§ 4. Mr. Flannery
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science on what criteria she will base her decision to select certain areas for means-tested educational maintenance allowances; and if she will make a statement.
§ 15. Mr. Gerry Fowler
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science upon what criteria she will decide which local education authorities shall, in the whole or part of their areas, run pilot schemes of universal means-tested educational maintenance allowances as from September this year.
§ Mr. Oakes
Only those authorities which volunteer can be considered for the pilot programme, so the final selection must depend on the composition of the list of volunteers as well as the level of resources available.
My right hon. Friend's aim of offering help to the more hard pressed areas will lead her to consider particularly, amongst the wide variety of factors which she will take into account, the level of participation of 16 to 18-year-olds in full time education, the level of youth unemployment, assisted area or inner city status and indicators of educational disadvantage.
§ Mr. Flannery
Does my hon. Friend accept that while many of us welcome the whole idea of, and tendency towards, mandatory educational maintenance allowances, there is nonetheless great 187 worry about areas competing for them and possibly even on occasions even refusing them? Will he also accept that, although I appreciate the difficulties, means testing seems to me a sad business, and will cause all kinds of anomalies? We hope that one day a major struggle will be waged so that none of that occurs and all areas receive mandatory maintenance allowances for education.
§ Mr. Oakes
Provision is being made in the Education Bill so that when resources are available it could become, by an affirmative resolution of this House and of the other place, a scheme for the whole country. But resources are not available now. The resources now available are sufficient to allow coverage of about 15 per cent of the relevant population.
§ Mr. Fowler
Is my hon. Friend aware that the principle that authorities must volunteer has had side effects that no one foresaw when it was first determined? Some Tory authorities, including my own in Salop, which include areas of great deprivation and high youth unemployment, refused to volunteer, not on grounds of principle but merely because it is a scheme put forward by a Labour Government.
§ Mr. Forman
As there is only a very limited quantity of public money available for these purposes, would it not be better if it were allocated on the basis of the child's educational potential, and if it went more to part-time further education than full-time education in school?
§ Mr. Ovenden
Does my hon. Friend accept that the most serious problem about educational maintenance awards is the variation between those authorities that face up to their responsibilities 188 and those, such as my own in Kent, which do not? Will not his proposals make that situation far worse?
§ Mr. George
Will my hon. Friend publish a list of volunteers? I would be most interested to see whether my own authority, in whose area only 13 per cent of the youngsters go into further and higher education, is prepared to submit its name for consideration.