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Amber Rudd: Will my hon. Friend be kind enough to write to me about that example? I will make sure that he gets a reply.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): We worked very hard in Hull to bring Siemens to the city to develop the offshore renewables industry. Does the Minister understand how the current approach, and the previous approach in relation to solar, is not at all helpful to long-term investment in renewables?

Amber Rudd: I am slightly amazed that the hon. Lady chooses to approach the matter in that way. It is a great success of the previous Government that we now have the Siemens plant in Hull, and we support that, the employment it offers and the export potential that we hope will develop there. We are encouraged by the fact that there is more investment coming into offshore wind and we will continue to support it.

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): In the mix of renewable energy, tidal energy has huge potential, popular support, leisure sector spin-offs, innovative technology and export potential. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the direct and indirect potential for job growth from tidal energy will be much greater than any job losses from her announcement today?

Amber Rudd: I certainly agree that tidal and marine energy is an exciting part of a future energy mix. As my hon. Friend is aware, we are continuing to do our due diligence on various tidal projects.

Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP): I associate myself with some of the comments of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham). The Secretary of State will be aware that the position of the Scottish Government is that technology such as tidal power and wave power, which were prevented from being properly developed by a former Conservative Government, are where the long-term future of our energy lies. Can she therefore confirm that the entire value of the subsidy that is going to be clawed back from wind farms will be reinvested in the accelerated development of these long-term permanent technologies, or are we simply seeing a repeat of what her party did to Scotland in the 1980s, when a flourishing and potentially world-leading renewables energy sector was deliberately sacrificed to get it out of the way of the nuclear power lobby?

Amber Rudd: I am afraid the hon. Gentleman has not quite understood the proposal, which is that the onshore wind subsidy will not go ahead after March 2016. That is not money that is being clawed back; that is money that is additionally not being added to people’s bills. On another matter, I agree with him that we would like more success in the whole marine energy area, and it is

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partly because we want to make sure that we have sufficient support available for other technologies, such as marine and tidal wave, that we have to make this choice.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): In response to an earlier question, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that the subsidy regime for large-scale solar farms was also going to be cut. What is there to stop an applicant for a large-scale solar farm parcelling up that application into four or five separate applications, thus qualifying as a small-scale unit?

Amber Rudd: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. He is right that we have ended the large-scale solar farm issue in terms of applications for the renewables obligation, but I have concerns about exactly the possibility that he has raised, and I will address it in the feed-in tariff review that I will be conducting this summer.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): The Huddersfield Civic Society, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Natural England, the National Trust, local artist Ashley Jackson and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have major concerns and are opposing a huge wind farm development high up on moorland in my constituency. Will the Secretary of State confirm that local people will have the final say on this major development?

Amber Rudd: I thank my hon. Friend for that list of supporters and I can indeed give him that confirmation.

John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): In south Wiltshire the primary concern is about large-scale solar farm applications. Can the Secretary of State outline the implications of today’s announcement for residents of Downton who came to see me about this recently?

Amber Rudd: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave earlier. We will be looking again at how solar farms get access as part of the feed-in tariff review. They are no longer eligible to access under the renewable obligations.

Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con): I refer Members to my declaration of interests. I welcome the announcement. On Friday my constituent Peter Stephens asked whether the forthcoming international deliberations on climate change would have the effect of unpicking the changes that the Secretary of State set out today. Perhaps she could clarify that.

Amber Rudd: I am happy to reassure my hon. Friend and his constituent that we remain committed to our targets under the Climate Change Act 2008. We remain committed to being the greenest Government ever and to making sure that we are the No. 1 place for renewable energy investment.

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Points of Order

4.40 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you will be aware, following the recent Penrose report, the House is expecting a statement before the summer recess on arrangements for compensating those affected by the NHS contaminated blood scandal. I have been sent a copy of a letter from the Health Secretary which was reported in the Sunday Express yesterday, in which he states:

“Any additional resources found for a settlement will be taken away from money spent on direct patient care for patients in the NHS”.

As the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on haemophilia and contaminated blood, I am particularly concerned by this new approach. Has the Health Secretary indicated whether he intends to make a statement on this matter, as details of the settlement and its financing should surely be made to this House first?

Mr Speaker: I can certainly confirm that the House should be the first to hear the detail of whatever the Government decide upon. I have received no advance indication from the Secretary of State that he plans to make a statement. It is a matter for him to decide whether and when to do so, but perhaps the hon. Lady’s point of order will prompt thinking about the speed with which such a statement might usefully be made.

Marie Rimmer (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier today, I asked a topical question of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. It was a simple question, in which I asked “why the Government are refusing to publish—even though the Information Commissioner has instructed them to do so—the up-to-date statistics relating to the number of people who have died, having been found fit for work at their face-to-face assessment?” In the Secretary of State’s non-answer, he referred to me making “allegations” and making a reference to “suicide”. I did neither. How can we get a simple answer without false allegations being made about me and about another Member behind me? As you know, Mr Speaker, I am profoundly deaf and do not always pick up everything.

Mr Speaker: I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order and for the manner in which she has raised it. I have no responsibility for the content of ministerial answers. It is a judgment for any Minister how to respond. She has made her point in her own way, with force but also with dignity, and it is on the record. It is for Ministers, as it is for any of us, subsequently to reflect on what they have said and to decide whether they have anything to add to it or to subtract from it. I cannot say more than that, but if the hon. Lady remains dissatisfied and wishes to correspond with the Secretary of State or to approach him in some other way, it is of course her prerogative to do so. I thank her very much for what she has said.

Marie Rimmer: And I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the respectful way in which you have answered my question.

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Education and Adoption Bill

Second Reading

Mr Speaker: I must inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the acting Leader of the Opposition.

4.43 pm

The Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

At the heart of this Government’s commitment to delivering real social justice is our belief that every child deserves an excellent education and that every day that they spend in school should be one that helps them to fulfil their potential. The Bill introduces new measures to improve school standards across the country. It also delivers on our commitment to establish regional adoption agencies, in order to help some of our most vulnerable children find loving homes.

Thanks to the hard work of teachers across the country, the reforms of the last Government and the innovations pioneered by the Government before that, championed by the former Schools Minister Lord Adonis, we have seen dramatic improvements in English education. Since 2010, 100,000 more six-year-olds are on track to be confident readers because of our focus on phonics; the EBacc has led to a 71% increase in pupils taking core academic subjects at GCSE; and there are now 1 million more pupils being taught in schools that are good or outstanding—a record high. In short, expectations have been raised, standards have been restored, and teachers and parents have been empowered.

But there is more to do. No child should have to put up with receiving an education that is anything less than good, so we must go further. The Bill will bring forward legislation to strengthen our ability to intervene more swiftly in failing schools and to properly tackle, for the first time, schools that are coasting. The measures in the Bill are designed to speed up the process by which underperforming schools are transformed, ensuring that there is no delay in giving our children the education they deserve.

Across the world, Governments are recognising that teachers and leaders in education know best how to run their schools. This Government are no different. We believe in a school-led system where experts have greater freedom but within a strong framework of accountability. That is why we want more schools to benefit from the freedom that academy status brings.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Is the Secretary of State worried about the number of people who are saying that when students have challenges such as special educational needs and autism, the school cannot cope? We need a much broader basis of help of the kind that does not get delivered by individual, fragmented school systems.

Nicky Morgan: I think that Members in all parts of the House would very much agree with the hon. Gentleman that children with special needs or disabilities must get the best possible education that will enable them to fulfil their potential. That is what the education and healthcare plans introduced under the previous Government are all about. As an hon. Member interested in education, he will know that we are seeing more collaboration

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between schools of all types across the system. Seventeen per cent. of the free schools set up under the previous Government deal with alternative provision and children who have special educational needs. Working with other local schools, they are providing a very innovative and exciting education.

Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): On the point about an individual school achieving a big difference, a strong academy sponsor in my constituency turned round a school known as Grace academy. Will the Secretary of State applaud the initiative of Solihull council to turn all the secondary schools on its council estates into academies by building on the good experience from that one leader?

Nicky Morgan: I thank my right hon. Friend. I hope that hon. Members in all parts of the House will be generous enough to recognise the huge contribution that talented and innovative sponsors are bringing to academies and schools up and down the country. Like her, I welcome—

Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Nicky Morgan: I will finish answering this point, and then I might give way to the hon. Gentleman.

I welcome the fact that schools, academies and sponsors across the country are ensuring that young people in Solihull, as in other local authority areas, are receiving an excellent education.

I give way to the hon. Gentleman and then I will make some progress.

Jonathan Reynolds: The Secretary of State is extremely courteous and I am extremely grateful. I am a supporter of academies where they are the right solution for a school, but in my area the academies perform less well than the local education authority schools, so it is clear that school improvement is a lot more complicated than simply forcing schools to become academies. What does she have to say to that, and what is her plan to turn round academies that are themselves underperforming?

Nicky Morgan: Without going into the detail of all the schools in the hon. Gentleman’s area, I would say that sponsored academies are often the weakest schools in an area—they may have been failing or in special measures for a long time—and then a sponsor comes in and works with them to make improvements right across the school for the benefit of its young people. I will come on to talk about the moves that we make as a Department, working with regional schools commissioners, where there are issues relating to academies.

Academy status enables us to move quickly to replace poor governance in failing schools under the guidance of an expert sponsor, and it gives strong leaders the freedom to make decisions that will work for the young people in their care. That is why we have turbocharged the last Labour Government’s academies policy since 2010. When Labour left office there were just over 200 sponsored academies; there are now more than 1,400.

We backed the sponsored academy programme because we could see that it worked for parents, teachers and, most importantly, young people. It is a matter of profound

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regret that the Labour party now appears to have arrived at a position where it is prepared to deny young people in schools that are not up to scratch the benefits that we know academy freedoms can bring.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Nicky Morgan: No, I have given way sufficiently. I will make some progress.

The evidence shows that schools in sponsored academy arrangements improve their performance faster than maintained schools. By 2014, results in sponsored secondary academies open for four years were on average 6.4 percentage points higher than results in their predecessor schools. Over the same period, results in local authority schools were an average of 1.3 percentage points higher than in 2010.

Prior to academisation, the situation facing Manchester Enterprise Academy, for example, was bleak. A history of underperformance, falling rolls, financial challenges and weak leadership had put it at risk of closure. Becoming a sponsored academy has turned it around. From being the lowest attaining secondary school in the area, it is now the highest performing against all key measures. In 2009 only 30% of pupils achieved five good GCSEs, compared with 59% in 2014. All of that has been achieved alongside the recovery of £1.9 million from the school’s budget over the past three years. Sponsored academies are also increasing the rigour of education, with more pupils focusing on the key academic subjects that will prepare them for life in modern Britain.

Fiona Mactaggart: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Nicky Morgan: No, I am going to set out the results first.

The first sponsored primary academies had been open for two years by the time of the 2014 results. Their results increased by 9 percentage points during that time—double the rate of improvement in maintained schools during the same period. These are schools such as Great Yarmouth primary academy in Norfolk, which became a sponsored academy in September 2012, having had nine headteachers in as many years. The school was frequently in and out of special measures with performance below the floor standard. The community had lost faith in the school, but becoming an academy changed that. Performance has radically improved and the school has gone from strength to strength. Last year Ofsted judged the school good, with outstanding leadership.

