Examination of witness (Questions 40-51)|
WEDNESDAY 24 OCTOBER 2001
40. We must push on to one more thing. That is,
that it seems to be the fashion that is emerging through the Green
Paper and the White Paper that it is believed that faith schools
are superior to regular schools. In terms of whether that is accurate
data, is it actually true that faith schools are so much better
than what I would call the regular comprehensives, the regular
system? Is there not a concern, when one looks at the evidence,
say, of the National Association of Governors and Managers and
their real disquiet about this belief that educating children
differently and separately from their peers is of itself a good
thing? Some of us who represent constituencies with a reasonably
high minority population would feel very concerned and very worried
if everyone of a different faith was going to be educated separately
over these next five, ten, 20 years. If we look at Northern Ireland,
it draws other conclusions and they are the answer, but in fact
for some of us they will be a great concern.
(Estelle Morris) I understand the sensitivities
around this, of course I do, and I know why Members are concerned
about what will happen. Let us put it in context. I think that
we have had a proud tradition in this country of tolerance and
acknowledging a parent's right to have a faith-based school if
that is what they want. It goes right back for centuries and centuries
and centuries, and that is the way we are. My starting point is
that I am not about to take away from Roman Catholic and Church
of England parents their right that they have enjoyed over centuries
as a tolerant society to exercise that right to have a faith-based
education. Given the sort of society we are in now, it is intolerable
that you do not offer that sort of choice to those from minority
faiths as well. My constituency is Birmingham. One of the things
which you get there is that Muslim parents actually say, "Why
should Roman Catholic parents have that choice if Muslim parents
don't?" It is not an easy solution. It is not easily solved.
I will say two more things. Parents are exercising that right
anyway; whether we want them to or not, they are exercising that
right. In Bradford, I think I am right in saying, there are 18
Muslim schools in the independent sector. Prior to our announcement
before the Election, there was not one in the state sector. So
not having faith schools does not mean that parents do not access
it if that is what they really want. I will be honest, I would
sooner have them in the state sector than in the independent sector,
because they are accountable for the national curriculum, they
are inspected by OFSTED and I can make sure that there are equal
opportunities for girls as well as boys, which goes right across
all the religions, when we actually grant them. So I think you
have to be careful about thatthat there is a check. We
have the minority-faith schools, we have lots of them, they are
just not in the maintained sector. The next point is, my constituency
is in Birmingham, Birmingham which is the most multi-racial city
outside London. When I go into schools generally they are predominantly
white. I can go into classrooms and not see a non-white face,
in Birmingham. If you are really worried about children from different
faiths being educated separately, do not pile it all on the heads
of the traditional-faith schools. It is about racism, it is about
urban development, it is about housing policy, it is about how
our urban centres have grown, because you can go into inner-city
Birmingham and find a maintained non-faith school that has got
99 or 100 per cent Muslims. That is what we are really worried
about. Let us get down to the roots and let us see what is happening.
My final point, and what I think the Committee will most want
to hear, is that we are not, actively or proactively, about to
launch a campaign to get lots more faith schools into the state
school system. We are not about to do that. The mechanism will
be the same as it is for the opening of every school. The School
Organisation Committee will locally make that decision. That means
that the family of schools at the heart of the community will
take the decision as to whether a new faith school, from whichever
religious background, is allowed to join the sector. We have got
faith, it is important in this country, it is important to lots
of individuals. If we tie it up with the churches and say, "Faith
is okay, but don't let it leave the churches", we are a strange
new tolerant society. I think that we look for levers of co-operation
and integration, inclusivity, at the same time as acknowledging
people's rights to pursue a different faith. That is the message
I have from the leaders, from the mosques, from the temples and
from the churches, and that is the way I want to go forward.
41. In the White Paper it refers to the need
for clear local agreement before establishing faith schools. My
first question is, does that mean the School Organisation Committee?
(Estelle Morris) Yes, through guidance
which we shall issue in due course.
42. It also refers to the concept of inclusiveness
in faith schools. Is not that a contradiction in terms?
(Estelle Morris) Yes, it is if you only
commit yourself to admissions arrangements. Going back to the
Chairman's question to me about the pattern of schools, one of
the things which I want schools to change over the next five years
is for schools to be hugely individual and accountable for their
own performance, but to be part of the family of schools and cluster
of schools. One way to be inclusive is actually to ask schools
to point out in their application to join the mainstream, in what
ways they will work with the family of schools. So that is the
nature of the inclusivity with which we would work, how open they
are, how well they work with neighbouring schools.
