WEDNESDAY 24 OCTOBER 2001 __________ Members present: Mr Barry Sheerman, in the Chair MrDavid Chaytor Valerie Davey Jeff Ennis Paul Holmes Ms Meg Munn Mr Kerry Pollard Mr Jonathan R Shaw Dr Bob Spink Mr Andrew Turner __________ THE RT HON ESTELLE MORRIS, a Member of the House, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, examined. Chairman 1. Good morning, Secretary of State. Can I welcome you and say what a pleasure it is to have you at our first formal and public session. You will know that the election coming on meant that although we did interview, right at the end of the last Parliament, the Permanent Secretary, the Secretary of State got off, as they say, not because he wanted to because I know he was looking forward to that final session with the Committee; that is what he told me on the record. You will know that this Committee is trying a new approach, in line with the Department's attitude of having milestones, having targets, that we also ought to have targets and also perhaps institute a sort of performance review for the Department and your team. You cannot have a performance review if you do not have an initial meeting. Therefore, in the best possible sense of that performance review, this is the initial meeting on which we hope in continuing years we come back and say, "But, Secretary of State, at that first meeting in October 2001 you said this". We are all well aware of the process but first of all, in welcoming you, I would like you to make a short statement. (Estelle Morris) Thank you, Chairman. My apologies for being late. Punctuality is not my strength but I was genuinely kept back in the Department. In this situation I am happy to stay late, probably for more minutes than I was late, but that is life. Can I first of all say how pleased I am to meet the new Committee and congratulate those members who were not members last time but I hope for a good and positive relationship between us. We are a new department of course. It is not the Department for Education and Employment. It is the Department for Education and Skills. What I wanted to do in my opening comments was not to go through each of those policy areas but just say how I saw the cohesiveness of the Department and its new structure. The thing that mattered most to me in the shape of the new Department was that we did not split education and skills. We are not the Department for the Schools; we are not a department for schools and higher education. We are a department for education and skills. I think it is that skills part of the agenda to some extent that has been sadly neglected in the country for generation after generation. We still have not got that right, right down to seven million adults who have not got sufficient basic literacy and numeracy skills. I am very content and happy that we have a coherent department now. Clearly we have lots of targets and milestones and we hope to make progress. What I would say, Chairman, in response to what you have just said about being held accountable and in a couple of years' time saying, "But two years ago, Secretary of State, you said this", is that I am hugely ambitious for our Department. We want to aim high and my approach would be: be very ambitious, aim high and do your damnedest to get to it. We will make progress in all of our key areas but what I do not ever want to do because of some fear of accountability is to set low targets in the knowledge that I will get them. I very much hope that your conversations over the months with myself and other colleagues will bear that in mind, that I would sooner be a Secretary of State who has aimed high and almost got there than a Secretary of State who has aimed low and made it and had an easy time in front of the Select Committee. I know that you are meeting my colleagues over the next few weeks. I think you have us one a week so we shall get to know each other very well over the next six weeks when we want to give some of the details of the policy. I think that education and skills bring together so much of individuals' and the nation's life. It is so important for personal fulfilment so that everybody can reach their potential. It is hugely empowering and enabling but it is also not only good for individuals; it is absolutely essential for the health and wealth and well-being of the nation. I suspect that educationalists for generations have always said to their students or pupils, "You need to work hard to pass your exams". I am happy to be Secretary of State at a time when that has never been more true than it is now. I think we are moving into an area where life chances are going to be so diminished for those people who do not have the basic skills and the educational qualifications but, more than that, that life chances will be diminished for those individuals who do not understand that they must have a lifetime commitment to learning and re-learning and engaging with the whole of that learning process. In that way I think we are a Department, like the new welfare state, that means learning for fulfilment and to learn right from cradle to grave. I think learning can take place at any one of those years. Can I say just one more thing, Chairman, before I open myself to questioning? As a courtesy to the Committee I did want to let you know that this afternoon at four o'clock I will be answering a written parliamentary question in which I have decided to suspend the Government's Individual Learning Account. It has been hugely popular. We have over two and a half million people who have signed up to the learning account. Much of the feedback we have got is that it has served its purpose well. They have returned to learn and they have taken advantage of the subsidies that were available from the Government, and it is making a real difference. What has emerged over recent weeks is that I am not entirely happy that the details of the scheme are all running well and because the scheme is so very important I have taken the decision to suspend it, but obviously in my parliamentary answer at four o'clock this afternoon and in a release at that point to the press I will go into more details. Of course, Chairman, if you wish me or any of Ministers to come back on a future occasion to go over that in more detail I will do so but I was conscious that I was appearing before you on the very day on which we are answering a parliamentary question this afternoon. 2. Secretary of State, thank you for that courtesy. I understand that under the protocol of the House we will not pursue ILAs today on that specific question, but all other questioning is no holds barred. Can I start the questioning by saying that over the summer we have had a whole number of issues bubbling up and before the tragic events of September in New York the education agenda seemed to dominate the domestic news. Certain things did bubble up but many of us who looked and reflected on both the general election experience and also the kind of feel that one had, going round the teaching conferences, as I know you, Secretary of State, did (as I did), was that there was a worrying gap between what four years of a Labour Government had achieved or thought they had achieved if you talked to Ministers like yourself in terms of having a whole range of what they thought had been successes, but on the other hand a lot of people at the delivery end who did not really seem to share the same view. Yes, partially they could see more resources coming into education, partially they could see that many of the things that Government was attempting to do were on the right track, but at the end there did seem to be, especially coming out of that general election experience and then in the discussions in conferences and so on, the feeling that there was a real gap between the executive trying to deliver on an educational agenda with the troops out there whom you have to engage not really quite engaged. First of all, did you feel this gap between the two and, if you did, under your administration and under your period as Secretary of State what are you going to do about it? (Estelle Morris) I know what you mean. I am not sure there was a gap but I know what you mean because I heard that as well. When you question people more closely I think what they were saying was that in the areas where we had claimed to make progress they would agree with us but they wanted us to go further. Somebody who said, "You have not changed things, you have not made a difference" which, in all honesty, in the field of education was not said to me that much, would then admit that literacy and numeracy in primary schools had made a real difference and head teachers would admit that they did have more money. They had noticed that in the last 18 months to two years of the term rather than in the first two years schools would say, "Yes, we