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House of Commons

Tuesday 6 June 1989

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[ Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Double Taxation Relief

The Vice-Chamberlain of the Household-- reported Her Majesty's Answer to the Address, as follows :

I have received your Address praying that the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on the Estates of Deceased Persons and Inheritances and on Gifts) (Sweden) Order 1989 be made in the form of the draft laid before your House.

I will comply with your request.

Summer Time

The Vice-Chamberlain of the Household-- reported Her Majesty's Answer to the Address, as follows :

I have received your Address praying that the Summer Time Order 1989 be made in the form of the draft laid before your House. I will comply with your request.


Associated British Ports (Hull) Bill

Isle of Wight Bill

Tees (Newport Bridge) Bill


Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Bill

Orders for Third Reading read.

To be read the Third time on Thursday 8 June.

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New Southgate Cemetery and Crematorium Limited Bill

Order for consideration read.

To be considered on Thursday 8 June.

Oral Answers to Questions


Links with Business and Industry

1. Mr. Cran : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what resources are made available to local education authorities to ensure that secondary schools are able to develop effective links with businesses.

6. Mr. Jacques Arnold : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he is taking to encourage awareness of industry in schools.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. John Butcher) : Resources are made available for the development of links between schools and business through a number of initiatives involving schools, local education authorities and national organisations. The Department makes direct contributions to particular projects and organisations, publishes and distributes information, and makes funding available to local education authorities for the training of teachers. Industrial and economic awareness are cross-curricular themes in the national curriculum.

Mr. Cran : Does my hon. Friend agree that despite the excellent schemes, some of which are undoubtedly very good, there is a patchiness about the implementation of links between schools and industry so that we are in danger of producing more industrial illiterates than necessary? Against that background, and on the assumption that he agrees with what I say, will my hon. Friend find time to review the implementation of the

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scheme to see whether there are ways to improve and to even out its performance throughout the United Kingdom in view of the need to attract the best brains into industry?

Mr. Butcher : My hon. Friend, with his great experience in these matters, makes a serious point. We wish to see best practice become common practice, and my hon. Friend's erstwhile colleagues in the Confederation of British Industry are considering how to bring co-ordination to bear on a range of links between education and industry. However, we do not wish to dampen local enthusiasm and dynamism, which appear to be the key to success in these efforts. I am satisfied that there is much enthusiasm, but in the light of the Cadbury report, I appeal to employers to come forward in greater numbers. The schools are ready for the links and wish to see much more contact. Employers should match their enthusiasm.

Mr. Arnold : Will my hon. Friend comment on the development of the technical and vocational education initiative? My constituency of Gravesham has a programme which does a considerable amount to develop the awareness of school students of the opportunities to be found in industry. Surely we should give added emphasis to that area.

Mr. Butcher : When the initiative was first discussed there was some cynicism, which I believe has now all but evaporated. I am delighted that TVEI is being pursued with such enthusiasm, particularly by teachers. It has been a great success. In particular, it seems to "turn on" certain categories of pupil who may find the traditional curriculum less exciting than they would wish. A spend of some £900 million over 10 years shows the kind of cash support that we are prepared to give to this significant breakthrough.

Mr. Flannery : Does the Minister agree that there is a great deal more to education than links with business? Education is for life, and must be broad and tolerant. There is a grave danger-- [Interruption.] The laughter from Conservative Members suggests that they do not agree with what I am saying, but it is very important. The links with life must be broad, tolerant and educational, not reduced to the distinctly narrow viewpoint of the Conservative party, which is causing such chaos in our education system.

Mr. Butcher : There is no conflict between our traditional desire for the education of the whole man--or the whole person--and the need to establish links with the world of commerce and industry. I put it to the hon. Gentleman that someone who leaves our school system without the basic capability of standing on his or her own feet is not a whole person. Our main priority must be to give people that first capability.

Teachers (Recruitment)

2. Mr. Arbuthnot : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress his Department is making in promoting teaching as a career.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold) : Our approach, through national publicity and the work of the teaching as a career unit, is creating a positive recruitment climate. This is reflected in the record numbers in recent years applying for

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teacher training places, and in the very high response to our recent advertising campaign, to which there were more than 10,000 responses.

