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Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (LD): Will the Secretary of State clarify her statement about rebuilding all secondary schools? We support that policy, so it is not a trick question. The Labour party's website says that all secondary schools will be rebuilt by 2016, whereas the Department's website states that three in every local education authority will be rebuilt by 2015. Which is correct?
Ruth Kelly: We have a 15-year strategy to rebuild or refurbish all our secondary schools. The first will be rebuilt in 2007 and the strategy will go on from there. We have a programme for primary schools on the same timetable. However, not all local authorities will have to wait for their place in the 15-year programme. In the interim period, we can offer the chance to all local authorities to have their most run-down schools rebuilt or refurbished. I am not aware of the details on the Labour party website, but I suggest that they relate to local authorities not having to wait in the queue for all their secondary schools to be rebuilt or refurbished.
The key to ensuring that every child who leaves school is equipped with functional English and maths for work and for life is to free the curriculum for 11 to 14-year-olds to provide space for tailored supporthelp with the basics, and challenge and stimulation for children who would benefit from it.
Behaviour is good or outstanding in most schools. We are clear that there must be strong measures when dangerous and violent conduct occurs. However, all parents and teachers know that we face the challenge of low-level, disruptive behaviour in our classrooms. The answer is not to create new sink schools, full of excluded children, but to redraw the line on what is an acceptable standard of behaviour in the classroom, nipping bad behaviour in the bud. We must have a zero tolerance approach to bad behaviour, providing schools with the resources that they need for on-site or off-site facilities to withdraw children from the classroom when and if they need to do that.
Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend interested in the recent research that shows that food and drink additives have an enormous effect on children's behaviour? In a school in America, where children have been removed, they take away all the drinks that contain additives and the children calm down and become normal. I hope that my right hon. Friend accepts that serious point.
Ruth Kelly: My hon. Friend always makes serious points and he is right to raise that one. We know that healthy meals promote good standards of behaviour and that children achieve more when they are fed healthy food. That is why we have recently been talking about the new school foods trust that we are setting up and how we can make change happen in our schools so that all children have the chance to eat a healthy meal. I shall present more details of our proposal in the next few weeks.
I want every secondary school to be part of a network of schools by September 2007. We must focus our efforts on those schools that are found by Ofsted to have
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unsatisfactory behaviour. That is why I recently announced that local authorities would draw up urgent action plans to support the schools identified by Ofsted as being in that category, backed up by return visits from Ofsted within a year to check on progress and ensure that improvement is under way.
Through increased and sustained investment in information and communications technology, we also ensure that learning is tailored closely to each young person's needs and circumstances, including the facility to learn from home when necessary. Strong, autonomous schools, closely linked to home and each other, with a strong sense of mission and purpose, will transform opportunities for our children. If all young people are to make the most of their skills and talents, it is crucial to give them the opportunity and encouragement to stay in learning until they are at least 18. Far too many young people drop out of school at 16 or 17. Our participation rate at the age of 17 is one of the worst in the industrialised world.
The White Paper on 14 to 19-year-olds, which was published last month, outlines our proposals to build on the current system of GCSEs and A-levels to enable all our young people to combine practical, work-based learning with traditional, academic learning in the classroom. In future, children will learn the subjects that they enjoy at their own pace in places that motivate them.
Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North) (Lab): I was sorry that my right hon. Friend passed over the subject of Sure Start so quickly. I visited a Sure Start centre in Norwich this weekend, and I was amazed at the design of the furniture thereI was interested to find out that it had been made by the Amishat the state of the kitchens and at the food that was being given to people. The encouragement that was being given was very good. My right hon. Friend is talking about 14 to 19-year-olds, but we now have a generation that is being encouraged to think and act differently. Does she agree that that is a credit to all the policies that we are operating across the whole educational field?