have seen rebuilding going on and we know there are capital works". I think they rightly wanted more and I think that in terms of the nature of the relationship between politicians and people we serve that is always going to be difficult because I think it is right that politicians give the big picture and aspire high and aim high, but sometimes in using those words we must not give the impression that we can achieve that big picture and all those ambitions overnight. Before the election we met most if not all of our departmental targets. We made huge progress towards them. There is another thing, and this particularly came forward when we were talking to teachers and those who deliver the system. I think a strange thing happened on election day, that as an electorate people were telling us that they wanted better public services. As people who work in the public services they were telling us that they were working too hard and had felt the pressure. We have to square that circle at some point. I do not think we can get better public services without asking more of those who work in them. That is an inevitability. Where we have a responsibility and I have a responsibility is to make sure that in pushing forward that change and implementing that change we explain things carefully, we make sure that what we do is on a clear evidence base, we resource it sufficiently, we offer professional development opportunities for those on the front line and we understand the pressure that we put on them. My own personal experience is that if you can talk front-liners through that they become far more willing, as we all are, to give more of their time and commitment. I would not have any doubt in putting on record the huge effort which those who work throughout all the field of education made in the last four years. I did not carry out the literacy strategy and teach one child anything phonetically in the strategy, but two hundred and forty thousand teachers did and that is what made a difference. In terms of what needs to change we have to get better at the nature of the relationship between the centre and the front line. We have to be confident as politicians that the accountability structure in place is such that we can be hands-off and let them get on with it. I feel we are there with schools now, that I know at the touch of a button the performance of every single one of my 24,000 schools. I know that it is my responsibility to spot failure before it happens but, because it is an accountable framework, I think I can forge a new relationship with teachers which gives them choices and pathways within the wider Government framework. If anything changes it is that, and I do not think it could have happened four years ago because the accountability mechanisms were not in place. Chairman: It seems to me that in different words you are using the words that those of us interested in management always use, that if you can get people to share the vision and if you can engage all the stakeholders in that in delivering that vision you will deliver that vision, and what I was saying - and this is not a question - was that I do hope that there is a consolidation in the period coming so that we can energise those forces to a degree that in a sense they were not energised over that period. Mr Turner 3. Secretary of State, when I read your manifesto Raising the Talent for All I felt there were lots of targets but mostly they were process not outcome targets, and I welcome the strategy that the Department has published which has many more outcome targets and does not concentrate as much on process. Can ask you four specific questions in relation to the targets please? First, do you have any targets or objectives, published or unpublished, for integration of pupils with special educational needs? (Estelle Morris) No. 4. Second, do you have any outcome targets for the Connection Service and what are they? (Estelle Morris) Connections is in its early stages at the moment. We have just rolled that out. Our initial aim is to get Connections established in each of our areas and get the partners together. That is something that my officials may wish to take up when they speak to you separately. I am not sure we are concentrating on targets at the moment but the areas that they would be in were about employability, about making sure that people who choose options after school actually stick with them, that they make the right choice to begin with. Increasingly what we need to do, which goes back to the Chairman's point, is almost customer satisfaction. That is where that brings processes and outcomes together. We will want to test that both teachers and the taught, those who are customers of the Connection Service, are actually satisfied with the quality of advice that they give. 5. It would be helpful if we could have some more detailed outcome targets at some point. My third question is about something which appears in the manifesto but does not appear in the objectives, and that is that you promised to enable every primary pupil to learn a musical instrument. (Estelle Morris) Yes. 6. That is one of the Department's outcomes? (Estelle Morris) Yes. We were desperate to do that. We have started work on that at a thinking level already. 7. Fourth, in higher education the manifesto says that you will enable 50 per cent of young people under the age of 30 to progress to higher education by 2010. That appears to have been watered down in the Department's publication on page 14, where it is increased participation "towards 50 per cent". Is this an absolute commitment? (Estelle Morris) Yes. 8. What sort of participation are you talking about? Are you talking about progressing or are you talking about BA (Calcutta) Failed, or are you talking about emerging with a first degree at the end of the process? (Estelle Morris) The target is firm. We have to work towards it before we arrive. What we will do in terms of intermediate targets is that we have a 2010 target that is firm but we will want to see year on year that we are moving towards that. You may know that the applications to HE are up by over five per cent this year. That is clearly taking us some way towards that, so it is a firm target and we are moving towards it year by year. We will be making an announcement shortly. We are busy doing some work in the Department about what constitutes higher education and what our initial entry rate is and what our starting point is. I am clear that it will be probably higher education experience not nationally defined by doing three years in getting a straight degree. The nature of higher education is changing and I think that people will go there at different points and different parts of their life to access that. One of the things we are doing in the Department at the moment is having that discussion. The nature of what we will be looking is length of course and qualification at the outturn. When we have worked that out with the sector - we are talking to the sector at the moment - we will want to tell you as well, because what we want to do is to have a firm starting point. The other complexity on this, to put all the cards on the table, is that we do want people who are new to HE, not that went to HE at 18 but then go again at 29 so that that counts as something towards our 50 per cent. Because this is a new target and it is hugely ambitious, and HE has not been asked to do this before, we have to sort out those who already have been to HE. We have to be absolutely clear that there is not double counting, so it is not a case of, "Let me know how many under-50s you have taught this year". It has got to be, "How many under-30s, who have never been to HE, have had a higher education experience this year?" We are grappling with those two details. The first, which we have a firm decision on, is absolutely new to HE, but the second one, once you get into the complexity of what higher education offers now, is real decisions about balance between outcomes and length of course. We will not take more than a few weeks, I do not think, in coming to that decision but we are just in the middle of some talks with HE on that. 9. But what the public may understand by HE is not necessarily what this target will be based upon at the end of the process? (Estelle Morris) It will be based on good quality higher education experience for the very first time between 18 and 30. Mr Pollard 10. Secretary of State, in the mission statement, item two, it says, "We will employ at least 10,000 extra teachers". In my LEA, Hertfordshire, we are having extreme difficulty in recruiting teachers for vacancies that exist already so the concept of several hundred perhaps extra teachers just leaves us in fear as to how this might be achieved. The question I ask is: how? (Estelle Morris) We have