Mr. Arbuthnot : Will my hon. Friend confirm that teaching is an extremely important, valuable and good career, but, that while the Government are taking positive steps to encourage people to adopt it others tend to emphasise only the negative aspects? Should they not take note of the words of Walter Ievers, the incoming president of the National Association of Head Teachers, who said recently that negative attitudes were themselves demoralising?

Mrs. Rumbold : I agree. The incoming president of the association was right in saying that negative attitudes do not help the general image of teachers. Conservative Members have a high regard for the teaching profession. We consider it an honourable profession that is executed extraordinarily well by the vast majority of teachers. I am surprised that teachers do not recognise how easily they could regain their authority by showing how competently they are managing the changes in our education system.

Mr. Spearing : Does the Minister agree that in every school, day visits by pupils and particularly longer adventure residential journeys in this country are a valuable means of irrigating learning? Does she accept my view, based on 14 years' experience, that such activities are especially valuable in the case of reluctant pupils, and will she and her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State review the mess-up that they have made and change the rules so that willing teachers can pursue those activities to the benefit of their pupils and of education? More teachers will then stay in our schools, and more will be attracted to teaching--the reverse of the result that the current terrible arrangements are producing.

Mrs. Rumbold : I ask the hon. Gentleman to study carefully the recommendations in the Education Reform Act 1988 on charging for extra- mural activities. Those recommendations allow for all such activities to continue, and indeed follow exactly the changes recommended to the Department--which was not originally minded to make any changes--by local education authorities.

Mr. Kirkhope : Does my hon. Friend agree that there are some difficulties in achieving a balance between teachers wishing to go into one specialty or another? Can she say a word or two about how that imbalance will be remedied?

Mrs. Rumbold : Yes. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken considerable steps towards ensuring that people are attracted to areas of shortage by means of bursaries, so that they will enter teaching and take it up as a career. That has been very successful. The most recent bursaries offered to those wishing to teach chemistry has resulted in an 8 per cent. increase in the number wishing to enter the profession.

Mr. Straw : The evidence of the recent Gallup poll in the Daily Telegraph shows a 40 per cent. drop in support for the Conservative party among teachers since the last general election and that four in 10 of our most experienced teachers wish to leave the profession. Does not that confirm the verdict of the Daily Express

"that the tolerance of parents--and of voters--"

on the Government's education record

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"is almost exhausted"?

Why do the Minister and the Secretary of State continue to deny that there is still a serious crisis in respect of our teaching force?

Mrs. Rumbold : The polls to which the hon. Gentleman refers reflect the attitudes of the people who are invited to respond to them. Teachers' actions are reflected by the independent interim advisory committee's report, which reaffirms that the number of people leaving the teaching profession in 1989 is only 1 per cent. of the total.

Mr. Dickens : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is difficult for my right hon. and hon. Friends to take a lecture on teacher recruitment when it was the last Labour Government who, between 1974 and 1979, devalued teachers' pay by as much as 12 per cent.?

Mrs. Rumbold : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Under the present Government, teachers' pay has increased in the order of 40 per cent.

Student Loans

3. Mr. Frank Field : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the implementation of his White Paper on student loans.

4. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the progress of his plans for top-up loans for students.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Robert Jackson) : We are continuing to hold constructivdiscussions with a range of financial institutions about their possible participation in the administration of top-up loans. My right hon. Friend will announce our conclusions in due course.

Mr. Field : As the Government have been collecting information in America, can the Minister tell the House the average size of debt of American students at the end of their courses and the dropout rate, and how both compare with the British scene?

Mr. Jackson : It is not possible to make a comparison with the British scene because we do not yet have student loans, but if the hon. Gentleman studies the White Paper he will find that the figures of comparative indebtedness at the end of the course of study for the different countries which have student loans--as just about every other country does--show that total borrowing by students when our system is fully operational will be considerably less then is already the case in many other countries.

