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Dawn Primarolo: The hon. Gentleman has a fine track record in representing the best interests of young people who are trafficked to this country. He and I had discussions on the matter recently. Clear guidance is in
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place on the standards that we expect local authorities to achieve in identifying and supporting children who may have been trafficked. If he has specific issues regarding the three local authorities he mentioned, and if he brings them to my attention, I will be happy to pursue them on his behalf.

Chris McCafferty (Calder Valley) (Lab): Following the damning PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ofsted reports into safeguarding and looked-after children in Calderdale, and the litany of failure they highlighted, what importance does my right hon. Friend attach to the role of elected local authority cabinet members, particularly the portfolio holder and the leader of the council, in corporate parental responsibility?

Dawn Primarolo: Both elected members and officials in local authorities should be and are undertaking their responsibilities with regard to looked-after children and are caring for them as the corporate parent to the very highest of standards. Where that does not occur, and when interventions are necessary, the Government act swiftly. Later today, I will be meeting representatives from Calderdale local authority to discuss the particular issues following the Ofsted report of 26 February.

Michael Gove (Surrey Heath) (Con): The right hon. Lady will be aware that the two children who were responsible for the horrific crimes chronicled in the serious case review into the Edlington case were both in foster care. Does she believe that the executive summary into that case is an adequate document?

Dawn Primarolo: I have read both the full report and the executive summary. Ofsted judged the latter to be good. As the Minister responsible for dealing directly with discussions with Doncaster, I am taking forward all the questions of improving that authority's procedures for safeguarding children.

Michael Gove: I am literally amazed that the Minister thinks that that scanty 10-page document is adequate to do justice to the scale and complexity of the case. The British Association of Social Workers-the professional body-has said that full serious case reviews should be published in a suitably anonymised version. Why are the professionals wrong, and why is the Secretary of State correct?

Dawn Primarolo: As the hon. Gentleman knows, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children does not agree with that view. In these circumstances, it is important that all the information is in the full serious case review to ensure that the lessons are learned, and that people are frank and open about what happened. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already made the point about ensuring that whenever necessary we protect people's identity, and the hon. Gentleman knows that all these matters are being considered in the discussions on how we move forward on the guidance for the information that should be made available in the executive summary. Ofsted has judged the executive summary in that case to be good, and we need to ensure that lessons are learned and acted on.

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Academic and Vocational Qualifications

11. Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): What his policy is on the balance between the provision of courses leading to academic and vocational qualifications for school children. [320685]

The Minister for Further Education, Skills, Apprenticeships and Consumer Affairs (Kevin Brennan): From 2013, most young people will access qualifications through one of four nationally available routes-apprenticeships, the diploma, GCSEs and A levels, or foundation learning. Each of those routes offers a different learning style, ranging from vocational to academic, with the diploma designed by employers and higher education institutions to bridge the divide between academic and vocational qualifications.

Nia Griffith: We all recognise the enormous contribution that vocational learning has made to upskilling our work force, making our manufacturing more competitive and encouraging innovation and enterprise. What more can my hon. Friend do to ensure that we get rid of the artificial divide between so-called vocational and academic learning, and raise the status of vocational qualifications?

Kevin Brennan: My hon. Friend is right: too often, there is a tendency not to give parity of esteem to vocational routes in our schools and colleges. That is not helped by those who propose leaving out vocational subjects from league tables as if they do not count. That says that we regard academic qualifications as the premiership and vocational qualifications not even as the championship, but as one of the lower leagues. That is not an approach that we should follow, even though the Opposition advocate it.


12. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): What his latest assessment is of progress on the academies programme; and if he will make a statement. [320687]

The Minister for Schools and Learners (Mr. Vernon Coaker): There are now 203 academies open in 83 local authorities, with up to a further 100 opening in 2010. Evidence from independent reports by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ofsted and the National Audit Office shows that academies are working. For academies with results in 2008 and 2009, the increase in the proportion of pupils achieving at least five A* GCSEs, including English and maths, is 5 percentage points, an increase on last year's academy improvement rate of 4.3 percentage points.

Mr. Amess: What assurances will the Government give to existing academy leaders that the freedoms that their schools initially enjoyed will not be further watered down?