based the estimate on our record of what we achieved in the first term. You know that we increased the number of teachers going into teacher training and those then going into teaching by 12,000 over the period that we were in power for the first four years. I understand the difficulties of recruitment. I think it is far more complicated than just counting teachers, partly because of our standards agenda. What I know we have done is create the need for more teachers than we ever had before. What is true is that as you put money into the system heads choose very often to spend it by recruiting more teachers. Just to be clear about that, teaching is still the first choice profession for graduates leaving university. We must remember that: there is no other profession which most graduates choose to go into. That is how popular it is as a first choice profession, but we do need to do more and our responsibility is to talk to teachers about balancing that supply and demand. It is that which has got out of kilter rather than our failure to recruit teachers. I am confident that those 10,000 extra teachers will be found on the basis of the trend that we have seen. May I say one more thing on that? I care also, and I know you do, about other staff in schools as well with qualifications. I think when we have these conversations in the future, as well as talking about numbers of teachers we should be talking about numbers of bursars, numbers of administrative staff, numbers of trained classroom assistants, because increasingly schools are getting to be those complex organisations that need that spread of staff. I know that it is unusually difficult for you. You come from an area that has had more difficulties than most; I do appreciate that, but it is not because teaching recruitment went down. 11. Many initiatives have been tried, such as the Golden Hello's and stuff like that, and some of those have kicked in and we have seen an improvement in our LEAs, no question about that. However, one of the things that we are conscious of is the key worker housing initiative that was launched. When we put a bid in from our LEA we got very low grant back from whichever department it was. Are there any other initiatives? You talk grandly about the vision; I appreciate all that. You said in the past that you thought we would get 12,000 and 12,000 showed up. On the ground it is not coming out. We are not getting the teachers that we need. Some classes are short so the thought of extra leaves us cold. Are there any other initiatives? (Estelle Morris) I am grateful for your acknowledgement that the measures that we took on recruitment worked. They did work; that is what has brought about the increase. Four years ago after the 1997 election there were no such financial incentives at all to recruit into teaching. We have made huge progress. I tend to think that we did everything that was asked of us and was suggested and beyond in terms of recruitment. Retention is an issue. I think we need to look carefully at retention. The figures are no different than they have ever been on the whole but that is not good enough. Whereas we have made progress with recruitment, we have not budged the figures in terms of retention. Initiatives will be different by nature when you talk about retention because I think that is about giving teachers the space to think about their jobs, acknowledging that they are professionals and giving them the support. Hugely we need to do more professional development and we need to cement that partnership so that they feel part of the education system rather than done to by somebody from central government. I have got retention as one of my top priorities and I want to budge those figures this time. They did not get worse but they did not move in the right direction. The only new thing is that the Department will take a power in the legislation that is shortly to go through Parliament to go ahead to pay off student loans for those in teaching over a ten-year period. You knew about that but of course that has not actually come in at the moment. Dr Spink 12. My question is on the issue of the Department's general objectives and targets. One of the Department's objectives is to give successful schools more freedom over the curriculum and pay and conditions. I wondered if the Secretary of State could tell us what criteria will be used in determining what is a successful school and who precisely will be making that decision? (Estelle Morris) It is one of those policies where the detail is always more difficult than the principle. When we talk about buying into the bigger vision, at least that principle has got agreement right across the political parties, right across the profession and the teaching unions and teachers as well. It is therefore beholden on us to keep that consensus going. Initially we will be relying on Ofsted quite a bit and performance data. We now have a school system immensely rich in the nature of the data that we have got about each individual school. To give some reassurance to this, what it will not be is the top 20 schools in the performance tables; that I can promise you. We have got better quality data than that so we can now benchmark schools with other similar schools. We are talking to Ofsted about this and we will rely hugely on their advice. If we announce the decision, which I suppose inevitably will be the case, we will do it in conjunction with Ofsted. It will be a combination of Ofsted inspection reports, performance data benchmarked against other similar schools and, importantly, we have got to find some way of knowing that the leadership in the school is good. School improvement and decline, as we have often said, goes like that (indicating) and you can be good but if you have not got good leadership you are about to go down. Those three things are necessary: an Ofsted inspection report, decent performance data and an assurance that leadership is good. I think we will want to start carefully. I do not think we will want to open the flood gates. We have not got a limit on it. We are not saying it can only be X per cent and no more, but I think we will want to test out the policy as it moves forward. 13. This fits with what the Secretary of State said about hands-off and let them get on with it and I rather like that. Can I ask about the target on exclusion, that every child permanently excluded from school will be provided with a full time alternative for 25 hours a week, and the other target that truancy will be cut by one third from 1996/97 levels? Will both these targets be met by September 2002? (Estelle Morris) Can I take you back a bit to say something about hands-off? Freeing good schools to get on with it means we can use our resources to help the struggling schools and the under- performing schools. We have not gone back to central government stepping out of school standards. What I want to do is use the Department's time to aim it where it should be just in case anybody thought we had said we would stop bothering with schools. 14. I will remind you of that later on. (Estelle Morris) We will meet the 2002 target of every child getting a full time education. The figures are an utter disgrace to society and the education system, that the kids who most need an education once they are excluded are wandering round the Bullring in Birmingham and other urban centres. It is a disgrace that we ever got that far. There are a number of things that happened. It needed resources because they are expensive pupil referral units. The other thing is that the quality of PRUs in 1997 was not good. They should have our best teachers. That is where our best people should be. They do the most difficult job in education, trying to re-engage young people with the education system. What has happened over the last four years is that year on year more local authorities have moved towards full time education but - and this is a huge tribute to the profession and those who work in PRUs - the quality of teaching in PRUs has immensely increased and Ofsted say that, not I. I am keeping my eye on LEAs. We are getting figures for this year but every single LEA tells me that they will reach the target by 2002 and I will make sure during the year if there are any problems about that that I push them and support them to make sure they can deliver. In terms of the exclusion targets, we have met our exclusion target to reduce from 12,000 to 8,000 but we will not be setting any new exclusion targets. The attendance target, or the truancy target, whichever way you look at it, is more challenging. It is partly because it is not as massive as exclusion so you are at the end where you really need to make a difference, but we are determined to make progress and to achieve that as well. There is only so much that schools can do and