We want more schools to achieve those rates of improvement. I was delighted to hear that the former Education Secretary, David Blunkett, will be directly contributing to that in his new role as chairman of the David Ross Education Trust, an academy sponsor operating more than 30 academies across the east of England, the east midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside. The former Secretary of State recognises that, in that role, he has the opportunity to

“help shape policy and collaborative improvement and directly impact on the education of over 10,000 young people.”

It is reassuring to know that there are still some in the Labour party who support the academy programme and put young people above partisan rhetoric.

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Fiona Mactaggart rose—

Nicky Morgan: I wonder whether the right hon. Lady is going to offer her support.

Fiona Mactaggart: The interesting thing about the Bill is that it gives the Secretary of State powers to intervene where schools are failing pupils. I have four examples of pupils who have been excluded from academies and other schools without their parents being given a right to appeal. That is breaking the law. Will the Secretary of State amend the Bill in Committee to ensure that pupils who are excluded have their rights protected? That is one way in which she can ensure that every pupil has the right to an excellent education.

Nicky Morgan: The right hon. Lady is welcome to write to me about those specific cases. If those young people were not given the right to appeal, they certainly should have been. However, it is important to be on the side of teachers and those in charge of schools who make decisions about exclusions. It is also important to make sure that there is the right education provision for those young people who, for whatever reason, cannot be in mainstream schooling. We are seeing that provision as a result of innovations in our school system.

Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Nicky Morgan: No, I will make some progress.

I turn now to regional schools commissioners. As the number of academies grows we must ensure decisions are taken by those with a real understanding of what works locally, which is why we have devolved decision making on academies to a regional level. Eight regional schools commissioners were appointed last year to oversee academies across the country. The education measures in the Bill will be enacted by those commissioners, supported by the advice of the outstanding headteachers who have been elected to regional boards. Regional schools commissioners will be acting on my behalf and I will be accountable to Parliament for the decisions they make. The headteachers on those boards are all experts in their areas, with years of experience across the school sector, backed by other schools in their area. As headteachers of strong schools, they know what it takes to make a school effective.

Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Nicky Morgan: No. The hon. Gentleman will have plenty of time to make his points when we get to his speech. Those headteachers know what it takes to make a school effective and are in a good place to make decisions about the necessary action in any struggling school.

Regional schools commissioners will guarantee that decisions about intervention are made by people with real local knowledge, not by people sitting in Whitehall, ensuring local accountability while allowing academies to enjoy the autonomy that is so critical to their success.

Tristram Hunt: Will the Secretary of State give way?

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Nicky Morgan: No. The hon. Gentleman is about to make a speech in which he will be able to demonstrate why he wants to move the amendment.

Tristram Hunt: On that point, will the Secretary of State give way?

Nicky Morgan: No. I am going to make the case for the Bill, and the House will then have the opportunity to listen to the hon. Gentleman. I understand from today’s press that he would take a different approach: instead of trusting experts and heads, he would recreate local education authorities on a grand scale. I am sorry to say that he has shown once again that he is unable to resist the constant itch of the Labour party throughout the ages to seize back power from professionals on the ground and give it instead to politicians and bureaucrats.

Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): The Secretary of State knows that it is complete nonsense to pretend that Opposition Members are totally opposed to academies. She is trying to invent a ridiculous political dividing line when none exists on that issue. The truth is that some schools that are academies perform well and some schools that are academies perform poorly. In my constituency, the schools that have consistently performed worst are both academies and her Department has done nothing at all about it. There are good schools and poor schools in the maintained sector; the real crisis in education is in teacher recruitment and the quality of headteachers, and her proposals and speech have absolutely nothing to say about that.

Nicky Morgan: I am delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members are in favour of academies, in which case they should go into the Lobby tonight to support the Bill, which makes it clear that we will not tolerate failure in schools across this country and will take swift action, regardless of whether they are academies or maintained schools. The Opposition’s amendment is muddle-headed because they have tried to find a reason to oppose the Bill, but they cannot. The hon. Gentleman and Opposition Members do not understand what is needed to tackle failure and have found a spurious reason to table an amendment. If they support academies, they should join us in the Lobby tonight.

Wes Streeting: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Nicky Morgan: No. I am going to turn to failing schools.

No one in this House can argue that we do not have a duty to transform failing schools. For those schools, urgent action is required, and the Bill introduces tough new measures to turn around failing schools from day one. In the past, such transformation could be delayed or even blocked altogether by pressure groups or unions with ideological objections to transferring power from town halls to outstanding heads and teachers.

The Bill makes it clear that an academy order will be issued for all schools judged inadequate by Ofsted, enabling them to become sponsored academies. The Bill sweeps away bureaucracy and loopholes that currently mean it takes, on average, more than a year from the day that a school is judged inadequate to the day that it opens as a sponsored academy.

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For some schools, it can take even longer. The Warren comprehensive school in Barking and Dagenham had never been judged better than satisfactory by Ofsted. In February 2013, Ofsted said the school required special measures once again. It took eight months for the governing body to vote against becoming an academy. The then Secretary of State decided to pursue academy conversion, which the governing body and local authority challenged through the courts. The school eventually opened as a sponsored academy, 19 months after Ofsted deemed that it was failing to give pupils an acceptable standard of education. While adults bickered and delayed, the young people in that school had to spend almost two academic years in a learning environment that was failing them. That cannot be right.

Wes Streeting: I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way, and for that example. Does she therefore believe that her predecessor was wrong to listen to the parents, governors and local authority in the case of Snaresbrook primary school, which serves pupils in my constituency? It was deemed inadequate and was going to be converted into an academy, but after listening to the evidence put forward by parents, pupils and the local authority, it is now in the local authority family. Was the previous Secretary of State wrong to do that?

Nicky Morgan: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and welcome him to the House, as I have not heard him speak here before. I cannot comment on the individual circumstances, but my predecessor did not have the option to make an academy order. We will not tolerate the failure of schools. There will be conversion because the academy process, by bringing in a strong sponsor, makes the difference in turning around schools, many of which have languished under local authority control, failing for months on end.

As I was saying, what happened at the Warren school cannot be right. By issuing an academy order straight away, we will ensure that a long-term solution is in place as soon as possible. To further tackle unnecessary delays and ensure swift progress to academy status, the Bill introduces a new duty on governing bodies and local authorities to actively progress the conversion of failing schools into academies. That will send a clear and unambiguous message to all parts of the system that any unnecessary delay is unacceptable when it comes to improving the life chances of our children.

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): There is a lot in the Bill that is good and academies are clearly part of the solution, but so is fair funding. We have talked a lot about that and the previous Government made a commitment to move to a fair funding formula. Will the Secretary of State advise us on whether we will make progress on that soon?

Nicky Morgan: I am conscious, Madam Deputy Speaker, that funding is not at issue in the Bill, but it is important to all schools up and down the country. My hon. Friend might be aware that it was discussed a great deal at Education questions last Monday in this House, when I referred to our party’s clear manifesto commitment to make progress with fairer funding for our schools. I thank him for his support on that and know that it is an important issue to Members in all parts of the House.

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Let me be clear about failing academies: failure has to be tackled wherever it occurs. We support academy status because we see that it works, but where individual academies are struggling, we do not hesitate to take swift action. The statutory legal framework that is being amended in the Bill applies only to maintained schools. Academies are not governed by the statutory framework because they are held to account through a legally binding contract known as a funding agreement. Each funding agreement sets out the controls that are in place for holding the trust to account and the mechanisms by which the Government can intervene to address concerns.

As I have set out, academies are generally performing very well and have progressed faster than their maintained school counterparts. Last week’s Ofsted figures reported that, of the more than 4,600 academies, 1,400 of which are sponsored academies—schools that were set up to transform some of the toughest cases of underperformance —only 145 are judged inadequate. However, as I have said clearly, one failing school is a failing school too many. That is why we have a tough regime to tackle academy failure, which allows us to intervene much more rapidly and effectively than we can in maintained schools.

Open academies are carefully monitored by regional schools commissioners and we take robust action where it is needed. As well as issuing 107 formal notices to underperforming academies, we have intervened and changed the sponsor in 75 cases of particular concern. The results of such intervention are evident.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): I am interested in what the right hon. Lady has to say about failing academies because, as she will know, the regional schools commissioner is involved in one academy in my constituency that Ofsted judges to be inadequate. Will she define what she means by a “coasting school”? That is important because we tend to think of schools as failing when they perform at a relatively low base, but is it not the case that a school can be coasting if it does not push highly academic pupils as hard as it can so that they achieve the best that they can?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. An awful lot of Members want to speak and the interventions are getting very long. If we keep them shorter, everyone will, I hope, get a chance to speak.

Nicky Morgan: I will, of course, adhere to that restriction, Madam Deputy Speaker, and take only a limited number of interventions.

For the second time in a week, I agree with the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne). I will talk about coasting schools in a moment, because they form an important part of the Bill. He is right that this is not just about tackling failure, but about stretching the most able and ensuring that all children make the progress that they are more than capable of.

I was talking about examples of failing academies. Thetford academy was put in special measures in March 2013. The Department replaced the sponsors and brought in the Inspiration Trust, which took the school on in July 2013. The results in the next academic year showed that the number of students achieving five GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and maths, rose by 10 percentage points. A few months later,

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in December 2014, Ofsted judged Thetford to be “good with outstanding leadership”. The report described the school as “transformed beyond recognition” and said that the trust’s leadership and support had created a

“strong culture where only the best is good enough.”

That is why the Opposition’s amendment is without merit. I suspect that the shadow Secretary of State knows that himself, but having failed to identify sufficient Members of Parliament to support either him or the hon. Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) to stand for the party leadership, he knows he has to take up the aggressive anti-choice, anti-academy rhetoric of some Opposition Members and their union paymasters.

Let me deal now with coasting schools, as I was asked to do by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish. Alongside strengthening powers to intervene in failing schools, the Bill provides for the first time measures to tackle coasting schools. As the Prime Minister so clearly put it, “just good enough” should not be enough for anyone’s child. How we will define coasting schools has already generated considerable interest. I welcome the level of engagement from this House and outside it. To support the Bill’s passage, we will ensure that draft regulations on the definition of coasting are available in Committee for Parliament to scrutinise.

Let me set out the principles that will inform the definition. First, I want to make it clear that the definition will be based on pupil performance data and not on a single Ofsted judgment. Where a school is judged to require improvement by Ofsted, it will not automatically fall within the coasting definition. Secondly, the definition will take into account the progress pupils make—whether they achieve their potential based on their starting point and whether, as we discussed, the brightest are being stretched and the less able properly supported. Finally, the definition will be based on performance over three years, identifying schools that have been coasting over a period of time, rather than through a single set of results.

I emphasise that the Bill does not propose any automatic interventions for coasting schools. Coasting schools will be eligible for intervention, but regional schools commissioners will have the discretion to decide the most appropriate course of action. Some coasting schools may have the capacity to improve sufficiently and, where that is the case, they should be given the opportunity to get on with it, without distraction.

Other coasting schools may require additional support and challenge from a national leader of education or a strong local school. By creating this new category of coasting schools, regional schools commissioners will have the power to pair those schools that need to improve with educational experts who can help them along the way. When—and only when—a coasting school has no credible plan or is not improving sufficiently, it is right that regional schools commissioners are able to instigate academy conversion to ensure that pupils and parents get the world-class education they deserve.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Nicky Morgan: No, I am going to make some progress. The hon. Gentleman will have a chance to make his point, both at the end of this debate and in Committee.

