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House of Commons

Tuesday 20 December 1988

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[ Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


City of London (Spitalfields Market) Bill

(By Order) Order for Third Reading read .

To be read the Third time on Thursday 12 January .

Avon Light Rail Transit Bill

[Lords] (By Order)

London Regional Transport (Penalty Fares) Bill

[Lords] (By Order)

Orders for Second Reading read .

To be read a Second time on Thursday 12 January .

Oral Answers to Questions


Management Qualifications

1. Mr. Cran : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proportion of undergraduates are currently taking degrees or other qualifications in management or management-related subjects ; what was the figure 10 years ago ; and what is the figure for other major west European countries.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Robert Jackson) : In 1987, 18 per cent. of undergraduates were studying management or management-related subjects. The equivalent figure for 1980, the earliest year for which comparable figures are available, was 16 per cent. These figures relate to universities in Great Britain and polytechnics and colleges in England.

Comparisons with other major west European countries are difficult, given difficulties of definition, but our best estimates are, France 9 per cent., Germany 3 per cent., Italy 2 per cent. and Spain 5 per cent.

Mr. Cran : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is not the fault of higher education in this country that, according to the Handy report, only 24 per cent. of British managers have a first degree or equivalent qualification, whereas the equivalent figures for the United States and West Germany are 84 per cent. and 64 per cent. respectively? Will my hon. Friend therefore use his best endeavours to get British industry to recognise where its self-interest lies, especially against a background in which the CBI and the British Institute of Management recognise that there is a close correlation between an educated work force and management and higher productivity?

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Mr. Jackson : I am not sure whether I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that any sort of degree is what a manager needs. Managers need adequate training in relevant skills. That is what lies behind the management charter initiative, which the Government strongly support--both directly and as an employer. We urge industry and other employers to become members of that initiative so that even more employees will have a chance to develop essential management skills.

Sir John Stokes : Does my hon. Friend agree that, important though academic qualifications are--we all realise that--the essentials for a manager are personal qualities such as inventiveness, leadership, courage and decision, which are not always to be learnt at university?

Mr. Jackson : I agree with my hon. Friend and I draw his attention to the interesting enterprise and higher education initiative sponsored by the Department of Employment and designed to foster precisely those qualities among university students.

National Curriculum

2. Mr. Macdonald : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received concerning the case for a full science programme in the national curriculum.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Baker) : The National Curriculum Council has recommended that the majority of science pupils in years four and five in secondary school should work to a double GCSE award taking up about 20 per cent. of curriculum time, but that a choice of taking one GCSE award should be available to some taking up about 12.5 per cent. of time. I have accepted that recommendation, and this is reflected in the draft orders which I published yesterday.

Mr. Macdonald : Does not the right hon. Gentleman's failure to insist on a 20 per cent. science element in the national curriculum mean that the original idea for a broad national curriculum is now dead and that the curriculum will do nothing to increase the number of girls studying science at A-level, nothing to increase the number of graduates studying science at university and nothing to diminish the ignorance in society about science, which does such great harm to our economy?

Mr. Baker : The double award science will cover 17 attainment targets and the single award, which is very demanding, will cover 10. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the system will be broad and balanced. I was a little puzzled that the hon. Gentleman asked me that question, coming as he does from Scotland--[ Hon. Members :-- "Why?"]--because the Scottish system is the kind that the national curriculum is about to recommend.

Mr. Foulkes : Try learning science in Gaelic.

Mr. Baker : Even those pupils in Scotland who try to learn in Gaelic, or whatever language, can spend varying amounts of time on science- -from 10 per cent. up to 30 per cent.--and I shall introduce that flexibility into the English education system.

Mr. Forman : I welcome my right hon. Friend's initial reply, but will he take account of the fact that many Conservative Members would like to see the fullest

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possible contribution of science to the national curriculum? If the potential shortage of teachers could be a difficulty in that regard, will he consider carefully the possibility of bringing people of mature years from the private sector later in their careers?

