31 Aug 2012 13:45:56

Graham Brady casts back to the grammar schools row

By Peter Hoskin
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Graham BradyIt may not normally be part of your diet, but the latest issue of the New Statesman contains some tasty morsels for the political glutton. There’s a useful analysis of the Miliband and Balls axis by Rafael Behr; a flat-out brilliant article about political cartooning by Helen Lewis; and an interview with Graham Brady by Caroline Crampton, which is what we’ll focus on here. The subject of the interview — other than Mr Brady himself, of course — is grammar schools. From the back garden of his home, a calm setting for a calm and informative article, he casts back to the row that saw him resign from the Tory front bench in 2007.

The coverage of this interview appears to have picked up on the attacks that Mr Brady makes against official Conservative grammar schools policy. And it’s true, there are some caustic observations amongst what he says. For instance, this:

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20 Apr 2012 13:54:55

One hundred Tory MPs turn out for grammar schools reception

By Tim Montgomerie
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On Tuesday evening Graham Brady hosted the fourth parliamentary reception of 'Friends of Grammar Schools'. About one hundred Tory MPs turned out - one-third of the parliamentary party - to mix with representatives of the grammar school system and also the Education Secretary, Michael Gove. One Labour MP, Kate Hoey, also put in an appearance.

The meeting was addressed by Mr and Mrs Shillings - the Sevenoaks parents who successfully campaigned for the first new grammar school in fifty years. Conservative-run Kent County Council approved the new school after the Shillings collected 2,620 signatures to a petition. Mr Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee, hopes for more grammar school expansion by the time of the group's fifth gathering.

17 Jan 2012 17:58:09

Children exposed to domestic violence need to receive targeted Government support, says Tim Loughton

By Joseph Willits 
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LoughtonYesterday in the House of Commons, Parilamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education Tim Loughton spoke of the need for children exposed to domestic violence to receive "well targeted support from a range of agencies". Loughton said that "prolonged or regular exposure to domestic violence" was "likely to have a serious impact on children’s safety and welfare".

Labour MP Graeme Morrice asked Loughton how the "number of children who are exposed to domestic abuse both as witnesses and as victims" could be reduced. Loughton said that the very fact that domestic violence "is at the core of many safeguarding issues" is "alarming". Both the introduction of specialist domestic violence social workers, and "an ending violence against women and girls action plan" produced by the Government last March, were too examples of the problem being addressed.

Loughton also spoke of the need to clarify the currently confusing definition of domestic violence, which has been one of the priorities of an inter-ministerial group chaired by Theresa May.

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11 Dec 2011 13:09:42

Agreeing with IDS, Nick de Bois MP says the "celebrity culture" of the X Factor is distorting the realistic ambitions of young people

By Joseph Willits 
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DeboisTory MP Nick de Bois has disputed claims that Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, blamed the X Factor, amongst other things, for causing the summer's nationwide riots. Speaking on Sky News yesterday, Enfield MP de Bois, said that Duncan Smith was not "trying to say the X-Factor is the cause of the riots" but that the country does not "pay enough recognition ... to the routes that people take which are hard work".

De Bois said that "the point about X-Factor is effectively about celebrity cultures, where there's this idea that you can have a bit of luck, and instant fame, instant celebrity status". This idea, he said, had been perpetuated by the media, often at the expense of "the route most people succeed by, in improving their life circumstances, which is effectively hard work and being rewarded for that.”

In an interview with yesterday's Guardian, with the headline, "X Factor culture fuelled the UK riots, says Iain Duncan Smith", the Work and Pensions Secretary said:

"If you look at the footballers, you look at our celebrity culture, we seem to be saying, 'This is the way you want to be'. We seem to be a society that celebrates all the wrong people ... Kids are meant to believe that their stepping stone to massive money is The X Factor. Luck is great, but most of life is hard work. We do not celebrate people who have made success out of serious hard work."

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28 Nov 2011 14:29:01

Registration for hairdressers would be compulsory, under a law introduced by David Morris MP

By Joseph Willits 
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MorrisDavid Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, is set to call for a change in the law on Wednesday, making it compulsory for all hairdressers to be state registered. A Bill under the Ten Minute Rule to amend the Hairdressers (Registration) Act 1964, will be introduced. 