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I would like to emphasise the continuing role we expect local authorities to play, alongside regional schools commissioners, in challenging their schools to improve. Local authorities should take swift and effective action when failure occurs in a maintained school, using the powers they already have to issue warning notices, and replace governing bodies wherever necessary. Last year, 90 warning notices were issued by local authorities, but we know that some local authorities have never used their powers. That is why the Bill proposes to give the same warning notice powers to regional schools commissioners. Such notices will give a school the opportunity to tackle the concerns in the first instance, or face necessary intervention where serious concerns remain.

Kevin Brennan rose—

Nicky Morgan: I am not giving way to the hon. Gentleman, because he will have a chance to tell his hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State what he would like him to ask.

Our expectation is that local authorities should work alongside regional schools commissioners to prioritise the schools in greatest need and decide the most appropriate powers to deploy in each case. The education measures in the Bill are about ensuring all children have the same chance to fulfil their potential, expanding opportunities and bringing real social justice to our country.

Let me deal with the part of the Bill that concerns adoption. During the previous Parliament, the Government took decisive action—[Interruption.] It is a great shame that some Opposition Members—and certainly Opposition Front-Bench Members—do not want to listen to what I am saying about an important part of the Bill that deals with adoption. Opposition Back-Bench Members are listening to what I am saying about the important provisions on adoption.

During the previous Parliament, the Government took decisive action to reform an adoption system that was too bureaucratic and time-consuming, leaving children waiting for far too long or causing them to miss out on being adopted altogether. To drive improvements, we have established the National Adoption Leadership Board, chaired by Sir Martin Narey; given £200 million to local authorities through the adoption reform grant; invested a further £17 million in the voluntary adoption sector; and launched a £19.3 million adoption support fund to provide therapeutic support to adopted children and their families.

The numbers prove that those reforms are working. Adoptions have increased by 63% in the past three years, from just over 3,000 in 2011 to more than 5,000 in 2014. Children are also spending less time waiting to be adopted, with the average time between coming into care and being placed with a family down by nearly four months. Those are achievements to be proud of.

The current system is not working as well as it could, however. It is still highly fragmented, with about 180 different adoption agencies, many of which operate on a very small scale.

Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Nicky Morgan: I will if it is about adoption.

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Bill Esterson: It is. I think it was remarkable that the Secretary of State would not give way to my Front-Bench colleague.

Adoption is the right outcome for only a relatively small number of children who end up in care. Although the measures in the Bill on adoption are undoubtedly welcome, will the Secretary of State acknowledge that, for more than 90% of those children, fostering, residential care or kinship care is the right option? The Bill says nothing about that, which raises concern that adoption is being considered the gold standard, when it should actually be only one of a range of options, which should be considered in full.

Nicky Morgan: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Of course, the routes available for giving children a loving, permanent, stable home were considered in full towards the end of the previous Parliament during the passage of the Children and Families Act 2014. Adoption is important, because it gives children a stable upbringing and permanence so that they can progress with their lives and meet their full potential. The Bill addresses one particular aspect of the adoption system that is not working as well as it could, but he is right. Of course the courts will consider all the different options before they get to the point at which adoption agencies operate.

John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend say a little more about the rationalisation of the large number of agencies and councils? It seems absurd to me, given the number of children affected, that such a bewildering number of bodies are involved in this vital process.

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I will talk about that and about why we are bringing forward our proposals. In the first three quarters of 2014-15, 20 local authorities or local authority groups recruited fewer than 10 adopters, and 58 recruited fewer than 20. Similarly, six voluntary adoption agencies recruited fewer than 10 adopters and 10 recruited fewer than 20 adopters. That means that we now need to address the issue.

As I said, the House spent significant time considering adoption during the passage of the Children and Families Act. At that time, the urgent crisis facing the adoption system was the failure to recruit enough adopters. The sector has responded positively to the challenge, and I applaud and thank it for its efforts in doing so. However, we are now facing challenges that go beyond the original one of recruitment. There are still 3,000 children waiting for adoption despite there being enough approved adopters across the country, and we also need better adoption support. At the moment, the specialist support that many adopted children need to address the effects of abuse and neglect in their early life is simply not available in their area.

In response to my hon. Friend, actively encouraging local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies to join forces and work together will act as a triple win. It will give councils a greater pool of approved adopters, make vital support services more widely available to adoptive families and better target the recruitment of adopters. It will also provide better value for money for the taxpayer.

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Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): In my previous life I placed a number of children for adoption. Quite often, mental health problems were one of the key things that needed to be tackled, because of people’s experiences before they came into the care system. Does the Secretary of State accept that mental health remains a major issue that is not being widely tackled within the care system? Children who have been through the care system are five times more likely to take their own life. The Bill does nothing to address that. Can we please consider that at some point in the passage of the Bill?

Nicky Morgan: The hon. Lady raises an important issue. I have mentioned the £19.3 million adoption support fund, which the coalition Government set up and to which the current Government have a clear commitment; £1 million of that has already been spent on supporting 200 families. I am absolutely certain that mental health care and support will rightly be a part of how that money is spent. She is absolutely right. The reason for having the fund is exactly to support those families who have done the right thing by adopting children but who need that additional support to help those children to deal with their previous experiences. I welcome the hon. Lady’s interest. I do not know whether she will be a member of the Bill Committee, but given her previous experiences, I am sure the Minister will welcome hearing from her.

We want to work with the sector to deliver our vision and will provide £4.5 million of support this year to assist with the transition to regional adoption agencies. I am delighted that many key voices in the sector, including leaders from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Adoption UK and the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, have expressed support for that vision.

For those who do not make that step, we need a backstop power that can be used to direct local authorities to come together. That is why the Bill introduces a power to direct local authorities to have certain adoption functions carried out on their behalf by another local authority or adoption agency.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way, especially because I have not been able to hear all of her comments on the Bill. That part of the Bill concerns me. I wonder whether she can reassure me and others who are concerned about the zeal with which some local authorities pursue adoption, and reassure us that the measures she proposes will not shortcut the system. I have a very upsetting case in my constituency. Surrey County Council was adamant and determined that it would have children adopted. The parents were extremely distressed, as I was. I hope my right hon. Friend can reassure the House on that point.

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. I am sure that, in our casework, all individual Members of Parliament have come across examples of very difficult family situations. Decisions are made independently by the courts—it is clearly not for politicians to second-guess those decisions. Clearly, the courts will make decisions in the interests of the children. There are procedures and appeals, and the families are represented, but there are times when adoption is the right route for

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children to be in a stable, loving and permanent home that will enable them to fulfil their potential. The provision in the Bill is simply about making that process work better.

I am coming to the end of my speech and am conscious of the number of Back Benchers who want to speak in the debate. The measures in the Bill are driven by a simple objective: to provide world-class education and care that allows every child and young person to reach his or her potential, regardless of background. We want every child to go to a local school where they learn the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. To achieve that, we need the legislation, which is intolerant of both failure and mediocrity when it comes to our children’s education.

Alongside an excellent education, every child deserves a stable and loving home. To ensure that the thousands of children who are currently waiting to be adopted get that, we need powers to increase the scale on which our adoption services are delivered. Our plan for a world-class education and care system is working, but there is a lot more to do, because this one nation Government want to ensure that every young person, wherever they are born and whatever their background, gets the very best start in life. I look forward to hearing hon. Members’ views both during today’s debate and in Committee. I commend the Bill to the House.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. Before I call the shadow Secretary of State for Education, I should tell hon. Members that I am going to put a time limit of six minutes on Back-Bench contributions—it will follow immediately after the shadow Secretary of State.

5.18 pm

Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab): I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That” to the end of the Question and add:

“this House, while supporting the sponsor academy programme and recognising that no parent wants their child to be schooled in a failing, inadequate or coasting school, declines to give a Second Reading to the Education and Adoption Bill because it fails to set out measures for dealing with inadequate academies.”

It is a privilege to speak in the Chamber under your chairmanship, Madam Deputy Speaker. The amendment is in my name and those of my right hon. Friends.

I agree with the Secretary of State that every parent wants to give their child the best start in life, and that a single day spent in a failing, inadequate or coasting school is one day too long. Parents and pupils are not interested in a four-year improvement project for their schools, and our country cannot wait for a long turnaround.

As the pace of global competition quickens, the demand for an educated workforce intensifies and we confront the gearshift of a digital economy, getting our schools and colleges educating pupils properly is more essential than ever. Swift action, no excuses, doing what it takes—that was the inspiration behind the Labour party’s sponsored academies programme a decade ago, and we still believe in their ability to tackle entrenched

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educational disadvantage. We believe in zero tolerance of poor standards and complacency. We believe in professional autonomy and high expectations. Sponsored academies were and are modern, comprehensive state schools—a classically Labour response to a classically Labour commitment to social justice and equal opportunity.

Mike Wood (Dudley South) (Con): Given the shadow Secretary of State’s welcome commitment to improving schools as quickly as possible, can he tell us whether his recent agreement would bring about those improvements more quickly or more slowly?

Tristram Hunt: I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the House. One of the issues before us today is the evidence for improvement, and looking at what works. It has long been the practice of the Labour party to focus on what works, and we need to focus with clear precision on whether the Bill will deliver the educational improvement that we all want to see.

We would like to have supported the Bill, but following the Conservative party’s rejection of cross-party talks on 14-to-19 education last week, we face, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin)—the best part of Dudley—pointed out earlier, more partisan, dividing-line politics. Rather than taking politics out of our education system, the Secretary of State seeks to divide the House for the sake of ideology. Worse than that is the narrowness of her vision.

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): As the shadow Secretary of State and his party seem to agree with the aims and main purpose of the Bill, why not vote for the Bill tonight and then table strong amendments to deal with the issue of how to tackle failing academies? The Secretary of State might even accept some of those amendments.

Tristram Hunt: Given that the Secretary of State will not even take an intervention from Opposition Members, it is unclear whether she would be willing to accept reforms.

When the late Prime Minister, Baroness Thatcher— the right hon. Gentleman will enjoy this point—first became Education Secretary, she told her permanent secretary, “I am worried about the content in schools, rather than the structure.” Sadly, this Education Secretary is wholly uninterested in what is taught and how it is taught: her first legislative act is yet more structural change. The Government have nothing to say on Sure Start, on effective early-years support, on smaller class sizes, on high-quality teaching, on strong school leadership, on reforming accountability or encouraging school collaboration. They have zero interest in parenting, attachment and early child development.

Education has moved on. The leading jurisdictions around the world are not responding to the 21st century challenge with top-down, target-driven centralism: they are devolving power, broadening the curriculum, learning to let go and unleashing excellence, not mandating adequacy.

Dawn Butler (Brent Central) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend share my disappointment that the Secretary of State failed to meet parents from St Andrew and St Francis School, who want to appeal against it being forced into academy status based on a flawed Ofsted report?

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Tristram Hunt: My hon. Friend makes a valuable point, not least because Ofsted removed more than 1,000 inspectors last week because it did not think that they were up to the job. It is no good Ministers saying, “We can centralise and govern this from the centre. The man in Whitehall knows what is best”, and then refusing to meet parents, activists and communities to be held to account for their decisions.

