By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.
In Parliament on Thursday, the Member for North Swindon, Justin Tomlinson, introduced a motion to promote financial education in schools. The text of the motion was:
"That this House notes that young people today grow up in an increasingly complex financial world requiring them to make difficult decisions for the future, often without the necessary level of financial literacy; believes that financial education will help address the national problem of irresponsible borrowing and personal insolvency and that teaching people about budgeting and personal finance will help equip the workforce with the necessary skills to succeed in business and drive forward economic growth; further believes that the country has a duty to equip its young people properly through education to make informed financial decisions; and calls on the Government to consider the provision of financial education as part of the current curriculum review."
By Joseph Willits
Follow Joseph on Twitter
In 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".
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."
By Paul Goodman
On Wednesday evening, Nick Gibb, the Education Minister - who'd been on his feet in the Commons for much of the afternoon and evening dealing with the final stages of the Academies Bill - took steps to bolster the confidence of grammar schools that may be considering applying for academy status.
For such schools will presumably wish to maintain selection, and be suspicious that any change of status would affect its freedom to do so. Graham Brady, who resigned from the front bench over the Party's grammar schools policy, clearly believes that some such schools may wish to become academies - and moved an amendment to protect their position on selection.
Here are the highlights from yesterday's Children, Schools and Families questions.
Buckingham MP John Bercow advocated a more liberal exclusion policy:
"Of course, schools sometimes mistake disability for disobedience. Children with special educational needs are nine times more likely to be permanently excluded from school, and the Government are rightly committed to reducing the incidents of such exclusions. In the light of that, will the Under-Secretary of State consider the merit of amending the law so that a child with SEN or disability may be permanently excluded from school only if a review has taken place of the sufficiency and effectiveness of the reasonable adjustments that have been made under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to seek to accommodate that pupil?
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I pay tribute to his expertise in this area of special educational needs, and we certainly share his passion and commitment to promoting improved outcomes for children with SEN and disabilities. I am, of course, aware that he has a private Member’s Bill that is due for its Second Reading on 15 May. I believe that that is one proposal that may be considered in it. We certainly look forward to debating that."
By contrast Shadow Minister for Children Tim Loughton stressed the importance of protecting pupils from violence:
"Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): Government figures last year revealed that there was a drop of 13 per cent. in permanent exclusions between 2003 and 2007 despite a 50 per cent. increase in the number of children suspended for five times or more— 867 of them excluded for 10 times or more—at a time that saw 4,370 fixed exclusions for serious racist abuse and more than 207,000 serious offences, such as sexual abuse and violence. Yet, in no fewer than 40 per cent. of appeals against permanent exclusions, reinstatement was upheld so that pupils could return to the scene of their offences with impunity, most of them having nothing to do with SEN. Does the Minister think it right that a pupil who has been excluded for violent crime, racist or sexual abuse should be readmitted to schools under any circumstances against the better judgment of the head or the governors?
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: We are certainly committed to backing head teachers’ authority when pupils’ behaviour warrants exclusion. Last year, the number of successful appeals was just 1.2 per cent. of all permanent exclusions, so we must get this in balance. We obviously recognise, and we have said in response to Alan Steer's report, that repeated suspension should lead to permanent exclusion. We are certainly giving back head teachers authority in that."
There are a handful of interesting answers in the latest Hansard.
Buckingham MP John Bercow reminded the useful idiots that Cuba is not Paradise, but rather a dystopian nightmare:
"John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the number of people convicted of the crime of social dangerousness in Cuba in each of the last five years. 
The Cuban government does not publish statistics on the number of people convicted on these grounds, but the non-governmental Cuban commission for human rights and national reconciliation, estimates that there are currently between 3,000 and 5,000 people in prison in Cuba convicted of “pre-criminal social dangerousness.”
Our embassy in Havana has requested these figures from the Cuban authorities and I will write if we receive a reply."
Questions were put to ministers from the Department for Children, Schools and Families department yesterday.
The very last question of the session was from John Bercow, Buckingham MP, and addressed the loathsome phenomenon of bullying:
"Given that approximately 6,000 children a year exclude themselves from school after suffering extreme bullying, approximately 50 per cent. of whom have contemplated or attempted to commit suicide, will the Secretary of State agree to meet me and a delegation of interested parties to consider the case for funding the network of Red Balloon learner centres across the country? They are doing fantastic work in restoring the self-esteem of those damaged children, and getting them back into school, into further education, on to university or into employment. They need a bit of help.
Ed Balls: I had the opportunity two weeks ago to meet a group of young people from Norwich and Harrow who were being given chances to get back into school through the support of Red Balloon. Such decisions are made by local authorities, and I urge all local authorities to support Red Balloon and such new opportunities for children. I would love to meet the hon. Gentleman and a delegation again, so that I can hear further inspiring stories of young people getting back into education because of this important voluntary organisation."
Mark Pritchard, who represents The Wrekin, asked about means testing:
"Does the Minister accept that there needs to be more flexibility in the means-testing criteria? For example, the circumstances of a household on an income of £30,000 with a single child in full-time education are entirely different from those of another household on the same income but with five children in full-time education. Such issues have an impact on whether some children fulfil full-time education.
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: The problem is that the more flexibility that we put into the system, the more complex it becomes. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point, but there will not always be the same number of young people in the 16-to-18 age group. It is that particular age group that we are trying to attract with the education maintenance allowance."
Here is the latest batch of interesting written answers from the House of Commons.
Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions Andrew Selous had a written reminder that ministers are supposed to make big announcements to Parliament first when it is in session - a rule that they in fact breach on a spectacularly frequent basis:
"To ask the Leader of the House what recent discussions she has had with Ministerial colleagues on the criteria to be used in deciding whether an announcement should be made by means of an Oral Statement. 
Chris Bryant: My right hon. and learned Friend and I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues when deciding whether an oral statement should be made to announce Government policy. This is done against the general principle set out in the Ministerial Code that when Parliament is in Session, the most important announcements of Government policy should be made in the first instance, in Parliament, and taking into account the importance of the issue and the other business before the House."
The answer to Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt also serves as a reminder - that the Church of England is responsible for much of our architectural heritage:
"To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners how many church buildings are listed.