Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 740-745)



  740. Do you not think that it is, first, undermining parent authority to a certain extent, and, secondly, that it could be seen as a sign of giving out the wrong message when certification can be gained from other areas such as GP surgeries and so forth?
  (Mr Twigg) I think it is about being realistic about what will work. I think there is no desire to undermine the authority of parents in these matters at all; that it has long been recognised by governments of both main parties that sex education has to be a core part of the school curriculum. I think, when we look at these matters and we talk to doctors and others, the advice is very, very strong that it makes sense to—

  741. May I say that I am not disagreeing with sex education; I am talking about the availability of contraceptives in schools.
  (Mr Twigg) That has developed out of taking a serious look at the situation with teenage pregnancy, AIDS and HIV, and all of the other issues I have mentioned, and an acceptance—I think shared by many parents—that simply leaving these matters to the family home does not work.

Paul Holmes

  742. Just to return to an issue and try to clarify something you were talking about with Jeff earlier on, you say that the Government, after looking at the evidence, has decided that the evidence is clear that it is worth investing considerable sums of money to encourage people from poorer backgrounds to stay on 16-19.
  (Mr Twigg) Yes.

  743. Is it not, therefore, logical that exactly those same children aged 18-21, let us say going to university, should also get a grant or a bursary, the equivalent of.
  (Mr Twigg) You are taking me back to my appearance here 11 years ago again.

  744. Which of course your government removed in 1997.
  (Mr Twigg) Indeed. Clearly we have recognised that there is an issue on this, which is why my colleague Margaret Hodge is taking a look at it. I think there is a good case to say—and here I am being consistent with 11 years ago—that 16 is a very, very crucial age, particularly for those young people whose families traditionally would not have gone into higher education, and I think there is a good case to say that actually providing some financial support at that age is more important than what we used to do at 18 or 19 for the relatively small numbers of kids from the poorest backgrounds who had proceeded that far in education. It may not be an either/or but I am certainly not in a position to announce any outcomes of Margaret Hodge's review at this stage.

Mr Turner

  745. If schools in London are not only to recruit enough good young teachers but also to retain excellent experienced teachers, are you not just going to have to pay them a great deal more?
  (Mr Twigg) I do think that pay is part of this, but I do not think that it is the only solution to the situation in London. I think housing may well be a factor.

  746. But they do not want to live in council houses; they, like us, aspire to own their own houses.
  (Mr Twigg) We are not necessarily talking about people living in council houses or even rented houses. Some may do that. We are actually often talking about teachers, who have perhaps been in London for two or three years, wanting to settle down, and finding ways of supporting them. The starter homes' initiative has already supported 1,500 teachers in London as well as teachers in other parts of the South East to buy their own home, so we are not simply talking about rented housing for teachers; we are talking about more opportunities to own, part-rent/part-buy—other options. When I go and talk to teachers in my constituency and other parts of London, what they say is, "The cost of living in London is so exorbitant." I think, in terms of retention, sorting out the housing question is the biggest single challenge that we have.

  Chairman: Minister, on that note and in anticipation of the Deputy Prime Minister's statement with reference to that last question, thank you very much for your attendance. We have enjoyed our first encounter with you. There is slight suspicion amongst the Committee that you would have been better off in the Foreign Office with some of your diplomatic skills, but thank you very much for your attendance.

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