it needs real partnership with families and parents. What worries me as much as anything is family and parent condoned absence from school. An awful lot of it goes on. I cannot be pushing teachers and local authorities to make an effort with this unless we have got that partnership with parents, that they see how important it is that they do not take their children out from school if they can possibly avoid it. 15. The Secretary of State made a little bit of a slip in mentioning attendance instead of truancy targets. Are not attendance targets more reliable anyway? Should we not be moving towards those? (Estelle Morris) My personal view is that there is some benefit in that because what you do is that you switch your authorised attendance to your non-authorised attendance. Targets determine how we behave; we all know that, and there is an inbuilt incentive to do that. It is something that we are giving thought to for the LEA level targets. I hope I am right in thinking, and I will drop you a note if I am wrong, that primary legislation actually meant that we have to set them the way they were. We put it into primary legislation. I have always been persuaded over the last two to three years that we need to look at attendance targets so that we can encompass both sets. You cannot do better at one at the expense of being worse at the other. It is a fine argument, a professional argument, and on that one I have more sympathy with the profession than with the Government so I had better do something about it. Ms Munn 16. I wanted to follow up on a little point following on from that before moving to another subject. There is a group of children who I get very concerned about and perhaps they have not even been excluded so they do not come under the guidance, where they are struggling in school, they are perhaps children in care, and they are not following the normal curriculum and there is an implicit agreement that they are not getting full time education because of the difficulties they are having. I am not suggesting that people are particularly doing it to get round the exclusion issue but how are you proposing to tackle that? (Estelle Morris) It is a promise I can remember from being a teacher as much as from being a politician. If you take that back, why do teachers make that decision, to offer them something different than the national curriculum? It must be that the national curriculum for that child is not meeting the child's needs. Teachers act in the best interests of pupils almost all the time. That is what motivates them, that is what gets them up in the morning, that is why they go to work in one of the toughest but most important jobs that the country has got. I think we then make it very difficult for teachers. They have to circumvent the rules. They have to slightly not tell the truth in terms of what they are doing. They have to pretend that they have either misapplied to subjects that they teach in the national curriculum. What I want to do as we develop our 14-19 policy, which is going to be one of our key areas from now until probably the start of next year in terms of policy development, is that I want us to be more open about this because I would like to work with teachers at looking at what works if the national curriculum does not work. As long as the conversation is not open because it is not meant to be happening, I cannot use my resources and expertise in the Department to support them in the task that they are doing. I need to work out and the Department needs to work out over the next few weeks about what is the framework in which we are offering no flexibility and what is the framework in which we are offering flexibility. I will never go back to offering total flexibility in the curriculum because I can remember the seventies and the eighties when kids really missed out because they had lost their entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum. My thinking at the moment is that we have obviously got the legislative programme about a broad and balanced programme which will stay there. I do not ever want any child for the compulsory years not to do basic skills in the core skills, but at some point how far beyond that we go, I want a conversation with the profession. It will be rigorous, it will be measurable, it will have qualification at the end. Just to take up one point, you do not do that because you are badly behaved. You do that because the curriculum is not appropriate to you. What happened in the old days was that they put the badly behaved children in there and that curriculum was not appropriate to them either. We have learned a great deal and we can now take that agenda forward. In terms of our schools agenda it is probably highest of our priorities apart from literacy and numeracy at Key Stage 2. 17. If I can move on to the commitment to provide greater delegation of funding to head teachers and greater autonomy for successful schools, I am concerned that this tends to paint the local education authority as not a good thing and that money spent by the local education authority on the core services they have to provide is not valued. I worry that they will not be able to do the job that Government is asking them to do. Can you respond to that? (Estelle Morris) I think some local authorities are a very good thing. Some are not such a good thing because they do not do their job well. Local authorities are a necessary structure. They have a huge part to play in the education system and local authorities are a good thing. That is why in my previous role I spent so much of the last couple of years on the intervention strategy in support of the 18-20 LEAs who did not get sufficiently good assessments out of Ofsted. Can we go back a bit? There is no doubt that in the past before there was pressure and there were targets and there was a conversation about delegation, I do not think enough money was actually passed on to schools. This has changed immensely over the last three decades. I started teaching in 1974 and we had to order all our exercise books through the local authority and they only did a Monday afternoon delivery. If you ran out of books on Thursday afternoon you were scratching around. It was absolutely ridiculous and I am not pretending that for two decades anybody has acted like that, but what we have seen over the last two decades is treating the local authorities as we do everything else in the public sector involved in a delivery service, which is making sure that we focus their attentions on what they can do best. They are not best at ordering exercise books. They are not best at deciding the allocation of resources within school in terms of personnel. They are best at making sure that schools have got good quality data comparable across the rest of the LEA and comparable nationally. I think they are best at keeping an eye across all schools in their LEA and making sure they spread good practice and support under-performance. Some of the language is tough because we need to move quickly. I tend to think that we have got now to a good agreement with LEAs, that they feel more secure that they have a future because they went through a phase of not thinking that they had got a future, and they know what that is. They might not like where we have drawn the boundaries all the time, but they are drawn and we are not going to move them. I hope that we can have a period of settlement and we want our lowest devolving LEAs to move to the performance of our best devolving LEAs. That is all we ask, that everybody moves towards the best in the system. We ask no more of anybody in the system than what has already been achieved by the best performer in their sector. 