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wishes. So much for his much-vaunted parental choice. Frankly, the only person guilty of underhand tactics is the Secretary of State. I hope that I have demonstrated the way in which Government policies are leading to chaos and division in our education service. I have outlined ways in which Liberal Democrats would set out to reverse the current situation. I have also referred to our belief in the need for increased investment in the education service. Of course, I have acknowledged that the Government have increased expenditure on education. However, the National Commission on Education agrees that it is not enough. In its final report, the commission said :

"as a nation we need to spend more on education and training...It is our conviction that in the long term the improvements in education and training that will result from this increase in expenditure will lead to improvements in the economy and benefits to society with consequent improvements in Government finances."

Liberal Democrats share that view, and the vision of providing an excellent education service for all.

7.55 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Mr. Eric Forth) : I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof :

"congratulates Her Majesty's Government on its far sighted education reforms which are driving up standards and giving more responsibility to schools, more choice to parents and more opportunities to our young people ; believes that the Government's commitment to a high quality education service is further demonstrated by the record sums it is spending ; notes that the superficial policies advanced by the Liberal Democratic Party bear remarkable similarity to the policies advanced by Her Majesty's Opposition ; further notes that those policies appear to revolve around reversing all the measures taken by Her Majesty's Government to raise standards and increase choice ; notes the admission by the Liberal Democratic Party that it is a party committed to raising taxes, yet condemns its inability to demonstrate any clear linkage between a demand for more income tax and a well developed and defined set of educational policies on which additional tax revenues are to be spent ; and believes that the Liberal Democrats' commitment to education would be better shown by ceasing its practice of campaigning in an underhand fashion against balllots of parents for grant maintained status, which this House utterly deplores.'. This has been one of those tantalising debates where the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) started with a bit of a flourish--or at least the best flourish that he could manage in the circumstances--and then disappointed the House as he went on because none of the substance that we had eagerly anticipated came into being. The whole structure and edifice is built around the slogan on which the hon. Gentleman's party campaigned in the last election--"A penny on income tax". Incidentally, they lost votes in that election.

One penny on income tax would yield some £1.6 billion. That sounds like a lot of money if one says it quickly or slowly. However, the interesting thing is that that tantalising increase in education expenditure should be set against the fact that in the past few years--to take as an example the period 1991-92 to 1993-94--education spending in England has risen as a matter of fact and history from £24 billion a year to nearly £30 billion a year. In other words, the Government have already presided over an increase of some £6 billion, dwarfing the sort of increase that Liberal Democrats have promised.

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Mr. Michael Stephen (Shoreham) : My hon. Friend mentioned the idea of the Liberal Democrats putting one penny on income tax to finance their education expenditure. Does he have any idea how many pennies the Liberal Democrats would have to put on income tax to finance all the other schemes with which they tempted the electorate ?

Mr. Forth : My hon. Friend tempts me, but I suspect that if I go down that road I will get into some trouble in terms of the subject of the debate. However, it is a fair point which we should all bear in mind when we discuss what the promise may well produce. Let us examine the context again, because we are up against a background of historical increases in education expenditure of some 18 per cent. in real terms over the period of this Government. Those increases go right across the spectrum to cover school expenditure, higher education expenditure and capital expenditure. All have had real increases. I say that in all humility and against the background that it has not yet been proven that there is any necessary causal connection between an increased level of education expenditure and an increased quality of output. Quality of output is related not to expenditure but to something quite different.

Mr. Hugh Bayley (York) : How do the Government justify spending £750,000 on refurbishing a four-year-old building for the Funding Agency for Schools ? That works out at just under £6,000 for each of the 130 people who will work in the building, compared with only £47 in capital expenditure for each child in North Yorkshire schools. Is not it more important to get rid of outside toilets and temporary classrooms ? Does not education take place in schools, not in office blocks ? Will the Minister do something to stop the profligate waste of £750,000 on a new office block ?

Mr. Forth : The maintenance of schools is entirely a matter for local education authorities which have responsibility for them. If the hon. Gentleman's education authority is letting its children down, that is very sad, but it is not a matter directly for me. If the hon. Gentleman is criticising the Secretary of State for providing decent working conditions for public employees, I expect that the unions, to which I have no doubt the hon. Gentleman is slavishly adherent, will have a word or two to say about that.

Mr. Bayley rose

Mr. Forth : I will not give way again. The hon. Gentleman asked me a question, and I have given him an answer. I am proud that we are providing decent working conditions for public employees, and I hope that we always do that. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. No seated interventions, please.

