Cameron's statement on the riots - live blog

Minute-by-minute coverage of the Prime Minister's statement to the Commons.

Stay tuned for live coverage from 11:30am.

11:33 As you'd expect, the Commons is packed. Cameron should begin his statement shortly.

11:34 Cameron is speaking. It is right that we show a "united front," he says. He pays tribute to Tottenham MP David Lammy for his "powerful words and actions" over the past days.

11:35 Mark Duggan's death was used as an excuse by "opportunistic thugs and gangs", Cameron says. There was no causal link.

11:37 The police made the mistake of treating the issue as one of "public order", rather than crime, Cameron says.

11:38 More than 1,200 people have been arrested, Cameron announces. He repeats his line about "phoney human rights concerns" not getting in the way of publishing CCTV pictures.

11:39 Cameron says it was right not to use the army but promises to look at how they could assist the police in the future.

11:41 Police will have the discretion to "remove face coverings" when they are related to criminal behaviour, Cameron announces.

11:43 The insurance industry is expected to pay out £200m. The government has set up a "high street support scheme" to help businesses recover, and tax payments will be deferred for those in greatest need.

11:44 Ministers will meet the "emergency costs" of those made homeless.

11:45 Cameron moves on to the "deeper causes" of the riots. "This is not about poverty it's about culture," he argues. A first mention for "the broken society".

11:47 The heart of the problem is teenage gangs, Cameron says.

11:48 To the "violent minority", Cameron says: "We will track you down, we will find you, we will punish you."

11:49 Cameron closes by saying that we need to show the world, which has looked on "appalled", the Britain "that doesn't destroy but builds".

11.50: Ed Miliband has taken over to respond to Cameron's statement. Britain wants to return to normality, he says.

11.51: Miliband says he agrees with Cameron on the army -- this is a job for the police. But Miliband asks for clarification for what the army will do to support the police, and how the extra strain on the police will be funded, given that budgets are already stretched.

11.53: Miliband asks: will Cameron now think again about cuts to the police force?

11.54: Can Cameron assure that there won't be an arbitrary cap on the amount needed to rebuild the communities affected?

11.55 "To seek to explain is not to seek to excuse. Why are there people who feel they have everything to gain and nothing to lose from wanton vandalism?" Miliband says that the causes are complex. We can only find solutions through hearing from our communities, or trouble will begin again. How will the government make sure communities are engaged?

11.57 Miliband says we must not forget our own responsbility -- not to the minority of young people who committed the violence, but the law-abiding majority. We must ensure there are opportunities for them and they have the right to expect this.

11.58Cameron is now responding to Miliband. He starts by thanking him and agrees about the need for normality.

11.59: On the police, says Cameron, government's have a responsibility to look ahead to potential problems and contingencies. In the future, they could look at what the army could take over to free up frontline police, in emergencies.

12.01: On police budgets, Cameron says the government is looking for cash reductions that are totally achievable without visible reductions in police numbers.

12.02: The Riot Damages Act does not have a cap on the amount of money available to communities, says Cameron.

12.03 People are responsible for their actions, says Cameron. He reiterates that he hopes this cross-party collaboration can continue.

12:06 David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham is speaking. 45 people have lost their homes in Tottenham, he says. The cry is: "Where were the police?"

12:10 Jack Straw, a former Home Secretary, says Cameron must accept that the cuts will lead to fewer police on the streets. He adds that Cameron must reverse Ken Clarke's prison closures. "We need more prisons," he says.

12:13 David Davis asks what the government will do to prevent "evil-minded people" using the events to increase ethnic conflict. Cameron says the government will work closely with community leaders.

12:19 Nadine Dorries asks Cameron why the police did not have imeediate access to plastic bullets and water cannon. Cameron says that the police came close to using baton rounds but adds that the size and mobility of the crowd meant water cannon were rightly not used.

12:22 We're going to end the live blog here. But stay tuned for live coverage of George Osborne's statement on the economy.

A protest in 2016. Getty
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Fewer teachers, more pupils and no more money. Schools are struggling

With grammars and universal school meals, both main parties have decided to answer policy questions no one is asking.

If you ask people in Britain what the ­biggest political issues are, schools don’t make the top five. Yet last week Labour set its first party political broadcast in a fictional classroom where a teacher described Jeremy Corbyn’s plans for schools’ future. Without a Labour government, the teacher opines, there will be no more libraries, or teachers, or school trips. Though the scenario is a flagrant breach of the law – teachers must remain politically impartial – education isn’t a bad place for Labour to start its campaign. Schools really are quite screwed.

