26 January 2023
Harriett Baldwin takes part in a debate on the International Day of Education

Harriett Baldwin speaks in a debate to recognise the importance of the International Day of Education, and makes the case for every child in the world to have 12 years of quality education in particular raising the plight of refugee children whose education suffers because they have to flee conflict.

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) on securing the debate. I thank her for making it possible for hon. Members who are passionate about this issue to make the case for every child in the world to have 12 years of quality education. Nothing could be more important, and nothing is less politically controversial, but because we all agree how important it is, it does not get enough debate in this place. That is why I am so sincere in my congratulations to my right hon. Friend.

Over the last few years, I have had the privilege of chairing the all-party parliamentary group on global education—more recently, I have been co-chairing it— and I was also a co-founding chair of the International Parliamentary Network for Education. Regrettably, I had to hand on those responsibilities when I was given the honour of chairing the Treasury Committee. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has embraced the opportunity that those marvellous groups offer to champion this important cause.

In my right hon. Friend’s powerful opening speech, we heard about the important ways in which enabling every child in the world to get a quality education could make our future so much brighter. Growing the world’s economies, making sure we are all healthier, and helping to tackle climate change are all powerful and provable implications of ensuring that every child gets a good education.

I will focus on those—particularly refugee children—whose education suffers because they have to flee conflict. I thank all the families in Worcestershire who have been so good about welcoming refugees from Ukraine into their homes. We are proud to have welcomed 1,000 Ukrainians into Worcestershire, and half of them are children who are being educated in our local schools. I thank the families, but I also thank the schools and teachers for welcoming those children into our educational settings.

I have a point for the Minister to take back to her colleagues at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. There is rightly a payment to the school when it takes in a Ukrainian refugee child. If the child moves to another school after a short period of weeks, that payment does not follow them, and that has led to a few problems. The up-front lump sum gets paid to the school that receives the child, but if they are there for only a little while, the money does not go any further. The Minister will probably not be able to respond today, but will she commit to write to me about how that could be better tackled in the system?

I endorse the points that were made about those poor girls in Afghanistan. There is not a day when I do not think about how terribly they are suffering from not being allowed to go to school. The medieval cruelty of the Taliban regime in preventing their daughters from being educated is appalling. We must speak out about it whenever we can, because it is only by keeping that focus that we can ever hope for the situation to change.

It is not just girls in Afghanistan, but millions of children in countries all around the world—including our own—who are missing out on education. It is particularly difficult to educate children in refugee settings, which is why I commend the work I saw at first hand when I was the Minister responsible for that budget in the international sphere.

The work done to help children get an education is often delivered very rapidly by Education Cannot Wait, and I want to highlight the opportunity for the UK to continue to show its global leadership in this area with the upcoming replenishment of the Education Cannot Wait budget. I am sure the Minister and her officials will be carefully studying the results that Education Cannot Wait has delivered in settings around the world. I hope that the data still show the good impact and powerful value for money that that funding produces, and that the UK can therefore lead on that important work and crowd in other countries to contribute to it.

To conclude my brief remarks on this incredibly important subject, I again thank my right hon. Friend for securing the debate. On behalf of my constituents, I also thank the Minister for the work the UK does to make the world a safer, healthier and more prosperous place by investing in education—not just in this country, but in countries that cannot afford to educate all their children. I urge the Minister to look particularly favourably on the work that is done for children in refugee situations by Education Cannot Wait.


Subsequent intervention in the same debate

Harriett Baldwin 

Will my right hon. Friend commit to writing to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to make the point that the money for Ukrainian refugee children in the UK, which I believe comes from the official development assistance budget, is not necessarily following that child if they move to a new school?

The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Anne-Marie Trevelyan)

My hon. Friend raises an important point, of which I was not aware; it has not been brought to me in my constituency. I will take it up with the Secretary of State and ensure that we understand where those issues are, the size of the problem, and how we can ensure that, whichever schools are looking after those young people who are here from Ukraine, they can have the support they need.