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Mr. Clarke: Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the lineal descendant of the CTC is the specialist school? Some 60 per cent. of secondary schools in the country are specialist schools and the growth has been consistent. When I became Secretary of State, one of my first steps was to remove the cap, so that every secondary school might become a specialist school and achieve the dramatic improvements in results to which he refers. His criticism simply has no foundation.
No, I do not accept that independent schools, which I shall discuss in a moment, are the lineal descendents of the CTCs. The key thing about the CTCs is that they introduced major private sector partners,
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which the city academy programme is also designed to do. I am surprised that the Secretary of State for Education and Skills is so bashful about his policy, which is very good.
Mr. David Rendel (Newbury) (LD): Although the Secretary of State for Education and Skills seems to be fighting hard against the idea that he has taken over some of the previous Conservative Government's policies, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that he is arguinga number of people in the media have argued this recentlythat there is very little point in voting Tory at the next election, because the Labour party has taken over all the Tories' policies?
Mr. Dorrell: The hon. Gentleman has focused on one policycity academies. He has forgotten what I have said about foundation hospitals and fundholding and has not yet heard what I am about to say about independent specialist schools, which are not, as the Secretary of State for Education and Skills proposed, the lineal descendants of CTCs. The parentage of the independent specialist schools is much closer to grant maintained schools, which is another programme that the Government have abolished. In the rubric that I have quoted, the Government have brought out of retirement all the arguments that were used to develop the grant maintained schools programme, to which the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) has referred.
The hon. Member for Huddersfield is worried about the implications of the policy, and he is not entirely signed up to the policy of the Secretary of State for Education and Skills. I am on the side of the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, who has got a good idea. I am concerned, however, that he, like the previous Secretary of State for Health, will be unable to carry this policy past Members such as the hon. Member for Huddersfield, with all respect to him, and, indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Winning the battle for independent specialist schools to ensure that they have genuine per capita funding and are allowed to own their own buildings and employ their own staff is absolutely central to the success of the Secretary of State's policy. I regret that he has already, in a pre-emptive cringe to the Treasury, had to concede the politically correct line on the law on admissions.
Perhaps when the Secretary of State winds up, he will be able to explain to the House how we distinguish
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between the dictionary words "aptitude" and "ability". We have specialist schools in science, music and other subjects, which is very good, and they are allowed to select up to 10 per cent. of pupils on the basis of aptitude, not ability. When I briefly did the Front-Bench job of my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins) at the beginning of the 1997 Parliament, I devoted a lot of time, with the present Home Secretary, to teasing out how we distinguish tests for aptitude from tests for ability. I look forward to hearing the Secretary of State, with his superior intellect, clarify that.
Mr. Charles Clarke: We set that out clearly in our response to the Select Committee, to which I refer the right hon. Gentleman. Does he agree with Conservative Front-Bench policy, which is completely to abolish any control of selection at the ages of five and 11, to establish a five-plus and an 11-plus for every school, and to abolish the requirement of proximity to the school?
The Secretary of State is on to a genuinely good idea as regards city academies and independent schools, but I am worried about his pre-emptive cringe to the Treasury. I am also worried, as the Health Secretary has now rejoined us, about the track record of his predecessor in getting similar policies through the Treasury in the guise of foundation hospitals.
I cited three specific examples and I could add others. The key issue is how we reform the public services to deliver the commitments that are shared by Members across the House, including the hon. Member for Huddersfield, with whom I disagree on methods but agree on objectives. Whether in health care or education, the objective should be high-quality services that are available on the basis of need. It is to the Prime Minister's credit that when he makes speeches he appears to be clear that who provides the service is not the key issue. Indeed, he seems to think that there is an advantage in plural provision: let a thousand flowers bloom; let a number of different approaches be tried.