Mr. Forth : The hon. Member for Bath did not at any point let us in on the secret of how the £1.6 billion was to be spent. The truth is that if one looks at some of the subject headings on which he touched, but did not elaborate, one will find the reason why he did not go into more detail.

For example, the hon. Gentleman referred to pre-five nursery education. I shall return to that in more detail in a

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moment, but I shall mention it briefly. Providing nursery education in the full sense of the term for the pre-fives would cost about £1 billion a year.

The replacement of student loans by grants--a subject which the hon. Gentleman did not mention, but I should be surprised if it were far from his mind--and the return to a full-scale, non-means tested grant regime would cost £1 billion a year for the number of students which I am proud are now in higher and further education. The hon. Gentleman mentioned capital and building programmes, and skipped across figures which are not unadjacent to £2 billion in total. I think he mentioned £400 million for one sector alone.

The hon. Gentleman also skipped lightly across the matter of books and equipment, which was mentioned but not in detail, and increased support for special educational needs. I know that it is a long time since the Liberals have been in government, and I know that the value of money has changed since then, but stretching £1.6 billion to cover even a fraction of the headings upon which the hon. Gentleman touched but did not detail is typically and liberally irresponsible.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton) : The Minister mentioned that it has been long time since the Liberals were in power. Is not it a long time since 1973 when the former Prime Minister, Baroness Thatcher, made an unambiguous statement about nursery education and said that it would come along ? Is not Britain, 20 years later, almost at the bottom of the league in European terms ? Does not the Minister think that that is an example of the Government's hypocrisy and humbug ? Should not they do something to assist nursery provision, and to live with the comments that Baroness Thatcher made when she was Minister of Education in 1973 ?

Mr. Forth : I have always tried to live by everything that Baroness Thatcher ever said. It has been one of my lifelong aspirations, and it is one which I still strive to achieve.

The hon. Gentleman has led me to the subject of pre-five provision, and it may become one of the great shibboleths of our age if we are not careful. Opposition Members attribute all possibilities and all solutions to the provision of nursery education for those aged three and four years old. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs Taylor) will no doubt do it shortly, and I make that prediction with utter confidence.

The reality is that the value of that provision in education terms has yet to be demonstrated. It has yet to be shown that providing nursery education for three and four-year-olds will advantage those pupils throughout their school careers. I will go further, and say that some of the local education authorities that have a long-established nursery education provision in the present system come out consistently with the worst key stage 1 results, and the worst GCSE results.

The repeated assertions that there is a direct causal connection between the universal provision of nursery education by the taxpayer and an improved educational outcome throughout the mandatory school years has yet to be demonstrated. There may be other advantages, but that is not necessarily one.

Mr. David Jamieson (Plymouth, Devonport) : Has the Minister costed the Prime Minister's recent proposal for universal nursery education ?

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Mr. Forth : The Prime Minister made no such proposals. [Interruption.] I have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister, and I will share that conversation with the hon. Gentleman if he will let me. The Prime Minister made clear that he believes that a properly structured pre-five provision is something to which we should be moving when it is justified and when resources allow. My right hon. Friend has made that perfectly clear and asked the Secretary of State to institute a proper inquiry into the matter. That is now being undertaken, and the results will be available to the Prime Minister in due course.

There are many other issues that that investigation will want to cover. Those issues have not been answered, although the hon. Lady may well do so in a moment. I will look forward to it if she does. Will the pre-five provision for nursery education be mandatory or optional ? Would it be all day or part of the day ? Would all the teachers who were involved be graduates ? What would be the capital and building implications of the provisions ? What about the transport provisions ? Have those matters been taken into account ? I can tell the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) that we are talking about a figure not unadjacent to £1 billion a year if all those matters are taken into account and the fullest possible provision is made.

Of course, the matter should be considered, and it may well have been, but the hon. Member for Bath did not let us into the secret. The matters must be looked at, as do all others, as matters of priority. If one had £1 billion to spend, which aspect of education would one spend it on ? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell me.

Mr. Don Foster : I am grateful for what the Minister said. There is a clear willingness now from the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister to undertake that necessary detailed costing. That gives some encouragement for the future.

The figures to which the Minister refers are similar to those we have suggested. I hope that the Minister will bear in mind that savings would be made in the 40,000 jobs created by the introduction of nursery education for all. Would not that reduce the cost somewhat ?