There is concern across the educational spectrum. Earlier this week, we saw a letter from the headmaster of Rugby school—so not a natural Labour supporter—who pointed out how the new curriculum is leaving children

“ill-equipped for a future that will place a premium on creativity.”

The challenges we face in terms of productivity, skills, social mobility, wellbeing, character and attainment are so much greater than the Government seem prepared to accept.

Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend also aware that we face a recruitment crisis, because teachers are overworked and underpaid? If we carry on treating people with disrespect, they will not want to work in the profession.

Tristram Hunt: My hon. Friend makes a very valuable point. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) made a very powerful intervention in the debate on this subject last week. As the labour market tightens and workloads grow, we will see more teacher shortages and recruitment crises.

We seek to highlight these crucial omissions and to improve the Bill before it receives a Second Reading. As it stands, the Bill fails to set out measures for dealing with inadequate academies and offers no reassurance on the quality of academy chains. It offers a reductive approach to school improvement without a decent evidence base. We regard the centralisation of power in the hands of the Secretary of State as unhealthy and arbitrary. I regard it as wholly opposed to traditional English forms of self-government. The Labour party is passionate about cross-party collaboration when it comes to education, so let me begin by focusing on areas of agreement.

The Labour party supports efforts to speed up the adoption process. Children put up for adoption number among the most vulnerable members of our society. We know that delays can be hurtful. We accept the principle that every step should be taken to minimise the harm a malfunctioning adoption system can sometimes cause vulnerable children. We do, however, have some questions and concerns to put to the Secretary of State.

First, on reorganisation, will the Secretary of State explain how the proposals will proceed by consent, given that proposed new section 3ZA would grant the Secretary of State significant powers of direction? We are not opposed to that per se—the Labour Assembly in Wales has carried out a successful consolidation of adoption powers across different local authorities—but it would be helpful if she could provide more clarity on the process.

Secondly, we have some concerns about hard-to-place children. There are some extraordinarily brilliant small and specialist voluntary sector adoption agencies that carry out tremendous work placing more challenging young people with families. I firmly believe we should retain their contribution to our adoption system.

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Thirdly, I encourage the Secretary of State to set out more detail on how the proposals affect the roll-out of the national adoption support fund and whether there are any plans to extend the range of services that money can be spent on.

Finally, reflecting on the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson), we hope that as early as possible in this Parliament the Government will bring forward proposals on other permanent arrangements. The commitment to reforming adoption is laudable, but we would like to see it matched with a commitment to reform long-term foster care, kinship care arrangements, special guardianships and a closer look at the role of grandparents.

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): I am concerned about the oversight function of local authorities. All too often when prospective adopting parents come before a committee, social workers might have one view and the councillor on the committee a different view, and the councillor almost always gets overruled. Is this something that the Secretary of State should look at?

Tristram Hunt: My hon. Friend makes a very valuable point about accountability procedures, and that is certainly something we will look to take forward in Committee.

We are happy to debate those clauses and other issues in Committee, but glaring deficiencies elsewhere necessitate our reasoned amendment: the shoddy, slapdash incomplete proposed legislation placed before the House today is unworthy of a Second Reading. When the first word of the first clause on the first page of the Bill—“coasting”—is yet to be defined by the Government, they are showing an extraordinary discourtesy to this House. Such is the extension of the Secretary of State’s powers over schools deemed to be “coasting” that I would have thought they knew what they were talking about. Today, for all the lofty principles, we still have no workable legal definition.

As it stands, “coasting” could mean anything: Ofsted results, progress data, attainment scores. In fact, it could just as easily relate to any passing whim of the Secretary of State. Too many children swinging on chairs? Coasting. Too many kids studying the humanities, of which we know the Secretary of State disapproves? Coasting. Too many teenagers aspiring to apprenticeships? Coasting. We just do not know what the answer is, but what we do know is that this is no way in which to approach the serious job of reforming our schools system.

I fear that there will be a confrontation between what the Department for Education regards as coasting and what Ofsted regards as a good school. If Ofsted has classified a school as good and the Department says that it is coasting, where does that leave the schools inspector?

Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab): The definition of “coasting” is not the only thing that is missing from the Bill. A number of other things are missing from it, including references to addressing the teacher recruitment crisis or the school places crisis. Moreover, the Bill makes hardly any mention of parents, although those two issues are very much on their minds. Why do two out of five newly qualified teachers leave the profession within five years, and why are parents of three and four-year-olds so anxious about school places?

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Tristram Hunt: My hon. Friend has made a valuable point. All that we have here is yet more relentless focus on structural reform rather than on the real issues that are affecting our education system. To be fair, however, the Government do mention parents in the Bill: they mention removal of the parental voice.

Lucy Frazer (South East Cambridgeshire) (Con): Did the hon. Gentleman not hear the Secretary of State say that the definition of coasting would be based on pupil performance data?

Tristram Hunt: Does the hon. Lady mean the progress 8 data, the EBacc data, or the data relating to free school meals? Again, it is very unclear what the Conservatives are going for.

The tragedy is that we would like to support action to engage with coasting schools. My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) made a valuable point about how we should define a coasting school. A coasting school could be good or outstanding if one would expect greater achievements from its pupils. We want early intervention to deal with coasting schools. Intervention was part of the reason for the success of the London challenge programme which my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) did so much to deliver, and which did so much to increase attainment in the capital before the Government scrapped it.

It is not the job of Oppositions to give a blank cheque to Governments. We are seeing something similar to the Government’s collapsing Childcare Bill, in which they could not define the funding terms, could not say what constitutes full-time work, and could not explain child ratio rates. They should have done some work before introducing that Bill.

Mr Anderson: Work has already been done in the House. The Education Committee published a report in January, and the Department for Education published a statistical working paper just before the general election, in which it said that it was currently impossible to carry out any reliable statistical evaluation when it came to whether academies were better than traditional schools. What we have here is an attempt to ignore the facts and push through an ideologically driven agenda, which is typical of the Tory party.

Tristram Hunt: My hon. Friend has made an extremely valuable point about the excellent report produced by the cross-party Select Committee. I shall say more about it later.

The same haphazard approach is apparent in the Bill’s failure to deal with different types of school, such as academies and maintained schools, in a fair and consistent manner. There is a great deal in it about inadequate maintained schools, but what about inadequate academies? They do not face automatic interventions. As the Secretary of State knows, 145 academy schools are currently rated “inadequate”. Indeed, eight converter academies have been in special measures since 2013, and all eight remain with their original sponsor. The Sir John Gleed School in Lincolnshire is a converter academy that was rated inadequate in April 2013, and is still inadequate. I make that at least 783 days of inadequacy too many, which is too much for the Labour party.

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Clive Lewis (Norwich South) (Lab): When the Department for Education was asked about quality gradings for academy chains, its response was:

“The disclosure of this information would prejudice or would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.”

The Department does not want any transparency when it comes to judging those academy chains. Why will Ministers not, in this Bill, allow academy chains to be judged like maintained schools?

Tristram Hunt: My hon. Friend makes a valuable point. We are talking about taxpayers’ money, so where are the transparency and accountability on expenditure? Why are parents and pupils at failing academy schools less deserving of fast and effective state intervention than those in the maintained sector? The Labour party believes every child should have a good education in every classroom and opposes this ideological protection of certain poorly performing schools.

Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con): I am baffled, because the hon. Gentleman has mentioned several things in the Bill he supports yet he is unable to support measures to speed up improvements to failing schools.

Tristram Hunt: The question is: what is the best mechanism for dealing with improvements to failing schools? The hon. Lady is new to this House, but I urge her to read the Select Committee’s report, because if she did, she would find that the evidence behind it is a lot more complicated than she suggests.

There is nothing in this Bill to deal with coasting or failing academy chains.

Mrs Spelman rose—

Tristram Hunt: I will give way in a moment. Let us take as an example the case of a school such as St Peter’s Academy, on the border of my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello), looked after by the Woodard Academies Trust, which makes a mockery of the Department’s ability to intervene quickly and spot failure. In February last year, the diocese of Lichfield education board, which co-sponsors but does not operate the school, wrote to Education Minister Lord Nash about its concerns about the Woodard Academies Trust. The DFE conducted a short review and concluded that everything was fine, but everyone in Stoke-on-Trent knew that it was not. Indeed, we all told that to the regional schools commissioner, who had no effective grip on the situation at all. In January, the school was downgraded into special measures, meaning that more than half of the Woodard academy chain schools are now in, or have recently been in, special measures. No wonder the Lichfield diocese no longer has trust in Woodard. This Bill does nothing for the pupils of St Peter’s or schools like it in failing academy chains.

Robert Flello: My hon. Friend is being generous with his time and is giving a good example of how to take interventions. He correctly says that this situation is of huge concern and has been for some time, but where do parents go? They complain, as do we as Members of Parliament, but the complaints fall on deaf ears because of the structure, which seems to be the be all and end all for the Government—it is all about the structure. This structure does not help parents and, most importantly, it does not help pupils get on in life.

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Tristram Hunt: My hon. Friend makes a strong and valuable point. This is further evidence of the atomisation and fragmentation of the English schools system, which is affecting the standards of pupils in schools in Stoke-on-Trent and right across the country. We think that the Secretary of State needs to start putting the interests of pupils above party politics.

Mrs Spelman rose—

Tristram Hunt: I am now delighted to give way to the right hon. Lady.

Mrs Spelman: The explanatory notes state:

“Clause 12 inserts a new section…into the Academies Act 2010. The new section allows the Secretary of State to revoke any Academy order…for example if the Secretary of State decides it would be better to direct the local authority to close the school.”

The hon. Gentleman has just told the House that there are no new powers in this Bill to deal with a failing academy, but surely that is not what the explanatory notes say.

Tristram Hunt: This Bill gives an extraordinary amount of new powers to the Secretary of State, but the Government are asleep on the job. Why have they not acted on St Peter’s school or on the Woodard academy chain? We do not dispute that this Bill gives a great deal of power to the Secretary of State; we just do not think that she is competent to act on the powers that she has been granted. The whole purpose of this Bill is to narrow school improvement—effectively to reduce it to academisation.

As I have already argued, Labour supports academisation as one option for effective intervention in failing schools. The evidence of the sponsored academies programme is clear. We also accept the evidence from the Sutton Trust and others which shows that progress for disadvantaged pupils continues to be faster at those schools than it is at other schools. Had Labour won the general election—we can but dream—I would certainly have expected our new directors of school standards to force through conversions of failing maintained schools and be answerable for those decisions.

When scrutinising this legislation, we do not need to question whether some sponsored academies have a positive impact on progress, standards and achievement. We know that they do. The key question is: why would the Secretary of State constrain herself in clause 7 to this method alone—this one policy of academisation—for school improvement? The reality is that some of the fastest improving schools in the country are maintained schools, particularly in the primary sector. Schools such as the Wellfield Community School, which I was delighted to visit with my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson), went from special measures to good without converting. The extraordinary Hartsholme Primary School in Lincoln jumped from special measures to outstanding. Indeed, between 2012 and 2014, Ofsted data show eight maintained schools going from special measures to outstanding and 201 maintained schools going from special measures to good.