18. My concern is that there are a number of initiatives which I support, such as looking at teenage pregnancy or Sure Start or whatever it is which is something which local authorities are asked as a whole to do along with health and social services jointly. For example, we know that Sure Start money was underspent because probably people were having trouble getting things off the ground and the like. What I would really like to know is how are you confident that the balance is right in terms of the funding that is going into local education authorities to support that wider role which is not directly about the face to face education of children but is extremely important in terms of education and having an input into whether it is teenage pregnancy or Sure Start? How can you be sure that they are getting resourced to do that? I worry when I see underspends, that that is because they are stretched in the range of responsibilities that they are being asked to undertake. (Estelle Morris) We are driven first and foremost by making sure it does not get spent in administering the scheme but actually at the sharp end and I know you are too and I know that local authorities are. There are a number of initiatives I can think of through the schools agenda where, in allocating the resource for a project, there is an inbuilt percentage which is for monitoring the project, evaluating it and administering it. Beyond the money that is devolved to schools as part of the straight education budget there are a number of initiatives right across the range that will have a small element in them for administration. Where I am interested in moving towards is that sometimes the LEA will be best at administering that system. Sometimes it will be a partner but it will not administer the system. In terms of the hands-off approach to which you referred, I do not always want to be saying, especially in the years where we have now got the early development child care partnerships, "Here is a new initiative and the LEA must do the monitoring and the evaluation for the system". I would like to say, - and this is really where I want to get to - "You are the partners locally. There is the framework. There is X million. Passport 95 per cent, 97 per cent, whatever it is, to the delivery arm but you choose amongst yourselves how as a cluster, as a partnership, you want to evaluate, monitor and support the system." That will mean that local authorities sometimes might feel left out because they did not get that, but that is life and if you want us to share power that means local authorities share power as well. I am delighted at their attitude. They have come on such a long way, they really have. I think they have gone through a cultural change over the last few years and I applaud that. We have got some real expertise in the system. Chairman 19. Are they feeling more comfortable because you have ceased to say quite so loudly in the Department about the great advantages of the private sector? There is a softer voice in that area recently, is there not? (Estelle Morris) I think there are advantages to the private sector. I feel very strongly about that. I want the best for our schools and those who work in them and as a huge pragmatist I will take it from wherever I can get it. If the private sector works with us it is as accountable for its performance and for the public money it spends as is the public sector and they have joined us on that understanding. I think they are more comfortable, Chairman, because they now see that it is not an effort to squeeze them out. It is not saying, and we have never said this and there has been a lot of misunderstanding, that the public sector has failed so we will have to bring in the private sector. We say two things. Sometimes the public sector under-performs so we have to seek expertise from the private sector, and sometimes we say that what the public sector does is so very important that we want to bring extra things in to help it deliver more effectively. I hope you are right in that there is a more "at ease" feeling out there and we can move forward on that agenda. Involving the private sector is one of our non- negotiables. Paul Holmes 20. I have two questions relating to Key Stage 2 results but they are more linked to your introductory comments because they are more about how you are going to do the job as the new Secretary of State. You were saying at the start that you want to set ambitious targets and your predecessor in 1997 set ambitious targets when publishing Key Stage 2 results. He said if they had not been met by 2002 he would resign. Will you resign next year if those targets are not being met? (Estelle Morris) No, and I never said I would. I want to be judged across all our priorities with the new department and that is right. I believe we will meet our targets next year. Whether you now want to ask me about this year's performance as the next question I do not know. 21. That is the next question. (Estelle Morris) I know what the former Secretary of State would have said, although I should not answer for him, that whatever happens, throughout all our political lives, literacy and numeracy was probably the best thing we did. It really changed things. I do think we have to be an adult society. I do believe we will meet the targets but if we were to miss them by a percentage or two I still think it will have been a huge success. We will get them, we believe we will get them. It is important to us that we get them. We do not want to fall back by a percentage or two but, whatever happens, I think they have been hugely successful strategies. 22. This year's results showed a disappointing dip after an initial improvement and one question would be why, but the second one is: those results were due to be released in the week starting 17 September and obviously the specialist education press were waiting for that, but they got leaked the week before and appeared in the London Evening Standard on a Friday buried on page 26. Have you launched or will you launch an inquiry to see how that information got leaked in the week of course of Jo Moore's e-mail suggesting that that was a good week to bury bad news? (Estelle Morris) I have to go through the chronology of that. We planned to announce the results either the following Tuesday or the Wednesday which was the week of our White Paper speech. We did five conferences that week and I even made arrangements for my junior ministerial colleagues to be working from Newcastle as well as London. What happened was that we got information from the Evening Standard on Thursday evening, I reckon, when Mr Miles from the Evening Standard phoned us to ask for a comment on Key Stage results tests. The Independent had done an article previously on which they had done a phone-round on 100 or 200 schools and come up with a summary. I knew it was wrong. I knew the figures by then so I knew it was wrong. I did not feel happy to respond to that. What became clear when the Evening Standard gave us the figures was that they were right and they were too close not to have had access to them, so we took a decision, which I think was the right one, to put out a press release but we did not do so until the lunchtime edition of the Evening Standard was published just in case they did not go ahead and publish in the light of events previous to that week. The reason we did that was that I would have been in the stupid position of spending the weekend saying, "No comment. I will talk to you on Wednesday" and that would have been very strange. Given that Friday is a constituency day for Secretaries of State as well as other MPs it was not the most convenient day to do it but I think we acted rightly and properly in that and there was no alternative. I am not sure, but I will check and come back to you, that the Permanent Secretary authorised an official leak inquiry but I do know that we went through the system both with QCA and ourselves as to how the information could have got leaked. I do not know how it got leaked. 23. So if you have carried out or if you do carry out an inquiry you will let us know? (Estelle Morris) I can drop you a line as to the status of that inquiry. Let us be clear. What happened was that the figures were in the public domain five or six days earlier. They were figures that were always destined for the public domain. It was not as though as a leak it was highly sensitive information that put the nation at risk or that it was personal information. All that happened was that the Government ended up talking about it five or six days earlier than might otherwise have been the case, and we will go on talking about it. Mr Shaw 24. You said that the 14-19 policy development was going to be one of your key focuses over the next couple of years. In your opening statement you said that youngsters have never had to work so hard for their examinations. In the manifesto Raising the Talent for All you talk about building pathways more tailored to individual aptitudes and aspirations and so if we accept that young people, boys and girls, mature at different ages and so therefore their aptitude and their likelihood of success at examinations comes at a different time should we not be looking at allowing young people to take examinations at a different time, both those who might be in a position to take their exams early but, more importantly, allowing young people to take examinations beyond 16? What is quite clear to me is that if we are going to hit the targets of 50 per cent of youngsters going into higher education then the springboard for that needs to be further education. Success builds on success. Therefore would you perhaps in some of the different routes and pathways in future - I know you are looking to have a Green or a White Paper with various shoots towards the end of the year, beginning of next year, - be looking at allowing more flexibility because not all youngsters are ready