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Mr. Colvin : Will my hon. Friend confirm that the major commercial banks have now agreed to join the student loan scheme and that he is not having second thoughts about removing students from the welfare system?
Mr. Jackson : I can reassure my hon. Friend on the second point : we are not having second thoughts about it. On the first point, a question later on the Order Paper will be answered by my right hon. Friend.
Mr. Ernie Ross : The Minister fails to understand the significance of this for students who attend universities in Scotland. They include not only Scottish students, but a number of English, Welsh and Irish students, too. The four-year course in Scotland is much easier for students and produces much more academically qualified graduates. The extension of the loan period will in no way encourage students to come to Scotland or the students in Scotland to take up further education.
The Minister must look into this again--it is impinging on Scottish universities.
Column 168Scottish universities come with A-levels from England and Wales and are attracted to Scotland by the quality of education offered there. I believe that they will continue to be so attracted, the introduction of student loans notwithstanding.
Mr. John Marshall : Does my hon. Friend agree that several hon. Members, including my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, demonstrate the worth of the four-year Scottish degree? Does he also agree that those who take part in such degree courses earn much higher incomes afterwards than they would otherwise have done, so is it not right that they should pay something back to society for those higher incomes?
Mr. Jackson : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One curiosity of the arguments that we sometimes hear against student loans is that they are premised on an assumption that the value of higher education to the people who go through it is so low that any element of repayment will deter them. That implies that higher education is of zero value to those who benefit from it, and that I cannot believe.
The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. John MacGregor) : Three CTCs are up and running and firm starting dates i1990 and 1991 have been announced for a further eight colleges. We shall continue to build, with sponsors, on this excellent foundation.
Mr. Skinner : It is to be hoped that the Government will build in a better fashion than they have so far. When the previous Secretary of State announced--[ Hon. Members :-- "Question."]--the city technology colleges, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he said that all or most of the money would come from private funds? Yet of the £19.3 million-- [ Hon. Members :-- "Question."]--I have asked a question.
Mr. Skinner : To satisfy the House, I will say it again. Is the Minister aware that of the £19.3 million that has been spent, £16 million has come from public funds? If the Government have that sort of money to throw around, why not spend it on Bolsover schools and make sure that the little infant school in South Normanton has running water laid on for the toddlers? That is what they should do with the money.
Mr. MacGregor : I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have concluded that the more than £40 million already raised from sponsors--[ Hon. Members :-- "Raised?"]--already raised and pledged by sponsors for this exciting innovation--was a considerable achievement in a short space of time. He should be grateful to the sponsors who are adding to the Government funding for this exciting new scheme. It has many advantages of innovation, for inner-city areas and of improving the technology curricula. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would regard that as a success.
Mr. Pawsey : Is my right hon. Friend aware that I, too, am concerned about the expansion of city technology colleges, although perhaps not in the same way as the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)? My concern is that there are not enough of them and that they are not coming on stream quickly enough--
Mr. Pawsey : Is my right hon. Friend aware that we should do more to speed up the building and introduction of these schools? What measures will he take to ensure that we produce more than 20 CTCs in the least possible time?
Mr. MacGregor : Twenty remains the target and the pace at which it is realistic and practical to move must be taken into account. Nevertheless, I should have thought that getting three schools up and running within three years, and the gathering of more than £40 million of private sponsorship, represents a considerable achievement.
Mr. Simon Hughes : Given that Tory-controlled county councils are protesting vehemently at having to enforce cuts in their education budgets in the coming year and given the massive demand for expenditure on teachers' salaries to restore the morale of the profession, will the Secretary of State confirm that there will be no announcement tomorrow of increased capital funding of CTCs? Since the original plan is a failure, with the Government having to put up 80 per cent. rather than 20 per cent. of the money, may we have a stop to this separatist and elitist expenditure at the expense of the country's general education?