Mr. Coaker: The academies programme is an important part of the school reform programme that this Government have introduced, but academies are not independent schools within the state sector. They have certain freedoms, but they have to collaborate with other schools-and that is one of the changes that we have made. They have academic freedom and curricular freedom, as well as
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freedom with respect to their staff, but we do not want to see academies totally cast adrift and allowed to do whatever they want within the state system. They are an important part of our school reform programme, and that is how they will stay.

Mr. Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent, South) (Lab): My hon. Friend will be aware that in Stoke-on-Trent the proposals for the 2020 academy have met with great concern from the local communities, who want to see it built on the fields alongside Longton high and for the Mitchell school to be kept open, serving those communities. Will my hon. Friend confirm that if Stoke-on-Trent city council wished to listen to the people of their communities and do that, it could do so-even though it is a Conservative council?

Mr. Coaker: It may be of interest to the House to learn that I have had a meeting with my hon. Friend and local people about this matter in his constituency. The important point is that of course it is a matter for local authorities to determine the best way to organise schools in their area, and they can change, listen and adapt programmes, although they have to take account of other considerations. I know that my hon. Friend will be pleased to join me in welcoming the investment of £250 million into Stoke's schools that we are making through Building Schools for the Future.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): If academies are such a success, why can most schools not become academies?

Mr. Coaker: We do not want most schools to become academies, because we believe that local people and local authorities should determine the best mix of secondary school provision in their areas. Let me say to the hon. Gentleman that not only will he have to persuade me of his argument, but he will have to persuade a number of Tory local councils, up and down the country, which do not believe that simply saying that academies are the right solution for every secondary school is the right way forward. They agree with us that academies are sometimes the right answer, but that sometimes the answer is maintaining a school as a local authority school, while sometimes the answer is setting up a national challenge trust. Rather than being ideologically dogmatic, let us see what works and introduce it in a local area.

Building Schools for the Future

13. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): What recent progress has been made on Building Schools for the Future projects in Birmingham. [320688]

The Minister for Schools and Learners (Mr. Vernon Coaker): Birmingham is in waves 2 and 5. Ten schools are being redeveloped, and it is planned to redevelop a further 20. The first phase of projects reached financial close in August 2009. The first schools will open in January 2011. The authority is seeking approval from Partnerships for Schools for the remaining phase 1 schools, and it is preparing the strategy for change and outline business case for phase 2. Partnerships for Schools
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is assessing the readiness to deliver for phase 3. Today the Secretary of State has announced the next six local authorities, with the next three in line.

Richard Burden: Will my hon. Friend clarify Birmingham's current position? Although I am aware that it has benefited from BSF investment in the earlier waves, I am sure that he will share my disappointment that the majority of Birmingham secondary schools still have no idea when they will be refurbished or rebuilt under the BSF programme. Will he clarify whether today's announcement shows that capital investment for Birmingham schools is unavailable, or whether it shows that the local authority has not got its act together to submit its case? Either way, will he meet me to discuss the situation?

Mr. Coaker: Before we can agree a programme for a local authority, that authority has to demonstrate its readiness to deliver. There is a proper set of criteria that local authorities have to abide by, as well as a proper assessment process, which is rigorously assessed by Partnerships for Schools, the Government office and our officials, and on the basis of the information provided, so that judgments can be made about which authorities are most ready to deliver. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made a statement today about the six authorities currently most ready to deliver, and indicated which three are, as it were, next on the runway. Birmingham is one of those three, but it is for the local authority to sort out the remaining issues before we can finally get that agreed.

Early Intervention Green Paper

14. Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): When he expects to publish the Green Paper on early intervention; and if he will make a statement. [320689]

The Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Dawn Primarolo): We will shortly publish a document on early intervention to help local authorities and their partners, working in children's trusts and elsewhere, to improve the quality and consistency of the support that they offer to vulnerable children and families.

Mr. Allen: In an era when politicians are criticised for not thinking long term, may I congratulate the Government on their far-sightedness in setting up an early intervention unit in the Department and on bringing forward a Green Paper on early intervention? Does my right hon. Friend agree that a social and emotional bedrock is the foundation of all attainment for babies, children and young people, and that we should continue to support it and ensure that it is spread as far as humanly possible, particularly in deprived constituencies such as mine?

Dawn Primarolo: I agree with my hon. Friend. Not only do we know that shifting to early intervention can provide value for money, in terms of the costs to the individual, the family and the community at a later stage, but the evidence base clearly shows that intervening early is a particular help to children's development and their ability to learn. Therefore, it is incumbent on us all to look again at how services are delivered, looking for that innovation and ensuring that we build that early intervention.