Academisation is not always the answer. Post-conversion inspections show that 8% of primary sponsored academies and 14% of secondaries are currently rated inadequate. The best chains, such as Ark or United Learning, are an important architecture for spreading high standards,

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but chains such as Woodard and E-ACT show that poor performance and complacency are just as easily exported. Pupils at schools run by Prospect Academies Trust were wholly let down by this Government, and children under the Park View Academy Trust in Birmingham were, arguably, put in danger of radicalisation.

The Sutton Trust report shows that the variation between academy chains is “enormous”. It found that the rate of progress for disadvantaged children was lower than the average across all state schools in around one half of the larger academy chains. As was pointed out, the Education Committee report on the academy programme found that the evidence is not sufficient to draw conclusions on whether academies in themselves are a positive force for change.

Bill Esterson: My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech, and I commend him for that. He has drawn attention to the fact that, in the report, it is very clear that the Labour academies were a success—the evidence has been taken over a long enough period to make that judgment. We should rightly praise the previous Labour Government for their intervention and their selective use of academies as a school improvement measure. We took evidence from the Charter School movement that suggested that only a small number of schools should convert at a time. Does he agree that one fundamental problem is that the Government have tried to change too many things at once within the education system and have converted too many academies?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. Interventions are getting very long. The hon. Gentleman is on the speaking list, so he may want to save his gunpowder for when it is his turn to speak. The interventions need to be much shorter. Otherwise, we will not get everybody in.

Tristram Hunt: My hon. Friend makes a valuable point that there should not be a hierarchy of school type. What makes a difference is strong school leadership and great teaching in the classroom, which can be there across a range of different schools. At Committee stage, we will introduce amendments on a quality threshold for conversion. I am talking about a guarantee that only academy chains with a proven track record should be eligible to sponsor new academies. We want Ofsted to be allowed to inspect academy chains as it does in relation to local authority school improvement functions. What is there to hide? We want shorter funding contracts and for academy freedoms to be extended to all maintained schools as well as measures that challenge the stranglehold of poor academy chains by making it easier for schools to change their sponsors—a Bosman ruling for schools introducing autonomy back to the chains. In short, we want action on inadequate academies and encouragement for maintained schools with a strong plan for improvement.

We also wish to see an end to the continued and accelerating process of centralisation in education policy. When I read clauses 8 to 11 of the Bill, my first thought was to wonder whether the Education Secretary had reinstated her predecessor’s poster of Vladimir Lenin in Sanctuary Buildings. The proposed crackdown in those clauses on governors, parents, councillors, teachers and heads who merely wish to express an opinion in a free

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country on the future of their school is something to behold. As the Prime Minister’s former guru, Mr Steve Hilton, said of this Government’s approach to education:

“The Soviet comparison is an apt one—using central command to try and run a vast system. Of course you can squeeze some results out of it and muster some sign schools are improving. But is it the big transformation we want to see to prepare for the 21st century? No”.

Steve Hilton was right. These clauses are an extraordinarily statist attack on civil society and the individual’s ability to express dissent.

Suella Fernandes (Fareham) (Con): I am disappointed by the hon. Gentleman’s accusation of Soviet-style centralisation on the part of the Conservative Government. What is his opinion of the hundreds of free schools that have been set up over the past five years, devolving power and decision making to local groups of volunteers to start up schools where they see a need?

Tristram Hunt: The hon. Lady was not listening. That is not my comparison; it was made by Mr Steve Hilton, who was the Prime Minister’s policy guru. I am just quoting him. Once upon a time, there was an idea called the big society of which the right hon. Gentleman was in favour.

Whatever else we might scorn about the Tory party’s approach to localism, we realise that devolution is valuable. The devolution of transport, skills and health powers to Manchester is a good thing, but there are few things more important to a community’s pride and prosperity than its schools, so why do schools stand in such stark contrast to the devolution offered so far as part of the northern powerhouse initiative? We believe that it is time that decisions to do with new schools and intervention in failing schools were made at a combined authority level. Regional schools commissioners are far too distant to understand the distinctive context of every school and community in their region, and we share the criticism from the National Governors Association of the capacity of commissioners to carry out their functions effectively. In Committee, the Labour party will seek to reshape the Bill with a series of pro-devolution amendments. It is called parent choice, something that the Conservative party used to believe in.

The success of the Labour party’s sponsored academy programme came through a deep and balanced understanding of how we improve schools and tackle educational failure. Our reforms sat alongside the challenge programmes, the National College for Teaching and Leadership, Teach First and sustained investment in teaching and learning. In contrast, the Conservative party offers a 10% budget cut for schools, rising pressures on places, larger class sizes, closing Sure Start, teacher shortages, excessive workloads, a collapse of professional support for head teachers, and a widening attainment gap between the poorest children and their better-off peers. The consequences are already being felt by the most disadvantaged in our society, and the terrible judgment of the Teach First charity is that

“things are getting worse for poorer children, instead of better.”

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The Bill does not do enough to close the gap, raise standards, challenge complacency, unleash innovation or inspire our teachers. It is because we are ambitious for every child in every school in England that we will press our reasoned amendment to a vote.

5.49 pm

Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): I rise to speak in my capacity as Second Church Estates Commissioner, but first I would like to build on the comment I made in response to remarks made by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt). My local authority chose to make all the schools in my constituency academies, and the parents of 7,000 pupils have chosen to have their children educated in the borough of Solihull, so localism and parent choice exist. The only bone of contention for me is that, had the per capita funding those children would have enjoyed were they educated in Birmingham and Coventry, where they reside, followed them, £1,300 more per pupil would have been available. My local authority would very much like that anomaly to be addressed. In health, the money follows the patient; by the same token, in education, it would be good to see the money follow the pupil. I totally support the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker) to ensure that the schools funding formula is adjusted to achieve fairer funding.

The Church of England family of schools is a key part of the education system and dioceses are committed to maintaining high standards and developing capacity across its 4,700 schools in a strategic way. Some 65% of the schools have fewer than 210 pupils, and the Church of England currently runs more than half the small primary schools in England. Although 80% of its schools are in the good or outstanding categories, the Church faces the same challenge of raising standards in the remaining 20%. Schools that are eligible for intervention are defined as those in categories 3 and 4 under Ofsted, so I believe that the idea of coasting is underpinned by the evidence to which the Secretary of State referred.

The Church is not opposed to academisation; it sees that an academy with a strong sponsor can often be the way in which a school improves. The general shift toward multi-academy trusts, rather than single autonomous schools, is largely welcomed by the Church of England, particularly in the light of the number of small rural schools. In its report “Working Together: The Future of Rural Church of England Schools”, published in October last year, the chief education officer of the Church of England said that he is convinced of the need for schools

“to form effective structural partnerships and collaborations”

if some of them

“are to survive into the future… Collaborations are not a means to avoid closure, but are for mutual benefit”.

It is important that strength and capacity are maintained through a strategic approach, rather than decisions being taken on a school-by-school basis. It is the very coherence of the Church family of schools that enables the Church of England to make a significant contribution to education in this country. I therefore seek assurances from the Secretary of State that the Bill and the associated regulations and guidance explicitly recognise the duties of the dioceses and school trustees, who have to preserve the Church of England character of their school. Under the Bill, regional school commissioners will have authority

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to require a school to become an academy; however, they may have only a limited understanding of the position of the diocese in relation to Church schools. The Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to decide who serves on the interim executive body of a failing school. Can she reassure the Church that that body will have regard to the ethos of faith schools, as in clause 5?

The Bill grants new powers to the Secretary of State to require failing schools to enter into a variety of collaborations or a federation with other schools. The Church already has a number of federations, such as the Trinity federation and the Pilgrim federation in the Norwich diocese, which are a mix of Church and voluntary-aided schools. They demonstrate how the individuality of each school has been maintained, which should allay the fears of the National Secular Society that the Church might in some way dominate the non-Church schools. The Church will continue to develop diocesan and Church school-led multi-academy trusts in a way that offers the opportunity to build strong partnerships within the Church school family and that welcomes community schools, as well.

It is important to ensure that the new Government powers of intervention do not limit the Church’s ability to control its existing schools and promote new ones. The Church should still be able to take its own steps to improve the quality of its own provision. I hope that the Government will continue to work with the Church of England and the Catholic Church to ensure that the Bill and any related regulations and guidance meet these concerns.

5.54 pm

Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP): I am delighted to have the support of so many of my colleagues here today as I make this, my first speech to the House. I am honoured to be here representing Glasgow North West, the area where I grew up and where I have chosen to raise my own children.

Glasgow North West does not have the lochs and islands of Argyll and Bute, or the mountains of Skye and Lochaber, but what it does have are some of the most beautiful sandstone buildings anywhere in these isles. Madam Deputy Speaker, I invite you take a stroll along the avenues of Broomhill and past the tenements of Thornwood to enjoy these delights. So inspired was I by this architecture that I left my previous job as a physics teacher to retrain as a stonemason. Perhaps I could offer my services to this building and save the public purse some money. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”]

Glasgow’s dedication to science and engineering has ensured the Clyde’s rich tradition in shipbuilding is world renowned, but there are only two shipyards remaining: Govan and Scotstoun, which is situated in my constituency. When BAE Systems builds ships in Glasgow, it is not mere tokenism; it is because it knows it has one of the world’s most highly skilled workforces at its disposal. When the contract was recently awarded for the Type 26 frigates, my reaction was, “Why not more?” We certainly could be building more if it were not for the obscenity of nuclear weapons.

Glasgow is famous for its love of sport. Only last year, we hosted the hugely successful Commonwealth games, when athletes and visitors were treated to the warmth and hospitality of our Glaswegians, and to the outstanding summer weather we always enjoy. [Laughter.]

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I take this opportunity to congratulate my neighbours the Glasgow Warriors rugby team, who were recently crowned the PRO12 champions. They are the first Scottish team to win an international trophy in the modern professional era.

I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor, Mr John Robertson, who worked hard to serve Glasgow North West for nearly 15 years. He is rightly lauded for his amendment to the 2009 Welfare Reform Bill that ensured that people registered blind or partially sighted could claim the higher level of disability living allowance. John was first elected in a by-election in November 2000, following the untimely and tragic death of Donald Dewar. The name of the seat at that time was Glasgow Anniesland. I am hugely honoured to be representing the same part of Glasgow as Scotland’s first First Minister. It was Donald’s push for devolution that started Scotland on the political journey that has led to the election of me and so many of my colleagues.

I am proud to have been part of Scotland's world-famous comprehensive education system. The 1496 Education Act required every parish to provide a school. This resulted in Scotland making a significant contribution to the period of enlightenment, when the modern world we know today was developed. Today, Scotland still has more universities per head of population than any other country in the world. The value we place on educating our future citizens cannot be overstated. The Scottish Government have ensured that university education is a right that is based on the ability to learn, not a privilege for those who can afford to pay.

Our proud tradition in education is not historical—it is alive and well today. In Scotland we have a new progressive Curriculum for Excellence which starts at age 3 and continues to age 18, ensuring that our students are well equipped as they move beyond school. Although I welcome the UK Government’s plan to follow the Scottish lead in increasing childcare provision for three and four-year-olds, the requirement that both parents must be working means that many children in need of a good start will miss out.

