Gavin Williamson – 2020 Speech on Education

Below is the text of the speech made by Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education, in the House of Commons on 14 January 2020.

May I say how delighted I am to see so many new faces among us? They could not have arrived at a more exciting time. This Government have a historic mandate to push through an ambitious and challenging agenda, to make changes that will transform the lives and prospects of a generation. We are poised to shape a new Britain. We are primed for a new era. This Government are ready to ensure that Britain can seize the opportunities that lie ahead of us after we leave the European Union—a Britain where the young people of today are prepared for the world of tomorrow.

Education is a mirror to the kind of society that we want to see—an open, flexible tolerant and supportive society where everyone, wherever they are from and whatever their talents, has the chance to achieve their dreams and ambitions. Since becoming Education Secretary, I have been committed to making those ambitions a reality. As Her Majesty the Queen set out in her Gracious Speech on 19 December, we are about to embark on a full programme to ensure that everyone feels the benefit of these changes.

Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)

The Secretary of State has sent me a most welcome spreadsheet telling me what schools in my constituency can expect from the settlement he has reached. I am glad to say that all my secondary schools are set to receive more than £5,000 per pupil, but how will he ensure that they get it and that local authorities will not increase their slice or use their own formula to redistribute it?

Gavin Williamson

I thank my right hon. Friend for making such an important intervention, and for his compliment on the spreadsheet, which is a compliment I have not received before. He makes an important point about making sure that money that has been allocated to schools is going to be properly passported through. It will be the Government’s intention to move a statutory instrument to ensure that the minimum funding of £5,000 for every secondary school and £3,750 for every primary school is passported through to schools in the next financial year. For primary schools, that will obviously be increased to £4,000.

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Gavin Williamson

If I may, I will take the opportunity to make some more progress. The hon. Gentleman always has lots of interventions that can be placed at any point in a speech, as they usually have very little relevance to the speech taking place.

Money spent on schools is an investment in our futures. I am pleased to say that we are going to deliver the biggest funding injection into schools in a decade. Over the next three years, we are going to put an additional £14.4 billion into schools in England, with areas in most need seeing the greatest gains. My Department is acutely aware of the huge responsibility we have for all our children, but none more so than the most vulnerable, especially those with special educational needs. That is why we announced £780 million additional high needs funding for the following financial year, an increase of 12% compared with this year. That will be the largest year-on-year increase since the high needs funding block was created in 2013, and I am sure it is something everyone will welcome.

Alex Cunningham rose—

Gavin Williamson

I am sure the hon. Gentleman is about to welcome it.

Alex Cunningham

I always welcome additional finance for special needs, but schools in Stockton also know what they are going to get. They are going to get a £6.2 million reduction or shortfall by 2020, a loss of £210 a pupil. How is that fair?

Gavin Williamson

The hon. Gentleman has never been known for his skill at maths. If he were to look at the Confederation of School Trusts figures, an independent organisation that has done the calculations of what every school will receive, he will see that every school is getting a per pupil increase in funding. It is a shame that he did not take the opportunity to welcome that.

One of our most pressing priorities is to make sure that all children in care or in need of adoption are given a loving and stable home. We are providing councils with an additional £1 billion for adult and children social care in every year of this Parliament. That is alongside the £84 million to be spent over five years to keep more children at home safely. We are also going to review the care system to make sure that all care placements and settings provide children and young adults with the support that they need.

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con)

West Berkshire and Wokingham are very appreciative that at last we are going to get a bit more money, which we really need for our schools, and I am grateful for the work the Secretary of State has put in. Does he agree that, to get many more people to fulfil their potential, schools in their careers education should identify self-employment, as well as jobs, as a very good way of fulfilling people’s expectations in many cases? That often gets ignored.