43. Is it likely, for example, that a new Muslim
school or a new Sikh school would admit a large number of Catholics?
(Estelle Morris) I think it is very likely.
My feeling is that that is what happens. Church of England schools
do, Roman Catholic schools do, they are multi-racial. We now have
quite a lot of plans to change the admissions framework.
44. Are you saying you have or you have not got
(Estelle Morris) I have not announced
the plans to change the admissions framework.
45. But there is a plan to do that?
(Estelle Morris) All I would say is that
there are more ways of making schools mutually inclusive than
actually having a quota of meeting 10 per cent of Muslims or whatever.
I do not want to move along those lines. What I do find, which
is hugely heartening, is that if you go to those that run faith
schools in the maintained sector they are some of the most progressive
within their faith group, some of the most progressive. They understand
that at the heart of their religion is tolerance, understanding
and co-operation with others. I am wary, Mr Chairman, that I am
about to get myself into trouble before I have issued the guidance
which is not fully worked out yet, but that is what we want to
do, to respect the ability of a faith, but actually find a myriad
of ways in which we can check that schools are being inclusive
as members of the family of schools.
46. How many of the proposals in the White Paper
will require primary legislation? Will there be, as we saw in
the School Standards and Framework Act, a lot of regulations?
When do you expect that to come before the House?
(Estelle Morris) Funnily enough, the
Key Stage 3, and specialist schools strategies rarely need regulations.
We need to make some changes to the national curriculum and things
like that to free up our teachers. I think it is Chapter 9 of
the White Paper which outlines the legislative implications of
the White Paper proposals, but there is a lot that can be done
without legislation. The draft Bill looks quite strange because
it is not a reflection of the White Paper, but it does not need
to be. It is quite a weird Bill in that sense. We have just picked
out for legislative change what we want. We want a lot of things.
We said we want to make some sense of education law. There is
an incredible amount of primary legislation. We have got all those
in the draft at the moment. It will have Second Reading in the
House of Commons before Christmas.
47. On performance management, we are coming
to a crunch time for head teachers who need to plan TUPSthe
Teachers' Upper Pay Spine. For those staff who go through the
threshold to TUPS, could the Secretary of State tell us what proportion
of TUPS funding be met?
(Estelle Morris) I think a first issue
is that the threshold payments are demand-led. Whoever gets through
will be paid. Because of that, it has been very important that
we put in checking measures at the threshold level, which is why
we have got an assessment system and head teachers making the
decision, and then we have got national standards which are observed
or are monitored by our assessors. We never wanted the performance
principle of the threshold to be demand led. One of the consequences
of having done that would be that we had to put in a similar checking
system for every performance point that was above the system,
because there would be no incentive by the head teachers not to
give out performance points. Because of that, we are not fully
funding it, and we never ever said that we would. I think the
figuresand either you will correct me or I will correct
myself if I am wrongare that we have provided funding for
about 50 per cent in the first year.
48. Yes, that is the perception of the headmasters
I have spoken to. How would the headmaster then decide which 50
per cent would get the payment or not, or would 50 per cent go
to some schools, or can some schools get 100 per cent and some
schools get nothing? How will the apportionment be determined?
(Estelle Morris) It is up to him or her.
This is serious stuff. This is not niceness, this is not a sloppy
way of paying teachers more. This is a determined effort to value
teaching and make sure that those who teach well, whose children
progress and who make a wider contribution to the school get money.
I have become very involved in designing that at threshold level,
a thing I had to do. I want to be much more hands off, and that
will mean that heads will act professionally on the basis of performance
management information as to who is to get performance points.
49. Linking what you said on faith schools with
what you said on specialist schools, the latest research has shown
that specialist schools are now making use of the ability to select
in greater numbers than they were a few years ago when, as you
said, it was going the other way. Specialist schools and faith
schools do select, not necessarily by ability but certainly by
aptitude. On average, all the figures show that they take below
the national average of pupils who have special application need
status, who qualify for free school meals, so they do select by
aptitude and they select by ability. If you have got 50 or 55
per cent of schools by the year 2005 have not achieved specialist
status, which is what your ambitions are, how do those schools
avoid going into a spiral of decline whereby they become sink
schools because they then have to compete with their neighbourhood
technology colleges, state schools, who have extra money, extra
resources? How do they apply that without the possibility of becoming
sink schools without undergoing quite a considerable change?
(Estelle Morris) Our knowledge is good.