Morris, who has 28 years of hairdressing experience in Wigan and Bolton, before becoming an MP, has previously warned of the "wrong" and "dangerous" implications of unlicensed hairdressers:

"At present anybody can just open a hairdresser's shop and go about cutting and dying people's hair using corrosive chemicals without any training or licensing."

Drawing from his own experiences as a hairdresser, Morris said:

"When I ran salons I had people coming into me with pink and blue hair and scalp burns and hair snapping off at the root, and we'd have to sort them out because they'd had their hair and skin damaged by cowboys who don't know what they're doing".

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23 Nov 2011 17:29:53

The Government is "committed to continuing" free milk for under-5s, says Anne Milton

By Joseph Willits 
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Anne_miltonIn what has been a rather sensitive issue for the past 40 years, many will be relieved to hear the words "commitment" and "continuing", in response to a question about free milk for under 5-s. Health Minister Anne Milton reassured other MPs, responding to a question from Labour MP Nic Dakin, about the value of "free nursery milk in preparing young people for a good future and well-being in life".

The Mail on Sunday, used the headline: 'David Cameron the milk snatcher': Government plan to slash school milk budget', which quickly prompted comment from Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, with a reference to Thatcher:

"The Tories have form on this, from 'Thatcher the Milk Snatcher' to the botched attempt to make it an early victim of the spending cuts."

Sources close to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley offered a "cast iron guarantee" that free milk would stay, but a Department of Health spokesperson also said: 

"We are looking at how the free nursery milk scheme can deliver better value for money, because we are very concerned about the escalating costs. One thing is clear, though, the scheme will continue and every child will receive free nursery milk."

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22 Nov 2011 14:01:32

Michael Gove, our mutual friend

By Joseph Willits 
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Gove_michael_nw_2Perhaps because the time for reading his Christmas Carol is approaching, yesterday's education Topical Questions was full of references to Charles Dickens. Gavin Barwell MP (Croydon Central) began by asking for more. He congratulated Michael Gove's pledge of £8million for additional school places in Croydon, but asked whether "there will be further such tranches of money in future" due to an increase of 10% in the number of children in reception classes.

Barwell had, Gove replied, "Great Expectations" about what I can get out of the Chancellor", prompting shouts of "Hard Times" from the rest of the House. The Education Secretary continued:

"Well, really it is a “Tale of Two Cities”: the City of London under Labour, under-regulated and, sadly, not paying the taxes that it should have; and the City of London under the Conservatives—at last getting the resources into the Exchequer".

Edward Leigh MP (Gainsborough), highlighted the fact that "many members of the Cabinet, including the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, owe their start in life to private education". Leigh asked whether the Government would look to Europe where there are "many more bridges between private and state education ... for instance, the state paying the salaries of teachers in private schools", and not rule out "imaginative ways of helping ordinary people to access private education".

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4 Nov 2011 16:33:47

20 Tory MPs celebrate apprenticeships policy

20 Conservative MPs have written to ConservativeHome, commending the progress the Government, and in particular, Skills Minister John Hayes, has made with regards to apprenticeships. Here is their letter in full: 