Mr. Greenway : Is my hon. Friend aware that I welcome the fact that there are 266 more students in higher education than there were 10 years ago? [Interruption.] Does he agree that they are better provided for in terms of grants than any other students in the world? Will he take note of the advice of Polonius to his son :

"Neither a borrower, nor a lender be"?

What would my hon. Friend's answer have been if Polonius had given him that advice.

Mr. Jackson : My hon. Friend, in his usual modest way, underestimates the Government's contribution to the expansion of higher education. The number of students has increased by 260,000 since we came to office. I will address the serious question put by my hon. Friend the

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Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) about indebtedness in two ways--practically and philosophically. The practical answer is that credit is a fact of life. We know--there is evidence of this in the White Paper--that the use of credit spreads across all classes. We also have evidence from our survey of student income and expenditure of the substantial borrowing that students already incur. The philosophical answer is that is is important for everyone to regard higher education as a form of investment by society on behalf of the economy and of culture. That is the taxpayers' contribution. It is also investment by an individual in his own future. It affords substantial personal benefit, so there should be a reasonable personal contribution to its costs.

Mr. Simon Hughes : Does the Minister admit that he has already failed in the objective set out in the White Paper of finding a cost- effective scheme that the financial institutions will administer? On his own estimate of an initial cost of £120 million, and the scheme not being self-balancing until the end of the century, and given all the reports that the Government will have to find more than £500 million to subsidise the banks, is it not already clear that the loans scheme will cost the country and the Government a fortune?

Mr. Jackson : I admire the hon. Gentleman's keen speculative intelligence. I refer him to the words of the penultimate Liberal Prime Minister, "Wait and see.".

Mr. Haselhurst : Has my hon. Friend considered the particular problems of deaf students and the danger that they will get a lower standard of employment than they deserve and may therefore run into corresponding difficulties in paying off loans which might be higher as a result of their special needs?

Mr. Jackson : I should point out to my hon. Friend a feature of the loans scheme which has been much neglected by commentators upon it. The obligation to repay the loan will be related to income. That should be more than enough to take care of the problem to which my hon. Friend has referred.

Mr. Andrew Smith : Now that I have obtained and today placed in the House of Commons Library the responses that the Government refused to publish in relation to the loans White Paper, will the Minister come clean and admit what his written answer to me on 15 February kept hidden--that those responses are overwhelmingly in opposition to the Government's proposals? Bearing in mind the reports which the Minister has on his desk and which show that it would cost £530 million even to induce the banks to consider operating his scheme, will not even he now concede that these unworkable and profoundly damaging proposals should be dropped, or does he intend to go on being more economical with the truth than he proposes to be with taxpayers' money?

Mr. Jackson : I have here the Labour party's summary of the responses. One third of those responses agreed with the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) in supporting a graduate tax.

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Grant-maintained Status

5. Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many inquiries and how many applications have so far been received from schools considering grant-maintained status.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Baker) : To date, I have approved 15 schools for grant-maintained status. A further 32 schools are currently embarked on the application procedures. Many more schools have expressed an interest.

Mr. Pawsey : I thank my right hon. Friend for his extremely helpful reply, but may I ask whether he is satisfied that we are doing enough to turn those inquiries into grant-maintained schools? Will he take the opportunity to comment on an education policy document issued by the Labour party, which calls for the abolition of grant-maintained schools? Does he agree that such documents should be speedily kebabed?

Mr. Baker : We now have certain proposals from the Labour party which purport to be an education policy. The Opposition want the end of grant-maintained schools. There is no question about that. They do not recognise how popular those schools are with parents and children-- [Interruption.] Yes, they are popular with parents in Skegness, in Birmingham, in Manchester, in Bolton and throughout the country. The trouble with the Opposition is that when they see something up and running, all they want to do is to abolish it.

Mr. Grocott : Will the Secretary of State confirm that he has repeatedly said that there will be no change in the financial provision for a school once it has achieved grant-maintained status but that he has now said that a further £30,000 handout of taxpayers' money will be given to all grant-maintained schools? Can he assure the House that he will also make £30,000 available to every state school in the country?