Mr. Baker : I assure my hon. Friend that I, too, want to see much more science studied at school and this proposal represents a big improvement. About one third of our young people at school give up science at the age of 14, but under the national curriculum every boy and girl, particularly girls, will have to take it up to the age of 16, along with technology. That is an enormous step forward. I want to encourage more people to come into the teaching profession who have had other careers, particularly in business and I have proposals, on which we are consulting, to ease their entry into the teaching profession. Such people have a lot to offer.

Mr. Straw : The Secretary of State must be aware that by rejecting the recommendations of his own science working party he has produced a downgraded two-tier science curriculum that virtually no one in education wants and which will hit the education of a great many people, especially that of girls. Why does he not accept and admit that he has taken this step because of the alarming, and increasing, shortage of science teachers reflected in a 15 per cent. drop in entrants to chemistry teaching? Does he not realise that people outside are also deeply concerned about his proposals, and that Mr. Denis Filer, director general of the Engineering Council has said that his council believes that the narrower syllabus will be insufficient to deliver an adequate balanced science programme to all young people?

Mr. Baker : The proposals before the House in the draft orders represent a tremendous and significant improvement in science in schools. It did not meet with all that much support when we debated the matter in the Standing Committee on the Education Reform Bill, but I leave that aside. In addition to science, all children up to the age of 16 will now have to take technology. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have not rejected the proposals of the National Curriculum Council--a body which, by statute, advises me. The council advised me to do this and I have accepted its advice. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that one third of the schools which made representations said that they wanted that flexibility--the very flexibility that I was pressed to introduce into the curriculum by the Opposition in Committee.

City Technology Colleges

3. Mr. Irvine : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress is being made in finding sites for city technology colleges ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Baker : The CTC programme continues to make excellent progress. Kinghurst CTC opened in September, Nottingham and Teesside CTCs will open next year, and there are plans for other CTCs in 1990, including one in Bradford.

Mr. Irvine : Is it not sadly true that my right hon. Friend's task of finding suitable sites for CTCs has been made immeasurably more difficult by the refusal of Labour-controlled councils in deprived inner- city areas to

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co-operate in finding and making available such sites? Is it not also true that it is precisely the parents and children who live in those deprived inner-city areas, controlled by such councils, who stand to gain most from the introduction of CTCs?

Mr. Baker : My hon. Friend is completely correct. Some authorities are willing to co-operate in providing sites but the great majority-- virtually all of them Labour-controlled--are not. We now have sponsors for more than the 20 CTCs that I want to set up. We can go above 20 and we are now searching for sites. Those schools are designed to help children from the deprived inner cities. Where they have been set up they are doing so and will continue to do so.

Mr. Clelland : The Secretary of State will be aware that one of the sites that he has in mind is in Gateshead in my constituency, but is he aware that the amount of money that he intends to spend on that school is more than the total that he has allowed the local authority for all its schools? Is not that a disgrace? Since it was recently revealed that only 7 per cent. of his hon. Friends support priority expenditure in this area, is it not time that he abandoned the idea?

Mr. Baker : On the contrary, the CTCs are popular schools. They have been by far the most popular schools wherever they have been set up. The applications for Kingshurst already show that, as do the applications for those in Middlesbrough and Nottingham which are not even open yet. There have been substantial contributions from the private sector. More than £31 million has been pledged by the private sector for this initiative. No other education effort has brought forth such support from the private business world.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo : Does my right hon. Friend agree that surplus land and buildings held by local education authorities are held in trust? Should they not make that surplus available to possible CTCs rather than forcing very expensive new-build on fresh land--as was necessary in Nottingham, although I warmly welcome the college being built in that city?

