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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Ivan Lewis): Ours is the first Government to put behaviour and attendance at the heart of the school standards agenda. Our programmes include training in consultancy support for all secondary schools, behavioural improvement, enhanced support to tackle bullying, a concerted drive to reduce truancy, the work of Connexions and of the youth services, and positive activities during school holidays for young people judged to be at greatest risk of being involved in crime and antisocial behaviour.
Hugh Bayley: Does my hon. Friend agree that teachers are in the front line of antisocial behaviour by youngstersnot just as victims but as part of the solutionin working with youngsters who have behavioural problems? Will the Government consider earmarking resources for local education authorities' special educational needs budgets, so that resources can be made available centrally to schools, and provide learning support assistance? Further, does my hon. Friend agree
Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim) (UUP): Last week, I had the privilege of attending the north of England education conference in Belfast, at which several of the Under-Secretary's colleagues were present. I attended a seminar to promote and provide information on the success of the Prince's Trust XL club scheme. The principal who gave the address said that, in 16 years, he had not had to exclude a pupil. Will the Under-Secretary commend the use and involvement of the XL clubs project in schools as a means of increasing achievement and reducing antisocial behaviour?
Mr. Lewis: I shall support the work of that programme. We have to be imaginative and innovative in using the voluntary sector and community-based organisations to support our desire to ensure that we motivate young people positively, connect them with their local community's activities and support their development as positive citizens. We need to harness all the resources that are available to us in the statutory and voluntary sectors.
Helen Jones (Warrington, North) (Lab): The measures that the Government have taken so far are welcome, but further to the question that the hon. Member for East Antrim (Mr. Beggs) asked, will my hon. Friend consider seriously methods of aiding and encouraging schools to allow young people to undertake useful work in the community that improves their behaviour and breaks down the barriers between the generations? Will he consider making perhaps a small amount of pump-priming money available to enable schools to get such projects off the ground?
Mr. Lewis: I agree that we need to ensure that we offer young people a personalised learning experience that is about educational attainment and their development as all-round citizens. That is why we are increasingly linking schools, colleges and employers and focusing on enterprise education. It is also why our long-term ambition for reforming education for 14 to 19-year-olds is to build a curriculum around the needs of each young person. It should consider not only educational content but their community activities.
The Minister for School Standards (Mr. David Miliband): We have received few recent representations about school funding in North Yorkshire and York for 200405. On 29 October, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced proposals to restore
Miss McIntosh : My pile of papers shows the number of representations that I have received from schools in my area, which covers North Yorkshire and the city of York. The Minister's school report will read: "He must try harder." The procedures are complex, bureaucratic and inflexible. There will be more staff redundancies this year and it is as difficult as ever to get money for the schools building programme. What will the Minister do about it?
Mr. Miliband: I look forward to receiving representations, but the hon. Lady should give credit where it is due. My hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) has passed on a representation to me from the director of education in York. He says:
Mr. Miliband: I am sure that the letter also pointed out that there has been an increase of 47.9 per cent. in funding for pupils in North Yorkshire under the Government, in contrast to the cuts that occurred when the Conservative party was in power.
The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Charles Clarke): I have received numerous representations from universities on a number of matters relating to the funding of higher education, both in formal correspondence and in meetings with vice-chancellors and others from the higher education sector.
Mr. Dalyell: Even if the English universities receive more funding as a consequence of a new fee regime, will not most of that be used up in supporting teaching? What does the Secretary of State propose to do about the funding of research in the UK?
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. The bulk of the extra income will be used, and is intended to be used, to support teaching and to increase the quality of undergraduate education in universities. However, as he will know, the increase in research funding through the comprehensive spending review has been the most
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) (UUP): The Secretary of State will agree that universities have been underfunded for some time. What discussions has he had with his colleagues in Northern Ireland about the impact of his policies there, bearing in mind that although Cambridge and a few other universities might be able to offer some bursaries, other universities are not in such a position, and their students could be worse off?
Mr. Clarke: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, which I have discussed with my ministerial colleagues responsible for education in Northern Ireland. I also took the opportunity to discuss that issue, and a variety of others, with the vice-chancellor of Queen's university when I was in Belfast for the meeting of the Association of Commonwealth Universities last September. We are discussing that, and we acknowledge the cross-border issues implied in the hon. Gentleman's question. I make an open offer to him today: I am happy to discuss with him and his colleagues their concerns over how we can take our approach forward.
Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): In my constituency, 18 per cent. of the population are university graduates. Does my right hon. Friend find it strange that some people find it quite acceptable that the other 82 per cent. have had to pay variable fees for every bit of education and training that they have had since they were 18, but consider that variable fees are unacceptable for the most privileged, that 18 per cent. who are graduates?
Mr. Clarke: I agreethat is one of the more surprising aspects of this debate. The fact is that about 50 per cent. of students at our universities, including part-time, postgraduate and overseas students, already pay variable fees in precisely the way that my hon. Friend suggests. Moreover, with regard to skills training in the 16 to 19 age group, many people themselves, or their employers, pay for the education and training that they receive. I regard our proposals as creating a rational approach to that variety, and enabling universities precisely to focus on attracting students from the communities that he wants to encourage, as do I.