HC Deb 23 June 1992 vol 210 cc121-2
2. Mr. Hawkins

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what progress has been made in relation to the development of the programme of local management of schools in Lancashire.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr. Eric Forth)

Local management of schools is progressing well in Lancashire. All primary and secondary schools have been funded by formula since April 1990. Most now have delegated budgets and all will have full management powers from 1994.

Mr. Hawkins

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a sixth-form college in Blackpool that has been conspicuously successful in local management as it has enabled the headmaster, staff and governors to employ local tradesmen at a far more competitive cost to make improvements to the school more quickly than would have happened in the days of the old local education authority bureaucracies? Is my right hon. Friend further aware that I hope to have an opportunity to show him or one of his ministerial colleagues that sixth-form college when they are next in the district?

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that positive and encouraging message. It fits in exactly with the experiences of my right hon. Friend and myself as we visited schools and colleges up and down the country, where the message that we received was that local management was working well. It is giving school managers the opportunity to take responsibility and use it to the benefit of their school. I believe that the example given by my hon. Friend should be an inspiration to schools and colleges up and down the country, and I cannot wait to visit the college.

Mr. Pike

Does the Minister accept that the majority of schools in Lancashire feel that the biggest problem with LMS is that the Government have provided insufficient cash resources? If there are insufficient cash resources in the first instance, schools cannot carry out the job. Will he recognise the problem caused by stable staff who are higher salaried, which puts severe pressure on the cash-limited budget?

Mr. Forth

That exchange could not sum up better the difference between Conservative and Labour Members. We heard from a Conservative Member who was proud of the achievements of his local education system and of a specific college. All we hear from a Labour Member is the tired, routine whingeing that we have become so used to. It really is not good enough; it really will not do. The other lesson that the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) has yet to learn is that there is no established connection between expenditure and quality of education. Resources will be available where appropriate, but we look to school managers and teachers to go for quality, which is what we want from them.

Mr. Thurnham

Will my hon. Friend consider the special requirements of children with special needs in Lancashire? Is he aware of the forthcoming Audit Commission report slamming local authorities for their failure to account for the performance of children with special needs?

Mr. Forth

That is an important matter. I pay tribute to the personal and political commitment that my hon. Friend has made over many years to it. I defer to his judgment on it. I am aware of the forthcoming Audit Commission report and of its contents. My noble Friend the Minister of State has had a lot to say about it recently in another place. She, the Secretary of State and I are working together to ensure that the delivery of education to children with special needs is of the best. We shall shortly have some important proposals to make which I am sure will please my hon. Friend and many others.

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