Mr. Forth : The hon. Gentleman must take careful account of the relationship that exists between his regime and the successful and flourishing pre-school playgroup movement. That movement does excellent work for the pre-fives and may well be jeopardised by the regime that I suspect the hon. Gentleman has in mind.

The hon. Gentleman made great play during his speech of a concept which he called the break-up of the 1944 partnership. That sounded pretty good and statesmanlike. I suspect however, that he really meant that he regretted the passing of the LEA monopoly grip on education provision, and that he rather regretted the passing of the drab uniformity of comprehensive education provision. I suspect also that he somehow resented the fact that our education system is being increasingly opened up in terms of choice and diversity, as outlined in my right hon. Friend's excellent White Paper two years ago. The Liberal Democrats may have lost touch with their philosophy and their original intellectual justification and beliefs, because Liberals no longer welcome freedom of choice and diversity in education. They want to hark back to a lack of choice in terms of local education authority

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monopolies and comprehensive education. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman hinted at this, but he again did not spell it out. The hon. Gentleman also harked back to the rather incestuous inspection regime that we used to have, under which local education authorities inspected themselves. He went further, and seemed to imply that the excellent new independent Ofsted inspection regime was not to his liking. None of these subjects was detailed in any way, and they were all left hovering in the background. We did have enough of a flavour from what the hon. Gentleman said to realise that he is not in favour of them.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland) : The Minister talks about inspectors inspecting themselves. Does he accept that, in the preparation of the five to 14 curriculum in Scotland, a large part was devised by Her Majesty's inspectorate of schools, which goes into schools to inspect the curriculum which it set for itself. How are the inspectors to come to an objective assessment of whether any shortcomings are due to the failure of teaching or to the failure of their proposals ?

Mr. Forth : It is not for me to explore the mysteries of the Scottish education system, which is the prerogative of my colleagues in the Scottish Office. I am sure that they will have taken due note of the point made by the hon. Gentleman, and they may well want to get in touch with him. I do not want to stray from my modest responsibilities.

Mr. Wallace : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We are regularly told by Conservative Members that this is a United Kingdom Parliament, and this is a United Kingdom debate. Is not it common courtesy that a Scottish Office Minister be here to deal with any Scottish matters which might arise ?

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. That is not a matter for me.

Mr. Forth : The hon. Gentleman knows that we are here to answer the terms of the debate which the hon. Member for Bath raised. As far as I can recall, he did not mention a word about Scotland, and I was listening rather carefully. It is a well-known tradition here that Ministers do not even attempt to answer on behalf of their colleagues in other Departments. I have told the hon. Gentleman that his words will have been noted by my colleague in the Scottish Office. I am sure that my colleague will do him the courtesy of reading what he has said, and may well answer him.

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point) : Could I bring my hon. Friend back to the debate, which is on investment in education? Is he aware that Essex county local education authority, now run by a Liberal-Labour coalition, refuses to spend even to the Government's standing spending assessment set for education ? It is putting money collected this year from council tax payers in my constituency into reserves, instead of spending it and investing it in education for our children. What does my hon. Friend think about that ? Is not it raw hypocrisy from the Liberal party ?

Mr. Forth : That excellent example draws to the attention of the House that Opposition Members will find it increasingly difficult, if they even want to attempt to do

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so, to defend the actions of local education authorities that their friends control. There is an increasingly wide gulf between the promises made in the pre-election frenzy of little more than a year ago and the reality that we are seeing on the ground in local education authorities. That applies equally to authorities that are controlled by the Liberal party or some unholy coalition of Opposition parties. Opposition Members will have to face the increasing embarrassment, if they dare, of attempting to defend what their authorities said.

I shall bring my remarks to a conclusion fairly quickly because I know that others want to speak in this regrettably short debate. A few words were said by the hon. Member for Bath about

grant-maintained schools. As usual, Opposition Members do not know whether to be dismissive or fearful of grant-maintained schools. They have never been able to make up their minds whether the growing grant-maintained school sector is something to be ignored because it is irrelevant or an enormous threat which will subvert the whole education system.

We now have a healthy, successful, confident and growing grant-maintained sector powered by parental ballots which, even now, are holding up in terms of voting. Some 70 or 80 per cent. of parents vote yes when the ballot takes place, with excellent turnouts. More than half a million pupils are now educated in grant-maintained schools. More than half a million parents have voted yes in ballots. If Opposition Members want to threaten the grant -maintained sector, that is a matter for their judgment. Conservative Members are increasingly proud of what grant-maintained schools are achieving in providing real choice for parents about the future of a school and in admissions of their children. We are also proud of the quality of provision that grant-maintained schools have demonstrated that they are capable of making. They have broken out of the drab uniformity to which I referred earlier.

