Free Schools and Academies in England

For the full debate please see Hansard.

5th December 2018

Greg Hands (MP for Chelsea and Fulham): I beg to move, That this House has considered the future of free schools and academies in England.

I am delighted to have secured the debate, and it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) for his perseverance, when he was Education Secretary, in bringing forward the Academies Act 2010, which revolutionised the way schools operate. I also pay tribute to the Minister for School Standards, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Nick Gibb)—a veritable rock of stability in Government—who has been making things happen almost throughout the process. Naysayers said that it would not work; they called it an experiment and accused us of creating a divide in the state school system. Eight years on, we see that they were wrong. The first free schools and new academies opened in 2011 and our schools are performing better than ever. Whereas only 68% of state-funded schools were good or outstanding in 2010, that jumped to 89% at the end of August 2017.

Nowhere is more exemplary of the benefits that free schools and academies bring to the system than the two boroughs in my constituency—the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham. Indeed, K and C and H and F—under the Conservatives until 2014—have been the vibrant nucleus of schools reform since 2010. In those two boroughs, which are the smallest in London, an astonishing five new secondary schools have opened since 2010, and every one of them is a free school or academy. Kensington Aldridge Academy, Chelsea Academy, Hammersmith Academy, Fulham Boys School and West London Free School are providing places for more than 3,700 students. I attended three of the openings—two of them with the Secretary of State at the time.

This year’s GCSE results show that the schools are doing fantastically well: 85% of exams at West London Free School were awarded grades 9 to 4, which in old money is A* to C. Chelsea Academy’s results were in the top 10% nationally, with 30% of its English and maths awards at grades equivalent to the old A* and A grades. At Kensington Aldridge Academy, at the foot of Grenfell Tower and deeply affected by the tragedy last year, students perform a third of a grade better at A-level than those with the same GCSE results in other schools. That is the highest progress score in the whole borough. Four of Britain’s top 12 primary schools are in Kensington and Chelsea. It is a remarkable record.

Kensington and Chelsea has the best schools in the country, and that is even more remarkable given the fact that the most affluent 50% of the borough chooses to ​opt out of the state system in its entirety. Despite that, the borough has four of the 12 best performing primary schools in the country, and some excellent secondary schools. Throughout both boroughs, including conversions to academy status, we have no fewer than 30 free schools and academies. I am delighted to say that every one of them—100%—has received a rating of good or outstanding. That is a testament to the success of those schools.

One of the great things about the free schools and academies programme is the autonomy they have in setting pay levels, conditions and hours, which allows them to keep the best talent in the classrooms. When teachers play an indispensable role in nurturing the young minds of children, they should feel a part of the decision-making process, because recognising teachers as experts in their fields and empowering them in that way is a vital part of retention. Fulham Boys School is an excellent example of that. I should declare that I am a co-patron of the school. Remarkably for an inner-London school, in the past four years only five teachers have left—every one of them to be promoted, or because for life reasons they were moving out of London. It is possible to find other state-funded schools that have had a turnover of 100% in the same period. Teachers see themselves spending their entire career at Fulham Boys School and they become long-term mentors to students—familiar, stable figures throughout a child’s education.
 
Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. Schools also have autonomy over exclusion policy. The Education Committee looked at the escalating number of exclusions from academies in the borough of Stockton-on-Tees, but it has no power to influence what the schools do. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that Ministers need to look more closely at exclusions and why they are happening, and at why some children are denied a full education?
 
Greg Hands: I think that it is sensible to keep those policies under review at all times. I am not familiar with the situation in Stockton-on-Tees, but I think that the hon. Gentleman makes a fair point, and I am sure that the Minister has noted it.

I want to quote a helpful contribution from the headmaster of the Fulham Boys School, a remarkable man called Alun Ebenezer—he is from your part of the world, Mr Davies, although he was in Cardiff, not Swansea. He wrote that he was happy in his position: “And yet, eight months later, I decided to apply for a headship at a school that had no site, no pupils, no staff, no exam results, nothing in the trophy cabinet and was 150 miles from my homeland. Why?

