HC Deb 19 July 1988 vol 137 cc929-30
2. Mr. Favell

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the part which education authorities are playing in the promotion of links between schools and commerce and industry.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold)

The technical and vocational education initiative, which will be operating in all local education authorities in England and Wales from this September, makes the forging of links between education and local industry a requirement of its projects. In addition, education authorities are now supporting initiatives on many fronts, such as the development of compacts and the secondment of head teachers into industry. All these help to bring the worlds of education and industry closer together and foster mutual understanding.

Mr. Favell

As there will be 1 million fewer school leavers in 1995, will my hon. Friend continue to impress on go-ahead firms the importance of linking with schools? The important thing to note is that the firms involved are go-ahead, because laggards do not link, but enthusiasts do. Does she agree that there should not be endless meetings at town halls but direct links with schools, where good could be done?

Mrs. Rumbold

My hon. Friend makes a good point. Today we have published a booklet entitled "Education and Industry: Partners for the Future", which will encourage industry and commerce to get together closely with local education authorities and schools to ensure that the links are fostered. There is not much point in industry making links with local authorities unless the authorities are themselves clear about the way in which they wish to proceed with the partnerships. Therefore, it is important that local education authorities should have meetings and have their policies clearly defined before industry and commerce become involved.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

What about the links between commerce and schools in East Sussex, where the local Conservative-controlled county council lost £237,000 of ratepayers' money in a squalid little company that was set up? It lost public money. What are the Government going to do about that? Do they intend to intervene and have some form of inquiry into what happened?

Mrs. Rumbold

With respect to the hon. Member I suggest that he pursues the interests of his own constituency. The matter that he has raised has absolutely nothing to do with local education authorities and links with industry.

Mr. Pawsey

To return to the subject raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell), which is genuinely important, what action will be taken to increase the number of business men serving on school governing bodies? Has my hon. Friend had any contact with the Confederation of British Industry and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce to persuade those organisations to get their members to serve on governing bodies?

Mrs. Rumbold

My hon. Friend raises a most important matter, because at the beginning of the next school year we shall expect to see co-opted members from business and industry serving on our school governing bodies. We have contacted both the CBI and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce and have been holding regional as well as national meetings with them to encourage them to put their members forward as governors of both primary and secondary schools.