Mr. Bayley : The Minister justified earlier in his speech the spending of £0.75 million on the office headquarters of the Funding Agency for Schools because there should be good conditions for employees to work in. Does he believe that there should be equally good conditions for children in both grant-maintained and local authority schools ?

Mr. Forth : Yes, of course I do. That is why we make such large capital provision each year and expect local education authorities to play their full part in setting their priorities so that they are able to make proper provision for school buildings. Many local education authorities have demonstrated over the years that they are capable within the budgets that they are given and raise locally of making such provision in both capital and revenue terms.

The interesting thing is that there is no relationship between the amount of money spent per pupil and the educational outcomes in one education authority compared with another. Opposition Members' obsession with the idea that if we simply throw enough money at education all will be well is entirely divorced from the truth. Quality will come from a combination of the national curriculum, objective testing of schools--the hon. Member for Bath hinted that he did not approve of it, but did not elaborate--Ofsted, the independent inspectorate, which we have set

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up and which has our full and unequivocal support, and the element of competition and choice in education of which the Opposition seem to disapprove so much.

It is a combination of such factors, properly supported by finance, as I outlined at the beginning of my brief remarks, with the full support of the Department for Education and the Government, which will continue to deliver improving and increasing quality in schools. It is not some return to previous regimes. It is not some dropping of all the policies that we have put in place, as the hon. Member for Bath constantly hinted. I suspect that we shall hear some more of that from Opposition Members as the evening proceeds.

I utterly reject all the terms of the motion before the House tonight. I hope that in my few remarks I have persuaded hon. Members to reject the motion when we come to vote on it later.

8.14 pm

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury) : I am pleased that we are having this debate, however brief it may be. For the benefit of the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mrs. Browning), I am happy to declare my interest first as a parent--that is the overriding interest that I should declare--and secondly an interest that I share with the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) as an adviser to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

It is interesting that both the spokesman for the Liberal Democrats and the Minister spent some time discussing nursery education. The Opposition take it as a mark of success that we have placed nursery education so high up the agenda that the other parties just cannot ignore that vital issue. The Minister is not quite sure which argument to rehearse. He is not sure whether to tell us that nursery education has no educational merit or that the Government will provide it when resources allow. Obviously, his discussions with the Prime Minister have not been completed. I am not sure who will win at the end of the day.

The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) made many remarks that I welcomed. Indeed, at times I felt that he had been reading the Labour party's green paper on education, with his emphasis on partnership and accountability. I hope that we shall have many other occasions to discuss our proposals.

This evening, I want to take on board some of the important issues that arise from the motion and from the Government's amendment. One of the main problems that we face in education today--apart from the Secretary of State, who I am sorry is not on the Front Bench this evening--

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) : He is playing truant.

Mrs. Taylor : He is truanting again.

One of the main problems is the priorities that the Government have set. Government decisions on education seem to have three main themes. The first is that resources are allocated on the basis of Conservative political correctness, not educational need. Time and again, Ministers do not show their interest in the quality of education received by every child in the country. Their obsession with political funding of education is dangerous in a democracy. The second characteristic of recent years is that Government policy is incredibly wasteful in a variety of ways. If Ministers were subject to the same rules

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as local councillors, they would all be surcharged every year. The third theme that runs through Department for Education policy-making is strange for a party which so often claims to want to get government off our backs. That is the vast increase in centralisation and bureaucracy under the Government.

I shall substantiate those allegations in some detail. I deal first with the Conservative version of political correctness which extends not only to those appointed to quangos, although we have seen that time and again, but, even more worryingly, to the day-to-day funding of every school in Britain.

Ordinary schools which educate the vast majority of our children are being discriminated against because they do not fit the Government's political mould. We should spend a little time this evening considering exactly what are the Government's priorities in education spending.

