HC Deb 01 December 1987 vol 123 cc753-4
9. Mr. Harry Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science for how long he will be prepared to receive representations about the proposed Education Reform Bill; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

The consultation process that we embarked on in the summer was designed to inform the drafting of the Education Reform Bill. We shall continue to take account of comments received during the Bill's passage through Parliament, and after that as we get to its detailed implementation.

Mr. Greenway

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on stimulating a long and unprecedented consultation and debate on the Education Reform Bill proposals before and during the general election, throughout the teachers' holidays — which are intended not only for teacher relaxation but for study—and throughout the autumn. For the benefit of Opposition Members, will he confirm that that consultation and debate will continue until the Bill becomes law and thereafter?

Mr. Baker

I first spoke of the national curriculum over a year ago, and I spoke to the Select Committee in April of this year. These issues have been before the country for some considerable time, and during the formal period of consultation we received 17,000 responses to the various consultation documents, including 8,500 on the national curriculum.

Mr. James Lamond

Is the Secretary of State aware that representations are coming in practically every day — certainly in my constituency — including one this morning from the elected board of governors of Fitton Hill junior school, who are saying that the speed at which he is trying to implement so many drastic changes in education is likely to cause instability in the education service?

Mr. Baker

Throughout the centuries complaint has been made of many of my predecessors when they have tried to instigate education reform. We intend to take into account the various representations that are made as the Bill goes through the House. Many of the details of the Bill will depend on secondary legislation, and there will be further consultation on that as well.

Mr. Boswell

Has my right hon. Friend learnt from representations that have been made on behalf of the classics, home economics and many other subjects the importance of non-foundation subjects in differentiating individual schools? Will he consider bringing forward proposals so that individual schools may emphasise their distinctive and different educational interests and attainments?

Mr. Baker

Some representations that we received on the national curriculum dealt specifically with this point and wanted greater flexibility in the curriculum. I can assure the House that that is what we shall have. I shall be setting out our proposals in that regard in my speech later this afternoon.

Mr. Madden

If the Education Reform Bill becomes law, what opportunities will be afforded to independent schools to opt into the maintained sector?

Mr. Baker

On independent schools, may I make it clear that they are to be registered and when inspectors inspect them they will want to see that they conform broadly to the national curriculum. Many independent schools already have a curriculum very close to the national curriculum.