at 16? It might be 17 or 18. Are you going to have a relative step change in the 14-19 agenda in allowing youngsters to take examinations at a different time? (Estelle Morris) It works both ways. Some will want to take it earlier. I think we will want to do that and we want to do that as well. We will want different routes and pathways. You made a lot of interesting points. The physical maturity of children is an issue. Some of them feel adults but emotionally their social development is not always as quick as their physical development. I am conscious that with older adolescents sometimes part of the disengagement with school is that they do not feel that school is the place they want to be. That does not mean that they do not want to learn. What I want to look at is all the places where you could learn such as FE colleges and so on. I want to have far more flexibility in that. I think that the decision as to when children take exams is a professional one for teachers to take. I want them to do that but what I would not want to stop doing is the snapshot at 16 as to where young people are. I think that is important. If the question was partly, if they take exams at 17 can they be excluded from our performance tables at 16, I would not want to do that, but I think that snapshot at four or five points in the school system is important. I think increasingly we will want people to come back to learning to take qualifications and maybe - and it is not something I have addressed in my mind as yet - the flexibility of learning and places to learn will also be reflected in making sure that children can take exams when it suits them best, and that is early and perhaps later but not getting rid of that snapshot of children at 16. 25. So that snapshot will be the GCSE? (Estelle Morris) The snapshot at the moment is all the exams taken at 16. We already include in that the vocational exams as well, GMVQs. Next year we are piloting the first vocational GCSEs and we will want to have them in our table as well. 26. If we are going to tailor things individually between 14 and 19, it is always after 16, the GCSE, that things happen. If we are going to make the radical changes and have more individual pathways and, as you say, it must be more appropriate for youngsters to clear the GCSEs and get on with other aspects of their educational career, if that stands and you are enthusiastic about that, why not allow youngsters to take their examinations afterwards? Can there not be some other measurement of attainment at 16? (Estelle Morris) Most people take a set of exams at 16 but some do take it afterwards. Teachers' institutions every day are exercising that judgement. You put an interesting point and there is clearly some logic to what you are saying in that more flexibility means more flexibility right across the system. Flexibility is a different word than wetness, softness, lack of rigour. One of the huge drivers to increasing educational attainment in the education system has, I believe, been the publication of performance data. However we work forward that agenda I do not want to not publish performance data. There is a logic in what you say and I would not want to put myself in a position when, having consulted on 14-19, somebody comes forward with some decent suggestions on that and we have closed our ears and eyes to doing anything about it. 27. So you are willing to discuss that? (Estelle Morris) Yes, but can I say what I have not said, because I am conscious that most politicians get into trouble for what they have not said. I have not just said that GCSE is not important; neither have I just said that GCSE is not an important thing at 16. I know the background to that and I understand that. I need the accountability, I need the performance data, the nation needs them, but we do want flexibility. Let us see how it goes. I bet you will invite us back after Christmas to discuss the 14-19 report, Chairman. I will log that down. Chairman: Secretary of State, you ought to know that one of the things that we are looking at is the 14-19 and FE sector. It is something that the Committee did before I became Chairman, but it is something we are going to dust off and bring up to date quite rapidly. Can I just tell colleagues that I want to pack a lot into the last minutes we have, so please let us have short questions if possible. Mr Chaytor 28. Very quickly, if I may, on the performance data, am I right in thinking that next year the Key Stage 4 performance data will be published with a value-added methodology for the first time? (Estelle Morris) When we publish performance data this year we will publish performance data, value-added data for our Key Stage 3 pilot which is 200 schools. We have got the position that they will have two sets of information: straight national and value added. What that means is that the following year - I will get round to answering your question, but trying to work out the answer as I go along - next year, when we for the very first time publish Key Stage 3 data it will be value added for every single school. 29. Which year is Key Stage 3? (Estelle Morris) 2003 for Key Stage 4. Pilots this year for 2003. Logic tells me that we need another two years to get to Key Stage 4 value added, but I may be wrong on that. It is all about when the children who have got the achievement number work through the system. Beyond the 2003 Key Stage 3 data, all of which will be value added, it is a bit muddying to say that the kids have got to be treated as Key Stage 3 then, if they do not get to the Key Stage 4 until two years later. If I have got that wrong and there is a flaw in my thinking, I will let you know. What I can assure you is that it will be published wherever we can, as it is very, very important. That is part of the partnership of schools; they do not think they get credit for working in difficult circumstances, but because we aim high I do not want any school to think that their children cannot achieve five GCSEs. My best guess is probably 2003/2005. 30. I have a very brief supplementary. Will the value-added data above Key Stage 3 and 4 then be used as one of the criteria for determining what constitutes a good school in respect of greater achievement? (Estelle Morris) Yes, certainly. Jeff Ennis 31. I have three brief questions, Chairman, if I may. The first one is a general question to do with specialist schools, Secretary of State, and the continued expansion of the specialist schools programme. There are a lot of critics of the government policy on specialist school status, in that all we are actually doing is creating a two-tier comprehensive system. What is your answer to that question? (Estelle Morris) I think the process of change is difficult, and that is what we are going through now with reshaping secondary education. I suspect it will take this Parliament and beyond actually to get the shape of secondary schools the way that we want. I do not believe it is a two-tier system. I think that schools naturally play to their own strengths; they know that they are the same as other schools, and they value that sameness because that is part of belonging to a family, belonging to a group and belonging to a service, but they also value the things that make them different as well. In the structure of our schools I want to do both of those things. If I was saying to you that I will cap the number of schools that can be specialist schools, I think the Government would be vulnerable to the charge of two tiers. We are not saying that. I think that one of our most important statements is that over time we want every school who aspires to specialist school status and is ready to take it on to be able to do so. That is why I say that in terms of the period of getting from where we were in 1997, which was 170 specialist schools, to where we would like to be in 2000-and-X beyond - we are now at 600, we will be at 1,500 by the end of this term - I think that process is difficult, because some are moving at a faster rate than others, but for lots of reasons that you either choose to ask me or not, I think that specialist schools are central to what we want to do. 32. Secretary of State, 7 per cent of specialist schools used the option to select up to 10 per cent of their pupils by aptitude. Do you think that number is about right? Should it be expanded? Are you keeping it under review? What are your views about that? (Estelle Morris) We were not counting it, but we are now counting it, because everyone is very interested in it. It is 7 per cent and falling, because as we introduce more schools into the system the number stays the same but the percentage goes lower. What is true is that most of those schools that choose to exercise selection by aptitude did so probably prior to 1998. I cannot say to you that nobody has introduced it since then, but it has been very few, so the percentage will actually fall. I am not getting worked up about it, to tell you the truth. It is not monitoring it yet or worrying about it. We are certainly not setting a target. I think that is a decision if that is best left to local areas to do. The example I would give is that I do not think we will ever get to the stage where there are, say, specialist sports schools. We shall never probably have quite as many as the specialist technology colleges. There are only two or three in the City. I do not want to take away the right of the head teacher to give a chance to a child who excels in sport but does not live in their immediate catchment area, I do not want to take away their right to be able to make that decision, but neither will I do anything actively to promote selection by aptitude or anything else. It is part of the rules, I am not going to change them and it is not the most important part of the specialist schools initiative. 