"Because the opportunity to build a school from scratch, the vision set out for that school and the ideology of the free school movement was so alluring. It was an opportunity to make a difference, challenge society, transform young people’s lives; to shake up the established order. I came to London to show what a free school could do when it properly embraces its freedom…I believe the first four years of FBS have done just that.”

That is the kind of can-do attitude that is seen in so many schools in my constituency.

Another example of schools doing as well as that is the group of Ark schools, of which there are five between the two boroughs. They have led the way in ​teacher training innovations. Their Now Teach venture, set up in 2016, was designed to encourage high-flyers to retrain as teachers. They get on board the lawyers, doctors and bankers of the world to inspire children and become role models in the classroom. Such innovation is possible only when schools are freed from red tape and the bureaucratic decision-making processes of councils.
 
John Howell (Henley) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend add parents to the list of people that schools should involve? It is crucial that they are involved in a big way in the running of schools. That solves many of the problems that teachers have with things such as discipline.
 
Greg Hands: My hon. Friend has hit the nail on the head. The role of parents is vital. Many free schools are parent-led initiatives. I first met people involved with Fulham Boys School in late 2010 or early 2011, along with the then Secretary of State for Education, to discuss how to proceed. Groups of parents in my constituency come to me all the time with all kinds of innovative ideas. I shall talk about some of the problems they face, particularly with finding sites, but my hon. Friend has made a powerful point.

Schools of the kind I am talking about are also doing extremely well nationally, with nearly double the proportion of primary schools rated outstanding, compared with all state-funded primary schools. Secondary free schools and academies are also ahead of state-run maintained schools in the proportion rated outstanding; 30% of free schools have been judged outstanding, compared with 21% of other schools. I see more and more demand. I have come across groups looking for particular specialisms, such as the group of Spanish-speaking Fulham residents who have come to talk to me about setting up a bilingual free school, and another from Fulham’s French community. Other people are looking at subject specialisms. The idea has really driven innovation in my constituency.

However, some issues with the system still need ironing out. Despite all this excellent news, we must not be complacent. There should be no presumption of preferred suppliers of academy chains.

Alex Cunningham: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for taking a second intervention. We can all celebrate the success of schools in local authorities as well as academies, and it is great that the Government built on the legacy left by the Blair Government, which invested tremendously in education over many years. Does he share my concern about support for failing academies? The regional schools commissioner in the north-east is struggling to find a partner for one of our schools in the Stockton borough. It was even suggested at one stage that a failing academy chain should take it over. Months later, it still does not have a partner, because when people look at the books they realise that the falling roll means there are insufficient resources to do what they need to achieve. Ministers need to intervene there quite heavily.

Greg Hands: Again, I am not familiar with the particular local circumstances of the hon. Gentleman’s area. I would say that of course there will be examples of schools in difficulties, across all categories of school, but the statistics for this are absolutely clear: free schools ​and academies are significantly more likely to be succeeding than other schools. That is what the evidence clearly shows. But I agree that any school facing difficulties will need careful attention from relevant local or national authorities.

Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): The right hon. Gentleman makes a passionate defence of the schools in his constituency, which is the first thing a constituency MP does, but there is no evidence anywhere to show that academisation means that schools are performing better.
 
Greg Hands: I disagree. I have already read out quite a bit of evidence from the statistics behind the academies outperforming the rest of the sector: 65% of those inspected saw their grades improve from inadequate to either good or outstanding, having been transformed into academies. Multi-academy trusts enable our best performing schools to help struggling schools improve all the time. The evidence speaks for itself in the statistics I read out earlier and in the Government’s overall improvement in school standards.

Returning to my point about where we need to improve, one size does not fit all for education. Schools cannot simply be transposed from one part of the country to another or rolled out in a cookie-cutter approach simply because they have worked in one format. There has to be room for local organic growth. I will put on the record my frustration with the Education and Skills Funding Agency, which must do better at working with schools to anticipate and resolve problems in site delivery. The Fulham Boys School, which has been waiting to move to its new site for some time now, has been particularly affected. The ESFA should, in this regard, harness local knowledge and relationships rather than necessarily relying on centralised procurement processes.