The key factor in our concept of public services is equitable access. That is a genuinely attractive vision for the future of public services that sets out to break down the accursed distinction between those who "go private" and those who rely on the state sector. We want to provide equitable access to a variety of institutions, both public and private, with access to a single system rather than allowing education and health care provision to continue to develop as two separate systems. Separate development is not an idea with a happy historical provenance. There is a dawning realisation in some parts of the Labour partyalthough none at all, from what I can make out, in the Liberal Democrat partyof the importance of that idea, but the problem is that every time we come to the crunch those with that dawning realisation appear to lose their battle.
We all know that the Queen's Speech is likely to be the last of the Parliament. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor can keep the show on the road between now and the general election. However,
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the contradictions in the approach of the Secretary of State for Health and that of the Secretary of State for Education and Skills become clearer daily. The most important question at the next general election will be whether we continue with a team whose members do not agree about the most fundamental issue that faces Britain in the years ahead or accept the logic of the Prime Minister's occasional rhetoric on the subject, and elect a Government who can do something about it rather than simply talk.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. Several hon. Members hope to catch my eye. I remind hon. Members that the debate is time-limitedperhaps they will bear that in mind when they make their contributions.
I want to deal with both aspects of the debateeducation and healthbecause I firmly believe that few other subjects affect our constituents more. They are greatly involved in them and feel that they will affect their families in future. We should therefore take any action in these areas, especially in connection with the Queen's Speech, extremely seriously.
If hon. Members visited Crawleywhich they are welcome to doit would be obvious to them that the education landscape had been transformed. One can enter the town from the south and look at all the new build. Astonishingly, we have three new secondary schools, one of which is completely new, and not rebuilt. People in the part of town where it is situated had been calling for that for many years. We have state-of-the-art special schools that deliver education to children and young people of hugely varying abilities in a way that we did not believe was possible. We also have new-build primary provision and an explosion in nursery care. The landscape is therefore very different from that of 1997.
I want to ensure that we understand how the difference came about. There is no magic to it. Crawley was once a new town, and the new build of 60 years ago had not been renewed or refurbished. The only way we could get money for education was by selling a bit of playing field: that was the only way that any schools managed to get rebuilt. However, in 1997 there was an explosion in building, and new confidence in education provision in Crawley.
I say to the right hon. Member for Charnwood that we could hold great debates about approaches to education, but without the resources we would simply be wasting our time. The aims and objectives of our teachers are now properly supported, which means that we can produce the sort of building that they want to work in and children find attractive. Circumstances are now completely different, which allows children to raise their game at school. They now have a different attitude towards staying on. They desperately want to do that, and I believe that education maintenance grants have made an enormous contribution to that change.
Let me consider the aspects of the Queen's Speech that are relevant to education. I was delighted to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield
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(Mr. Sheerman), the Chairman of the Education and Skills Committee, as he spoke for many Memberscertainly those who have been corresponding and raising the issue of having a light touch where we need to, while retaining an overarching authority that can get the family of schools working together, sharing experiences and also sharing what often cannot be done in one school. Hearing my hon. Friend speak in that way was music to the ears of people in Crawley, and we will certainly watch the Bill with great interest as it makes its way through Parliament. I will be an active supporter of it.
I have said something about education, which I believe has gone extremely well in Crawley, and few of us would argue that the reforms and the resources have not produced something that we can be incredibly proud of. The election of the Labour Government in 1997 was key to that. However, I now turn to an issue that has been quite difficult to deal with: modernisation, and ensuring that our health services can react to today's needs. Again, few of us would argue that enormous strides have not been made in the development of our health services.
Again I am thinking about what is happening in my own town, and considering the development of primary care. I firmly believe that bringing our GP practices to work together and think about the whole town, rather than just the little bit of it that each one happens to be serving, has been hugely beneficial to us all. Our GPs come together to discuss how we can ensure that health care is delivered throughout the town equally and co-operatively, not in the sense that one practice may be able to save some money and reinvest in some other way. I firmly believe that that has completely changed how GPs function.
This has not been an easy processindeed, it has been a difficult onebut the ability to share information and expertise has borne an enormous amount of fruit. That will always be there for us now. We have encouraged people to work co-operatively, and that is a learned experience. People have learned to do it, and to respect their colleagues.
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