Ruth Kelly: I completely agree with my hon. Friend. What is more, all the evidence shows that if we get the early years right, and if children start school ready to learn at the age of five, it has an impact on their performance right through primary school. The Sure Start system works best when parents feel that they have control and ownership of the courses in the Sure Start programme which they can attend while their children are learning and playing. In some Sure Start programmes, we have seen really innovative learning programmes, involving dads and books, for example, and mums learning to cookto come back to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins). The scheme presents a huge opportunity to make a lasting difference not only to children but to their parents.
We recognise that, when a child reaches the age of 14, there are sometimes financial barriers to their participating in education, particularly for those from lower-income households. That is why we are rolling out education maintenance allowances nationally. They will
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play a significant role in widening access to further and higher education by encouraging more young people from lower-income backgrounds to enter academic or vocational post-compulsory education. More than 290,000 young people have enrolled for education maintenance allowances under the national scheme so far.
Mr. Hopkins: My right hon. Friend may know that some of the early pilots for the EMAs were carried out at the Luton sixth-form college. They provided a double bonus, because the families were helped and the students turned up for their classes and learned better as a result of having the reward of the EMA.
Ruth Kelly: I am delighted that my hon. Friend has mentioned the pilot schemes in his constituency. The EMA pilots were also carried out in my constituency, so I have first-hand experience of their fairly dramatic impact on raising participation and attainment, partly because of the incentive to complete courses involved in the EMA programme. We have a real opportunity to encourage participation and to tackle the financial barriers that exist.
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): The Secretary of State says that EMAs offer a tremendous advantage to people staying on at school. If that is the case, why does she not believe that tuition fees have a deterrent effect on people considering going to university?
Ruth Kelly: The hon. Gentleman will know that we are reintroducing grants for the poorest students, abolishing up-front fees and ensuring that students will not have to pay a penny while they are learning. I hope that he took note of the study recently produced by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which said that students will be £1.5 billion better off under the Government's programme than they would be under the one proposed by the Opposition.
As a result of the Budget, we will be able to offer an extra 20,000 opportunities in pilot areas from 200607 for disaffected 14 to 16-year-olds, either at work, in college or with the voluntary sector. In 1997, as we emerged from the Conservative years, there were just 75,000 apprenticeships. By 2008, 300,000 young people will be in apprenticeship training. We also want to ensure that the 150,000 16 and 17-year-olds in the United Kingdom who are in employment with no training improve their skills, so we will pilot new approaches to encourage those people to take up apprenticeships or other structured training. We will also pilot learning or activity agreements for those young people not currently in education, work or training. This is clear evidence of our determination that every young person should fulfil their potential through education and training. As a result, I want our participation rate at the age of 17 to rise from 75 to 90 per cent.one of the best in the industrialised world. Every teenager must have the opportunity of a guaranteed place in sixth form, on an apprenticeship or in training.
Tomorrow, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will publish the details of our second skills White Paper. Together with the proposals in the 14 to 19 White Paper,
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it will set out our ambition to create a skilled and competitive nation in which all adults have access to basic skills training and the opportunity to progress. It will describe the new national employer training programme, which will build on the success of employer training pilots. It will offer employers easy access to the skills solutions they need, including free training for their employees without a first full level 2 qualification. We expect the new programme to reach full capacity by 2008, when it will cover 350,000 learners and 50,000 employers.
To achieve our ambitious plans for 14 to 19-year-olds in skills, we need a step change in capital investment in our further education colleges. I want to see a network of strong and vibrant colleges delivering training to industry standards in modern buildings with leading-edge equipmentcolleges that can respond quickly and flexibly to the needs of employers and young people; colleges that make a major contribution to the productivity of the country.
This Government will invest £1.5 billion over the next five years to support the long-term transformation of the sector. That is the Budget choice facing the nation: continued investment and reform for the futurein early years, child care, the renewal of primary and secondary schools to world-class standards, investment and skills, and trainingor a £35 billion cut in spending, which cannot but eat into education and skills.
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