Schools need certainty to plan for their futures. I thank the current Secretary of State for meeting me and the school last summer—I know we have another school coming up—and trying to drive through the move to the new site in Heckfield Place in my constituency. I will quote again from the school’s headmaster, whose blog post title overdoes it the other way. It is entitled, “Why the free school movement will fail”, which I think is far too pessimistic. The title does not really match the content. He writes: “My view, shaped over the last 4 years, is that bureaucrats’ delivery of Free school policy is directly frustrating government’s aspirations for it… Secondly, Free schools like FBS are constantly being frustrated and hampered by slow moving bureaucracy, red tape and ‘process’.”

I will add into the mix here that one of the most extraordinary meetings I ever had in Government, when I was a Minister, was taking the Fulham Boys School in to meet some of the ESFA officials. One official—admittedly, he was an outside contractor—said to the Fulham Boys School, which is also a Church of England school, “You are a faith school, so you must have belief that your school will open.” He could not offer specific reassurances on the site or when the contractors doing the site would be ready. He simply said to them that, as a faith school, they needed to believe. I do not know how religious you are, Mr Davies, but I would say that even the most evangelical of people would want to see something slightly more concrete than that on the table.​

Unfortunately, progress has come to a grinding halt under Labour in Hammersmith and Fulham. The borough has failed to provide additional school places that are needed, particularly for the bulge in secondary school numbers that is coming up. Ironically, despite all these new schools, the borough now has the lowest figure for first-choice secondary school placements in England—it is absolutely rock bottom of that league table. Hammersmith and Fulham simply does not have enough places at quality schools that parents want their children to go to.

The council itself predicts that by 2027 there will be a deficit of 327 places for students between years 7 and 11, not including sixth form. That is 327 students without a place by the year 2027. Kensington and Chelsea also has a problem, as the figure there is projected to stand at 195 students by 2023-24. There is also something there that needs fixing. Creating additional secondary school places is a challenge in a constituency such as mine, especially finding sites in the two boroughs I represent, where land is incredibly expensive. We need to recognise some of the difficulty in doing that. It is easier said than done.

Nevertheless, the popularity of these schools at secondary level is evidenced by how over-subscribed they are. West London Free School receives nearly 10 applications for every year 7 place. At Lady Margaret School, which is a conversion to an academy, it is nearly seven applicants per place. These schools continually top parents’ lists of first preferences, and all of them outperform others in their area. It is, of course, great news that the Department for Education expects around another 1,000 maintained schools to become academies over the next two years, and that 110 new schools opening by 2020 will be free schools. There was also news in September that 53 new free schools and one university technical college will be creating up to 40,000 new school places.

That is the picture locally: excellence, popularity of these schools, and continuing drive from parents to create more of them. We have a deficit of school places and parents are demanding these kinds of innovative schools, but they are concerned—I will put my cards on the table—at what they are hearing from the Labour party about its plans. I was amazed at the speech by the shadow Secretary of State for Education at the Labour party conference. I doubt that you personally had the misfortune to be there, Mr Davies, because I know you are a sensible man, but she said— “We’ll start by immediately ending the Tories’ academy and free schools programmes. They neither improve standards nor empower staff or parents.”

I put it to the Opposition spokesman today that I have outlined in 17 minutes a lot of the progress that has been made in my constituency and the popularity and success of these schools. Parents with children at the schools are alarmed at the Labour party’s position and what it might mean, particularly if they have a Labour council that also believes in his policy. I invite ​him to put on record that these parents and all the groups coming to see me now who want to set up new free schools have no reason to be afraid. There is an incredible diversity of parents and others looking to take advantage of this innovation, and it would be fantastic if we could hear from him that their fears are unfounded. I will sit down and give others an opportunity to contribute to the debate, but I look forward to hearing the responses from the Front Benches in due course.
 

Closing statements from Greg and the Minister of State for School Standards, the Rt Hon. Nick Gibb MP:

Nick Gibb: We are attending to all those issues. As a Government, we take mental health issues extremely seriously. That is why earlier this year we published the Green Paper on young people’s mental health, which will transform the quality of mental health support at every level in our school system across the country. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue of high needs funding, which we take very seriously. High needs funding has increased from £5 billion in 2013 to £6 billion this year, but we are aware of increasing cost pressures on the high needs budget, and we are aware of the causes. We have listened carefully to his lobbying today, and to that of other colleagues and schools that have raised those issues. We take those concerns extremely seriously.

