Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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Austin calls for open access to top schools

Dudley MP Ian Austin has called for radical action to boost open access to the country’s top schools.

Speaking in Wednesday’s Opposition Day debate on education in the House of Commons, he backed proposals from the Sutton Trust to allocate places in leading independent day schools to pupils from state schools.

He warned that the UK is falling behind its international competitors and said areas like the Black Country are falling even further behind.

He called for an education revolution in the UK to boost school standards and urged the government to:

  • Introduce tough new targets to boost standards in state schools, saying that there shouldn’t be a school in the country where 70% of pupils don’t get five good GCSEs including English and Maths.
  • Expand Teach First to get the brightest graduates working in state schools
  • Build on the work of former Conservative Education Secretary Ken Baker by opening a University Technical College in every town to promote technical and vocational skills in advanced manufacturing, engineering and other hi-tech subjects.
  • Promote greater specialisation from 14-19 with schools focusing on high level academic subjects to enable state school pupils to compete with those from independent schools.
  • End the system of moving through schools years based solely on age and focus more on attainment.

Under proposals set out by Peter Lampl at the Sutton Trust, places at independent schools would be available to pupils in state schools based on merit alone. Under the plans, independent school places would cost less than average state school places as parents would pay fees on a sliding scale according to means.

Ian Austin MP said:

“We have to be honest with ourselves and admit that standards and results in too many schools are just not good enough. England is falling behind in world rankings and just two out of seven schools in Dudley meet the national average.

“The current system is not promoting social mobility with Sutton Trust research showing that just five public schools send more pupils to Oxbridge than 2000 state schools – two-thirds of the entire state sector.

“Ministers should look at opening up access to leading independent day schools. All places would be available on merit alone, with parents paying a sliding scale of fees according to means.

“People in places like the Black Country are as good as anyone and they should have the same opportunities open to them that people elsewhere have taken for granted for decades.”

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