Mr. MacGregor : I cannot announce in advance what will be said tomorrow. The hon. Gentleman cannot say that the scheme is a failure given that, for example, Kingshurst CTC had more than 1,200 applications for 180 places, Nottingham had more than 300 applications for 180 places and Sylvan has already had more than 480 aplications for 180 places. All that shows a clear demand from parents for those schools, which cannot be regarded as a failure. The hon. Gentleman will know that we have increased the revenue support grants and spending assessments by a considerable sum compared with their equivalents last year, so there has been a considerable increase in local authorities' current spending on education in general.
Mr. Dunn : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the CTC concept is so good, attractive and necessary that all hon. Members should be taking steps to have one set up in their communities? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there is nothing to stop local education authorities setting up CTC-style schools if they wish to do so?
Mr. MacGregor : Some local education authorities are putting forward interesting ideas and I shall encourage them to continue to explore that thought. I should like more sponsors to come forward, but it is remarkable that we have already achieved more than £40 million. But the more sponsors that we have, the better pleased I shall be.
Mr. Fatchett : Is it not true that the CTC scheme has failed to attract private sponsorship and that that is why only £3 million of private money has been invested? Why did the Minister of State have to write to the Conservative
Column 170leader of Lincolnshire county council on 14 September saying that the Government and the CTC trust were unable to attract private sector support for a CTC in Lincoln? Is that a sign of the attractiveness and success of the scheme, or is it just a sign of the Government's further failure to attract private funding?
Mr. MacGregor : I do not see how the pledging of more than £40 million of sponsorship can be regarded as a failure. That is one of the largest examples of giving by the private sector to education for a long time, so I do not know how it can be regarded as a failure. With regard to Lincoln, one of the relevant points is that CTCs are meant to be directed at inner-city areas, and that is where we have been concentrating.
The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold) : I have received 14 letters following the announcement by the Mercers Company of its intention to sponsor a CTC in Telford.
Mr. Gill : Will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to publicise the fact that CTCs are not designed only for academically gifted children, and that children hoping to take A-level courses and go on to polytechnics or universities would do best to continue attending existing secondary schools? There will thus be no creaming-off from those schools.
Will my hon. Friend also take this opportunity to assure the House that further consultation will take place before the catchment area for the CTC in Telford is drawn up?
Mrs. Rumbold : As was clearly announced, the CTC initiative has always been intended to cover children of all abilities, directing its efforts particularly towards children who may need more technological education. We hope that A-level courses will feature as much as any other course. I assure my hon. Friend that we are considering catchment areas wider than those applying to ordinary local comprehensives.
Mr. Grocott : Is the Minister aware that I have received numerous representations concerning the proposed Telford CTC? I have them all here-- the Minister is welcome to read them--and they are all against the proposal.
Is the Minister further aware that those objections have come not only from parents, teachers, pupils and school governors, but from churches, parish and district councils--Conservative and Labour--and the county council? Is it not time that she accepted the overwhelming evidence that the scheme would cause major disruption to the secondary school system which less than two years ago was approved by the Secretary of State's predecessor, and is it not time that it was scrapped?
Mrs. Rumbold : No, Sir. I understand that the sponsor, the Mercers Company, is looking carefully at all the responses that it has received from the local population--including the local education authority, head teachers and others--and that those responses will eventually be recorded and taken fully into account.
Mr. French : Is my hon. Friend aware that the discretion to pay or not to pay the costs of a pupil's transport to and from a secondary school is being manipulated by some local authorities to inhibit parents' free choice of school? Will he ensure that that practice ceases, and will he say in particular what steps he will take to prevent it from interfering with the success of the policy of open enrolment?
Mr. Howarth : I am not aware of any examples of such deliberate manipulation by local education authorities, but if my hon. Friend can give me written evidence I shall take it very seriously and look into the matter. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State attaches great importance to parental freedom of choice, and looks to local education authorities to do all that they reasonably can to facilitate such choice.
