§ 11. Ms. Primarolo
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will review the procedures for school closures; and if he will make a statement.
§ Ms. Primarolo
Will the Minister explain how he will maintain his impartiality under section 12, regarding the possibility of school closures, while, at the same time, encouraging those same schools to opt out?
§ Mr. Butcher
I think that the hon. Lady is referring to the fact that applications have been suspended until 30 November. If the schools are eligible for grant-maintained status, that will allow them sufficient time to decide whether to apply.
The question of the criteria and attitude towards school closures has not changed. The procedures are well known. Unfortunately, the local education authority in the hon. Lady's constituency has had a chequered career, to put it 166 mildly, in the way that it has presented its proposals, but she knows the factors in which we shall be interested if the authority puts forward alternative proposals.
§ Mr. Dickens
Does my hon. Friend agree that school closures and opting out are consistent with Conservative party policy to give parents power? Are we not the party that gave trade union members their power and council tenants their power?
§ Ms. Armstrong
As the Government are making it virtually impossible for local authorities to make closure proposals and, therefore, there are many surplus places throughout the country with which the Government are not assisting local authorities, will the Minister alter the procedures by which capital moneys for local authorities are calculated so that those schools under the authority of the local education department will have the opportunity to compete fairly with those schools which the Secretary of State is funding separately?
§ Mr. Butcher
The hon. Lady has missed the whole point of the Education Reform Act, which is to provide parents and governing bodies with more power by encouraging their schools to be filled according to parental choice. In due course that will have an effect on the capital allocation and maintenance programmes for those schools.