Gavin Williamson

My right hon. Friend makes an important point about the need to encourage entrepreneurialism within our education system. We see this in many schools, and of course we also see it in many further education colleges and universities. I was very fortunate to visit King’s College London recently to see the brilliant student business incubator model it has there, which is making such an impact. How do we ​expand that to more universities, while making sure that schools are teaching the value of entrepreneurialism in what they are doing?

Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con)

Is the Secretary of State aware of the excellent families of schools initiative, which works with primary schoolchildren —again, exactly the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood)—in extolling the benefits of self-employment to very young children to instil such values at that age?

Gavin Williamson

My hon. Friend highlights an important scheme that is going out there and selling the virtues of entrepreneurialism at the start of a child’s educational learning. That is certainly something we very much want to encourage across the education spectrum.

We all know how important a loving home is to a child’s development and we want to give parents all the support we can. We have announced a new £1 billion investment to create more high-quality, affordable childcare provision for families with school-age children, including a £250 million capital fund to help schools to overcome barriers to offering on-site childcare provision. The aim of this Government is always to be there supporting parents and families as they bring up their children.

Thanks to our reforms, standards in schools have been rising, but that does not mean that this is the moment to ease up or stop that progress. Schools should be safe and disciplined spaces, where pupils can learn in a happy and secure way. That is why we are investing £10 million to establish behaviour hubs to help teachers who are having to deal with disruption in the classroom and within a school. We are also expanding alternative provision schools for troubled or disruptive youngsters. We have launched a £4 million alternative provision innovation fund. Projects being run as part of that will guide our plans for this important sector, which needs reform and change.

Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)

I am a former teacher, and believe me, behaviour was probably the most important thing in ensuring that I had the space to be able to deliver such content. Does the Secretary of State not appreciate that a lot of these children are behaving in that way because they do not have support, and much of the way in which they used to get that support was through things such as youth services? Has he planned any extra money for youth services and support for young people who are often facing adverse issues at home and desperately need help themselves?

Gavin Williamson

I thought the hon. Lady was going to talk about our youth investment fund, and the half-a-billion pound investment that has been pledged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a real difference. [Interruption.] The Liberal Democrat Member sneers at the mention of half-a-billion pounds as if this is a small amount of money, but I think most Conservative Members recognise that half-a-billion pounds is an awful lot of money.

Suella Braverman (Fareham) (Con)

Speaking about behaviour and discipline, the Secretary of State and indeed his Minister for School Standards will be very much aware of Michaela Community School, which they have both visited and have supported over many ​years. It is an outstanding free school, which I co-founded and chaired. Does he agree with me that such schools—free schools where innovation in education has been pioneered and disciplinary methods have succeeded—are working to revolutionise education in this country, and that had the Labour party got into power, they would be no more?

Gavin Williamson

The Labour party’s ideological hatred of free schools is, frankly, quite shocking, as we see those like the Michaela Community School making such an enormous difference to the local community. I would like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work she did along with Katharine Birbalsingh, who has worked so hard to create this shining example of what can be done—changing the lives of so many children from some of the most disadvantaged communities in London. That is what we want to be seeing more of, not less, and that is what this Government are going to deliver.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Gavin Williamson

I am going to make some more progress, as I have been very generous in allowing interventions.

We have made great strides with the more rigorous academic programmes of study, but we know that the arts are vital in helping young people learn creative skills and widen their horizons. We also know that the creative industries play an important role in the United Kingdom economy. For those reasons, we will offer an arts premium to secondary schools to fund activities from 2021. We will also continue to fund music education hubs next year, with an extra £80 million.

I would now like to come on to standards. Thanks to Ofsted inspections, we have seen standards in our schools rise continuously since 2010. Plans are in place to take forward our pledge to lift the inspection exemption that currently applies to outstanding schools. That will mean parents have up-to-date information and reassurance about the education being provided by their child’s school.

Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)

I was a schoolteacher up to the last general election and have worked as a head of year in the pastoral system and have worked both in London and inner-city Birmingham. Does my right hon. Friend share my opinion that it is terrifying to think that had Labour got into power it would have scrapped Ofsted, leaving our children in a much more dangerous position going forward?

