HC Deb 28 October 1986 vol 103 cc154-5
6. Mr. Gerald Howarth

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has any plans to seek to change the constitution of school governing bodies; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Dunn

The Education Bill provides for school governing bodies to be freed from domination by local education authority representatives and, armed with effective powers, to be more broadly representative of parents and the wider community served by the school.

Mr. Howarth

Although the modest changes in the Education Bill are welcome, does my hon. Friend agree that real accountability will come only when parents are given a decisive say, when politicians are given virtually no say and when the boards of governors will be able to manage their entire budgets themselves?

Mr. Dunn

I congratulate my hon. Friend and some others of my hon. Friends on the recent publication of their document, "Save our Schools". I urge hon. Members not to underestimate the substantial powers that the Education Bill will put in the hands of reconstituted governing bodies and all governors and parents, who will serve on them in much larger numbers than hitherto.

Mrs. Dunwoody

May we therefore take it that the Minister will treat seriously the views of governors who do not want their village schools closed? When they are asking for continued education, will he ensure that he supports them in keeping village schools in being?

Mr. Dunn

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made the position regarding village schools quite clear at our recent party conference. The hon. Lady will know that certain legal requirements have to be followed before a local education authority can close a school. I know that she has exercised part of her right in that respect quite recently.

Mr. Haslehurst

I agree with the extent of parental involvement that my hon. Friend has set, but does he agree that, if it is to be effective, parents who go on governing bodies should be adequately trained for the task? Does he agree that there may be a limitation in that some people, because of professional or other duties, will find it difficult to come forward to take up the role?

Mr. Dunn

The question of training school governors applies to all governors, irrespective of their source. We are committed to providing some money for training. Decisions about how training is provided may well rest with local education authorities or organisations such as the Open University. My hon. Friend's point is effective and good.

Mr. Meadoweroft

Is the Minister aware that, in Leeds, and, no doubt, in other Labour-controlled councils, school governing bodies are being packed wth Labour nominees way beyond the proportion of seats that that party occupies in the council? As the proportions of political groups or bodies are now enshrined in legislation, will the Minister introduce legislation to apply the same view to school governing bodies?

Mr. Dunn

The hon. Gentleman knows that when the Bill receives Royal Assent local education authority domination will cease once and for all. I am fully aware of what is happening in Leeds, Brent, Haringey and elsewhere, where the councils are Labour-controlled. I condemn such domination and the elimination of interests other than those which appear to be solely in the interests of the Labour party.

Mr. John Mark Taylor

When my hon. Friend examines the governorships of city technology colleges, if he meets resistance in the city of Birmingham, would he care to locate one next door in the borough of Solihull?

Mr. Dunn

I welcome any proposal to set up CTCs. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced that 20 would be the initial target. I hope that, in time, it will be 120, if not many more.