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Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk) (Con): What assessment has been made of the impact of the recession on preventive services?

Dawn Primarolo: All local authorities have considered the position since the recession and the impact on services. If we look in particular at children's services and the availability of child care facilities, both through childminders and otherwise, we see that, thankfully, excellent children's services continue to be provided, giving children the very best start in life, thanks to the extra investment that this Government continue to put into those services.

Topical Questions

T1. [320700] Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): I would like to update the House on the actions that I propose to take to implement the pre-Budget report. As I said, the Chancellor protected, with real-terms rises, 75 per cent. of my budget, covering Sure Start, schools and 16-to-19 learning. However, he also requested that by 2013 I should find £500 million in savings from non-protected spending, which, excluding teachers' pensions, covers 10 per cent. of my budget. That will be a 7 per cent. cut in those non-protected budgets.

So far, I have identified savings of over £300 million, which includes £135 million from our non-departmental public bodies, including significant reductions in funding for BECTA-the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency-and the Teacher Development Agency. There will be a cut of £100 million by ending start-up funding for extended services, now that 95 per cent. of schools are offering access to them, and of £50 million by scaling back bursaries for initial teacher training. There will be a further £21 million of savings from communication-

Mr. Speaker: Order. May I just say to the Secretary of State that the answer is too long? A problem has arisen in that those to whom we do not refer in the Chamber, but who have a hand in the preparation of material, are preparing too much material, and it will not do. I want to make progress. I am grateful to the Secretary of State, but we really must have pithy questions and pithy answers- [ Interruption. ] Order. I do not require help from the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove).

Andrew Rosindell: Will the Secretary of State undertake urgently to investigate the failure of Building Schools for the Future to fund Havering sixth-form college, because 2,300 pupils were depending on that funding and they are now not getting it? Will he find out why there is a problem and try to sort it out quickly?

Ed Balls: First of all, Mr. Speaker, may I apologise? I had understood that the convention at topical questions was that I could make a short statement in reply to the first question, which is what I was attempting to do.

The hon. Gentleman asked a question about Building Schools for the Future, and I am happy to look into the details of the school that he mentioned. As he will
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know, his borough joined Building Schools for the Future in November 2009, and the schools in his constituency, including the one to which he referred, are therefore exactly the kind of schools that would be put at risk by the Conservatives' proposals not to give a guarantee to any school that had not yet got to financial closure. I would be happy to talk to him, but I am afraid that I cannot make any guarantees on behalf of those on the Conservative Benches; that is a matter for them.

Mr. Speaker: The Secretary of State is absolutely right in his interpretation of the procedure but, unfortunately, his statement was not as short as I wanted it to be.

T2. [320701] Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): My right hon. and hon. Friends might realise that one of the roles that head teachers in my constituency have abandoned is the pre-1997 practice of moving buckets to catch the raindrops coming through the holes in the roof, because their schools have been rebuilt. Nevertheless, there is still a backlog of schools that need upgrading and rebuilding. Will my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench tell me what is the post-election future of Building Schools for the Future?

Ed Balls: I have to say that, although this situation has not arisen in my hon. Friend's constituency, hon. Members on both sides of the House have come up to me in recent weeks and said, "Please could you get our area through, because if you lose the election, I fear that we won't get the Building Schools for the Future funding that we want." That is not a problem in the case of Manchester, however, because its money has already come through in the form of nearly £1 billion of school capital spending. The only thing I can say to those Conservative Members who are worried about cuts if they were to win the election is that they should join Samantha Cameron and vote Labour.

T3. [320702] David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): A recent Channel 4 "Dispatches" programme asked 155 primary school teachers to sit a mathematics test for 11-year-olds. I know that the Secretary of State did not want to take that test, but will he tell us why only one of those teachers got all the questions right, and what he is going to do about that?

Ed Balls: I joined the shadow Secretary of Secretary in not taking that test; we both decided that we would not put ourselves through that ordeal. I know, however, that we have had an expert report into primary maths teaching from Professor Williams, who made a series of recommendations. We have also heard that, because the person who speaks about maths on behalf of the Conservative party got a third, she would not even be allowed to teach in schools, let alone give any recommendations about how to improve maths teaching. We are the people with the real ideas and we are implementing them.

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