Mr. Baker : The basis of the capital funding will be the same for grant-maintained schools as for local education authority maintained schools. The amount to which the hon. Gentleman referred--up to £30, 000--is intended to meet early additional expenditure which might fall on the governors of schools in preparing for grant-maintained status. Such expenditure might include advertising for staff, the introduction of financial and administrative systems and other arrangements for taking on their new responsibilities.

Mr. Dunn : Will the Secretary of State confirm yet again that an application for grant-maintained status is a further option available to parents and governors of local schools? Does not that further option which has been made available by the Conservatives compare favourably with the Labour party's policies, which would lead to the abolition of Church schools, grammar schools, secondary modern schools, city technology colleges and the assisted places scheme and would do untold damage to the independent sector? Our policies are about choice, not discussion.

Mr. Baker : I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his assistance in getting this legislation on the statute book. I confirm entirely what he said. The Labour party wants to destroy all the initiatives that we have taken. It wants to

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undermine the national curriculum and private schools and destroy CTCs, grammar schools and grant-maintained schools. Its education policy is destruction and abolition.

Language Study

7. Mr. Livsey : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has any plans to increase the number of foreign languages that are currently listed under schedule 1 of the Education (National Curriculum) (Modern Foreign Language) Order 1989.

Mrs. Rumbold : My right hon. Friend has no such plans.

Mr. Livsey : Why is the Minister denying children the right to learn two languages, and why have the Government prevented the implementation of the Lingua programme in Britain? Is that not proof that the Conservative party is less than wholeheartedly a European party?

Mrs. Rumbold : I think that the hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. In Brussels my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State negotiated Britain's participation in a substantial part of the Lingua programme, not least post-16 vocational experience and exchange for students and for teachers who travel to Europe to learn and to extend their teaching practice. Schools are outside the EEC treaty as it was negotiated. Only 40 per cent. of our 16-year-olds are learning a foreign language. Under the national curriculum all children will learn at least one foreign language. We should concentrate on doing that and being able to walk before we run.

Mr. Evennett : Does my hon. Friend agree that progress is being made in the teaching of languages and that under the core curriculum further improvements will be forthcoming? The Lingua proposal is impractical in the present climate.

Mrs. Rumbold : I am afraid that my hon. Friend is right. No one wishes languages to be taught more urgently than we do, which is why my right hon. Friend provided in the national curriculum for all children between 11 and 16 to learn at least one foreign language.

Mr. Fatchett : Does not the Minister realise how complacent she sounds about the state of foreign language teaching? What reason of sovereignty denies our schoolchildren access to the resources that will be provided by the Lingua programme, or is it just the Prime Minister's pride that is denying children the opportunity of modern language teaching, which would enable them to deal better with the Common Market post 1992?

Mrs. Rumbold : As the hon. Gentleman feels so strongly about the matter, it will be interesting to know why the Labour party's proposals exclude a modern foreign language from the core curriculum.

National Curriculum (Primary Schools)

8. Mrs. Mahon : to ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to ensure that teachers are fully prepared to implement the national curriculum in primary schools next term.

Mrs. Rumbold : Specific grants are available for £100 million additional expenditure by local education

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authorities to support introduction of the national curriculum. We have allowed schools two extra closure days for training, and the National Curriculum Council has provided advice and training materials.

Mrs. Mahon : Does the Minister realise and understand the anxiety that primary school teachers feel about the nature and pace of the curriculum change? What plans does she have to provide the extra specialist training and resources necessary so that children with special needs have access to the national curriculum? Would not the Minister be the first to condemn teachers if they acted in such an irresponsible way with such haste?

Mrs. Rumbold : The hon. Lady will be satisfied to know that two extra in-service training days are being provided for primary school teachers in particular to learn about and to update themselves on the national curriculum. In addition, we have made provision for all schools to have the national curriculum documents in their hands in good time, so I hope that all primary school teachers will feel themselves ready. Some provisions will not necessarily apply to children with special needs, but we want such children to study the national curriculum from day one if they can.

Mr. Baldry : Clearly, it is vital that teachers have adequate in- service training to prepare them for the national curriculum, but is there any reason why much of that training should not take place during school holidays so as not to disrupt normal classroom activities?