The whole essence of the free schools and academies programme is to empower teachers and headteachers and to promote the importance of innovation and evidence. Power is wrestled away from the old authorities. Ideas are weighed and, if they are found wanting, can be discarded. There has been a resurgence—a renaissance—of intellectual thought and debate about pedagogy and the curriculum that used to be vested only within the secret garden of the universities. Now it is debated rigorously by thousands of teachers across the country.

Free schools have challenged the status quo and initiated wider improvement, injecting fresh approaches and drawing in talent and expertise from different groups. There are now 442 open free schools, which will provide more than 250,000 school places when at full capacity. We are working with groups to establish a further 265 free schools. In answer to Alun Ebenezer, the headteacher who runs an excellent school in my right hon. Friend’s constituency, the free school programme is thriving.

Thanks to powers granted by the Government and the expansion of the academies and free schools programmes, teachers and headteachers now enjoy far greater control over the destiny of their school. Decision making has been truly localised and professionalised. These extraordinary schools are changing what is thought to be possible and raising expectations across the country. They are an example to any school seeking to improve. Whether we look at Reach Academy in Feltham, Dixons Academy in Bradford or Harris Academy Battersea—all with high pupil progress scores—there are some obvious similarities.

All of the schools that I have mentioned teach a stretching, knowledge-rich curriculum. Each has a strong approach to behaviour management so that teachers can teach uninterrupted, and they all serve disadvantaged communities, demonstrating that high academic and behavioural standards are not and must not be the preserve of wealthy pupils in independent schools. Indeed, ​Harris Westminster, a free school that opened in 2014, which has close ties to Westminster School and draws pupils from across London, has reported that, with 40% of its pupils from a disadvantaged background, 18 pupils went to Oxbridge last year.

All around the country the Government have built the foundations of an education system through which teachers and headteachers control the levers over school improvement and parents exercise choice, shifting decision making from local education authorities and handing it to local communities and the teaching profession. With an intelligent accountability system to maintain high standards, innovative schools collaborate and compete with one another to improve teaching, the quality of their curricula and retention of staff.

Two thirds of academies are converter academies, and many have become system leaders within multi-academy trusts by helping other schools to improve. More than 550,000 pupils now study in sponsored academies that are rated good or outstanding. Those academies often replaced previously underperforming schools, so when the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East says that he wishes to disband or end the autonomy that comes with the academies and free schools programme, he is saying that he would not have enabled the 550,000 pupils who were languishing in underperforming schools to be given the opportunity to be taught in much higher performing schools, thus taking away opportunities as an enemy of promise and social mobility.

As at August 2018, 89% of converter academies were rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. Results in primary sponsored academies continue to improve. The percentage of pupils reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in current sponsored academies was 42% in 2016, and in 2018 it was 57%. Academies and free schools are driving up standards all over the country. Queen’s Park Junior School in Bournemouth was placed in special measures in May 2011. In the same year only 50% of pupils achieved level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths, compared with the national average of 67%. In September 2011 Ambitions Academies Trust started working with the school, and in October 2012 Queen’s Park Academy became part of Ambitions Academies Trust as a sponsored academy. Queen’s Park Academy was judged outstanding in all areas by Ofsted in June 2014 and is now providing support for other schools in the trust. In 2017 the school’s writing and maths progress scores were both above average, at +2.3 and +1.4, and 78% of pupils achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths.

WISE Academies in the north-east of England has taken on nine sponsored academies since 2012. The trust is making the most of its autonomy—the autonomy that the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East wants to remove—and has reduced teacher workload through efficient lesson planning and by sharing resources. It is innovative in how it teaches, embedding maths mastery techniques from Singapore into its maths curriculum. As a result, every school that has been inspected since joining the trust has been judged to be either good or outstanding.

Free schools are among the highest performing state-funded schools in the country, with pupils at the end of key stage 4 having made more progress on average than ​pupils in other types of state-funded schools. In 2018 four of the top provisional Progress 8 scores for state-funded schools in England were achieved by free schools.
 