Dear Tim,
Your article (“Apprenticeships - the government's ‘remarkable, unprecedented’ success story - 29th October) highlighted the welcome dramatic increase in the take up of apprenticeships during the last year. As members of the 2010 Conservative intake who campaigned on this issue, we were not only heartened by the over 50% increase in apprenticeship starts for 2010/11, but encouraged by important aspects of this growth. 
Firstly, the strong increase in engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships (up 20%) will be especially important as we strive to rebalance the economy towards more high-end manufacturing and greater exports. Secondly, around three quarters of the growth is amongst the over 25s with a firm weighting towards advanced level apprenticeships (A level equivalent); factors which underpin the necessary re-skilling of the workforce - identified by Lord Leitch in his landmark report for the previous Government - via the apprenticeship route. Thirdly, the significant increase in the number taking apprenticeships in business, accounting and law will be important in widening access to the professions and so vital in promoting greater social mobility.
The facts flatly contradict critics’ predictions that apprenticeship growth would be almost all at the low levels and in anything but the high tech, high skilled sectors of the economy.We believe that the Government’s striking progress in this area is of critical importance to both our economic future and for the life chances of the hundreds of thousands of people who are now seizing the opportunities apprenticeships present.
The positive shift in the perception of apprenticeships, their rapid take up and an emphasis on quality, through minimum contract values for providers and stricter rules on employment, owe much to the work of our Party through our Skills Minister, John Hayes MP who vigorously championed apprenticeships for many years in opposition and has now successfully driven this programme through to real delivery in the early life of this Parliament.
Yours Faithfully
Stuart Andrew MP 
Jake Berry MP 
Andrew Bingham MP 
Nicola Blackwood MP 
Neil Carmichael MP 
Oliver Colvile MP 
Jane Ellison MP 
George Freeman MP 
Zac Goldsmith MP
Richard Graham MP
Rob Halfon MP
Matt Hancock MP
Richard Harrington MP
Sajid Javid MP
Brandon Lewis MP
Stephen McPartland MP
Sheryll Murray MP
Sarah Newton MP
Neil Parish MP
Paul Uppal MP

26 Oct 2011 12:10:16

Andrea Leadsom suggests an age guidance rating for sex and relationship education materials

By Joseph Willits 
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LeadsomIn a Westminster Hall debate on Sex and Relationship Education, Andrea Leadsom MP (South Northamptonshire) has said she would like to see books and videos used in the teaching of sex education, given an age guidance rating. The "perfect template", she said was the system already implemented by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). Despite the need to use sex education to "tackle issues such as teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases", Leadsom said that some of the material used was "completely inappropriate" and "sends out totally the wrong message". When fears of the "sexualisation of childhood" are heightened, she said, "sexually explicit and inappropriate materials in primary school classrooms can only make things worse." 

Leadsom said she had been "shown leaflets given out to primary school children that give graphic definitions of orgasms, masturbation and prostitution" which were being used to educated children as young as 5. There are accounts, she said, of children's "traumatic experiences ... who have been put off having boyfriends", coming to the conclusion that sex "looks absolutely horrific”, therefore having a counter-productive effect. 

The materials uses to teach sex education, she said, were guilty of failing to place proper "emphasis on building relationships", and that children should be taught "primarily about relationships". Children, she said, needed "to understand that sex is almost always better when you are in love, or when you are in a committed relationship". On the issue of sex and relationship education for younger children, "the relationship side" she said "can be separate from the sexual side at a very young age", and that at a young age, a "child is not old enough to conceptualise what the act of sex means". Leadsom used gay relationships as an example, saying it "is entirely appropriate to teach that sometimes men love other men, but it is not appropriate to teach what sometimes men do with other men".

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19 Jul 2011 13:15:23

In case you're interested in things other than hacking, Gove has found £2.5 billion extra for school buildings

By Tim Montgomerie
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Responding to Michael Gove in the House of Commons a few minutes ago, Labour's education spokesman Andy Burnham wished the Education Secretary the "best of British luck" in getting any coverage for what he has just announced. He'll need more than luck, Mr Gove will need a miracle to get any significant coverage in either the broadcast or written media. But the blogosphere to the rescue...

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11 May 2011 10:30:30

David Willetts sets out his position on off-quota university places, and Labour members retreat to old-fashioned class war insults

Matthew Barrett

John Denham, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, tabled an urgent question yesterday evening, following news about off-quota university places. It allowed the Minister, David Willetts to make his position clear (emphasis added):

Mr John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab) (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will make a statement on the proposals for students to buy off-quota university places.

The Minister for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts): Fair access to university is crucial for achieving equality of opportunity, and there is a clear issue of principle here. Access to a university must be based on ability to learn, not on ability to pay. There is absolutely no question of wealthy students being able to buy their way into university.

As the coalition prepares its White Paper on higher education, we are considering possible ways to allow universities to recruit extra students in addition to their student number allocation. Any such arrangement would have to comply with the principle that access to university must be based on ability to learn, not on ability to pay. That is why, in the Secretary of State’s speech to the Higher Education Funding Council on 6 April, he said:

“Another measure for the longer term could be to remove student number controls which inhibit universities’ ability to recruit students who represent no burden to the public purse. For example, I don't believe that universities should be prevented from expanding courses where employers cover students’ costs”.