People in Glasgow are struggling under the continued onslaught of austerity. In some parts of my constituency one in every two children is born into poverty. Teaching in a comprehensive school, I was only too aware of the impact this has on the prospects of our young people. I have seen too many talented students struggle because they are hungry, because they cannot study in a damp house or because they have to go out and work to supplement the meagre household income. I have heard the word “aspiration” used repeatedly in this House. Try having aspirations when you are living on the edge of destitution.

I know the difference that great teaching can make to schools and to pupils, but all too often hard-working teachers who are battling to deal with society’s failings are blamed for not doing enough. This has to stop. Unless we start valuing teachers for their contribution, making a school an academy will not change anything, and the crisis in education will only deepen. As a teacher I always had great ambitions for my pupils, but the most important thing a teacher can give to their students is self-confidence. Last September’s referendum may not have returned the result I hoped for, but it did restore the confidence of a nation. We now have an

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engaged electorate who were brave enough to take a break from the status quo and turn to a different type of politics.

Because young people had the vote in the Scottish referendum, they did the unthinkable. They started talking about politics—in the dinner hall, in the corridors and playgrounds and, if they were brave enough, even in some classrooms. The importance of this cannot be overstated. They threw around ideas, arguments and counter-arguments in an entirely safe environment without the influence of older adults, workmates or mainstream media. Could it be that the real reason this House is opposed to votes for 16 and 17-year-olds is that our young people may start to challenge old ideas?

Thomas Jefferson famously said:

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”

We on the Scottish National party Benches are here to ensure that the vision we have for the young people of Scotland is realised. Our dreams will become our children’s reality. Tapadh leibh.

6.3 pm

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate, not least because it is the first one on education since I was elected as Chair of the Education Committee. My first task is to thank all those who voted for me, to whom I am immensely grateful. As we go along, either they will regret it or that number will swell.

It is a great honour to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan), the education spokesman for her party. I have already talked to her about a range of issues. Her speech was very moving and very impressive, not least her reference to the first First Minister.

Coasting schools are not a new issue. We have known about coasting schools for quite a long time. Ofsted produced a report during the previous Parliament about the “long tail of underachievement”, which was in effect a reference to coasting schools. It focused on schools in rural and coastal areas, predominantly primary schools, but that was not its only concern. We need to get it on the record right now that we have always known about coasting schools. They have been a big problem for two reasons. The first is that they have affected our capacity as a nation to be productive. One of the key reports I intend to undertake through the Education Committee is on productivity so that we can tease out the ways in which we can improve our productivity. The second reason is social mobility, which is a key objective of any good Government. It is certainly an objective of the present Government.

A central issue is the definition of a coasting school. It revolves around the word “progression.” Are children progressing? How do we identify whether they are or not? Are they doing so at the right speed? When we discuss the detail of the definition, I hope there will be an emphasis on mechanisms to establish whether children are progressing in school. I believe it is necessary to examine, over a period of time, how children are operating within the teaching and learning framework in their school. “Progression” is a key word to keep in mind.

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Failing schools are fairly obvious because they are judged to be inadequate. A red light goes on and that school has to be dealt with. My concern about saying that once a school becomes inadequate it is therefore failing is that there might be some pattern that we need to know more about. It would be as well to look at the definition of a coasting school to see how the school became inadequate. That should inform the debate.

I have spoken quite a lot about governance and governors. In the previous Parliament, I set up the all-party group on school governance because governance is one of the key elements in whether a school is going to fail and how it deals with the road towards becoming a failing school or, more importantly, becoming a better school. I welcome the clauses that look into intervention and deal with what an interim executive board looks like, how governing bodies are going to be treated, whether they will stay in place and how they will look during the process of improvement. We need more detail not just about how that will operate, but about the make-up of a school governing body and what it will look like in future. I give notice that I will re-present my original governance Bill, which I have talked about previously.

The other aspect on which we do not have enough detail is the role and capacity of our regional commissioners. We need to know more about how they will operate and what tools they will have to do the tasks that are so necessary to tackle schools that have been identified as coasting and therefore require intervention. One task that the Education Committee will want to do is examine the role and capacity of regional commissioners. It would be of great benefit to our understanding of the process if we knew exactly what regional commissioners would look like in two or three years’ time. We need to start plotting that journey now.

On the leadership of schools, the question is always what we do with the head and senior members of staff in a failing school. Again, that should be thought about carefully during the Committee stage of the Bill. I urge all members of the Committee to focus on that.

Last but not least, on adoption, the central point must surely be—

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way before he gets to the adoption section of his speech, and I congratulate him on becoming the Chair of the Education Committee. What does he think about the conclusion of the Committee’s report published earlier this year, which stated that it was still too early to say how much the academies programme had helped to raise standards? Ofsted has said the same thing: there is no evidence that the academies model is the best way of improving standards. So why are he and his party so adamant that that is the way forward, and why are they closing down parental consultation at the same time?

Neil Carmichael: This is actually about whether we should intervene in coasting schools. The hon. Lady is rightly talking about what happens next. We have already heard from those on the Labour Benches that they are quite proud of the academies programme, which they started, but what we have to do is perfect it. That is one of the tasks that underlies this legislation. The Education Committee also looked at whether academy chains should be examined, and we concluded that they should be. We will revisit that matter to ensure that it has been properly tested and discussed.

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On adoption, I do not want the Bill to result in people ending up becoming candidates for adoption because that is the easiest route to take. We need to ensure that the adoption process after the decision that a child is to be adopted is made better. That is in line with the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth). He talked about the risks involved in going down the adoption route when the existing parents were unhappy with the process.

Given those considerations, I welcome the Bill.

6.11 pm

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): Last September could well turn out to be the most important month in my life. I began the month by announcing that I intended to seek the Labour nomination for Mayor of London, and I am hoping to achieve that by this September. More importantly, towards the end of the month, I slipped out of the Labour party conference following the speech by the former Leader of the Opposition—that had nothing to do with his speech, by the way—and made my way to meet my new daughter, whom my wife and I had just adopted. I am here today to raise issues about adoption.

There are just under 70,000 young people in the care system in our country. I see that the Minister with responsibility for adoption, the Minister for Children and Families, is in his place. He will know that it is important that couples with their own birth children should feel able to adopt. I congratulate the previous Government on their success in speeding up the system and in stating that we should not hold up adoption, particularly for black and minority ethnic children, solely on the basis of finding adopters of the same race. Much progress has been made, and we are now seeing many more children being placed for adoption instead of languishing in the system. The Minister did a considerable amount to achieve that, as did the former Secretary of State.

However, there are many foster carers, many children in residential care, and many kinship carers, and they do not feature in the Bill. That is a matter of concern for those outside this place who play such an important role in the lives of looked-after children. If we are serious about finding those children a home for life, it is important that we attract couples with birth children to the adoption process. I hope that the Minister will have something to say about how we are going to achieve that within the system.

We must also do considerably more to support families adopting children who are from much harder target groups than the traditional baby daughter or baby son. They include children with tremendous disabilities, children with profound mental health problems, black and minority ethnic children and children who are older at the time they become available for adoption, some of whom have reached their teenage years. This is a real difficulty in our system, but again the Bill says very little about how those children can successfully find a home.

I am not saying that it is appropriate for all such children to be adopted, however, and there are concerns about forced adoption. There are countries, certainly in Europe, where forced adoption is unusual. We must give better support to poorer parents, for example, and to those with drug or alcohol problems. We must support

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them so that they are better able to parent their children. It is important to stress that this debate is taking place against a backdrop of huge cuts to local government, which are having an impact on children’s services, on budgets for social workers and on the means to support those parents so that they can continue to parent their children, hard though that might be.

I hope that the Minister will also say a little more about what is envisaged for regional adoption agencies. There are some very good agencies out there—I was supported by one of them—and there are bigger agencies that could do more. Some local authorities are already working in consortium to try to attract parents. Also, many children are clearly best suited to being adopted outside their local area because of the complexities surrounding their families.

Will the Minister also say something about the strengths of our maintained school system? It is a matter of tremendous concern that Ministers seem to want to talk only about chain and sponsored academies and not about converter academies. It limits the argument somewhat if they do not acknowledge the fantastic schools in the maintained sector. In the end, the debate must always be about standards and children, and not about structure.

6.17 pm

James Berry (Kingston and Surbiton) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech. It is a pleasure to follow such a fine maiden speech from the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan). It will not have escaped your attention, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I am not the only Berry on these Benches. Indeed, I am not even the only J. Berry. It has become clear over the past few weeks that, if nothing else, I can look forward to a career redirecting the post of my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry).

On the campaign trail, I was asked more than once whether there were any politicians in the family—a slightly odd question, I thought. I answered no, but I have since commissioned my sister, Jane, to do a little bit of research, as she likes family history. It turns out that one of my forebears did give distinguished service to my party, although not as a Member of this House but as a butler at one of London’s Conservative clubs.

I am only the second Member to be returned by the Kingston and Surbiton constituency. The seat was created in 1997 from two seats: Kingston, which was previously held by Norman Lamont, and Surbiton, which was held by Richard Tracey. Both have had distinguished careers since 1997, and I am sure the same will apply to my predecessor, Edward Davey. Having won the seat in 1997, Mr Davey turned his majority of 56 into one of more than 15,000, a considerable feat that my hon. Friends the Members for Gower (Byron Davies) and for Derby North (Amanda Solloway) will be seeking to replicate.

I have no doubt that Mr Davey enjoyed 18 years incumbency in Kingston and Surbiton as a result of hard work and dedicated service to his constituents, and that is something that I am working hard to emulate. As well as being Kingston and Surbiton’s MP, Mr Davey served as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in the last Government. His enthusiasm for wind farms might not have blown away all hon. Members on the Government Benches, but I hope that this

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Government will continue his and the previous Government’s drive to ensure better energy efficiency through home insulation.

Kingston is where England began. In 925 AD, King Athelstan was crowned in Kingston upon Thames, which sat on the border of Wessex and Mercia. Wasting little time, within two years he had conquered the kingdom of the Northumbrians, thereby becoming the first king of all England. I shall spare the blushes of Members of this House from the Scottish, Welsh and Cornish regions by skating over his later military victories.

My constituency does not end with Kingston; it takes in Tolworth, Hook, Chessington, Malden Rushett, Old Malden, New Malden, Norbiton, Surbiton, and parts of Worcester Park. South West Trains permitting, on a journey of less than 20 minutes from Waterloo, you can enjoy a walk down a beautiful stretch of the River Thames in Surbiton, the best retail shopping outside Oxford Street in Kingston, an afternoon’s entertainment at Chessington World of Adventures, and, in the evening, a Korean barbecue in New Malden, which has the largest Korean population in Europe.

Like Tom, Barbara, Jerry and Margo, many people in my constituency enjoy the good life, but many do not. Whether it is the inability to get on the housing ladder in London, the inadequacy of our congested train services, our congested roads, the shortage of primary school places or busy GP surgeries, there are significant issues that need addressing in Kingston and Surbiton. There is much to be done, and I will never shy away from that task.

Most urgent are the issues of transport and schools. Vast swathes of my constituency were created because of the arrival of the railways, but now most of our stations are antiquated, with an unacceptable lack of disabled access. Kingston and Surbiton lie in zone 6, when logic and fairness dictate that they should be in zone 5. Commuter services are massively overcrowded. The 7.59 am train from Surbiton is the second most overcrowded train in this country. It is not acceptable that a commuter who gets on a train as early as 6.41 am cannot get a seat. Declaring an interest, I should point out that I try to take that train myself. I should also note that my wife reminds me almost every morning that we would have got a seat if we had got up earlier and got on the 6.35 am. We need significant investment in our rail infrastructure in Kingston. I will, along with others, be pushing for the extension of Crossrail 2.