Greg Hands: I thank my right hon. Friend for his excellent exposition of the success and brilliance of so many of our free schools. I do not expect him to make a policy pronouncement today, but will he take on board some of the comments I made in relation to the ESFA and the complaints I have heard from various parent groups trying to set up free schools—some successful and some unsuccessful—particularly in an area such as mine where the crucial question is always about the ability to secure the site and, in their view, the bureaucratic approach taken to site selection and delivering financing?
 
Nick Gibb: Yes. My right hon. Friend anticipates the point I was coming to. As he knows, the Fulham Boys School is currently in temporary accommodation and the Department is working hard to ensure that a permanent site will be ready as soon as possible. All parties are working to deliver the site as early as can be achieved, but it remains, as he knows, a complex project. I am aware of people’s concerns about the site. It is a difficult challenge to find a site, particularly in London, but we have more than 400 free schools being established. With any large projects we will find delays and problems, but they are achieved, which is why we have more than 400 successfully opened free schools.

As I was saying, in 2018 our top 10 provisional Progress 8 scores for state-funded schools in England were achieved by free schools, by people who persevered through all the problems of finding a site and getting a school opened. For example, William Perkin Church of England High School in Ealing, Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford, Eden Girls’ School in Coventry and Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School in Blackburn are in that top 10. The latter two were opened by Star Academies, which has grown through the free schools programme, from running a single school in the north-west to running 24 schools across the country, made up of nine academies and 15 free schools, and it has approval to open two additional free schools. Of the 10 that have had Ofsted inspections since opening or joining the trust, all have been rated outstanding. That is the kind of programme that the Labour party wants to stop happening in future, denying young people the opportunity of having an excellent education, but the approach works. The free schools and academies programme demonstrates, as I have cited, the benefits of strong trusts and strong collaboration.

Converting to an academy is a positive choice made by hundreds of schools every year, to give highly able teachers the power to make their own decisions; the breathing room to be creative and innovative; and the freedom to drive improvements, based on what they know works for their pupils. My hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell) cited the example of the Europa School that converted from the independent European School into a free school. We were very pleased to authorise that new free school to teach the European baccalaureate rather than A-levels and GCSEs. Wary of the risk of being made to drink a shot of rum, the future of that qualification will depend on discussions with the European Schools system post Brexit.​

We want to go further to make sure that no one is left behind. We want to extend the free schools programme to areas of the country that have not previously benefited from it.
 
Alex Cunningham: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way on that point about extending the programme to other areas. My impression is that the vast majority of free schools tend to be opened in the more leafy areas where there is less deprivation. What evidence does he have—perhaps he could write to me—about the number of free schools opened in areas of high deprivation and how they are achieving great things?
 
Nick Gibb: Some 50% of free schools have been opened in areas of deprivation. There has been a determination to ensure that free schools are opened in areas of disadvantage that have been poorly served by the schools system in the past. I will be happy to respond to the hon. Gentleman’s earlier invitation to visit schools in his constituency to see at first hand how they use the programme’s autonomy and freedoms to raise standards.

Earlier this year we launched the 13th wave of free schools, targeting the areas of the country with the lowest standards and the lowest capacity to improve. Those are the places where opening a free school can have the greatest impact on improving outcomes.

The application window for wave 13 closed on 5 November. We received 124 applications from both new providers and experienced multi-academy trusts. We are assessing the proposals and will announce successful applications in the spring. We will launch the 14th wave of free schools shortly, demonstrating again to Mr Ebenezer and others that the free school programme continues to thrive, albeit with one threat on the horizon: the Labour party is committed to ending the programme.

This summer we launched a special and alternative provision free schools wave. By the deadline in October we had received 65 bids from local authorities, setting out their case for why a new special or AP free school would benefit their area. In the new year we will launch a competition to select trusts in the areas with the strongest case for a new school. We are also continuing to accept proposals for maths schools from some of our best universities, having already seen excellent results reported by both existing maths schools, Exeter Mathematics School and King’s College London Mathematics School. Those schools have exemplary A-level results in maths, physics and further maths.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the support that he has given to the free schools programme. Some important points have been raised, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss a central part of our education policy and to share some examples of the excellent work in academies and free schools throughout the country. Since 2010 our education reform programme has brought new levels of autonomy and freedom for schools, with clearer and stronger accountability. There are many examples of academies, and the multi-academy trust model, bringing about rapid and effective improvement in previously underperforming schools.