Mr. Madel : Does my hon. Friend agree that it should be perfectly all right for any empty places on school buses to be filled by pupils from grant-maintained schools? Does he agree that certain local education authorities should stop obstructing grant-maintained schools on school transport matters?
Mr. Howarth : I very much hope that local education authorities will fully support the spirit of extending freedom of parental choice, which is an important part of the Education Reform Act 1988, and that they will act reasonably and generously when they feel able to do so.
Mrs. Rumbold : My right hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales are awaiting the final report of the national curriculum history working group, which they expect to receive by the end of the year. They will then publish their proposals for the history curriculum.
Mr. Marshall : Is my hon. Friend aware that the interim report of the working group was greeted with shock and dismay by the many who believe that the causes and history of the second world war should be part of the national curriculum? After all, 1940 was our finest hour ; why is it too fine for the history mandarins?
Mrs. Rumbold : I can assure my hon. Friend that the proposals of the interim working group have been looked at again by the history working group, and that the final proposals will contain full programmes of study on all the units, so that such matters can be taken fully into account.
Mrs. Rumbold : I have much sympathy with my hon. Friend's question. In our view, the facts of British history--the social, cultural and economic status of our history--are absolutely essential for all children who are studying the subject.
Mr. Straw : Will the Secretary of State ensure that the history syllabus is balanced, or shall we once again see the spectacle of education Ministers being rolled over by the Prime Minister and the advisers in the No. 10 policy unit who wish to turn the history syllabus into no more than a vehicle for the jingoistic, Right-wing indoctrination of our children?
Mrs. Rumbold : It is almost beneath the dignity of the Dispatch Box to answer that question. The history working group is advising my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The National Curriculum Council will be looking at that advice. When the council has fully consulted on the report of the history working group, my right hon. Friend will take advice from the National Curriculum Council. Balanced history will, of course, be taught in our schools.
Miss Emma Nicholson : Is the Minister aware that the current trend among Caribbean parents to send their children back to the parents' countries of origin for a decent education will no longer be necessary when the national curriculum, including the first-class teaching of genuine history, is in place?
7. Mr. Tony Lloyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what advice he gives to local education authorities about the rights of parents to see the school records of their children.
Mrs. Rumbold : In July my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State laid before the House regulations governing the keeping, disclosure and transfer of schools' manually held records on pupils. At the same time, the Department issued to local education authorities a circular describing the effect of these regulations.
Mr. Lloyd : I am genuinely grateful for the Minister's answer. In the context of the Conservative-controlled Trafford council, whose education committee recently reaffirmed its decision to keep secret and to prevent parents from having access to information relating to 11-plus testing will she confirm that such information will have to be made available under the Department's recently issued guidelines?
Mrs. Rumbold : I cannot add to the answer that the hon. Gentleman received from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State in his recent reply on that matter. From the date when the new regulation comes into effect, manually held records in schools will be made available to parents. Those records may include the information to which the hon. Gentleman refers.
Mr. Anthony Coombs : Is my hon. Friend aware of the great concern felt by many hon. Members that although initiatives such as pupil profiling, records of achievement and assessment under the national curriculum have improved the quality of the information available to parents on pupils' progress, too often it is inadequately communicated by schools to parents? Will the Government look into the possibility of making written school reports at least twice a year mandatory on all schools, thus improving the relationship between teachers and parents, upon which good education depends?
Mrs. Rumbold : I thank my hon. Friend for his question. The Government are committed to ensuring that sensible records of achievement by children are given to parents. Information should be given not just on their academic achievements but on their other activities in school, including community work and other matters that are of interest in the context of the school curriculum.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : Is the Minister aware that Parliament originally gave powers for the regulations to be made nine years ago? It has taken nine years for the regulations to be made and they refer only to information which is compiled after the date of the regulations and not to information about pupils that is already held. Should it not be possible for parents to see information about their children that has been held in the past few years?
8. Mr. Ian Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what guidance is offered by his Department to schools on making special provision for educating children in the dangers of drug abuse.