When the city technology colleges were introduced, we were told two things : first, that private sponsors were keen, eager and waiting to pick up the bill ; and, secondly, that the CTCs would be centres of excellence and lights for others to follow. The reality has been so dismal that the Government have abolished and abandoned the policy. The latest Ofsted report for 1992-93 on standards and quality in education gives Ofsted's view on the success of CTCs. It states : "No CTC has yet established itself as a beacon of excellence". But millions of pounds have been poured into the CTCs. They have received £30 million of sponsorship money. The cost to the taxpayer has been £120 million, for just 15,150 pupils--an average cost per pupil of £7,997. Everyone in the House this evening should consider what that money could have been spent on in hard-pressed schools in our constituencies. It could have been used for science laboratories, language facilities, technology blocks or even nursery education. The cost of CTCs in revenue terms has also been great. The average cost has been £4,000 per pupil per year. The average cost per pupil per year in a local education authority school is £2,200. Those are the figures, despite all the assurances given at the time by the then Secretary of State.

That project has been scrapped and there are to be no more CTCs. But the taxpayer has had to pay for the Government's folly. Children in other schools are the losers because of the Government's insistence that political correctness and their dogma should come first.

Mr. Jamieson : Perhaps one reason why the Government scrapped the CTC policy was that the first one at Kingshurst was given a damning report by Her Majesty's inspectorate. Ironically, the most damning comments related to technology.

Mrs. Taylor : My hon. Friend is right--it is worrying that progress has not been made. One would expect the Government to learn from that, but what do they do? They abandon the CTC policy and devise the technology college initiative. They change direction to cover up the fact that their previous initiative has failed.

We were promised in the press release issued yesterday that there would be substantial sponsorship from business. That makes me wonder whether there will be another massive bill for the taxpayer. I do not understand why the Government cannot appreciate what the Confederation of British Industry said :

"We want all schools to be strong in technology."

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The CBI does not believe that funding compulsory education should be a business responsibility.

Ministers are breaking faith with all those other schools in the country that need extra resources for technology--the majority of schools--but are not prepared to walk into the Government's trap of grant-maintained status because they value their independence too much. That is a clear example of the way in which Government funding goes according to their version of political correctness.

Mr. Boswell : Before the hon. Lady leaves the subject, will she comment on the Labour party's proposals to involve private sector money in the public sector? Whatever the views of the CBI on the matter, how does she feel that such private money should be involved? Does she believe that it would be appropriate in the case of the schools sector?

Mrs. Taylor : The Minister, who has some responsibility for higher education, will know that there is a great deal of private money in that sector, which is where I should like to see an expansion of private involvement.

The Government showed their priorities by introducing the assisted places scheme, the cost of which has escalated every year.

Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar) : The hon. Lady referred to further education. May I remind her that the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), in an interview on the "Today" programme, specifically mentioned schools in that context. Does the hon. Lady endorse the views of the Leader of the Opposition?

Mrs. Taylor : Yes, of course we are considering all ways of obtaining more private money, but not methods that allow the private sector to control what happens inside schools--that is the opposite of what the Government are trying to do. If we can find ways of raising money in the private sector to use on crumbling schools and the backlog of repairs that we are bound to inherit from the Government--through bonds raised at local level or something of that sort--it will be appropriate to consider them. But we do not want control to be imposed on schools in the way that the Government are trying to impose it.

I am not surprised that the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) should want to divert attention away from the assisted places scheme and its cost to the taxpayer. I am sure that I have heard him and other Conservative Members talk about the importance of the taxpayer receiving value for money. In 1992-93, the assisted places scheme cost the taxpayer £92.8 million--£3,405 a pupil. That compares with the average figure of £2,200 in other schools--half as much again as the amount received by the typical pupil. Last year, Ministers overspent on their assisted places budget by nearly 20 per cent. I wonder which local education authority is able to overspend its budget on schools by 20 per cent.

We have seen the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools stand in for the Secretary of State on many occasions. He has frequently told us that he is keen to tackle the problem of surplus places. He estimates that there are 1.5 million surplus places, but he is willing to use taxpayers' money to pay for 28,000 places in the private

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sector. Where is the logic in that and where is the value for money for the taxpayer? That is the price that we as taxpayers are paying for Tory political correctness.

The bribes are running out for grant-maintained schools, but why has the grant-maintained capital budget been ring fenced in the past if not as a reward for political correctness? Why was cash protection rigged--as the Public Accounts Committee has shown--if not for political reasons? I am glad that the bribes are running out. I am glad that all schools, including grant-maintained schools, are realising the consequences of opting in to centralised control under the Secretary of State.

Mr. Don Foster : The hon. Lady says that the bribes are running out and I hope that she is right. But I have a letter from the chairman of governors of Prospect school which is currently contemplating opting out. The letter states that if the school becomes grant maintained,

"central Government will initially add to this investment £300, 000".

