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David Taylor: Before my hon. Friend concludes, will he say a word about the concern that I expressed about the direct funding of schools? That is attractive for schools that serve deprived areas, but it would enfeeble good local education authorities such as Leicestershire, which has a long track record of success in this field.

Derek Twigg: As I said earlier, it is important that LEAs play a strategic role in working with schools on assessment and school improvements, and that is very much at the forefront of their remit.

We will make final decisions on the new funding arrangements over the summer in the light of responses to the consultation, and we want to ensure that they are implemented successfully. There are no plans for further change, although naturally the distribution formula will be kept under review.

The work force agreement and PPA—planning, preparation and assessment—have been mentioned by a number of hon. Members. That reform aims to free teachers to spend more time on their core
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responsibilities, which include not only classroom teaching but the key professional activities that support teaching, such as planning, preparation and assessment. We have always made it clear that work force reform would largely be funded by the better use of existing resources. Schools can implement the national agreement only by moving towards new ways of working. The more radical schools' grasp of the remodelling agenda, the better the outcomes for teachers and pupils and the lower the costs involved. Schools that abandon unnecessary tasks and redeploy support staff to ensure that the use of their time and expertise is maximised will get the best from the existing information and communications technology infrastructure, reduce reliance on expensive supply teachers, and find the reforms achievable.

The national remodelling team is working closely with LEAs and other partners to help schools implement changes in support of the agreement. It is working with a network of LEA remodelling advisers who are available to school leaders and can give them help and advice on remodelling the school work force and managing change. The response to training offered by Leicestershire local education authority has been positive. Our understanding is that all schools in Leicestershire have attended the financial management in schools training. As the House knows, we have set the minimum funding guarantee for primary and nursery schools in 2005–06 at 5 per cent. per pupil—1 per cent. higher than for secondary and special schools—in recognition of the need to meet additional cost pressures in implementing reform from September.

The Government are confident that the local government settlement is sufficient to enable all schools to implement the national agreement on work force reform in full. Signatories to the agreement have endorsed that view. The funding that local authorities receive on a per pupil basis reflects their relative need compared with other local authorities, and any changes that we make in the future will continue to reflect that.

David Taylor: As the Minister is about to conclude, I would greatly appreciate his observations on the funding of PPA. Schools that are hard-pressed for various social and financial reasons may be unable to
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find the necessary funding to undertake PPA in the ways anticipated by the designers of the scheme, so teachers will lose that contact time, and the replacement may well be learning support assistants or others. Parents will not be happy if that occurs in a great number of schools.

Derek Twigg: Different schools will face different challenges, but we have increased the funding for primary schools above that for secondary and special schools, and we are providing a great deal of advice through remodelling advisers, the LEAs and so on. I am confident that by working together, with the additional resource that has been allocated to primary schools and better use of existing resource, our goals can be achieved.

In setting the guarantee increases in 2004–05 and 2005–06 we are allowing for additional costs on which authorities and schools are already spending. That is because we are aiming for stability, rather than changing the pattern of spend. Our priority remains stability and certainty in school funding.

The Conservatives' spending plans entail cuts in education, an apparent determination to take money away from state schools to fund elite and independent schools, and £1 billion of cuts in funding for local education authorities, although they have not yet been able to demonstrate where that will come from. That is in stark contrast to our record, with a part-time nursery place guaranteed for every three and four-year-old, the    best ever primary school results, continually improving results in our secondary schools, significant improvements in results at key stage 3 last year and good A-level results again.

Mr. Robathan: When the Minister trots out such claptrap, he might at least look as though he believes it.

Derek Twigg: I assure the hon. Gentleman that I do believe it. It is not claptrap—it is fact. That is the difference between the Conservative policy of cutting funding from schools, and our policy of giving more funding to schools, bringing about improvements in schools and ensuring better results than ever.

Question put and agreed to.

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