We are considering two options: first, making it easier for employers to sponsor students at university; and secondly, making it easier for charities to sponsor students at university. Any such scheme would need to comply with the following conditions: the principles of fair access must apply; there would need to be genuine additional places; there would be no reduction in entrance standards; and, of course, rich individuals should not be able to buy their way into university.

Everything this coalition does is guided by our belief in the need to improve social mobility after it stagnated under the Labour party. We will set out our proposals in the White Paper, which will be published shortly.

Screen shot 2011-05-11 at 10.18.06

Some Labour members' subsequent questions were notable for their "class war" rhetoric:

  • Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): Affluence is influence, and this is a triumph of affluence over ability. The Government have to recognise that it is social networking that leads to people accessing this type of support to go to university, so it will not be directed at the poorest people from our constituencies. It will be an opportunity for those who do not meet the criteria for entering university to get in by the back door because they have access to private finance.
  • Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): The Minister has categorically refused not to rule out private schools buying places for their students. Is this yet another idea dreamt up on the playing fields of Eton?
  • Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): The key point is that people have to get into university first and then get the sponsorship from outside, otherwise the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Alun Cairns) will be right: this will be a charter for extending access to universities, because more thick rich people will be going to university.
  • Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): I say, Mr Speaker, there might be many on the Tory Benches who think it an absolutely spiffing idea to allow mummy and daddy to purchase privilege through this toff quota. Should this principle be extended, perhaps to allow mummy and daddy to purchase a parliamentary seat, the odd ambassadorship or even, dare I say it, a top judge’s job?

27 Jul 2010 08:51:04

Academies Bill passes Commons with majority of 92

By Tim Montgomerie

Nick Gibb MP, Schools Minister, concluded yesterday's week long debate on the Academies Bill which passed the Commons by a majority of 92. Six Liberal Democrat MPs rebelled. Highlights of Mr Gibb's remarks are below.

Rebutting Ed Balls' "ludicrous" attacks on the Bill: "I shall start by saying what the Bill is not about. It is not about a "full-scale assault" on comprehensive education-a ludicrous claim by the shadow Secretary of State in The Guardian on Saturday. We believe in comprehensive education and are committed to it, and the Bill will strengthen it. Nor is it about scrapping the admissions code, another spurious claim about the Government's education policies by the shadow Secretary of State. We are committed to fair admissions through the code, and all academies will be bound by it through the model funding agreement. Nor is this Bill about the creation of a two-tier education system. Two tiers are what we have today-the best performing state schools and the worst. The independent sector, which educates just 8% of children, is responsible for 44% of all A* grades in GCSE French. It educates just 10% of 16-18 year olds, but is responsible for 35% of all A grades in A-level physics."

More freedoms for state schools: "The Bill offers all schools the opportunity to acquire the kind of professional freedoms that have proved so successful not only in the independent sector, but in the city technology colleges and in academies. After 20 years of independence, CTCs are among the most successful schools in the country. On average, in those schools, 82% achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and maths. In those academies that have been open long enough to have had GCSE results in 2008 and 2009, a third have GCSE results that improved by 15 percentage points compared with their predecessor schools."

Why the Bill has been hurried: "We are in a hurry because we do not think that it is right that 40% of 11-year-olds leave primary school still struggling with reading, writing and maths. It is not acceptable that nearly three quarters of pupils eligible for free school meals fail to get five or more GCSEs or equivalents at grades A* to C, including English and maths, or that 42% of those eligible for free school meals fail to achieve a single GCSE above grade D."

Even with this reform most schools remain in local authority control: "I know that there are some concerns among hon. Members of all parties about the future role of local authorities if all schools become academies. However, I should point out that there are 203 academies out of 3,300 secondary schools and some 17,000 primary schools. It will be many years, if at all, before all those schools acquire academy status. The Bill is permissive, not prescriptive or mandatory. We see a new and stronger role for local authorities emerging over the years as champions of parents and pupils, challenging rather than defending underperforming schools."

