HC Deb 07 June 1988 vol 134 cc710-1
11. Mr. Bowis

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many urban programme areas have applied for development funding for employer-school compacts; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Fowler

The Training Commission has invited applications for development funding by 30 June. Over 40 compact proposals are being developed by employers, education authorities, and other interested parties in urban programme areas. I hope to be able to announce which partnerships have been chosen for development funding at the end of July.

Mr. Bowis

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the main benefits of compact schemes are, partly, the better understanding that grows between employers and teachers, and the raising of standards among school pupils? Will he take note of the report that shows that, whereas in London, all too often the rate of school attendance falls to one in three, in those east London schools where the compact has been experimented with, the rate of attendance has risen to four in five?

Mr. Fowler

Yes. It is still early days for the east London compact. The results are promising. The scheme is the result of the Boston compact, which pioneered the concept. We certainly hope that this will result in a major expansion of compacts around the country.

Ms. Armstrong

I wonder whether the Secretary of State recognises that employers in London are concerned about the effect on their arrangements of the break-up of the Inner London education authority, bearing in mind the way in which its careers information in particular aided and enabled the compact programme to go ahead. What discussions is he having with the Secretary of State for Education and Science to ensure that something is done to enable London schools and authorities to co-operate so that the scheme can continue?

Mr. Fowler

We would certainly want to see a continuation of the great careers service in London. The east London compact is already running. We shall certainly look at any proposals for an extension and for financing it.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Is my right hon. Friend aware that at present too many pupils leave school without a serious work ethic? How will the scheme improve that?

Mr. Fowler

Fundamentally, it will improve it, because the whole aim of it is to come to an agreement between companies and schools, so that, provided the pupil meets attendance and academic requirements, he will be guaranteed a job afterwards.

Mr. Leighton

Does the Secretary of State agree that the compact deserves maximum encouragement, that there is no magic in the figure of 12, and that, provided that bids are genuine, legitimate and well-researched, the Government might consider supporting and funding more than 12?

Mr. Fowler

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman said. It is a recently announced pilot, as part of the inner city initiative. There has been a tremendous response to it. We want to get the pilot schemes started, but we shall certainly look at what the hon. Gentleman said and the proposals that he has just made.