which is teaching.

Academy Schools

5. Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): How many academy schools are planned to open in the next 12 months. [66208]

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Ruth Kelly): Nineteen.

Mr. Wilson: I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. She knows that I am an enthusiastic supporter of academies and trust schools. Indeed, children from my constituency will shortly benefit from the Madejski academy. However, several constituents have alleged that Reading education authority has been involved in financial maladministration and gross mismanagement in relation to the academy and council tax payers. Will the right hon. Lady undertake to examine that as a matter of urgency to ensure that the success of the academy programme is untarnished?

Ruth Kelly: I welcome the hon. Gentleman's support for the academy programme. Indeed, I welcome support for the programme from wherever it comes in the House and outside because the programme is making such a difference to the life chances of some of our children in the most deprived communities in the country.
 
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The allegations that the hon. Gentleman just made in the House have never been brought to my attention. I am happy to consider them. If he writes to me, I shall do that and give him a full response.

Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester, South) (Lab): Is the Secretary of State aware of the likely disastrous effects on existing schools and the education of their pupils of establishing an academy on the site of the former Mary Linwood school in Leicester? Will she ensure a full and open review of such effects on other schools before any further academies are set up?

Ruth Kelly: We have looked at the evidence closely. Only yesterday, I published evidence that showed that the value added—the progress made by pupils in academy schools between the ages of 14 and 15—was greater than that in comparable schools. That has happened in the first two years of their operation, and our initial evidence suggests that, while academies have been improving pupils' results, the results in neighbouring schools have been improving at the same time. I therefore assure my hon. Friend that academies will start to tackle ingrained educational disadvantage while other local schools start to improve their results, too.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Is the Secretary of State disappointed by the negative attitude of teachers' unions to the proposal to build more academies, given that it has brought more private and public money into the school system, especially for some schools that are experiencing problems? Will she give an assurance that the negative attitude of the teachers' unions will not lead to a Government retreat on the initiative?

Ruth Kelly: I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. We are completely committed to our goal of establishing 200 academies, and we are moving faster than we would have anticipated at this stage, with more than 100 already up and running or in the pipeline. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the evidence, he will see that the staff who work in the academies are completely convinced of the difference that they are making to the achievements of young people, and that the sponsors of the academies are contributing to educational attainment. About 84 per cent. of the teaching staff in those schools say that the sponsor has made a positive difference to the values, the ethos and the achievement of the young people in them. I can give the hon. Gentleman a definite assurance on that.

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): If the full programme of 200 academies is implemented, will they all be built on the basis of £20 million coming from the state and £2 million coming from the sponsor, or are other funding models being considered?

Ruth Kelly: Of course, all these questions are kept under review. At the moment, we have a system in which 10 per cent. or thereabouts of the capital cost of an academy is contributed by a sponsor. However, the important aspect of the academies project is not the   financial contribution of the sponsor. It is the time, the energy and the commitment that the sponsor gives
 
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to the project that can make such a big difference. Indeed, in taking the trust school programme forward, we are trying to bring the commitment of other external partners to the education of state school pupils in the most disadvantaged schools in our inner cities and most deprived areas, so that they can benefit from that commitment too.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that creation as an alternative to evolution should be taught in academy schools if the sponsors so wish?

Ruth Kelly: I do not, and there is no evidence whatever that that is happening. That allegation is most frequently made against the Emmanuel schools run by Sir Peter Vardy. Ofsted has inspected those schools on numerous occasions and one of them was yesterday given its third outstanding report. Ofsted has looked specifically at their science curriculum and at whether creationism was being taught in those schools, and it has concluded that it is not.

Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that an early stage in the development of an academy is the feasibility study? What exactly does such a study involve? Does it, for example, involve an investigation of the individuals who put up the £2 million?

Ruth Kelly: Of course due diligence requirements are carried out on potential sponsors, and there is a rigorous method of ensuring that they fulfil those requirements. There are also due diligence requirements and extra safeguards in relation to trust backers.

Mr. David Willetts (Havant) (Con): May I assure the Secretary of State that whatever hostility to academies there might be on her side of the House, we strongly support them? One of the many freedoms that academies enjoy is the freedom to employ their own staff. To do that, however, they depend on the Government to give them full information about the staff that they wish to employ. Among the 1,000 foreign convicted criminals released by the Home Office, there were drug dealers, violent offenders and 21 sex offenders, some of whom had been accused of offences against children. Can the Secretary of State assure the academies and all parents that any offenders who should have been placed on list 99 and on the register of sex offenders—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is totally and utterly out of order—[Interruption.] Order. It is not a rule of the House that Front Benchers are called to speak. It is a privilege that the Speaker gives to them, and they should not abuse that privilege. I call Dr. Roberta Blackman-Woods.


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