Mrs. Rumbold : Yes, I tend to agree with my hon. Friend. It is interesting to note that of the 1,265 hours that a teacher is contracted to teach, the average primary school teacher spends 850 hours in lessons. If time is allowed for breaks, assembly and supervision, primary school teachers should still have 130 hours within the allocated time outside school holidays and weekends in which to do additional training.

Ms. Armstrong : I am sure that many primary school teachers will be horrified to hear the Minister's complacency this afternoon. Does she understand primary school teachers' fears that their professional integrity is being undermined by the completely haphazard way in the which the Government have introduced the core curriculum documents? How are teachers seriously to prepare, through training, for the teaching of English in September when the order has not yet been approved by the House? How are they to develop methods of monitoring and to agree ways in which English can be properly taught when the documents will not reach some schools until after the end of the summer term?

Mrs. Rumbold : It is exactly such an attitude that contributes to the demoralisation of teachers. Hearing such statements do not help. Primary school teachers are working extremely hard. Those whom I have met in the schools are looking forward with enthusiasm to the introduction of the national curriculum and are working hard to make their systems work. They appreciate that what they have been doing over the years has now been underwritten by Government action.

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City Technology Colleges

9. Mr. Anthony Coombs : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress has been made with the establishment of city technology colleges.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : The CTC programme is already a great success. Kingshurst opened last year, Nottingham and Teesside will open in September, and Bradford, Dartford, Gateshead and the London school for performing arts and technology will open in 1990. We have public commitments of sponsorship for a further seven colleges and more sponsors will bring us easily up to our target of 20.

Mr. Coombs : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the success of CTCs is based upon their popularity with parents, the motivation of their students and the commitment of their teachers? In evidence of that, does he agree that applications for Solihull's CTC doubled last year, it is now three and a half times over-subscribed and its teachers, despite earning salaries similar to those in the state sector, work a school day that is 25 per cent. longer than average, showing their commitment to the CTC concept and the ethos underlying that?

Mr. Baker : My hon. Friend is correct. The colleges are proving to be popular. Indeed, he underestimates the popularity of the one in Solihull. In the first year, there were some 400 applications to go there, and in the second year, starting in September, there were some 1,200 inquiries from parents who wanted to send their children there. That clearly shows the school's popularity. I confirm that the schools operate for longer hours and take shorter holidays and that students and teachers want to work in them.

Mr. Morley : Are not the funding arrangements for CTCs dramatically different from what was originally planned and is not the contribution from the private sector a shadow of what was originally proposed? Is not the Secretary of State simply buying the schools to save his own face and are not the schools irrelevant in terms of the needs of children in modern education?

Mr. Baker : That is completely wrong. For Kingshurst, the initial contribution was £1 million. That has risen to £2 million, and the school is now on its way to a third million. Taking the programme as a whole, nearly £40 million has now been pledged by British business to this programme, and it will meet its obligations. This is the most successful private industrial fund-raising scheme in the history of education in this country.

Mr. Devlin : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that far from depriving people in schools of much-needed capital investment, the Teesside city technology college is a Government investment which comes on top of a 41 per cent. increase in capital allocation for Cleveland schools this year?

Mr. Baker : I confirm what my hon. Friend says. I do not believe that the CTCs will have a harmful effect on the schools in their surrounding areas. In the case of Solihull and Birmingham, the other schools have already changed their curriculum, have smartened up their whole approach to attracting students and are attracting more students.

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Mr. Nellist : Has not the public funding of so-called city technology colleges removed public funding from other colleges of technology in cities, such as Oxford polytechnic? The Secretary of State will be aware--because he received on 12 May a letter from me about this case--that this has led, for example, to a second year geology student, Alexandra Spawls writing to 200 public figures asking each of them to lend her £10 until her course is finished so that she can complete a mandatory six-week solo mapping project on the Isle of Mull and thereby gain her degree, which her grant and help from Oxford polytechnic are insufficient to cover. Instead of fancy back-door privatisation schemes, the right hon. Gentleman should fully fund the existing student population, rather than turning them into beggars.

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