Three things are hitting hard. Schools have less money, fewer people want to be teachers, and an avalanche of under-sevens is hitting the playgrounds and won’t stop for several more years.

How did we get here? In 2015 the Conservatives pledged to keep school funding at the same rate per pupil over the lifetime of the parliament. Yet while the money coming in has remained flat, schools have faced huge hikes in costs, particularly staffing. Big increases in mandatory pension contributions and National Insurance have taken their toll; so has the apprenticeship levy. The
Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that all told, schools will have lost about 8 per cent of their budget by 2020. That’s £3bn of savings that must be found. Or, more bluntly, the starting salaries of 100,000 teachers.

It is worth remembering at this point how huge the schools sector is and how many people are affected. About half a million teachers work in the 20,000-plus state schools. A further 300,000 people work in allied professions. There are eight million children and an estimated 12 million parents. Lump in their grandparents, and it’s fair to say that about 20 million voters are affected by schools in one way or another.

The budget squeeze is leading many of these schools to drastic measures: firing teachers, increasing class sizes, cutting music from the curriculum, charging parents for their child’s place on a sports team, dropping transport provision, and so on. Begging letters to parents for donations have become commonplace; some have asked for contributions of up to £60 a month.

On top of money worries, teachers are abandoning the profession. In 2015, an additional 18,000 went to work in international schools – more than were trained at universities over the same year. They joined the 80,000 teachers already working in British schools abroad, attracted by higher pay and better working conditions.

Graduates are also snubbing teaching. With starting salaries increasing at less than 1 per cent a year since 2010, new teachers are now paid about 20 per cent less than the average graduate trainee. Changes to higher education are also such that trainees must now pay £9,000 in order to gain their teaching qualification through a university. The government has missed its target for teacher trainees for five years now, and there is no coherent plan for hitting it.

No money and no teachers is less of a problem if you are in a demographic dip. We had a bizarrely low birth rate at the turn of the century, so we currently have a historically small proportion of teens. Unfortunately, the generation just behind them, of seven-year-olds and under, is enormous. Why? Because the “baby echoers”, born in the 1970s to the baby boomers, had children a bit later than their parents. Add to that the children recently born to immigrants who arrived in their twenties when the European Union expanded in the early 2000s, and Britain is facing an El Niño of toddlers. By 2025 a million extra children will be in the school system than in 2010.

To keep on top of the boom the government has been creating schools like a Tasmanian devil playing Minecraft. But 175,000 more places will be needed in the next three years. That’s the equivalent of one new secondary school per week from now until 2020.

In fairness, the government and councils have put aside money for additional buildings, and roughly the same number of parents are getting their first-choice school as before. The free schools policy, which delivers new schools, has not always been well managed, but it is now more efficient and targeted. However, many more children combined with squeezed budgets and fewer teachers typically leads to bigger class sizes. Most classrooms were built to house 30 pupils. Exam results may not get worse, but no parent wants their child working on a makeshift desk improvised out of a windowsill.

Instead of addressing these challenges, both main parties have decided to answer policy questions no one is asking. Theresa May wants more grammar schools, ostensibly because they will give more choice to parents – though these are the only schools that pick pupils, as opposed to the other way around. And she says they will aid social mobility, though all the evidence (and I really do mean all) suggests the opposite.

Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, is offering free lunches to all seven-to-11-year-olds, which sounds worthy until you realise that children from low-income families already get free lunch, and that feeding every child a hot sit-down meal is virtually impossible, given the limited space and kitchen facilities in most schools. Plus, the evidence this £1bn policy would make any significant difference
to health or attainment is pretty sketchy. Labour has also sensibly talked about cash and promised to “fully fund” schools, but it isn’t clear what that means.

What’s missing so far from the Conservatives and Labour alike is a set of policies about teacher recruitment or place planning. The sector needs to know how schools will be built, and where the teachers will come from for the extra kids. In other words, the message to both sides is – must try harder.

Laura McInerney is the editor of Schools Week and a former teacher

Laura McInerney taught in East London for six years and is now studying on a Fulbright scholarship at the University of Missouri. She also works as Policy Partner at LKMCo.

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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