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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Stephen Twigg):
Our sex and relationship guidance issued to all schools in July
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2000 requires schools to teach about sexual health and sexually transmitted infections. Teaching strategies should include helping pupils clarify their knowledge of sexually transmitted infections.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: With one in eight young women in this country infected with chlamydia, and with a huge increase in the incidence of syphilis and gonorrhoea, will the Government carefully consider the example of the Ugandan Government, who have promoted the ABC campaign to highlight abstinence and faithfulness in sexual relationships? That campaign has resulted in a 75 per cent. reduction especially in HIV infection among 15 to 19-year-olds. Cannot we learn something from a developing country in that instance?
Mr. Twigg: Obviously I am happy to consider all the evidence from other countries about what works and what does not. The research evidence about abstinence-only education in the United States suggests that it is not effective on its own, although it can be one element of a package of measures to teach young people about sex and relationships. I am happy to examine the specific evidence from Uganda that the hon. Gentleman has drawn to the House's attention.
Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford) (Lab): Is not there a parallel between the development of the Sure Start programmes that have local autonomy and the teenage pregnancy strategies? Although they build on professional integration and working with the community, is not it important to share good practice to get the best out of the investment that we have made, as well as clear guidelines? If specific teenage pregnancy strategies work, other people should be told about them. If people do not want to find out, guidelines should be issued.
Mr. Twigg: My hon. Friend is right. In the past two years, there has been a disappointing, if small, increase in teenage conceptions, although there has been a significant fall, especially in conceptions among under-16s, across the four years of the strategy. We are now doing precisely what my hon. Friend suggests and focusing our attention especially on the hot spotswards in the country that have particularly high levels of teenage pregnancy. Something like 50 per cent. of teenage conceptions happen in one in five local government wards. I am prepared to consider the available guidance in the way in which my hon. Friend suggests.
Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)
(Lab): Will my hon. Friend ensure that any guidance that he issues is flexible so that it is relevant to areas of chronic educational under-attainment such my constituency? I recently had a letter from a primary head teacher, who said that, at 10 and 11, the sexual education that the youngsters receive is irrelevant because they know far more than what is being taught. That is a sad fact to relate to my hon. Friend. Will he ensure that we do not have a one-size-fits-all programme and that people are allowed the flexibility to meet the needs of their circumstances?
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Mr. Twigg: My hon. Friend is right. Flexibility is critical and it is vital that we learn from best practice in different schools and different communities. It is also important that teachers and others who work with young people in our schools have the confidence to address those issues. Evidence shows that teachers sometimes lack that confidence. We place great emphasis on continuing professional development for teachers so that they can deliver sex and relationships education with confidence in the classroom.
The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Charles Clarke): Average revenue spending from the schools budget in 200405 is £3,120 per maintained primary school pupil. As part of our package to restore stability to school funding, we guaranteed all schools an increase in their funding this year of at least 4 per cent. per pupil. More than two thirds of schools received an increase above the guarantee and the remaining third, an increase in line with the guarantee.
Paddy Tipping: Is my right hon. Friend in a position to compare that impressive figure with that in, for example, the financial year 199697? If he could do that, would he find that primary school budgetsfor example at the Annie Holgate infant school, which he has visited in Nottinghamshirehave doubled?
Mr. Clarke: I am not in a position to make the exact comparison but I can give the comparison in real terms with the year 199798. In Nottinghamshire, the total recurrent funding for pupils aged three to 19 increased by £760 per pupil in real terms since 199798, with the effect that my hon. Friend described. Anybody who goes into schools would have to acknowledge the massive increase in resourcescapital spending as well as revenue spendingthat drives up educational standards. That is a major dividing line between the Government and the Government whom we succeeded. I hope that everyone will bear that in mind when considering the choices that they have to make.
One of my colleagues suggests from a sedentary position that the reason is the quality of the Member of Parliament, but I am sure that that cannot be part of the explanation in any respect whatever. The fact is that different children have different needs in different parts of the country. But in Derbyshire, Nottingham and every part of the country, there has been a massive increase in resources in every school, for every child. That is something of which this Government are rightly proud.
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Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge) (Lab): My schools in Cambridge are extremely grateful for the extra money that has been received throughout this Government. May I point out to my right hon. Friend[Interruption.]
Mrs. Campbell: May I point out to my right hon. Friend that Cambridgeshire county council is still not receiving the amount of funding that it was led to expect in 2002 that it would receive, which means that schools, in some cases, are still underfunded, even though funding has improved so much since 1997? I hope that he will join me in making representations to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on the need to increase their funding in line with what they would expect to receive.
Mr. Clarke: First, there is an announcement later on these matters, after the pre-Budget report. Obviously, my hon. Friend is right to make the case for Cambridgeshire as she does. In relation to Cambridgeshire, it is very important that schools there work well with the local authority, as there have sometimes been issues that have not been as straightforward as they might seem; I urge them to do that. In addition, I acknowledge her point that the increase in spending since 1997 in Cambridgeshire has been dramatic, and is raising significantly standards in schools in Cambridgeshire.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Ivan Lewis): We set out in the skills strategy the ways in which we propose to improve opportunities at level 3 for adults, targeting support to meet regional and sectoral skill needs. We are maintaining fee remission for those on low incomes. For 16 to 19-year- olds, those who are able to benefit can pursue study through to level 3 achievement, through academic or vocational study in schools, colleges or apprenticeships.
Ross Cranston: May I ask how we make significant progress at level 2 and basic skills level so that we have the base to move on to level 3 attainment? In addition, may I ask him about a problem raised with me by Dudley college about funding? Will funding for level 2 crowd out funding for level 3 and, in particular, might employers be dissuaded from funding level 3 attainment?
First, my hon. and learned Friend is right to make the point that we need to support progression all the way from basic skills to level 3. We were proud to announce only two weeks ago that we hit our target, so that 750,000 adults who did not have basic literacy, numeracy and language skills before we came to power have achieved those skills in the past few months, which
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is a major achievement. At the moment, we are trialling our level 2 entitlement in two regionsthe north-east and the south-eastwith a view to rolling that out across the country. We have already spoken this morning about employer training pilots.
We are also committed to ensuring that where there is market failure in regions or sectors of the economy, we would be willing to consider extending level 2 entitlement to 100 per cent. subsidy for level 3. But as a matter of principle, in relation to achieving level 3 qualifications, it is reasonable to expect, on the whole, a greater contribution from employers and individuals because, at that level, they have a direct gain and benefit. In relation to where we put the bulk of the Government's resources, it will go unashamedly into basic skills and level 2 qualifications. In terms of the needs of the economy, level 3 and higher qualifications are equally important, but we will expect a greater contribution from employers and individuals at that higher level.
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