There was a debate on the proposals relating to education, skills and training in the Queen’s Speech this week discussing the proposals in the “Higher Education and Research Bill” such as the tuition fee inflation rise and its link with the new Teaching Excellence Framework, as well as the plans in the proposed “Education for All Bill” to encourage every school to become an academy.

The Sutton Trust was mentioned several times, as copied below.

Stephen Timms, Labour MP for East Ham, member of the Education Committee and a former Schools Minister said:

The Sutton Trust has pointed out that, on achievement among disadvantaged pupils, some multi-academy trusts are doing an outstanding job and delivering very high standards but that the majority are not. In fact, its analysis shows that the majority are doing less well than the average across the school system as a whole—they are underperforming—and a big part of the reason is that many have expanded too fast. Everyone in the House will recognise that it is difficult to maintain good standards while managing rapid expansion, and that problem will get a lot worse if, as appears to be the Government’s intention, many hundreds and thousands of schools are forced into multi-academy trusts over the next few years.

 … I welcome the Secretary of State’s assurance to the Select Committee that multi-academy trusts should be allowed to expand only when they have a track record of success and improvement at their existing academies [a Sutton Trust recommendation]. I hope that that will be reflected in the Bill, when it is published, and that she will tell us that that will be the case…

 We are starting to see some bad old practices creeping into education administration through multi-academy trusts, and the Sutton Trust is absolutely right to point out that the speed of their expansion makes the problem worse.

 Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North, Conservative Party Board Member and former Treasury Minister, said:

I want the Government to focus on building capacity in good trusts and good leaders, and recruiting, retaining and developing good teachers. I also want local leaders in schools to continue to use pupil premium money in the most imaginative and ambitious ways to help the poorer students break out. I think that there is much good work to be seen in the Sutton Trust’s toolkit.

Jo Churchill, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds and a member of Women and Equalities Committee, said:

The measures to drive aspirations and skills, coupled with 3 million apprenticeships, mean that this is a coherent lifetime learning package, and much more than is being put to us by the Opposition, who as yet still have space to come forward with their bright ideas. The Sutton Trust and others have noted that one of the most important parts of education is good quality feedback. That might be something for them to take on board.

Dr Rupa Huq, Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton and a member of the Justice Committee, asked:

Has the Minister seen the figures from the Sutton Trust that show that only 3% of disadvantaged young people go to the most selective third of universities, compared with 21% from the richest neighbourhoods? Is he proud of that record?

 [Universities Minister Jo Johnson responded:]

I have just written to the director of fair access, Les Ebdon, giving him all the political cover that he needs to drive further progress in widening participation at the most selective institutions.​ We are strengthening the system of access agreements. They will now cover both access and participation, so that students receive the support that they need right the way through their courses, not just at the point of entry. We will give the new director of fair access and participation, who will be part of the new office for students, a greater set of sanctions to help to ensure that universities deliver the agreements they have made with him.

Rupa Huq said later:]

…There are worries about these so-called reforms, in relation to the funding cuts, the tuition fee increase and the potential to destabilise the whole sector, which has knock-on effects for students. The Sutton Trust, which I mentioned earlier, has warned that, even if participation levels are going up, there is a yawning gap between those from the richest and the poorest wards, particularly in Russell Group institutions. Again, there are lots of question marks in respect of the Office for Fair Access, overarching powers and how they have the potential to erode institutional autonomy.

Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow and briefly a shadow education minister under Ed Miliband, said:

The Sutton Trust recently unearthed the fact that our young people leave university with the highest levels of debt in the English-speaking world. The Chancellor wrote to one of his constituents in 2003 that fees are “a tax on learning” and “very unfair”. Yet he has since tripled university fees to £9,000 and scrapped the student maintenance allowance. He now wants to lift the fees cap even higher, which will reverse some of the achievements of the past and saddle poorer students with huge amounts of debt. We all know that people from asset-rich families are more likely to take risks and more likely to be secure when they enter the labour market, and that the outcomes for graduates in the labour market differ according to social class and ethnic background. Saddling poorer students with debt therefore has real consequences for what they will go on to do.

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