6 Jul 2010 09:08:05

Gove shifts education spending from buildings and quangoes to teachers and deprived areas

Education Secretary Michael Gove concluded his statement on school buildings yesterday with these words:

"We have safeguarded front-line revenue schools spending, we have safeguarded front-line spending on Sure Start and we have safeguarded front-line spending on school and college places for 16 to 19-year-olds this year. We have cut spending on wasteful quangos, we have cut the unnecessary bureaucracy which has swallowed up so much money and we have reduced the amount spent on regional government, on field forces and on unnecessary Government inspection regimes; but we have prioritised funding for better teachers, we have invested more in the education of the poorest and we are giving schools greater control of the money that has previously been spent on their behalf. For everyone who believes in reforming education that has to be the right choice, and I commend this statement to the House."

> Related link: "Only 18 UK teachers have been struck off for incompetence in the past 40 years"

10 Jun 2010 12:19:35

Select Committee election results: Labour and Liberal MPs line up behind the Conservative establishment

I wondered earlier this week here whether Labour MPs would use the Select Committee elections to make life difficult for David Cameron.

They didn't.  Instead, they lined up behind the Conservative establishment candidates. Andrew Tyrie took the Treasury Select Committee; Richard Ottaway, Foreign Affairs (a big, big consolation prize, after his defeat in the 1922 Committee Chairmanship election); James Arbuthnot, Defence; Stephen Dorrell, Health; Tim Yeo, Climate Change. Anne McIntosh, who won the Environment Committee, leans towards the left of the Party.

I didn't, of course, see anyone cast a ballot paper.  But unless Conservative MPs turned out en masse to vote against the Party's right - an unlikely course of action, given the '22 Executive results - Liberal and Labour support for less spiky candidates provides the only comprehensible explanation of the results.

It would be unfair to view the victors as patsies.  Tyrie, in particular, has a track record of independent-mindedness.  But ask yourself whether Cameron Towers would prefer the winners to, say, Patrick Mercer at Defence or Peter Bone at Health (let alone Nadine) or Philip Hollobone at Climate Change, and there's only one answer.

Bernard Jenkin and Chris Chope are both seen as men of the right.  But Chope's used the Chamber to launch independent-minded assaults on establishment causes, and it's noticeable that he lost out in the tussle for the Public Administration Committee Chairmanship.

John Whittingdale at Culture and Greg Knight at Procedure, both No Turning Back Group stalwarts, are in unopposed. Graham Stuart won what should have been, even if it wasn't, a close-fought battle for the Education Committee.

Full list of victors.

Paul Goodman

16 Jan 2008 16:07:59

Michael Gove MP on the benefits of education

Gove_michael_in_parliament Michael Gove speaking yesterday in the commons (Hansard):

"Some people argue that the goal of ever-higher participation in education is wrong, and object to extending educational opportunity. I accept that the Secretary of State is legitimately concerned about those views, and I, too, want to explain why I think that they are wrong. The first argument that I would deploy is unashamedly personal. No one in my family had gone to university, and both my parents left school early. I know how education can transform opportunities. I would never want any child to lose out on opportunity through a lack of parental resources...

My second argument involves social justice. We know that access to educational opportunity is a critical determinant of future earnings and of well-being. At the moment, educational opportunity is unequally distributed. Contrary to the impression given by the Secretary of State in his speech, figures that we excavated over the Christmas period show that the gap between the academic performance in the most advantaged 10 per cent. of schools and that in the least advantaged 10 per cent. has grown and is growing. It is a source of deep concern to us that that should be so. Work by the Sutton Trust and others has confirmed the melancholy correlation between deprivation and academic achievement. We believe that there needs to be a concerted drive to tackle that unfairness and to extend opportunity. We can do that by tackling illiteracy and innumeracy in the earliest years. That, once again, will open up the prospect of academic excellence to many, many more.

If the drive succeeds and the number of individuals from poorer backgrounds staying on to 18 in education increases and if the number going on to university or equivalent institutions begins to catch up with the equivalent number for those from more fortunate backgrounds who are already enjoying such opportunity, the university population will clearly increase. That is our aim. To those who say that that is idealistic, I plead guilty, and I ask those who say that it is impossible to spend a little time looking at geography and then history.

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