HC Deb 17 March 1987 vol 112 cc798-800
2. Mr. Alex Carlile

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to make an announcement about the establishment of further city technology colleges in addition to the first at Solihull.

5. Mr. Evennett

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further progress has been made towards establishing city technology colleges.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Baker)

I am making good progress in discussion with a number of prospective sponsors and will announce details of further city technology colleges soon.

Mr. Carlile

Will the Secretary of State come clean and tell us how much money has been committed in non-governmental sponsorship for those colleges? Will he confirm that the level of sponsorship so far committed is so low as to show his plans to be a complete white elephant?

Mr. Baker

The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot have heard that the first college was announced in Solihull only four months after I had announced the concept of city technology colleges. That college was sponsored by two companies, Lucas Industries and Hanson Trust. I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that there are several more in the pipestream and I will be announcing them fairly soon [HON. MEMBERS: "Pipestream?"] I am sorry, I should have said "pipeline". But it will be such a flow that it will turn into a stream. I am surprised that the Liberal party opposes these ideas, because city technology colleges increase choice. I would have thought that liberalism stands for more choice.

Mr. Evennett

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his city technology college initiative, and I am sure that most people outside the House in the inner city areas will be grateful for them. However, who will be responsible for the curriculum for these new colleges and who will monitor standards?

Mr. Baker

The curriculum will be determined as laid out in the booklet on the city technology colleges, and it will depend upon a contract between my Department and the charitable trust that will run the colleges. The colleges will be monitored by Her Majesty's inspectors.

Mr. Flannery

Is the Secretary of State not whistling in the dark? It may be that only four months have passed, but these colleges are a failure, and has not the Minister of State almost admitted that in public statements'? Will not such colleges cream off more students from the local schools? When the employers refuse to give the money, as they most surely will, will not the ordinary people have to pay for this white elephant?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman knows that the amount of money being provided to the state maintained sector is not being reduced. The money provided for the city technology colleges is extra money, and I expect shortly to announce several more colleges. I was told that one could not be started, but four months after my announcement of the scheme one has been started.

Mr. Pawsey

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the announcement on CTCs will be widely welcomed? For the past 20 years industry has been bemoaning the fact that people leave school without knowledge of technical subjects. Will my right hon. Friend dismiss the carping from Opposition Members as pure ignorance about both industrial and educational matters?

Mr. Baker

Many firms in Britain want to support these colleges, some with substantial sums of money, others with more modest sums. They see these colleges as fulfilling a real need in the inner cities, where the educational needs are greatest.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is the Secretary of State aware that many people regard city technology colleges as a rather ridiculous gimmick, and certainly as an attack on the local education authorities, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) said? If the Secretary of State has the additional resources that he says he has, why has he not invested them in polytechnics and universities to improve and build on the scientific base there?

Mr. Baker

I assure the hon. Lady that we are providing a substantial amount for technological education. This year we are extending TVEI nationwide at a cost of £90 million each year for the next 10 years—that is £900 million going straight to the state maintained sector. The hon. Lady says that the CTCs are a gimmick, but I remind her that many families in the inner cities will welcome the choice that these colleges will provide.

Mr. John Mark Taylor

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his initiative is welcome in Solihull, in the south of the borough, in my constituency, and in the north, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills), where it will usefully serve the people? Is he further aware that it will also be welcome as a facility for Birmingham, being on the boundaries of that city, although he did not get the same co-operation from that city as he did from Solihull?

Mr. Baker

I thank the Solihull education authority for being willing to sell a redundant secondary comprehensive school. I am sure that the educational provision in Solihull will be improved significantly, and, in particular, the staying on rate of 16-year-olds.

Mr. Radice

Will the Secretary of State confirm that of the 1,800 companies that he has approached to fund CTCs, only eight have replied favourably? Has not British industry, so far from welcoming the idea, given the Secretary of State's plan a decisive thumbs down?

Mr. Baker

That is simply not true. I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets his figures from. If he looks at the Financial Times today, he will see that the Davy Corporation has announced, on its own initiative, that it wants to support a CTC in Teesside. What I would like to know from the hon. Gentleman——

Mr. Radice

How many?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman must wait and see. Fairly soon he will have an answer. Why is he denying parents and children in the inner city areas the opportunity to benefit from this sort of education?