If Kingston expanded because of the railways, people now move to our royal borough because of its excellent schools. I had the pleasure of visiting St John’s Primary School on Saturday and Southborough High School this morning. Like these two, almost all the schools in my borough are rated either “good” or “outstanding” by Ofsted. Perhaps a victim of our own success, we now need more quality school places in Kingston. The £4.5 million of funding for extra school places given by my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary in the months before the election was very welcome, but we need entirely new schools, not just bulge classes and expansion of the schools we already have. I will work with the Department for Education, the Education Funding Agency and free school providers to do my best to make sure that happens.

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It is fitting that I should make my maiden speech in a debate about education, since that was my parents’ profession. Their own parents, like so many in Middlesbrough in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, worked in the ICI factories in Billingham. Were it not for the education that my parents received, particularly at the grammar school in my father’s case, I am quite sure that I would not be standing here today. Their education enabled my parents to get on in life—my mother as a special needs teacher and my father as the principal of a teacher training college.

I was reminded that shortly before my father’s retirement, my parents had the pleasure of going to a garden party at Buckingham Palace. Before the party started, my parents took a stroll through Green Park and saw many of the other lucky invitees enjoying their lavish picnics of smoked salmon and champagne. When they found a bench, my father reached into his Safeway carrier bag and produced a Vitalite tub of tinned mackerel sandwiches and a flask of coffee. I have no doubt that as they sat there on that bench in Green Park, my parents were able to reflect on how far they had come from their modest beginnings in Middlesbrough.

It would have been a source of immense pride to my father to have been able to watch me give this speech today, but sadly he died just two days after I was selected. Ever the optimist, he was perhaps the only person to predict that I would win the election. Shaped by his experiences in life and teaching, he believed passionately that education should be the great social leveller. I am proud to support this Bill today because I believe that this Government are putting education and social aspiration at the centre of everything they do. That is why I am proud to be a member of this party and this Government.

6.24 pm

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry). I am fairly sure that his dad would be proud of him today. I know that both he and the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) will make a valued contribution during their time in this House.

Although I have concerns about some of the measures in this Bill, there is much that I welcome. I start by paying tribute to the teachers across Tameside and Stockport, covering my constituency, because they do a good job and we should always remember the work that they do in our communities.

We always remember the good and the bad teachers, never the mediocre ones. I want to tell a little tale about a young person living in Denton who was in year 10 taking GCSE English. He had a teacher who perhaps would not be described as a good teacher, and classroom behaviour was not brilliant. By the end of year 10, that pupil only had one English essay at grade E; everything else was incomplete because the class had been completely disrupted. In year 11, that same pupil had an outstanding English teacher, Neville McGraw. We remember the names of really good teachers—in this case, because that year 11 pupil was me. Had it not been for Neville McGraw at Egerton Park Community High School in 1990, I would not be standing here with a GCSE in English, because my grades had plummeted. That is not

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because I was not able enough—I was; I came out with a good GCSE; it was because of the classroom behaviour, the lack of discipline and the fact that the teacher was not inspirational in the way that Neville McGraw was. I should like to pay tribute to Neville McGraw for my GCSE in English.

The Secretary of State knows that I talk at length about the problem of coasting schools being not just those that are under-performing or performing at a low level. I am just as adamant that secondary schools must do their best for all pupils, including highly academic pupils. I declare a bit of an interest because I am an associate director on the governing body of Denton West End Primary School in my constituency. I have been a governor of Denton West End for 20 years now; it is an excellent primary school. Lots of children leave that school with really superb standard assessment tests at level 5 and level 6, and yet when they go on to secondary school they do not do their very best. I want to impress on the Secretary of State the fact that schools can coast at a relatively high level. If children who left primary school with level 5 and level 6 SATs are not coming out of secondary school with A and A* grades, then that school is doing just as much of a disservice to those children as a low-performing school.

In my constituency we have some outstanding schools, as recognised by Ofsted, including St Mary’s Roman Catholic Primary School and St Thomas More Secondary School. They have the same catchment area as other schools in my constituency that are rated “requires improvement” or “inadequate”. The Secretary of State will know that I have two academies in my constituency—Reddish Vale High School and Audenshaw Academy. I declare an interest in that my son goes to Audenshaw Academy, so as a parent I am very interested in what goes on there. The regional schools commissioner, Paul Smith, is tackling the issues at those schools. I have been working with Paul and with the governing bodies of both schools to try to get a satisfactory outcome.

I impress on the Secretary of State the need to tackle failing academies as much as failing maintained schools. I do not see in this Bill some of the stronger measures that I would like to see so that we can tackle failing academies and bring all schools up to a decent standard.

Robert Flello: I am enjoying my hon. Friend’s speech. One issue I have with academies is that they have a body of directors with no democratic input. I am concerned about one particular headteacher who is also a director, but there is no way to get to the heart of what is going on in her school because the other directors are protecting her. Does my hon. Friend share my concern?

Andrew Gwynne: Absolutely. When there are concerns about a school they must be investigated and tackled appropriately.

That leads me nicely on to the issue of the statutory responsibilities of the directors of children’s services. I have talked to the children’s services directors in Tameside and in Stockport, who both raised their concern that they are statutorily responsible for all children within their borough but lack the tools to do much about poor school standards in academies. I want to see their role strengthened, in liaison with the regional schools commissioners, so that they can work together to drive up standards in all schools in both of those boroughs.

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It would be unfair to say that all academies in my constituency are failing—they are not. Only today, Ofsted declared that Hawthorns special school in Audenshaw—I implore Ministers to visit it, as it is my favourite school in my constituency—is outstanding across the board. That shows what a brilliant school can do. The service the school gives to the children is excellent, and I pay tribute to Moira Thompson, the executive principal, and all the staff.

I say to the Secretary of State that, whatever the framework, the issue is not structures but delivering a good education for children. This is about real aspiration —we talk about aspiration, but education is about raising aspiration. We should be relentless on standards and on getting the best for all children, so that no child is left behind. That is why we need a concerted effort to make sure that the kind of experience I had in 1990 is not repeated in any other school in this land.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. Before I call the next speaker, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his perfect timing. For the avoidance of doubt, I should make it clear that I was rather more lenient than usual with the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry), because I was aware not only of it being his maiden speech but of the very particular nature of the matter he was addressing. However, even people making a maiden speech are required to stick very strictly to the six-minute time limit. The time limit also applies to the next hon. Member, although it is certainly not his maiden speech.

6.33 pm

Mr Gary Streeter (South West Devon) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne). I am sure his former schoolteacher would have been proud of what he said. I found much to agree with in his speech, although it was possibly an error of judgment to describe one school in his constituency as a favourite—he may get some letters and emails from governors of other schools.

If I were an Ofsted inspector I would declare both maiden speeches this afternoon absolutely outstanding. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry) and the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) on them—they were very powerful speeches.

I will talk about adoption. I very much welcome the rationalisation we will see as a result of the Bill. Quite a few parts of the charitable and not-for-profit sector could do with some rationalisation. Perhaps it should happen from the bottom up, but from time to time it requires a nudge from the top, so I welcome that measure. There are some wonderful adoption agencies in the United Kingdom, but there are a lot of them and we would like them to work more closely together.

The broad thrust of my short speech is that I want to put the case for families who adopt to have better access—perhaps even priority access—to services later in life. Most of the input to, scrutiny of and support for the adoption process comes up front and in the immediate aftermath of the adoption. After that, it is all too common for families who have adopted to feel abandoned as events begin to unfold in the precious young life in their care over the months and years ahead. My remarks

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chime with the intervention by the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon), who talked about her own experience in this matter.

I have come to that conclusion based on a number of constituency cases, as well as the experience of a member of my wider family who has adopted a child. I can well remember attending the families day for would-be adopters, at which it is stressed that in almost every case any child being adopted will have gone through at least three major traumatic episodes—abandonment, violence or abuse of some other kind. It is for that reason that the significant decision is taken—it is never taken lightly—to intervene and take that child away and hand him or her to another person.

Watching TV programmes about people now in their 70s trying to reconnect with children they handed up for adoption in the 1960s perhaps gives us a false impression of modern-day adoption. In those days, more often than not, a young mother was forced to hand over a much loved baby within just a few days of birth, because of societal or parental pressure; those children would often go on to flourish in their new homes. Today, a child handed over for adoption has probably—not in every case, but probably—already experienced trauma of one kind or another, possibly lasting months or years. It is almost certain that the trauma of those early years will find its way to the surface one, five or 10 years later.

In truth, adopting a child involves a giant leap of faith. The new parents do not really know much about that child, their DNA, what drugs or alcohol the natural parents may have been on, or the truth about the trauma that he or she suffered and its impact on that young life. It is perfectly understandable why it is that hard-pressed social services departments breathe a sigh of relief once a child is adopted—I can imagine that happening—and move on to their next crisis. I do not blame them: they are very hard pressed. That is one reason why clause 13 could transform adoption, if there is a greater rationalisation in the adoption services.

I believe not just that rationalisation is important but that we need to go further. I welcome the recent decision that looked-after children, including adopted children, will get priority treatment in accessing the school of their choice. I also welcome the fact that they attract the pupil premium. My argument—and this could be the Bill to make this happen—is that looked-after children should receive priority treatment from other services, particularly mental health and social services, all the way through their lives.

Why would that be fair? First, the whole point of our welfare system is surely to put vulnerable people back into the position that the rest of us are in. Secondly, as I have said, it is almost inevitable that where there has been trauma in a young life there will be personal repercussions later on that will require particular attention and support. Priority access to health and other support services would help both the child and the hard-pressed, good-hearted people who have opened their home and taken the child in. Thirdly, we are talking about a statistically small group of people. The impact on everyone else would be minimal, but on that small group it would be significant. Priority treatment should last not just through the teenage years, but for life.

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As the Bill wends its way through its stages here and in another place, I hope some positive things might be added. In particular, I ask the Front-Bench team to think about giving children who have been adopted priority access to services later in life. I realise that there are many positive stories about adoption—my own family is determined that ours will be one of them—but we should not underestimate the scale of support needed as a child comes to terms with the trauma of early years.

6.39 pm

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech in this debate. As usual, the previous maiden speeches have been of the highest quality and are a hard act to follow, although I feel obliged to point out that Scotland is a nation, not a region.

As someone who has lived in my constituency for my entire life, it is a real honour to represent Kilmarnock and Loudoun, and to be here to speak on behalf of my constituents.

Too often when we get elected, we do not pay tribute enough to the thousands of volunteers who work tirelessly on our campaigns, so I would like to put my thanks on record to the people who helped me to get here. This is particularly poignant for me because sadly, my campaign manager, John Mackay, died a couple of weeks ago; his funeral is this Friday. Such was the effort he made for the SNP that he was given a lifelong achievement award back in 2007, but even so, he was still working hard for the party until he passed away. When I asked John to be my campaign manager, he initially said no, but such was the mark of the man that he came back to me the next day and said, “Alan, I’ll give it one more go.” So thanks to John, and obviously, his last campaign was a successful one.