33. Changing the subject slightly, a lot of the schools initiatives depend on bringing in funding from the private sector, which I would support in principle, but obviously in some areas that is easier to achieve than others. In some of the deprived parts of the constituency that I represent they are having great difficulty levering private-sector funding. Is there enough flexibility within the machine actually to make allowances for deprived areas to receive private-sector funding? (Estelle Morris) I have visited your constituency, Mr Ennis, and it was for me a really good day out to see the education and actually see what is happening. You are moving into a hugely challenging area in terms of the structure of training which is taking place at the moment. You have got there in a way a partnership from the bond with the private sector, so it works. I may be wrong on this, though I like to think I am right, but my feeling is that if you work in a poor area it is not that business does not want to partner you, it is that life is tough if you work in a tough school and you do not have the time to go round chasing money. I think it is that way round, because I do not want to say to business, "You're only prepared to support schools in the leafy suburbs", because I do not think that is true. I think many of them, particularly the work that is done by Unilever in Tower Hamlets and things like that - there are examples all over the place - are good at choosing tough schools. So I would say two things. I want to relieve those schools from having to spend their time getting the private-sector money. That is why there is a lot of money centrally at the Technology College Trust which can be accessed. There are two things I have done. I always make sure that I have asked the Technology College Trust to let me know, of the money that they give out centrally to schools for sponsorship for specialist school status - they are about to tell me, I have not got the figures - what the free school meals figure was for those schools. I want to make sure that if I skew it in any way I skew it towards those schools that have the most difficulty. The last thing is, I am keeping my eye on the sponsorship money. I do not have the feeling at the moment that it is too high, and I want to make schools make those links with industry. Money is one of the levers for doing it. I will keep my eye on it, and if there is an insurmountable problem I will want to come back on that. Valerie Davey 34. Secretary of State, I want to come back to Key Stage 3. Parents in Bristol certainly, I am sure throughout the country, whatever the statistical evidence this last summer, will endorse what you said earlier that the attainment had increased at the primary level, there is no doubt, and they are very pleased. They then look at the secondary perspective, and all the statistics seem to indicate a trough when we come into secondary years. I know you have done some Key Stage 3 pilot work, so I have two questions. First of all, is there any evidence from that that the methods being used are being successful, and have we anything that we can use as good practice? Secondly, to get those primary results we put in quite a lot of central directives in terms of literacy and numeracy hours, extra staff training and a lot of money. Is that the kind of agenda we may need for Key Stage 3? (Estelle Morris) Yes, we will want to take the best of literacy and numeracy, but secondary schools are very different organisations and they are far more complicated. Let us just take Key Stage 3 English. Traditionally in primary schools one teacher has got a relationship all the day with the children. English is taught in English lessons, it is also taught right across the curriculum in secondary schools, so it is far, far more complex, so we have to be different as well. We will put money in each year, and in terms of our decisions about allocating resources we will prioritise it in the same way that we did Key Stage 1 and 2 literacy and numeracy. Where we are at the moment is that every school now has begun their training on English and Maths literacy and numeracy at Key Stage 3, and the feedback is good. The feedback is very good about the quality of training. I think our next challenge is how they use that back in school, because what we are doing at the moment is we are training two or three people for them to come back into schools and train others as well. Also we will be looking to OFSTED who are monitoring this for us, both the initial training and how it is implemented, to guide us in future. All I would ask of the Committee is that I think we are taking on a huge thing here. 30 per cent of children perform less well at the end of year 7 than they did at the end of year 6. If you look at the spread of results over Key Stage 3 from 1997 till now, some of them have dipped, and it cannot be right. That is about where you put your strong teachers in secondary schools, it is about the levers we give secondary schools to perform well, because there has been no lever to perform well at Key Stage 3. So we will move quickly, but we do want to give secondary schools some element of choice as to how they implement it in school. So what we are saying is, "You've got to do it in year 7, but you use your judgement about whether you do it in this year's year 8 and this year's year 9, you pick out the best things." So we will get good practice, we are at the start, but it has got the elements of project management and evaluation and the degree of financial support that literacy and numeracy had. 35. Do you think that perhaps the liaison between primary and secondary is as good as it ought to be? (Estelle Morris) Yes. 36. So you are saying that it is a new, complex situation. It certainly is for children going from year 6 to year 7, is it not? (Estelle Morris) Yes. 37. Perhaps there is not going to be enough learning, dare say it, between secondary and the primary sector from which the children have come. Parents now see their children attaining well at 11 and their aspirations, like yours, have increased. That is brilliant, you need to satisfy it. Is there anything else we can do in that liaison work? (Estelle Morris) The table tells us that, and the children are actually saying, that when they get to year 7 they are going back to year 6 in the primary schools, and I have had this from teachers who are saying they do not teach at the same level, it is slowed down, they are doing the same things over again, all the same, at the secondary level. I do not want to be over-critical of secondary school colleagues but, as I said - and I say this as a sensitive secondary school teacher more than a Secretary of State - the feeling amongst secondary schools was that they cannot learn from primary schools, and that it is in the secondary schools where the real subject teaching starts. They can learn an immense amount from their primary school colleagues, they really can. I think they have taken that on board during recent years and have done it. Can I just say that one of the two things I am interested in is that the kids move and everything changes - the shape of the day, the buildings, their own particular maturity begins. We do not make it easy for them, do we? We do not make it easy for young adolescents to remain engaged in learning. I think we have got to look at it from their point of view. There are some schools which are taking some initiatives, which I am particularly interested in, in moving the primary school teachers into Key Stage 3. There is a school in Haringey that employs on a one-year or two-year contract some teachers from their feeder primary schools only to work in year 7. What they do - it is actually one of our Fresh Start schools in Haringey - is the kids have got the pastoral continuity, they