HC Deb 01 December 1987 vol 123 cc756-8
16. Mr. Hayes

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many representations he has received about his proposals to allow schools to opt out of local education authorities' jurisdiction.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans).

Mr. Hayes

When considering whether a school should be grant-maintained, will my right hon. Friend take into account the effect of that on other schools, which may be efficient and popular, in the same area?

Mr. Baker

In the process of opting out there will be time for the publication and advertisement of details, and the procedures under sections 12 and 13 of the Education Act 1980 will have to be followed. I have no doubt that the other schools in the area, and the LEA, will make representations to me or the holder of my office.

Mr. Heffer

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some of us think that the schools that will opt out will be those in the posher areas, and perhaps those that are concerned with racial prejudice? Is he also aware that some of us who had no choice at any time in our education consider that we were fortunate when we look over on the other side of the House?

Mr. Baker

I do not know how much further the hon. Gentleman would have gone if his parents had had greater choice in his education. I would only say to him that he is wrong to believe that it is only the schools in what he describes as the posher areas that will be interested in grant-maintained status. I think that all schools will be interested, and schools in our inner cities will welcome the opportunity, which they do not have now, for the parents and governing bodies, if they are so interested, to have a greater say in determining the education of their children, and, in many cases, improving it substantially.

Mr. Gow

During the consultation period on opting out, what representation did my right hon. Friend receive from his right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath)?

Mr. Baker

I do not recall receiving any representations from my right hon. Friend on these matters. I know that he follows education matters closely and I am sure that we look forward to his contribution later today.

Mr. Straw

The Secretary of State knows all about that, because he was the right hon. Gentleman's Parliamentary Private Secretary.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the governors of a formerly comprehensive school which has opted out will be able to apply for a change in character of their school and so become selective?

Mr. Baker

From the word go I have clearly said that when a school opts out and becomes grant-maintained, for five years from the date of application there will be no change in its admission policy, but after that time, if a school wishes to change its character, it can submit proposals under the procedures in sections 12 and 13 of the 1980 Act. However, the hon. Gentleman is mistaken if he thinks that comprehensive schools will necessarily want to become grammar schools. A grammar school may well want to become a comprehensive school and a comprehensive may well want to move closer to being a CTC.

17. Mr. Yeo

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recent representations he has received regarding his proposals for a national curriculum.

Mrs. Rumbold

The most recent count informs me that as at 27 November we had received 9,300 responses dealing with the national curriculum, out of a total of some 18,500 for all the consultative papers. Of the 9,300, about 5,000 had been received by 30 September.

Mr. Yeo

Is my hon. Friend aware that in addition to those organisations, such as trade unions, which are very quick to make representations, there exists a huge silent majority of parents who may not have made representations but who are passionately concerned with the quality of education in our schools, and that it is the existence of that silent majority that ensures that the Government's proposals for a national curriculum will be very widely welcomed?

Mrs. Rumbold

It is perfectly true, as my hon. Friend has observed, that there are large numbers of people who do not write in in response to consultation documents. There are many people who have spoken to me and to my right hon. and hon. Friends in wide and general support of our proposals for a national curriculum because they see it as an opportunity to improve educational choice and to procure the advancement of their children in schools.