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Acute Hospitals (Norfolk)

12. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): When she next expects to meet chairmen and chief executives of acute hospital trusts in Norfolk to discuss funding. [20917]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Liam Byrne): There are no immediate plans to meet the chairmen and chief executives of acute hospital trusts in Norfolk to discuss funding, but the Secretary of State and other Ministers have planned meetings with various local Members of Parliament to discuss the financial position and funding in the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire area.

Mr. Bellingham: Is the Minister aware that the Queen Elizabeth hospital in my constituency now faces a financial crisis, through no fault of its own, with a deficit of nearly £8 million? Is he also aware that the chairman and chief executive both resigned last July, that beds and wards have closed and that operations have been cancelled? Yet rather than trying to help, the Government are, to the dismay of the staff, imposing a fine of £1.5 million. Does not that amount to the politics and administration of the madhouse?

Mr. Byrne: It is true that the Queen Elizabeth hospital is running a deficit of about £2.2 million. As the hon. Gentleman will know, that amounts to about 2 per cent. of the trust budget. When we were elected in May, the British people asked us to write a big cheque, but not a blank cheque, for the NHS. Local trusts are required to ensure that they deliver financial balance. I am pleased to say, with reference to the recurring deficit at that particular hospital, that the trust will have the latitude to pay it back over a number of years. Frankly, it is far easier to do that in the light of the £231 million extra that is going into Norfolk PCTs over the next two or three years. As the hon. Gentleman will know, that is 23 times the level of the current deficit.

Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): The Norfolk and Norwich University hospital faces a one-off premium cost because, as acknowledged by the National Audit Office, it was one of the earliest private finance initiative hospitals. Will the Minister ensure that there is a one-off adjustment in the next financial settlement to take account of the special one-off costs that the hospital faces?

Mr. Byrne: When one looks at the finances for the strategic health authority in which the hon. Gentleman's constituency sits, one can see a proposed financial increase of the order of £700 million over the next two or three years. That is a very considerable advance, which will ensure that we can make enormous progress in delivering more staff, better drugs and shorter waiting times in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. As those plans are developed over the next few years, I hope that he will give them his full support.
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Ophthalmic Services

13. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): How much the Government spent on general ophthalmic services in England in 2004; and how much she estimates will be spent in 2005. [20918]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Caroline Flint): Provisional data for 2004–05 indicate that the total spend on general ophthalmic services in England was £340 million. Our initial provision for 2005–06 is £354 million, but as a demand-led service, the final spend will be determined by the number of NHS sight tests performed in general ophthalmic services in the year and the number of optical vouchers dispensed.

Mr. Amess: Will the Minister take this opportunity to congratulate the optical sector on its delivery of patient choice and high-quality services as part of its comprehensive provision of general ophthalmic services in the NHS? Will she ensure that the review that she is undertaking will do nothing to undermine any of the achievements that have been gained?

Caroline Flint: Yes.


14. Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): If she will take steps to ban smoking in all enclosed public places and workplaces. [20919]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Caroline Flint): We have announced our decision to bring in a Bill in this Session that will end smoking in the vast majority of workplaces and enclosed public places. A major public consultation was carried out over the summer. That has been completed, and we are considering the many thousands of responses before finalising the Bill.

Julie Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is she aware that the introduction of a total ban on smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places in Wales depends on the Bill's speedy introduction and passage? May I urge her to ensure that that happens as quickly as possible, and to be bold and think of the health of the nation? In that way, she can ensure that the public and employees in Wales will have the same protection from smoke as those in areas with devolved Administrations.

Caroline Flint: We are working on that, but I am very pleased to tell the House that, for the first time, the NHS is able to provide free smoking-cessation services to help people give up. The World Health Organisation has commended England for the work being done in respect of smoking, but there is still a lot more to do. I hope that the Bill will meet some of that challenge.

Schools White Paper

3.32 pm

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Ruth Kelly): With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the reform of schools.

Every child matters, and children have only one chance of a good school education. Our ambition is for every child to get that chance and to develop their talents to the fullest extent. The White Paper that I am publishing today aims to make this aspiration a reality by building systematically on eight years of rising school standards and of sustained investment by this Government in the teaching profession and school reform. It places parents at the heart of education, extending parental choice and giving schools the freedom that they require to meet parental demand and pupil need in radically new and better ways.

Since 1997, the quality of teaching and leadership in our schools has been transformed. Primary schools now have a daily literacy hour and mathematics lesson. Classes are smaller, and there has been significant investment in the training of primary teachers and assistants. Secondary schools have benefited from a systematic upgrading in the number, quality and training of subject specialist teachers. Graduate applications for secondary school teaching have risen by 60 per cent. in just six years. There are 32,000 more teachers than in 1997, and the number of school support staff has doubled over the same period. Ofsted reports that the proportion of good or excellent teaching in primary schools has risen since 1997 from 45 per cent. to 74 per cent., and in secondary schools the figure has risen from 59 per cent. to 78 per cent. The proportion of badly taught lessons has halved.

Thanks to our literacy and numeracy strategies, around 96,000 more children a year start secondary school able to do well in basic maths, and 84,000 more do so in English. There have been big improvements at GCSE level too—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The Secretary of State must be heard.—[Interruption.] Order. Many Back-Bench Members will want to be called to comment on the statement, but I will not be able to call so many if these interruptions continue.

