The speech made by Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow, in the House of Commons on 28 March 2022.
I welcome the White Paper. I think that we are seeing the beginnings of a long-term plan for education, especially given tomorrow’s publication of the special needs review and the publication of the care review. The Government have begun to provide a washing line for all the clothes pegs of different educational initiatives. The parent pledge and the catch-up plan are also important.
The White Paper refers to a knowledge-rich curriculum. I am thoroughly in favour of that, but what about a skills-rich curriculum to sit alongside it? I see that the skills Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Alex Burghart), is paying close attention. Such a curriculum would prioritise skills including oracy and financial, technical and vocational education, reverse the huge decline in design and technology skills, and prepare students better for the world of work.
What does the White Paper do for children from care backgrounds, exclusion backgrounds and special needs backgrounds who underperform in GCSEs to such an extent in comparison with their peers? We know the grim statistics.
How will this White Paper help them? How will the curriculum better prepare pupils for the world of work? Perhaps one of the most important priorities is the 124,000 Oliver Twist ghost children, who are possibly on our streets. What is he doing about those children who have not returned since schools reopened last year?