Mr. Baker : I was happy to lay the foundation stone about three weeks ago. That college will be very successful--a beacon in technological education. It was only when the Conservatives had control of Nottingham city council that planning permission was given, because the Conservatives had the wisdom to give it. I am sure that control of Nottingham city council will return to us in the future. Far too many councils have a dog- in-the-manger attitude, sitting on underutilised land and empty schools when it would be much better to make those buildings available for CTCs.

Mr. Madden : Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to announce his decision about the suggestion that I put to him in writing immediately after the announcement of the Bradford CTC--that parents in Bradford should be balloted to decide whether available taxpayers' money amounting to £8 million should be spent on a CTC in Bradford or on improving existing schools there, many of which are in a deplorable condition?

Mr. Baker : This year's capital programme for Bradford was substantially expanded when I approved the figures only a year ago. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the

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Bradford school will go ahead. The land has now been bought and the school will be a tremendous success in Bradford, which needs new schools. I look forward to laying that foundation stone as well.

Mr. Squire : Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whether it is measured by the degree of parental interest or by the surge in support from industry--or even by the large number of teachers applying to teach in these schools--the CTC experiment will turn out to be an unqualified success? The Opposition must be careful lest they again find themselves saddled with opposing something that is both politically and educationally popular.

Mr. Baker : I am sure that in the months ahead we shall see a movement of opinion on the Opposition Benches towards favouring CTCs. Their conversion will be welcome, for CTCs will be very popular and very successful.

Extra-curricular Activities

4. Mr. Janner : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement concerning financial provision for extra-curricular activities.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. John Butcher) : The Education Reform Act responded to pressure to clarify the law on charging for school activities. Schools may not charge for provision offered during school hours, with the exception of individual music tuition. They may charge for extra-curricular activities provided outside school hours, as long as these are not an essential part of the curriculum. Local authorities and schools can still invite parents to make voluntary contributions towards the cost of any school activity, but the child's participation in the activity must not be dependent on the parents' willingness to contribute.

Mr. Janner : Does the Minister not recognise that the new rules will effectively kill off the vast majority of school visits overseas, almost all of which take place in term time? Some 40,000 Leicestershire children have benefited from those important educational opportunities in the past few years, but they will no longer be able to do so. Will the Minister reconsider this wicked invasion of the rights of schools to provide extra- curricular activities which in their own way, as the Minister himself has said, are as valuable as much that goes on in the school term?

Mr. Butcher : I can only assume that the hon. and learned Gentleman has deliberately misunderstood the import of what is proposed. As he knows, it was in response to representations from local education authorities and under pressure from certain judicial decisions that we had to recodify this part of the law. Those who wish to enjoy trips abroad, for language purposes and so on, will still be able to do so-- Mr. Janner : If they can afford it.

Mr. Butcher : Parents will be asked for a contribution. Most parents who were willing to pay charges before are unlikely to refuse a voluntary contribution if they regard an activity as educationally worthwhile.

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Mr. Andrew MacKay : Is my hon. Friend aware that trips which are more localised than those referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) are in great danger? In my education authority of Berkshire all school trips have been cancelled, which is causing great concern to parents and teachers. It seems that the code and regulations are the exact opposite of what the House and the Government wanted.

Mr. Butcher : The full circular will be issued in January. In response to representations from hon. Members, and particularly from my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay), I have asked officials to ensure that it eliminates any ambiguities in the draft circular which may have caused concern to some local authorities. Some local authorities have been better than others at interpreting the draft circular to allow current practices to continue.

Mr. Simon Hughes : Can the Minister assure the House that the circular will not mark the beginning of a two-tier state education system-- one for students with no parental support, whose parents cannot afford an increasing number of activities after school and during the holidays, and another in which an increasing range of activities will be paid for by parents with money, thus giving their children all the advantages that until now have been free and available for all?

Mr. Butcher : That is simply not correct. The kind of trips about which hon. Members are concerned have not necessarily been free in the past. We have been anxious to find a way to retain and codify the principle of free school education while still permitting flexibility for voluntary contributions to be made.