That is rather a large bribe.

Mrs. Taylor : The example that the hon. Gentleman has just given is similar to the case of St. Thomas high school in Exeter, which voted last week. In that case, such promises were made and, I think, parliamentary questions were asked to find out whether a guarantee had been extracted. The parents had a choice and used it. They smelt a rat and overwhelmingly rejected grant-maintained status. They had no doubt heard of many of the problems facing grant-maintained schools. Those problems included the fact that, last June, 88 per cent. of grant-maintained schools had not received their budget for the current financial year. They also included the fact that many capital bids have been turned down. I read with great interest the Adjournment debate on 18 February this year when the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) talked about the refusal of capital to a grant- maintained school in his constituency. he said :

"It is with some sadness that I bring to the Minister's attention the fact that the capital grant application that the school was invited to submit for the 1994-95 financial year has been turned down."--[ Official Report, 18 February ; Vol. 237, c. 1233.] He went on to point out--this may be interesting to the hon. Member for Bath, in view of this question earlier--that he had had assurances from Sir Robert Belchin that that school was high on his agenda for capital in the following year.

Mr. Forth : Is the hon. Lady complaining that too much capital is available to the grant-maintained sector, or that not enough is available? She seems to be trying to say both.

Mrs. Taylor : What I am trying to tell the Minister is that we will have more Adjournment debates of that kind from conservative Members as grant-maintained schools realise that the bribes are not materialising and as more and more of them run into difficulties.

Mr. McFall : My hon. Friend could learn from the experience in Scotland, where Paisley grammar school, in the constituency of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for education in Scotland, was supposedly opting out. The proponents of the opt-out brought up a head teacher from a grant-maintained school in England to make the point that, although the English school had a comparable school population with that of Paisley grammar school, Paisley had 13 more teachers than the English grant-maintained. The Scottish parents, despite

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the seeming bribes of the Scottish Office, knew that their future lay with a good local education authority. Is not that a lesson for them?

Mrs. Taylor : It is a very important lesson that we should all learn, but we should also bear in mind what happened in the other ballot in Scotland.

Mr. Forth : Scotland gets a lot of money.

Mrs. Taylor : The Minister is saying from a sedentary position that Scotland gets so much money, but there was one grant-maintained ballot in Scotland that went in his favour and the school decided to opt out, in order to avoid closure. What happened? In contrast to what has happened time and again with English Ministers, the Scottish Conservative Minister turned the school down because, he said, it was only seeking to opt out to avoid closure. So there are quite a few differences between what happens north of the border and what happens south of it.

Ms. Estelle Morris : Does my hon. Friend agree that perhaps we can understand the Minister's confusion about what he is doing wrong--whether he is spending too much or too little money--because he is guilty on both counts? He is spending too much on capital to bribe schools in the initial years of opt-out and now he is spending too little on capital because he is part of a Government who are not prepared to see an overall increase in the amount of money going to education.

Mrs. Taylor : My hon. Friend is right. Many schools have realised the consequences of going into the grant-maintained net. It is also a problem that has been highlighted by what is happening in some schools at the moment, given the squeeze on cash protection which will be more severe after April.

Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North) : The title of the debate is "Investing in Education". The Liberals are quite clear that they would spend a good deal more on education at a cost to the taxpayer. What would Labour do?

Mrs. Taylor : We would not be wasting the money that, as I have outlined, is being wasted at present.

Let me give the House another example of the difficulties that the Government are causing for grant-maintained schools. Some grant-maintained schools are having to sack teachers and others are facing redundancy. I will watch with interest the outcome of an industrial tribunal which will take place in Carlisle later this week, following the sacking of 10 teachers by Kirkby Kendal

grant-maintained school late last year. Some of the teachers are taking the school to an industrial tribunal for unfair dismissal. Perhaps that is a clear example that not everything in the grant-maintained sector is rosy.

Perhaps it is not surprising that Kirkby Kendal was not among the schools mentioned in the Government's recent advertisements on grant-maintained status. They spent £200,000 trying to persuade other schools to go down that path. I wish that the Minister would tell us whether Hatchford primary school in Solihull, one of the schools featured in the advertisements, gave its consent to being featured in that way before it had heard from the Government that it would not receive one penny of its capital bid for the next year and whether it knew that it would be losing cash protection.

Most schools have understood that there is a great danger in opting into central control and being at the mercy

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