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Mr. Madden: I am sorry to interrupt the Minister when he has only a few more minutes in which to speak. May I ask, however, whether he has received any representations from either Bradford health commission or Bradford Hospitals NHS trust regarding the allocation of resources and the need to increase those resources?

Mr. Horam: No, I have not. What I have received is a report on the position. I looked into it after the hon. Gentleman raised the issue in an Adjournment debate.

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I am assured that much joint work is now being done to bring about a better understanding of the pressures on the service in Bradford. That involves more co-operation between the commission and the trust--the specific point about which the hon. Gentleman complained.

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the commission and the trust have been working together on a programme called "Making Bradford Better". He did not mention it, but I am sure that he knows of it. The project evolved from joint discussions and work, and is intended to effect early improvements in specific patient services. Specific programmes include dealing with emergency admissions and the Bradford eye service. Whatever may have obtained in the past, the relationship and level of understanding between the commission and the trust are improving. I acknowledge that great effort is needed to ensure the continuation of that joint work, which clearly benefits Bradford.

On the occasion in question, only four intensive care beds were in service. There should have been five, and it is clearly vital for that fifth bed to be returned to service as soon as possible. It is accepted, however, that five beds are not enough to serve the 500,000 people who live in the Bradford area. Six beds should be available as early as possible, and the commission and the trust assure me that every effort will be made to achieve that.

I mentioned high dependency beds, which can take the pressure off intensive care beds. There are plans to fund an additional four such beds.

The hon. Members for Bradford, South and for Bradford, West may never accept that Bradford has enough money, and I would probably feel the same if I were in their shoes, but funds have been increased substantially. Moreover, as far as I am aware, co-operation between the trust and the commission is becoming better and better. Such co-operation must exist if the problems are to be solved. Specific attention is being paid to the question of intensive care and high dependency. I hope that all those factors will lead to an increase in Bradford's health provision, and I join both hon. Members in paying tribute to the work done by the professionals.

It being Two o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

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Oral Answers to Questions


School Discipline

1. Mr. Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what measures she is taking to help schools enforce firm discipline; and if she will make a statement. [9415]

6. Mr. Jacques Arnold: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what measures she is taking to help schools enforce firm discipline. [9420]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. Robin Squire): Last September, my right hon. Friend announced a range of initiatives to help schools combat the problem of disruptive pupils. They build on guidance on pupil behaviour and discipline sent in May 1994 to all schools, as part of the "Pupils with Problems" pack. She has also asked the consultative group on school standards for advice on what else can be done to help schools maintain and improve discipline.

Mr. Evennett: I thank my hon. Friend for his reply and welcome the additional resources provided by the Government to help schools deal with disruptive pupils, but does he agree that better teacher training in classroom management would be one way in which to help improve discipline in the classroom?

Mr. Squire: I agree with my hon. Friend who, as a former teacher, speaks with considerable authority. Initial teacher training should equip all new teachers with the skills to create and maintain a disciplined environment in the class. It is also fair to say that the increased emphasis that we are placing on school-based teacher training will assist in that respect. Separately, funding is available for training for existing teachers so that they also may improve their skills.

Mr. Arnold: I agree that teachers are the key to discipline, but they can be effective only if they receive proper back-up from local education authorities. As we well know, too many local education authorities, especially Labour-controlled ones, can be categorised as being soft on indiscipline and soft on the sources of indiscipline--basically, on badly behaved pupils. The Government were right to set up pupil resettlement units--the well-known sin bins--but bearing it in mind that their policies are implemented by the same Labour education authorities that are soft on indiscipline, what checks are made on those sin bins to ensure that they have tough discipline and get these yobs right?

Mr. Squire: My hon. Friend has put his finger on a significant point. There is no question but that we must ensure that the vast majority of school pupils are able to be educated in a proper and ordered environment. That will sometimes mean the exclusion of disruptive elements, but it is not sufficient that those elements are then left to drift--they must be educated too. The Office for Standards in Education inspection of the first 12 pupil

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resettlement units was revealing and worrying. From this September, it will inspect all 300 pupil resettlement units with a view to ensuring that standards are high enough.

Mr. Barry Jones: Would not providing real jobs for young school leavers help?

Mr. Squire: The hon. Gentleman has not considered the unemployment figures for the past three years. The figures for unemployment and for the proportion of people employed in this country are among the best, if not the best, in Europe. Rather, the problem is that some of our pupils suffer from a poverty of expectation, which goes back to the quality of teaching.

Mr. Kilfoyle: The Minister mentioned exclusions. Given the threefold increase in exclusions in the past three years, will he explain why his Department could not even be bothered to send a representative to the recent Runnymead Trust seminar, at which Sir Paul Condon was reported to have said that the majority of street criminals in London were excluded from school?

Mr. Squire: I do not know about the seminar to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but I know beyond argument that the Government are deadly serious about equipping teachers, schools and local education authorities with the full range of powers they need to cope with indiscipline in schools. The hon. Gentleman mentioned permanent exclusions. We have made it clear that that is a last resort, not a first resort. In September, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set out a number of ways in which we are seeking, through discussion--particularly with the teaching unions--to extend the scope of alternatives open to schools.