Mr. Alan Howarth : Schools are required to teach children about the harmful effects of drugs by the national curriculum science order. The Department has published "Drug Misuse and the Young", a booklet of guidance for teachers, and has funded the development of curriculum materials for use in schools. We also provide grant support for local authorities' drugs education activities.
Mr. Taylor : With the sickening evidence of the disaster that drug taking is causing in American schools, particularly with regard to crack, to which addiction can be almost instantaneous, will my hon. Friend provide even more guidance and resources to primary and secondary school teachers in Britain so that we can nip drug addiction in the bud?
Mr. Howarth : The Department has issued in bulk copies of a fact sheet on crack, with space for local information to be overprinted, to all drug education co-ordinators. It is for them to make a judgment about the
Column 174appropriate use of the material in local circumstances. We believe that campaigns and shock-horror approaches are likely to prove counter-productive and that the right approach is to provide education about drugs in the general context of health education which stresses the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and helps equip young people with the skills that they need to resist the pressures to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Mr. Vaz : Does the Minister accept that it is a very serious problem and that if we learn from the mistakes of the American Government, surely we must consider the possibility of establishing a drugs helpline with telephone numbers publicised in our schools and colleges? That would enable children and young people to telephone the helpline and would make the authorities aware of the extent and the amount of drugs in a particular locality, enabling them to target the resources where they are most needed.
Mr. Howarth : I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of monitoring the situation on the ground and providing the ready recourse to help and expert advice that he advocates. That is one possibility which I very much hope local education authorities will consider and which drugs education co-ordinators will have very much in mind. It is an example of information that could be overprinted on the fact sheet about crack that is being made widely available.
Mr. Rathbone : While welcoming my hon. Friend's answer and endorsing the Government's efforts to improve drug and health education in schools, will my hon. Friend pay further attention to the efforts of the Life education centres which were founded in Australia by the Rev. Ted Notts and which have done such a marvellous job? Does he agree that they could be adapted for use in this country to a much greater degree than hitherto?
Mr. MacGregor : The first statutory assessments of pupils at the end of key stage 1 will be in summer 1991--in English, mathematics and science. The arrangements will be set out in orders under section 4(2)(c) of the Education Reform Act 1988. Drafts of those orders will be published next spring.
Mr. Thompson : Has the Secretary of State had the opportunity to read correspondence from headteachers of first schools in Northumberland that has been sent to him in the past two weeks complaining about the fact that they are understaffed,
under-resourced, underpaid and cannot cope with the introduction of the national curriculum and local management of schools and now, superimposed on that, a testing system? Does the Secretary of State agree that it would be better to drop the whole idea?
Column 175sympathetic with the point about the heavy amount of work caused by the introduction of the national curriculum. I am keen to ensure, so far as I possibly can, that its phasing in is compatible with schools coping with it. The national curriculum reforms have been widely welcomed, and we do not want to lose the momentum of that progress. I therefore do not accept that we should delay the programme for the standard assessment tasks, which is a crucial part of the curriculum.
Mr. Hind : Will my right hon. Friend make the assessments for seven- year-olds available to local authorities as soon as possible? He will no doubt be aware that in local authorities such as those in Lancashire, statements of educational needs are being supplied desperately slowly to parents because of inadequate resources from psychologists and because of lack of information from schools. In ensuring that assessments for seven- year-olds are readily available, will he speed up that process?
Mr. MacGregor : I have already made it clear that the draft orders for seven-year-olds' assessments will be published next spring. I am aware that teachers are keen to know more about what the standard assessment tasks will consist of. That is not the point that my hon. Friend made, but it is the point about which most teachers are concerned. The Schools Examination and Assessment Council will publish training packs to help primary teachers early in the new year. It is important, however, that teachers should recognise that the first trial of the standard assessment tasks in 1991 will not be reported. The first reported year will therefore be 1992. Clearly, there is time to get this right, and I am anxious to get on with it.