Gavin Williamson

My hon. Friend and fellow Staffordshire Member makes a powerful point, because what the Labour party was doing was throwing away the ability to ensure that we enforce ever-increasing standards and better attainment for our children. What is even more disturbing were the proposals to scrap Ofsted. Labour was saying that for those children who are most vulnerable—those who are in social care—there would be no independent inspectorate to make sure that their interests were being protected, and it was letting local authorities mark their own homework. That is not what any of us wish to see. I hope that the Labour leadership race will give Labour the opportunity to ​rethink some of its more imaginative policies and come back with something that works for both pupils and parents.

Since 2010 the Government have been transforming the education system to place more autonomy and freedom in the hands of teachers, giving parents more choice. The free schools programme has been a key part of this and is a stand-out success. Our manifesto pledges to build more free schools, to continue to promote innovation and to continue to drive higher standards in schools, especially in some of the communities that are most deprived and that need to see something better in the education provided.

Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con)

Does my right hon Friend agree that Stoke-on-Trent is exactly the sort of place where we should be building a new free school?

Gavin Williamson

My hon. Friend makes a very powerful case, and I look forward to working with him and other Conservative Members who represent the great city of Stoke-on-Trent to look at how we can ensure that we have the right type of education provision there and that we continue to raise educational standards, which, sadly, under Labour representation on the council and often at parliamentary level, were not as high as our aspirations for that great city.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)

Does the Secretary of State agree that, although it is not always the best rule, good guidance is evidence-based policy, and is not the evidence still that early-years intervention and pre-school stimulation for children from poorer backgrounds is the best value investment our country can make?

Gavin Williamson

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about the importance of evidence-based investment in education. I know that he has had an interest in education over many years, so I am sure he will be keen to look at some of the opportunity areas we have been investing in, one of which is in Bradford, which is very close to his own constituency, and there is also one on the north Yorkshire coast. They are delivering real results in terms of children’s attainment, especially in the early-years environment. I would be more than happy to share information with the hon. Gentleman on the work being done in those opportunity areas.

Let me go back to the subject of free schools. A disproportionate number of the free schools we have created have been built in London and the south-east. I want to see this revolution in education delivery rolled out, spread much more widely through the midlands, the north and the south-west of England, driving up standards and attainment in all our schools and all our communities.

It is obvious that to deliver these world-class standards we need more of the very best teachers to join those we already have. That is why we have pledged to raise starting salaries to £30,000 by 2022, which will put teaching on a par with other top graduate professions. We are also offering early career payments worth up to £9,000 to new physics, mathematics, languages and ​chemistry teachers, in addition to generous bursaries of up to £26,000. Simply, we always want to attract the very best into the profession, and that is what we are determined to do.

Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)

The teacher salaries the Secretary of State is talking about will, of course, be welcomed by the profession; they do not match the salaries in Scotland yet, but he is moving in the right direction. Can he confirm that those teaching in free schools and academies will be paid the nationally agreed pay rates, because at the moment they are not?

Gavin Williamson

I thought the hon. Lady was going to raise some exciting prospects. One of the key areas where we can get so much benefit is schools working together right across the country, whether through multi-academy trusts or local education authorities, and I thought the hon. Lady was going to suggest that we have more collaboration between England and Scotland, which we would very much want. The hon. Lady has already heard of our commitment to raise the starting salaries for teachers and to negotiate in terms of teachers’ salaries, and to make sure we listen to what the pay review board comes forward with. But I would like English schools and Scottish schools and those in Wales and Northern Ireland to have much more collaboration—whether in the university sector, the FE sector or the school sector, we can all benefit from that. We have seen great attainments, as were celebrated in the PISA results, where we saw English schools making very good progress. It would be good to have the opportunity to work closely with our Scottish colleagues on how we can share best practice from both Scotland and England.

