Following the Sutton Trust’s briefing ahead of the budget, there were several mentions of Sutton Trust throughout the subsequent debate on the education related provisions. The Sutton Trust was cited by the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, and Education Committee members Stephen Timms (Labour) and Michelle Donelan (Conservative), in relation to academisation but also on the importance of teaching and lengthening the school day.

The specific mentions were as follows –

Stephen Timms, Labour MP for East Ham, member of the Education Committee:

The Secretary of State will know that the Sutton Trust, in its comment on the Government’s proposals on academies, said that it is “the quality of teaching that has the most substantial impact on pupil outcomes, especially for the disadvantaged, regardless of school type or setting”. Is not the Sutton Trust absolutely right about that?

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan (in direct response to Stephen Timms):

The Sutton Trust also recognised that the quality of teaching in academies is extremely good. If the right hon. Gentleman reads the education White Paper, he will see how we are going to invest even further in what is already a great profession.

We want an education system that is regarded as the gold standard internationally—one that is based on high expectations and an intolerance of failure, treats teachers as the professionals they are, and unlocks real social justice in allowing every young person to reach their potential…

 …  The new investment in education means that £559 million is going towards a longer school day to support more schools in offering vital enrichment activities. I welcome the support of the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) and others. There is evidence, including from the Sutton Trust, that a longer school day is likely to be particularly beneficial for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Participation in physical activity and sport in particular is associated with better cognitive functioning, better mental health and improved concentration and behaviour in the classroom.

Michelle Donelan, Conservative MP for Chippenham, member of the Education Committee:

The £285 million a year to allow 25% of schools to extend their school day by an hour will assist parents and reduce their childcare bill. That, too, is a forward-thinking move, one supported by the Sutton Trust. The use of the hour will be key, and I look forward to reading more information about that.

Stephen Timms (again):

The Sutton Trust was quoted by the Secretary of State and by me in an intervention. It rightly makes the point in its impressive research that good “academy chains are having a transformational impact on pupils’ life chances”, which is a very good thing, but it also says that “others have seriously underperformed and have expanded too rapidly.” That is why I pressed the Secretary of State specifically on whether the mass process of turning every primary school and every remaining secondary maintained school into an academy will be done by adding those schools on to existing chains, too many of which are underperforming.

Only about a third are doing well, according to the Sutton Trust. The chains that are doing badly are doing badly because they have expanded too quickly. The process could make that far worse by forcing hundreds of additional schools into those same underperforming chains. I therefore press the Minister again. I did not get the assurance I was seeking from the Secretary of State that the process would not be done  by adding new schools on to underperforming chains. 

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