Ms. Armstrong : Is the Minister aware that teachers are concerned about their ability to teach the curriculum without knowing how it will be tested? Receiving test information nine months after the curriculum has started is not good enough. Will he assure hon. Members that the seven-year -olds' tasks will be assessments and not standard written tests, for which the Prime Minister has been asking?
Mr. MacGregor : Everyone was keen to get on with the national curriculum, but that inevitably means that everything must be done in an ordered programme. The standard assessment tasks will not take effect until the 1991 trial. I fully recognise teachers' desire to know what those tasks will be, which is why I am keen to get the training packs out early in the new year. [Interruption.]
10. Mr. Haselhurst : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he is taking to ensure that local authority school transport plans are not restricting parental choice of school.
Mr. Alan Howarth : In December 1981, the Department issued a circular letter to all local education authorities on the relationship between school transport and choice of school. That advice is still current. A copy is in the Library of the House.
Mr. Haselhurst : Is my hon. Friend aware that sometimes the boundaries of catchment areas seem to be arbitrary and that it is possible for local authorities to deny free school transport by the simple expedient of not having a catchment area? Will he therefore undertake to review the present guidelines to ensure that no unfair discrimination is taking place?
Mr. Howarth : My hon. Friend has raised a particular case on behalf of his constituents, on which we are consulting the local education authority and which I shall consider very carefully. The Education Reform Act 1988 did not alter the duties and powers of local education authorities in relation to school transport, but we are most anxious to ensure that local education authorities, wherever they can, give parents practical support so that they can exercise an effective right of choice. As my hon. Friend asked, I shall keep the matter carefully under review.
Mr. Key : I am sure that my hon. Friend will acknowledge that as winter sets in the choice of parents is restricted not only by finance but by safety. I welcome the change in the law made by the Education Reform Act, but will he consider further extending the experiment by offering an education grant to local education authorities and schools under local management systems for schools to fund bus services, particularly in local areas, so that when they are not being used by pupils they can be used for the benefit of the community ?
Mr. Howarth : I shall certainly reflect carefully on my hon. Friend's suggestion. He will be aware that the Education (No.2) Act 1986 requires that authorities should have regard to, among other matters, the age of the pupil and the nature of the route or alternative routes that he or she could reasonably be expected to take. That provision clearly asks authorities to have particular regard for safety.
11. Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had with the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council on the question of funding higher education.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : Is the Minister aware that Cumbria, especially west Cumbria, is exporting a high number of students for higher education to all parts of the United Kingdom? Will the hon. Gentleman lend his support to the provision for a far greater level of higher education within the county and, if necessary, lend his support to the establishment of a polytechnic if the demand for one is clearly established?
Mr. Jackson : The Government's intention is that there should be an expansion of higher education. The questions of how and where this should occur need to be considered further. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's proposal for Cumbria will be given serious consideration.
Column 177to see that doubling? What proportion of that number are expected to go into polytechnics? Does my hon. Friend have any plans to create new polytechnics?
Mr. Jackson : One of the Government's great achievements has been the increase of more than 25 per cent. in the number of students in higher education since we came to office--more than 200,000 students, a rise well above target. We know that because of the reduction in the number of 18- year-olds, we will find it difficult to do more than maintain student numbers in the 1990s. We expect a substantial increase in the demand for and supply of higher education as we go into the next century.
Mr. Andrew Smith : Will the Minister now tell the House the answer to the question that he and the Secretary of State so miserably failed to answer during the student loan debates? How will the Government pay for this commitment to double the numbers over the next 25 years? Will they choose the route of entitlement and increased public expenditure, or will they take the path of privilege and introduce private tuition fees?
Mr. Jackson : It is the hon. Gentleman and the Labour party that have to answer the question about how they would pay for their proposals. The Government's answer is clear. We propose to introduce through the student loan a means to enable students to anticipate some of their income as graduates to help fund their higher education. That will enable an expansion of higher education to be funded.