We are educationalists and we get very hung up on the detail of
education policy, quite rightly. I think parents want good schools,
and there are a lot of good schools outside the specialist school
movement. I know the figures you are talking about. In terms of
specialist schools, what they show is that for some schools, when
they have got specialist status, the number of children on free
school meals who go to the school has gone down, and what is true
for some schools who have specialist school status is that the
number of children who get free school meals has actually gone
up. So it is not right across. I think it is very complex. I tend
to think what happens is that when they are specialist schools,
for lots of reasonsnot because they are specialist schools,
but because of the process they have had to go through to get
to be specialist schoolsthey are actually better schools,
and parents, maybe from a locality who are moving away from a
local comprehensive school before there were improved schools,
are now going to the school. I do not think parents choose specialist
schools. I think parents choose good schools, and specialist schools
support schools in becoming good schools. That is all it is. In
terms of faith schools, there are no statistics. I thought I heard
somewhere and I remember once talking to my own Director of Education
of a Roman Catholic diocese in Birmingham, who said that his percentage
of free school meals was no different to neighbouring schools.
I think we need to look below the figures, and parents will choose
good schools, wherever they are. I do not believe a good school,
if it is not a specialist school, will suffer in terms of recruitment,
I really do not. What we need to do is to make sure that they
stay best schools.
50. I could give you all the statistics on the
breakdown of the Roman Catholic, Church of England, Jewish and
Sikh schools, and they are all below the national average in terms
of those who have free school meals, so the figures across the
country do not bear out what you have said. How do the schools
that do not have the extra £½ million over so many years,
that have specialist status, compete with the 50 or 55 per cent,
on your figures, who have not achieved specialist school status?
(Estelle Morris) All I am saying is that
some of them will be good schools. It is as simple as that. I
can name you schools that are not specialist schools that perform
exceptionally well and are grossly over-subscribed. The question
is about how we see schools, because there are always some schools
which take additional pressure, who take children in challenging
circumstances. I think that that opens up the whole agenda in
terms that they need access to extra resources because they take
children who have those difficulties. If you actually look at,
and let me name one, our policy on the eight schools with good
leadership in the most challenging circumstances, to whom we have
just given £250,000, actually to support them, if you take
a school like that that is in a city, in an education action zone,
is in our group of schools with challenging circumstances, if
you take the bias that is in the Standards Fund and if you take
what money they are getting, it far exceeds any money we are giving
to a specialist school. So we need to look beyond that. What I
would say is that I am not ever going to fall into the trap of
saying that the only good schools are specialist schools, or that
you have to be a specialist school to be a good school. What I
feel most of all about specialist schools is that they are actually
a huge engine for school improvement, they motivate schools to
improve to get to the status, they are engines for innovation,
and I want our good schools to be developing the next round of
school improvement. There are lots of things that can be developed
in good specialist schools, because they have had the capacity
to do them, that now can be transferred throughout the system.
51. In my constituency you cannot get a plumber
or a painter and decorator for love nor money. Whilst I applaud
the aspirations of getting everybody through to university, there
will be some children who will never ever go to university, who
will need the basic skills in our economy, there is no question
about that. Can you say something about that?
(Estelle Morris) Thank goodness we do
as well. We have just got to value their skills. At the moment,
if you choose, or you are good at, application skills, there is
no message from society that you have achieved at a high level.
I think that we have got the building blocks in place in terms
of vocational GCSEs, vocational `A' Levels as a foundation. I
would say to the whole of the Committee as well, let us attempt
to get this vocational thing right. The Conservative Government
are always given recognition for the work they did with GNVQs.
I think they tried valiantly to get this thing there, and it did
work. I want to work steadily and carefully and to bring those
in. It will not happen until we, just as a nation, acknowledge
that there are accreditation systems that give cause to the view
that we value that. That is why I want an over-arching qualification
at end of school, so that that gives us an umbrella qualification
in which to value academic qualification.
Chairman: Secretary of State, thank you very
much. You have given us a lot of time and more than compensated
for your slight delay in arriving. Can I thank you for the full
way in which you have answered our questions. Thank you for being
the first in a corps of Ministers and others who are going to
speak in what we hope is going to be a positive but good relationship
between the two bodies, the Department and this parliamentary
Select Committee whose job is really to keep an eye on you. We
will be watching you. Thank you very much indeed.
7 Note by witness: I am proposing to make £100
million available in 2002-03 and £150 million in 2003-04
to support performance pay progression. We estimate that this
would cover the cost of about 50 per cent of teachers eligible
for performance pay progessions receiving a performance point
in September 2002. The extra funding will be provided through
a new special grant. This ring-fenced funding will be a contribution
to the cost of performance pay progressions which schools will
be able to supplement from other sources if they wish. Back