have that, and the teachers teach the children to give them continuity, but they train staff so that they have got somebody there all the time who can work with the staff. So I have probably been over- critical of secondary school teachers, but I do think it has taken them a few years to wake up to the fact that it is not just about making children feel comfortable and socially at ease when they come there, it is about academic attainment as well. We have got such a long way to go on that. Chairman 38. Secretary of State, we are coming to the last minutes of this enjoyable session. I think we would be remiss if we did not ask you two connected questions. If we are a little bit tight for time I know we can go on a bit longer, but there is a time limit to this session. Some of us on this Committee, certainly the ones who served on the last Education Sub-Committee of the Education and Employment Committee which did a long and thorough inquiry into higher education both in terms of access and retention, have been rather concerned about what seems to be a change of mind on the Government's part. In a sense, most of the evidence that we took during those inquiries suggested that the bulk of people in higher education were very pleased that there is a new basis for student finance - not that they thought everything was right about it, but that we had moved from a situation where in percentage GDP we were spending about the same amount as our industrial competitors, but in our case before the changes about 40, even 45 per cent was going on student support. As the Committee heard the evidence, if you believe that our universities have a major role as regenerators of their regions, their towns and their cities, a major role in continuing research to be globally world class, and even, as many of us said, if there was a priority it might be that you paid university teachers slightly better (but I have a special interest in that). If you have those other goals, though, it seemed to many of us that you would move into a situation where you could liberate yourselves from that real tie and do some exciting things with higher education expansion, not always applying that 40 per cent, draining away the student support. Do you believe that if we are going to come out of this system and are going back to the old system, it would seem enormously expensive and a drain on our resources? (Estelle Morris) No, it will not, because at least the rules remain the same. I think my predecessor was absolutely right and incredibly brave to make that move towards students contributing to their own education. It has to happen. Quite honestly, we have a choice. If we go back, we do not reach our expansion figures, and the expansion figures are not just something that would be nice, they are absolutely essential. Those are the hard choices that we face. So that will be the fact. What I think has happened is that the perception rather than the reality is that if we want to move to the 50 per cent target, we have to look at what the barriers to that might be. I am actually quite comfortable that half the students did not pay fees, and I am relatively comfortable that with the payback rate when you are in work - not when you are out of work - marginal rates of interest, I think that it should be okay. However, I think what happened was that there was a perceived fear of debt, and families sometimes from a class background who have spent a lifetime avoiding debt. What seemed to be asking them a lot was actually to say, "Invest now. We promise you, you will actually get a higher income in future because you'll have a degree", because it was too many years for them to be sure about making that decision. So what I wanted to avoid was that their perception of debt would start affecting the way they behaved and they would not apply to university. The reason that we are doing a review is to make sure that that does not happen. To be absolutely clear, whatever we come up with will actually mean a continuing contribution from the student families and the student; there is no other way of getting round that. 39. Has the Department been receiving evidence, from the FEA or anywhere else, that young people from deprived backgrounds were being put off by that sort of view? We thought it was too early. Even up to June the hard data was not coming through. Indeed, when we made our recommendations in the first inquiry into access, we very strongly recommended to the Government, given the 5 per cent premium for universities, to go down the supply chain to find out where there was an under-performance in education or in a region and to build partnerships with schools. We thought that a 20 per cent premium would have been the real way to energise the system. On those two, have there been any movements, or will there be any movements? (Estelle Morris) On the figures in terms of the social class applications to university, I am told - I have not actually got the figures, I am told this, but I have not seen them, so I may have to qualify this - that of the over 5 per cent extra who have applied this year, that does not show a drop-off in those coming from a lower social class background. On the record, the increase in applications to Scottish universities is 1.6, that is over 5 per cent, which is an interesting reflection on the debate that took place in the last few months about attracting them. It is extremely complex, but what you get from teachers, what you get from head teachers and what you get from students is this growing nagging fear that their perception of debt is about to affect the way that they behave, and I do not want that to happen. In terms of promoting access, I know what we have to do most. What we have to do most is increase attainment at 18, because what is true at the moment is that most of those getting two 'A'Levels are going on to university, but there is the disproportionate effect that 17 per cent of the middle classes go to university and almost 7.2 per cent of the working classes go to university. Park that and look at qualifications. That is where I want to go on that, but I will look at the whole of the relationship as to how we use HE. The last thing on that is that we have got a responsibility to raise the attainment level, but the universities have got a responsibility to make working-class children understand that places like university are suitable for kids who have never had anyone in the family go to university before. I cannot do that, the teachers cannot do that. HE have the key to that, and that is my major speech on HE that I am about to do. 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 that that 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 my schools 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 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. Mr Chaytor 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 Education Committee? (Estelle Morris) Yes, through guidance which we shall issue in due course. 42. It also applies to the concept of the admissions of 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 them? (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. Mr Shaw 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 strategy, specialist schools, rarely does. 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 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. Dr Spink 47. On performance management, we are coming to a costly time for head teachers who need to plan TUPS - the Teachers' Upper Pay Spine. Most staff go through the threshold to TUPS. Could the Secretary of State tell us what proportion of the funding for that will be met? (Estelle Morris) I think a first issue is one of the back stages is that the threshold is demand-led payments. Whoever gets through will pay. 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 figures - and either you will correct me or I will correct myself if I am wrong - are 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 it or not, or would 50 per cent go to some schools, or can some schools get 100 per cent and some get none? How will it 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. Paul Holmes 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 reasons - not because they are specialist schools, but because of the process they have had to go through to get to be specialist schools - they 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 œ« 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 œ250,000, 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 standing 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. Mr Pollard 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 GMVQs. 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 compensated, in part at least, 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.