As the new SNP MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, I pay tribute to my predecessor, Cathy Jamieson, who worked hard for her constituents. Although only a one-term MP here, she represented part of the area at the Scottish Parliament, so she has worked at a parliamentary level since 1999. She also acted as a Government Minister, serving at the highest level in Scottish politics, and I wish her well for the future.

Let me describe my constituency for the House. Kilmarnock and Loudoun is a mix of rural and urban and it has a proud history, with vibrant and resilient communities. The fantastic rolling countryside means that in my constituency people can go for great walks, ride on great cycle tracks and paths, ski all year round at a dry ski slope, participate in motor sports, or fish—but you cannae go hunting. People can also try their hands at the only gowf club in the world, so there is lots to see and do in my constituency, and I urge hon. Members to pay it a visit.

Moving on to people and places in my constituency, as the UK moves to remember the 200th anniversary of Waterloo, I advise the House that one of the two French standards captured at the battle was captured by Ensign Ewart from Kilmarnock, and that another hero of that escapade was Hugh Hutchison, who came from the village of Galston.

Kilmarnock Academy is one of the few schools in the UK to provide two Nobel prize winners—Lord Boyd Orr from Kilmaurs, and Sir Alexander Fleming from

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the village of Darvel, who discovered penicillin. The first gas street lights in Britain were provided in the village of Muirkirk, which also pioneered tarmacadam roads. The village of Crosshouse provided a three-time Labour Prime Minister in Australia. We have Dunlop, which is home to the famous Dunlop cheese; Stewarton, where David Dale was born and grew up; the village of Fenwick, with the oldest known co-operative society; and Catrine, which is one of the original mill towns in Scotland and had one of the original cotton mills. We also have the villages of Sorn, Lugar, Logan, Gatehead and Knockentiber, which have been closely associated with the coal mining industry, in line with many other communities in my constituency.

If I may, I will make the obligatory football reference. My constituency has the oldest professional team in Scotland, Kilmarnock FC. Killie FC are currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of their historic league championship win, as the only non-city team in Scotland to win the league championship. Sticking with football, recently I was at the Scottish junior cup final, where I witnessed Auchinleck Talbot win the cup for a record 11th time. Last year, Hurlford United won the cup as well, so there is a good football pedigree in my constituency.

The constituency is also Burns country. The bard moved to Mauchline, where he met his wife, Jean Armour. Kilmarnock gave us the Kilmarnock edition of Burns’s early works, and that is what set him on his way. Probably not so well known to the House is that a minister from the village of Newmilns—my original home village—persuaded Burns not to emigrate to the West Indies. Thanks to my constituency and that combination of events, we are able to enjoy Burns, and I would like to quote one of his greatest phrases:

“That Man to Man, the world o’er,

Shall brothers be for a’that.”

For me, that is all about equality, but we can see how that does not chime with what is happening in this House at the moment. Equality is not cutting £12 billion from the poorest in our society. It is not doing what happened last week, when a vote in this House deemed that some people in this country are not equal and should not be able to vote. I think that is an outrage. Where is equality, when we have the House of Lords next door? There is a democratic deficit and I cannot believe that the Tories want to address that by cutting the number of elected representatives rather than the number of unelected representatives. Where is equality when we have people depending on food banks? We have heard today that there is a clear link between sanctions and food banks, despite what the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said earlier.

Equality should be underpinning this debate on education. As we heard earlier, education should be a right, not a privilege. We should not put a glass ceiling on aspiration through financial constraints. That is why in Scotland the Scottish Government continue to support the poorest in society to make sure that they have access to education.

6.45 pm

William Wragg (Hazel Grove) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry), and the hon. Members for

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Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) and for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown), who all made excellent maiden speeches.

I am grateful, as a former teacher, to be afforded the opportunity to make my maiden speech during this debate. Only time will tell if my audience this evening is as receptive as my former students, or indeed, whether the Secretary of State will rate my speech, through the lens of Ofsted, as either “Outstanding” or “Good”—or perhaps “Requiring Improvement”, although I hope not “Inadequate”.

It is the greatest honour of my life to have been elected to this House as the Member of Parliament for my lifelong home of Hazel Grove. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Sir Andrew Stunell, who retired at the last election. Sir Andrew had been an assiduous Member for the constituency since 1997 and was held in high regard by many. He secured a reputation as a strong constituency MP, which is something I seek to emulate. I wish him and his wife, Gillian, a happy retirement.

Since arriving at this House, I have been very disappointed by hon. Members’ geography skills—there is clearly some work to be done there, Minister. When I say “Hazel Grove”, the question all too often has been, “Where’s that?” Saying “Near Stockport” helps some. “Near Manchester” helps a few more, but so far “The North” has sufficed for most. Indeed, several hon. Members have inquired not “Where?”, but rather “Who?” this newbie by the name of “Hazel Grove” is—only to be disappointed that she is not one of “Cameron’s cuties”. “Hazel Grove” is not simply my weekend name; it is the constituency of my birth, where I was educated and have lived all my life.

If the orientation and name of the constituency confuse hon. Members, the fact that it contains numerous and varied villages and small towns besides Hazel Grove itself will only muddy the waters further. From Bredbury and Woodley in the north to High Lane in the south, and from Marple Bridge and Compstall in the east to Offerton and Great Moor in the west, the constituency is united by a rich history and strong community spirit.

It was Marple where John Bradshaw, lead judge at the trial of Charles I, heralded from. The same place gave Agatha Christie the name of her eponymous detective heroine. Lacking inspiration one day, her train pulled into Marple station and out of the window—there it was, and the character of Miss Marple was born.

Parts of my constituency feature in the Domesday Book. In 1066, Bredbury, Romiley, Norbury and Ludworth collectively generated a total taxable income of £7. I am pleased to inform the House that living standards, as well as tax receipts, have risen in the area considerably since then, not least in recent times, because of Her Majesty’s Government’s long-term economic plan.

The name “Hazel Grove” came about in 1836 as a rebranding exercise. The old name, “Bullock Smithy”, had somewhat negative connotations. It was infamous for drunkenness and criminality—indeed, the number of pubs and alehouses rivalled the number in the Palace of Westminster. In 1750, the Methodist leader John Wesley preached in Bullock Smithy, describing it as

“one of the most famous villages in the country for all manner of wickedness.”

Quite what he would have made of the Westminster village, I am not too sure. However, he was kinder to another part of my constituency, Mellor, describing the views from the foothills of the Pennines as “paradise”.

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As Hazel Grove is a commuter district of Greater Manchester, the issues of travel, public transport, road and rail links receive a great deal of attention from local residents. I have long campaigned for improvements to road schemes and the A6 to M60 link road in particular is something that I am keen to see delivered. Other priorities of mine will be to champion improvements in local healthcare, including in mental health provision.

I also hope that my experience as a teacher will stand me in good stead for pursuing improvements in education for our children, so that they can get the best start in life and fully develop their talents. I would like to place it on the record that the children I have taught and worked with have been the single greatest inspiration to me: their creativity, humour and resilience are truly qualities to be cherished.

I am pleased that the new Government intend to further improve education, particularly in the area of funding by protecting the total schools budget and introducing a fairer funding formula, so that similar pupils get the same funding, no matter what part of the country they live in. The Bill concerns raising the standards in our schools still further through their conversion to academies, where that is deemed to be the most appropriate course of action. Part of the Government’s plan for education over the next five years is to tackle coasting schools. For some of those schools, becoming an academy may be the best route to sustained improvement. However, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education has made clear, where head teachers have a plan and the capacity to deliver it, they will be given time to improve on their own.

I welcome the approach that has been taken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in engaging with the teaching profession. A collaborative approach is the best way to secure improvements. The Workload Challenge was a positive step from the Government and I would like to see more of that approach. We need to take seriously the issue of teacher retention and morale. Above all, we must endeavour to make the Ofsted process more something that is done with, rather than done to, schools.

It has been a pleasure to make my maiden speech in the House today. I am proud to support the Bill, delighted to speak in this debate and honoured to serve my constituents in Hazel Grove.

6.51 pm

Liz Saville Roberts (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): Rydw i yn ddiolchgar i’r Dirprwy Lefarydd. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (William Wragg) and the many other Members who have made excellent maiden speeches.

It is indubitably an honour, without precedent in my family, to address the House today. I am deeply humbled that the people of Dwyfor Meirionnydd have invested their faith in me as their representative. I will strive to be worthy of that trust.

I am very aware that I follow in the footsteps of many illustrious Members. The regions that form the constituency of Dwyfor Meirionnydd have sent exceptional Welshmen to London, in their midst Tom Ellis and David Lloyd George, and two giants of the Welsh national movement, Dafydd Elis Thomas and Dafydd Wigley.

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My immediate predecessor, Elfyn Llwyd, was elected in 1992 and contributed greatly to Plaid Cymru’s parliamentary reputation for punching above our weight. From my first day here, it has been evident that Members and Officers of the House alike held him in the highest regard. Elfyn contributed extensively to improving legislation for victims of domestic violence and stalking. He was an advocate of the rights of veteran soldiers. He will be remembered as a foremost critic of the Iraq war, who called for the impeachment of Tony Blair. That role continued in his scrutiny of the Chilcot inquiry, which, disgracefully, we still await.

The pinnacle of the constituency is the greatest mountain of Wales and England, Yr Wyddfa. Hill forts and castles stand as bastions of our heritage, but first and foremost it is a landscape whose history is treasured in the names of farms and fields.

Welsh is often referred to as the oldest language of Britain. That is quite true, but we should be wary of the implications of romantic archaism and redundancy. Where I live, Welsh is not an optional extra; the majority of people speak and use the language in every aspect of their lives. Someone who speaks both Welsh and English inherits two cultures and two societies, and is the wealthier for it. Welsh is not my first language, but it is my home language.

Cheek by jowl with its natural beauty, Dwyfor Meirionnydd bears the scars of its industrial past. The slate and granite quarries, a number of which are still in production, were major employers. The narrow gauge railways that linked them to the coast now carry a freight of visitors. In the hands of dedicated amateurs, attractions such as the Ffestiniog railway provide valuable training opportunities for young people. Tourism is our major industry: from classic bucket-and-spade, blue-remembered beach holidays to high-adrenaline mountain-bike routes, surfing, zip-wires and underground trampolines.

Although a region must play to its strengths, we should be alert to the disturbing truth that, while official unemployment is relatively low at 1.7%, more than 50% of employed people earn less than the living wage. Well-paid employment prospects remain greatly dependent on the public sector. Regardless of whether that is sufficiently “aspirational”, in the popular vernacular of Westminster, the prediction of ongoing job losses as all publicly funded bodies see their budgets slashed will stifle economic growth across the constituency.

The region has been the home of major developments in energy production. Maentwrog and Ffestiniog power stations were the first of their kind in capacity and innovation. Trawsfynydd nuclear power station ceased production in 1991. The Snowdonia enterprise zone seeks to create employment to replace jobs as decommissioning winds down in the next few years. Recently, Llanbedr airfield was placed on a shortlist of six possible sites to be the home of Britain’s first domestic space hub. Landowners are alert to the income potential of renewable energy schemes, regardless of what we heard this morning, although the National Grid needs to be improved to permit additional generation. The same can be said of high-speed broadband, which is yet to reach a number of rural communities and farms.