As for hardship, I do not see why the legislation should lead to increased pressure on school budgets. If activities are worthwhile, parents will surely still be willing to contribute to their cost, but LEAs and schools-- this answers the hon. Gentleman's point--will have discretion as before to help in cases of hardship.


5. Mr. Amos : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will include education about the dangers of smoking in the school curriculum ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Butcher : Health education has been identified by the Government as an important cross-curricular theme to be covered by different foundation subjects within the national curriculum. As a result, different foundation subject working groups are being asked to cover appropriate aspects of health education within their recommendations. For example, the science working group recommends that all pupils should receive education within the science curriculum about the harmful effects of smoking. My right hon. Friend is now considering this, along with all the recommendations made by the council on science.

Mr. Amos : I am grateful for that positive reply. As 19 per cent. of fifth form boys and 30 per cent. of fifth form girls are regular smokers, will my hon. Friend have discussions to ensure that all staff set an example by not being allowed to smoke in public areas of their schools?

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Mr. Butcher : As always, that will be a matter for the schools themselves. Most of them will observe the sort of practices that my hon. Friend wants. There have been improvements and reductions in the proportion of our youngsters who smoke, but we should not see that as the end of the story. Health education and personal and social education should make young people aware of the dangers of smoking.

Dr. Moonie : In view of the Minister's concern about the problem of smoking, will he ensure that the CTC in Teesside, which is sponsored by British American Tobacco, carries a Government health warning?

Mr. Butcher : I shall be charitable and interpret the hon. Gentleman's question as a serious one. I am sure that the parts of the curriculum which relate to health education in the maintained sector will still be relevant in that school.

Mr. Key : Will my hon. Friend also take a serious look at the problem of smoking on school buses? Can he confirm that it is illegal for drivers of school buses and other public service vehicles to smoke on duty?

Mr. Butcher : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I shall draw the attention of the appropriate officials at the Department to that point to see whether the inspectorate should focus on it.

National Curriculum

6. Mr. Morley : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he is now in a position to publish the quantity and type of teachers required to teach the national curriculum ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : My Department's memorandum to the Education, Science and Arts Select Committee on teacher supply includes some tentative estimates of teacher demand in national curriculum subjects. I have placed a copy in the Library.

Mr. Morley : We have already discussed the problem of science teachers, but there are also considerable teacher shortages in mathematics and mechanical subjects. Can the Minister assure the House that those shortages will be dealt with before the national curriculum comes into effect? Can he speculate whether denying teachers their civil right of pay negotiation and imposing on them pay settlements that are less than inflation do much for teacher recruitment?

Mr. Baker : On the latter point, we must await the report of the interim advisory committee. On the first point, on the estimates that I have made, we expect overall teacher supply and demand to be in balance in the 1990s. That, of course, reflects certain shortages in science, mathematics and technology, which I have acknowledged, and we must take steps to improve recruitment. We have a bursary scheme for students who wish to take teacher training in those subjects. As I said earlier, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman), we want to attract people from other careers into teaching and to encourage teachers who have stopped teaching for some time to come back into teaching.

Mr. Pawsey : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the quality of the teaching force is just as important as the

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quantity? Is he, therefore, satisfied that the teacher training colleges are producing graduates of the relevant quality and that the syllabuses that they are following have particular relevance to today's schools? Also, are the teachers capable of keeping control in the classroom?

Mr. Baker : We have improved the quality of teacher training considerably over the past three or four years, but I am the first to recognise that more needs to be done. It is clear that those going through teacher training need more experience in the classroom and less study of subjects such as the history of education. Certainly, trainee teachers should be trained in the techniques of controlling a class.

Mr. Straw : Does the Secretary of State not accept that something is seriously wrong when, on his own figures, three in 10 newly qualified teachers fail to go into teaching straight away and nearly four in 10 new teachers leave the profession within five years? The Secretary of State has increased his own publicity budget by 2, 900 per cent. since taking office. Why does he not devote the same attention to dealing with the central problem of schools--teacher shortages--as he does to the production of self -serving glossy pamphlets? Was the Spectator correct when it said recently that the Secretary of State is

"trading short term political advantage for the longer term interests of the education system"?