Ruth Kelly: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There have been big improvements at GCSE level too, with 63,000 more 16-year-olds achieving five or more good GCSE passes than in 1997. In addition, change has been greatest in many areas of historic underperformance. In inner London, 50 per cent. more young people gained five good grades this year than eight years ago.

Specialist schools consistently out-perform other schools and nearly 2,400 have now been established. Twenty-seven academies are already open, with more to come. There are now 413 non-selective schools where 70 per cent. or more pupils gain five good GCSEs; in 1997, there were just 83.

This is a record of success. However, challenges remain. For all the progress so far, too many 11-year-olds still leave primary school without mastering the three Rs; too many 16-year-olds are still not achieving good GCSEs or vocational qualifications and too few
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are staying in education post 16. Parents often feel disengaged and too many schools are coasting rather than improving. And those who fail to achieve too often come from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

We are at an historic turning point. We have an education system that has overcome more than half a century of underperformance. With courage to reform further, by placing the parent and the pupil right at the heart of the system, we can now make our schools truly world class—a system that commands parental confidence and extends excellence to all.

There will be no return to the divisive 11-plus. There will be no return to the unfair assisted places scheme. There will be no return to privileging a few schools at the expense of the rest. Instead, teaching will be rigorously tailored for pupils of all aptitudes in schools unafraid to be distinctive, proud of their individual ethos yet proud, too, of the communities that they serve.

Our best schools and school leaders are models in all these respects. The challenge of change is for all schools to emulate the best, forging whatever partnerships they need to enhance their leadership and mission, while giving parents real power to drive change.

Today's White Paper sets out six key reform priorities to bring this about. First, to improve teaching and learning, we will provide significant new incentives for schools to tailor education to the needs of each and every child. There will be more use of small group and one-to-one tuition, particularly for those who fall behind. We will intensify our focus on literacy and numeracy, which are the keys to success in all subjects. There will be expanded opportunities for gifted and talented pupils. We will further encourage setting and grouping pupils by ability. We will continue to expand and improve provision for pupils with special educational needs, enabling far more special schools to join the successful specialist school movement and share their expertise widely with all local schools.

There will be a national delivery plan for the creation of the new specialised diplomas that I announced in February to transform educational choices for pupils beyond the age of 14. All of this will be underpinned by the Government's record investment in schools, including £335 million to be specifically earmarked for personalised learning within the new dedicated schools grant that I announced to the House last week. Work force reform and the increased use of information and communication technology will further transform the capacity of schools to meet the needs of each and every child.

Secondly, we will give all schools the independence that they need to drive radical improvements in standards and the flexibility to create real centres of excellence. Building on our successful specialist school and academies programmes, we will extend academy-style freedoms and opportunities to thousands of schools through new trust schools. These self-governing schools will be funded by local authorities but will partner with and be supported by not-for-profit trusts—established, for example, by successful educational foundations, leading schools and universities, parents' groups and voluntary organisations. These schools will bring extra dynamism to education. All schools will be eligible to be trust schools, alongside our planned 200 academies.
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I am pleased to announce that a range of outstanding organisations, including Microsoft, the Open university, the Mercers Company and Thomas Telford school, the United Learning trust, the Church of England, KPMG and the Peabody trust have all agreed to work with us to develop the trust model, bringing to it extensive educational and school management experience, together with strong links to local communities.

Thirdly, we will improve the choice of schools for parents by giving less affluent parents the means to make choice effective, and by putting in place much more rapid mechanisms for turning round and replacing failing schools. A choice between weak or failing schools is no choice at all. Schools that are still failing after a year will be closed, federated with another more successful school or replaced with an academy or another new provider. Our new inspection regime will focus on schools that are coasting as well as on those that are failing. We will raise the bar on underperformance across the system. In addition, we will improve the advice for parents on the options available. We will improve transport to school, particularly for the most deprived pupils where the cost of transport can be a barrier; and we will promote admission systems that extend access, and ensure fair admissions for all new schools.

The role of the parent does not stop with the choice of school. Education works best where schools and parents work together, with each recognising both their rights and their responsibilities. So fourthly, we will enable all parents to contribute much more fully throughout a child's school career, with better support, information and advice, especially at key transition points. We will place a new duty on governing bodies to have regard to parents' views. We will improve the quality and regularity of the dialogue between parents and schools, including reports at least once a term in place of the existing minimum of once a year. We will give parents a new right of complaint to Ofsted, if local procedures have been exhausted.

Fifthly, teachers and heads have asked us for better support to tackle disruption and ill-discipline, so we will implement Sir Alan Steer's recommendations, giving teachers a clear statutory right to discipline and giving schools an unambiguous power to set and enforce their own discipline codes. Parents will take their responsibilities seriously or face sanctions where they do not, including fixed penalty notices for parents who do not properly supervise pupils who are excluded from school. Pupils excluded for more than five days—not 15 days as now—will be expected to attend supervised education units.

Sixthly, we will underpin our reforms with a new and crucial role for local authorities. They will become the commissioner of education, the champion of the pupil and parent and the local strategic leader. They will tackle coasting and failing schools. They will oversee competitions to deliver new schools, and they will work with the office of the schools commissioner that I will create to promote new trust schools and academies in response to parental demand. Many local authorities are already pioneering that approach. We now need all our local authorities to do so.
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These reforms mark a watershed in the development of our national education system. All our young people deserve the best; we intend them to receive it, so that social mobility once again accelerates as the engine of a fairer and more prosperous society—every pupil receiving a tailored education, every parent with real choice and every school with the freedom to deliver.

I commend the White Paper to the House.

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