Our future economic prosperity will depend on having a workforce that has the skills that businesses need now and into the future. We will invest an additional £3 billion over the course of this Parliament to support the creation of a national skills fund, which will build on existing reforms, including ongoing work to develop a national retraining scheme. This is on top of additional capital investment of £1.8 billion into the further education estate, investing in the skills and education required for our nation’s future.

Talented international students and researchers are queuing up to study in the United Kingdom, and they enrich our universities culturally and economically, bringing fresh ideas and new perspectives. That is why the Government aim to host 600,000 international students by 2030. Our new student visa will help us attract the brightest and best and allow those students to stay on to apply for work here after they graduate.

As we prepare to forge a new place on the international stage we want our young people to have the opportunity to study abroad through exchange programmes. The United Kingdom is open to participation in the next Erasmus+ programme, and this will be a question for future negotiations with the European Union. We do truly understand the value that such exchange programmes bring all students right across the United Kingdom, but to ensure that we are able to continue to offer that we will also develop our own alternative arrangements should they be needed.

I have been focusing until now on the ways that we are going to enrich the educational experience for all our pupils and students, but in just the same way as our ​postcode should not be a lottery that decides the kind of schooling our children receive, it should not determine whether we feel safe when we close our front door. For that reason, we are bringing forward legislation to further the recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review on building safety, and we will give residents a stronger voice, ensuring that their concerns are never ignored.

We also committed to taking forward the recommendations of the first phase of the Grenfell Tower inquiry report to ensure that the tragedy of Grenfell Tower never happens again. We are working to deliver a rental system that protects tenants and supports landlords to provide the homes the nation needs. We will abolish no-fault evictions, helping tenants to stay in their homes while ensuring landlords are given the protections they also need. We are determined to improve standards in rented accommodation and to professionalise the sector. There is no place in this country for squalid or unsafe rented properties. We will make sure that all tenants have a right of redress if theirs is not of an acceptable standard.

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab)

This may be a question more appropriately directed at the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the right hon. Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick), who is sat next to the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench, but he mentions Grenfell and dealing with fire safety issues. The problem is that, at present, there is a difference according to where you live. I know the Government are doing a review, but if leaseholders have a form of cladding that is not of limited combustibility but is not ACM cladding, basically there is no help for them. Many are living in flats that are now unsaleable. The Government really have to address that issue. I look forward to a commitment that that will be done, if not from him then from his colleague next to him.

Gavin Williamson

As the hon. Gentleman said, that is currently being reviewed by an expert panel. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government will go into more detail when he responds to the debate at close of business today.

We, as a Conservative party, understand the importance of owning your own home. As a Government committed to a fairer society, it is crucial that we address the divide between those who can afford their own home and those who cannot. Our first-home scheme will provide local people with a discount on the costs of a new home, which will save them tens of thousands of pounds. Our shared ownership reforms will provide a further route to home ownership. We will deliver at least 1 million more homes over the next five years to help more people on to the housing ladder. We will also put an end to the abuse of leaseholds by banning new leasehold houses and restricting future ground rents to a peppercorn.

No less important than people’s homes are the communities they live in. We are committed to keeping our town centres vibrant. We are changing the business rate system to give small retailers a bigger discount on their rates, as well as extending the discount to cinemas and music venues, and, importantly, introducing additional discounts to pubs. We will conduct a fundamental review of business rates and we will increase the frequency of business rates revaluations.​
It is the Government’s intention to unleash the potential of every corner of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland by bridging the productivity gap, levelling up opportunity and prosperity across the nation, and starting a skills and infrastructure revolution. We will create more mayors across England to devolve power away from Westminster, and we will bring forward a framework for devolution and a White Paper.

I do not want to delay any further in getting straight on with the work of this challenging and ambitious agenda; an agenda that is driven by fairness and that will make a difference to more people, enabling them to look forward to a future with optimism and confidence. In Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech, we see the beginnings of a better Britain for everyone. I commend the Gracious Speech to the House.