Mr. Baker : I am glad that the hon. Gentleman reads the Spectator . That is a great improvement on what is usually read by Labour Members. We are now promoting the career of teaching very strongly as part of a departmental campaign. This year, 1,000 more people want to become teachers than last year and 3,000 more than two years ago. We have stopped the decline and we have recovered from the bad time of the teachers' strikes. We want to encourage more people who have been trained as teachers to come back into the teaching profession. About 50 per cent. of entrants into teaching each year are those who are returning. We must make it more attractive for people to return to the profession.

Mr. Patrick Thompson : Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is strong support for the reform of the national curriculum and for the other measures in the Education Reform Act? Will he bear in mind the continuing shortage of highly qualified teachers of physics and mathematics, and will he do all that he can to ensure a better supply of well qualified pupils for university science and engineering departments?

Mr. Baker : I agree. There are bursaries of £1,300 per year for those who want to train as physics, mathematics or technology teachers. We want to attract people, perhaps in their 30s, to undertake a career switch from other careers to teaching, especially if they have a science or engineering background. Such people have much to bring to teaching, not only in knowledge but in maturity.

7. Mr. Hardy : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proportion of the time available for the education of the age group eight to 11 years will be needed to meet the requirements of the national curriculum.

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The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold) : Decisions on timetabling the national curriculum will be for individual schools.

Mr. Hardy : Is the Minister aware that many eminent and expert educationists fear that the requirements of the national curriculum will occupy virtually the whole time available in primary schools? As British primary education is frequently effective and very often excellent, will the Minister reconsider the requirements to ensure that flexibility is not prohibited?

Mrs. Rumbold : I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the report of the speech made recently by an HMI, who said that in primary schools, in particular, the core subjects would obviously take up the majority of the time .

Mr. Hardy : All the time.

Mrs. Rumbold : No, he suggested that primary schools would need to examine closely the timetabling of mathematics and English and of the science parts of the core curriculum. That is perfectly true, but he went on to say that it would be possible, and most desirable, for primary schools to manage their affairs to include such matters as environmental and health education.

Mr. Alton : Given what the Secretary of State said about engineering and technology, is it not ironic that a group of primary school teachers whom I met yesterday in Liverpool had received yet another booklet from the DES, this time urging the teaching of classics to five to 11-year-olds? Does not the Minister have some sympathy with their complaint that the teaching of basic subjects such as arithmetic and reading to children--many of whom will otherwise leave school unable to read and write--must come first? Does she not agree that what we really need is more resources, particularly for remedial teaching?

Mrs. Rumbold : It is important that all children should leave school with the basics--the three Rs ; every one of us would agree with that. Nevertheless, it is also important for other subjects, such as classics, to be highlighted by the HMI, as they were in an excellent publication, which I recommend the hon. Gentleman to read.

Mr. Anthony Coombs : When considering the primary phase of the national curriculum, will my hon. Friend confirm that despite recent study groups and newspaper reports, the national curriculum will reflect the manifest needs of primary school children to learn grammatical and structured English and arithmetical ability, as well as to use pocket computers? Will my hon. Friend also ensure that the assessment test at seven reflects that interest?

Mrs. Rumbold : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already denounced as absolute rubbish the articles that appeared in the newspapers yesterday and over the weekend. The questions that were printed were examples taken from the existing work by the working group on mathematics, whose report was then submitted to the National Curriculum Council, which has done considerably more work since then. The School Examination and Assessment Council has just let the contract for the new assessment tests for the core subjects for the three different organisations to work on. I assure

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my hon. Friend that Ministers are expecting simple comprehensible tests in the core subjects to be used in the classroom in the future.

