Secretary of State Faces First Education Questions
Ensuring that technical education achieves the same progress as academic education is vital for our employers, says the Secretary of State for Education in her first Education Questions.
In the first Education Questions since coming into office, the Rt Hon Justine Greening was questioned about a range of topics, including the new Office for Students, grammar schools, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), apprenticeships and the quality of technical education.
After welcoming her new ministers into their roles, the Education Minister responded to the first question by explaining that students would definitely play a role in the new Office for Students and their voices would be represented.
No details were given, however, on how these students would be selected, following Michael Fabricant MP’s call for the National Union of Students to be excluded from the Office due to recent controversies surrounding its president.
Questions from Neil Carmichael MP (Cons), Mary Glindon MP (Lab), Andrew Bridgen MP (Cons), Helen Whately MP (Cons) and Gordon Marsden MP (Lab) challenged the Department for Education ministers to release more information about their policies on skills and technical education, including the new apprenticeship levy.
In response, Robert Halfon, the Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, said that the amount spent on apprenticeships would double by 2020 with an additional £2.5 billion of funds being made available, and that the Government was well on its way to the target of three million apprenticeship starts in the same period.
Citing FE Week’s Save Our Apprenticeship campaign, backed by Labour’s Gordon Marsden, the Skills Minister said the Government had already saved two and a half million apprenticeships over five years, adding, “If that’s not saving apprenticeships, I don’t know what is”. The Minister also argued that Mr Marsden’s concerns about reduced apprenticeship funding for 16 to 18 year olds “ignored” STEM uplifts and the additional funding being made available to small businesses for employing young apprentices.
Edward Timpson, the Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families, also confirmed an additional £200 million of capital funding to support the improvement of facilities in institutions offering SEND provision with more information available soon.
In response to other queries about impending deadlines, the ministers announced that the Government would respond to the first stage of the Fairer Funding Formula consultation shortly and the new apprenticeship funding policy would be published soon.
Local MP Lilian Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South, challenged the ministers on the figures revealed this week which show one in five teachers are working 60-hour weeks. In response, Minister of State for School Standards Nick Gibb argued that the figures used were based on a 2013 survey and the Government was already acting on new recommendations.
Michelle Donelan MP (Cons) also challenged the ministers from her own party on the decision to prioritise computer science over design and technology in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) curriculum when there is a larger shortage of engineers.
In response, Mr Gibb said that while the design and technology GCSEs had been reformed and he had no doubt that more students would want to take them in the future, the priority of the EBacc was to focus on pupils studying the traditional sciences.
The session also included a debate on the new plans to expand grammar schools, with the Education Minister clashing with her Labour counterpart Angela Rayner MP on the evidential support for selective schools.
You can watch the session in full here.