Since 2010 we have been unflinching in our determination to drive up academic standards in all our schools, and to drive out underperformance in our school system. Our ambition is for every local school to be a good ​school, to close the attainment gap between pupils from different backgrounds, and to ensure that every pupil, regardless of their background or where they live, can fulfil their potential.
 
Greg Hands: This has been an excellent debate. I am delighted that the academies and free schools programmes are thriving and making such a difference to school standards across the country. As the Opposition spokesman pointed out, I had the pleasure and privilege of going to one of the best state schools in the country: Dr Challoner’s Grammar School in Amersham. That stood me in good stead for everything that came after. I have always been a strong believer in high-quality state education, which is what the Government have delivered over the past eight and a half years, and will continue to deliver.

As I said, the very centre of this movement is my constituency, and the two boroughs that my constituency forms part of: Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea. In those boroughs, 13 new free schools and academies have opened. It is an incredible achievement to open five new secondary schools, and eight additional primary schools, in the two smallest boroughs in London.

Often such things are very difficult. I remember when West London Free School opened in 2011 or 2012—it must have been almost the first free school. I remember speaking to the then leader of the council, the excellent Stephen Greenhalgh, the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), and the founder of the school. We talked about how we were going to make it possible, and it was quite hard, because people wishing to set up such a school face a number of obstacles. The sites can be very difficult. Most of those people are incredibly dedicated to seeing the schools delivered. I take a strong interest in how the Education and Skills Funding Agency works, and how such things might be improved. I welcome the Minister’s commitment to look at a continuing review of how that is done.

We have a crisis in our schools coming up locally, despite all the achievements. I mentioned the shortage of places in Hammersmith and Fulham. The current Labour council has sat on its hands for the past four and a half years and done nothing about it. After all the achievement in the preceding four years of the Conservative ​Government, combined with the Conservative council, in delivering all those new schools, nothing has been delivered in the past four years. The area will be short by 327 places. Reform has come to a shuddering halt.

My constituents will also be alarmed by what has been said by the Labour party. The Opposition spokesman today failed to repudiate what the shadow Secretary of State for Education said at the Labour party conference. She said: “We’ll start by immediately ending the Tories’ academy and free schools programmes.”

I think the Opposition spokesman said, if I understood him correctly, that that would not mean the closure of the schools. However, they would be taken immediately back into—or put under for the first time—local authority control. That would be the abolition of free schools and academies in the way in which they currently operate, ending their autonomy. That will ring alarm bells in my constituency among so many parents whose children are currently at those schools, and among all the parent groups that come to see me to talk about establishing new schools.

There is an incredible diversity in education in my constituency. We have had amazing bilingual Anglo-French schools set up—feeders into the incredible Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle. Some new parent groups want to set up bilingual Spanish schools. I expect that at some point all these groups will come to me and say, “We are alarmed, Mr Hands, by what we hear is the policy of the Labour party—threatening the future of these schools before they have even been established.” I invite the Labour party to review and reconsider its policy, because it will be incredibly unpopular, and is incredibly unpopular in my part of London.

Some of the schools have an incredible record, and an incredibly diverse intake. Fulham Boys School, for example, is very proud of the fact that 40% of its children qualify for the pupil premium, while 15% come to it from a private school background. In a community such as mine, where there is not much in the middle, that school take the full spectrum of pupils. At Ark Burlington Danes Academy in Shepherd’s Bush, nearly half the pupils are eligible for free school meals. Often such intakes are from the more deprived parts of the two boroughs, in the north, and most of those schools do a fantastic and brilliant job.

It would be a great shame to see that future threatened by a future Government. However, of course, as we all know, there is not going to be a future Labour Government coming up. I can tell parents that they can at least rest assured on that front. Nevertheless, it is a cause of concern in my constituency, and I hope that the Labour shadow team will reconsider their ideological approach to ending the programme, and reconsider what is in the best interests of parents and pupils at those schools, and future schools to come.