Mr. Flannery : Does the Minister not realise that he or she is completely underestimating the difficulties that will arise while the national curriculum is taking root? Are not large numbers of primary school teachers feeling the pressures at this moment? Teachers who are not properly equipped to teach science, for instance, are trying their best to teach it with inadequate resources. That is causing them deep worry, because they honestly want to do their best and they do not have the resources to carry out the preparation for the national curriculum.

Mrs. Rumbold : First, let me assure the hon. Gentleman that I am a she. The resources expected to be spent in the year 1989-90 include £130 million on the development of in-service training and other work associated with the national curriculum. I do not think that it is legitimate to suggest that teachers will not have sufficient resources. I fully understand that they will have to undertake in-service training and two extra days have been allocated especially for that work to take place this year.

Mr. Harry Greenway : Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be helpful to advise parents not to do the homework of children aged between eight and 11, or the GCSE coursework of older children, in the interests of their children's learning and of sound results?

Mrs. Rumbold : My hon. Friend is right to say that parents should not do their children's homework, but it is important that parents encourage their children to do homework and are ready to answer any questions that their children may ask.

Nursery Teachers

8. Ms. Mowlam : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether his Department has any plans to increase the number of nursery teachers ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Rumbold : Target places for primary initial teacher training will have increased by more than 60 per cent. between 1983 and 1989. Within their allocations, institutions have been asked to give greater emphasis to training for the early years, which includes nursery teaching.

Ms. Mowlam : Will the Minister assure the House that the training that will be offered to those additional teachers will qualify them fully in specific teaching for three to five-year-olds and will not be just general training? We wish to be sure that the specific needs of three to five-year-olds are taken into account in such training.

Mrs. Rumbold : Training for the early years, which is being undertaken by many teachers, will include the matters that the hon. Lady has mentioned.

Mr. Robert B. Jones : Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the voluntary nursery sector? Will she ensure that, when promoting nursery education, local authorities do not undermine the voluntary sector, as the dogmatic Hertfordshire county council is doing at Wigginton and Grove Hill in my constituency?

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Mrs. Rumbold : Uniquely in Britain we have a wide choice of pre- school education, which is extremely important and valuable to children and their parents. I agree with my hon. Friend that that choice should be maintained.

Ms. Armstrong : Does the Minister recognise that there are grave shortages of nursery teachers in many areas? As the Secretary of State supported the Prime Minister when she pledged that 50 per cent. of three- year-olds and 90 per cent. of four-year-olds would have nursery places, will the Minister spell out the action that the Government will take to achieve that target?

Mrs. Rumbold : The hon. Lady may be interested in the following figures. In 1980, shortly after this Government took office, 404,000 three to four-year-olds received pre-school education. That was 37.1 per cent. of the age group. In 1988, the figure rose to 505,000. More than 100,000 more three to four-year-olds are now in school.

Mr. Favell : Does my hon. Friend agree that the person best equipped to teach a three to five-year-old is the mother?

Mrs. Rumbold : My hon. Friend is right to say that the mother is one of the most important people in the child's early development. Children who do not have the benefit of mothers talking to and caring for them are unfortunate. It is most desirable that children also have the opportunity to attend play groups or nursery school.

Student Loans

9. Mr. Wallace : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received concerning the White Paper "Top-up Loans for Students" ; and if he will make a statement.

17. Mr. Yeo : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received regarding his proposals for top-up loans for students.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : Since the publication on 9 November of the Government's White Paper on top-up loans for students, about 3,600 representations have been received expressing a variety of views.

Mr. Wallace : Have any of those representations drawn to the Secretary of State's attention surveys which tend to show that the top-up loans scheme would deter from entering university people who are already under-represented--those in low-income brackets, disabled students, mature students and women? Has he also received representations from Scotland about the lack of reference in the White Paper to the special circumstances in Scotland, which has a four-year honours degree course? Is the Secretary of State satisfied that his proposals will not undermine that cornerstone of Scottish education?

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