Grammar Schools

2. Mr. Congdon: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many pupils are currently educated in grammar schools. [9416]

The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mrs. Gillian Shephard): In January 1995, approximately 123,000 pupils were being taught in maintained grammar schools in England.

Mr. Congdon: Does my right hon. Friend agree that grammar schools provide not only an excellent education but a real choice for parents, particularly in inner-city areas? Does she also agree that parents who are fortunate enough to be able to send their children to such schools should have the courage to fight for the survival of grammar schools rather than to support policies that would ensure their destruction?

Mrs. Shephard: We are in favour of selection. Selective schools have a distinguished record of providing a high standard of education and increased choice, which many parents want for their children. Indeed, such parents are emerging in increasing numbers from the Opposition Benches. The events of the past few days have revealed that the Labour party's policy on choice, diversity and selection is a basic contradiction at the heart of its

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thinking--choice and diversity for some, but policy intentions to remove choice, diversity and opportunity for selection from everyone else.

Mr. Beggs: Does the Secretary of State agree that in Northern Ireland we have managed to maintain a high standard of education for our children by maintaining a selective system, but that in good secondary schools and comprehensive schools--in which teachers are dedicated and committed and pupils are streamed and educated according to their age and ability--youngsters achieve as much as they do in grammar schools?

Mrs. Shephard: What is important is that parents should have a range of schools from which to choose: selective, non-selective, grant-maintained, specialist schools, city technology colleges and, of course, access to the independent sector through the assisted places scheme. Sadly, such variety would be crushed out of existence by the Labour party's policies, should it ever have the chance to put those policies into practice.

Sir Malcolm Thornton: No one doubts the excellent record of many grammar schools in this country and the contributions they have made to many children's education. Does my right hon. Friend agree that what is perhaps more important than the label which is put on a school--the name it is given--is what happens within it? Does she agree that those schools that are targeting the real needs of pupils will achieve the best for them and provide parents with the diversity and choice that is central to the Conservative party's attitude and approach to education?

Mrs. Shephard: There is no doubt that all schools are capable of providing an excellent education and good results. Schools, of course, depend very much on the quality of the head and teachers in them. That is why we are introducing a qualification for head teachers. I think that my hon. Friend will agree that a range of schools from which to choose, and the very existence of choice, help to drive up standards.

Mr. Skinner: Is the Minister aware that grammar schools are not all that they are cracked up to be? I went to one and they taught me Latin--amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant. They also taught me the Archimedes principle--when a body is weighed in air and then in a fluid, the upthrust or apparent loss in weight is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced. But none of that equipped me for life. I went down a coal mine, which is where I got my real education. Do not believe all that rubbish about selectivity. Let us give every child in Bolsover and the rest of Britain the chance to do as well as one another.

Mrs. Shephard: It is not part of the Government's policy to impose on our education system the dead hand of uniformity, as the Labour party would seek to do. The hon. Gentleman is the most wonderful advertisement for the selective system. He should be used in publicity.

Mr. Patrick Thompson: In the 1960s, I was a physics teacher at Manchester grammar school, teaching the Archimedes principle, and I am impressed by the knowledge of the hon. Member for Bolsover

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(Mr. Skinner) on that subject. Does my right hon. Friend recall those direct grant selective grammar schools which provided a good education for people of all backgrounds in Manchester and throughout the country? Does she also recall that it was a Labour Government who pushed those schools out of the state system and thereby took away the opportunities for young people?

Mrs. Shephard: It was indeed the Labour party which, in the 1960s and 1970s, sought to use education as a tool for social engineering. If we read the lips of Opposition Members, see that they continue to want to do that. Did not a Labour predecessor of mine say that he would not rest until he had got rid of every blank grammar school in the country?

Ms Estelle Morris: The Secretary of State's comments on this issue are interesting. If the Conservatives think that selective grammar schools are so good, why did Baroness Thatcher close so many and why has the Secretary of State no plans to open more?

Mrs. Shephard: As I have already said a number of times, we are in favour of selection because we believe in diversity and choice for parents, as do some Opposition Members, particularly on the Labour Front Bench. As the hon. Lady knows, we are currently consulting on proposals to broaden selection. Although that has not been received with three cheers by all Opposition Members, I am sure that the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman) would welcome it. Given the welcome boost to the issue provided by Labour Members' activities, we shall consider what further developments might arise from that consultation exercise.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman: Does my right hon. Friend agree with the comment in the "Our View" column of Monday night's Lancashire Evening Post, which said:

Does not the fact that so many people apply to the two grammar schools in my constituency confirm that view?

Mrs. Shephard: Indeed. As I said, it is not part of the Government's policy to impose the dead hand of uniform comprehensive education across the country. We need choice and diversity, and selective schools are an important part of that.

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