HC Deb 14 December 1993 vol 234 cc817-8
4. Mr. David Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for Education how many schools have applied for grant-maintained status; and what measures he is taking to speed up the process.

Mr. Patten

One thousand and thirty schools have voted to apply for grant-maintained status, and there are more schools with ballots pending.

Measures in the Education Act 1992 to speed up and ease the transition to grant-maintained status include the need for only one governors' resolution before holding a ballot and a shorter timetable for the subsequent stages of acquiring grant-maintained status.

From 1 January 1994, every LEA-maintained school will be required to consider grant-maintained status and report to parents on the outcome of its consideration every year in future.

Mr. Evans

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he confirm that the 10 schools at the bottom of the league table are not grant maintained but controlled by Labour authorities? Will he also confirm that the lot opposite do not like competition at any level because when they compete every four years they get stuffed out of sight, and they will continue to get stuffed out of sight while they have rag, tag and bobtail policies?

Mr. Patten

That was a characteristically sub fusc question from my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans). I confirm that what he said is absolutely right, both about the schools at the bottom of the performance table—we must try to help them or we shall have to close them down—and about the local education authorities. The 10 worst performing schools are controlled by the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that in the war years, when people had to fight to get to those places, my parents were proud that I won a county minor scholarship to Tupton Hall? I was surrounded by people who had been sent there because they had paid. Is the Minister aware that when I went to Oxford I went to the working-class Ruskin college? Is he also aware that, unlike him and many others on the Government Front Bench, I did not go to public schools and, unlike him, was not educated beyond my intelligence?

Mr. Patten

As a matter of fact, neither did I. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman should look up the facts and see what sort of school I went to. It was then a grammar school, of which I was proud. It is now a comprehensive school and I hope that it will shortly go grant maintained. I am proud of the education that I got there, as the hon. Gentleman is doubtless proud of the very good education that he got at Tupton Hall grammar school. I am sure that his parents were rightly proud of him, although if they were here I doubt whether they would be proud of his question this afternoon, which showed all the intellectual coherence of Mr. Blobby.

Mr. Oppenheim

Will my right hon. Friend, in his customary warm-hearted way, extend his congratulations to Geoff Lennox, who was first chairman and then director of education on left-wing Derbyshire county council, and who dedicated his career to fighting the opting out of schools and the contracting out of services? He has proved that it is never too late to learn—by joining a private sector company dedicated to selling contracted-out services to opted-out schools.

Mr. Patten

Doubtless the experience of working with Derbyshire finally persuaded Mr. Lennox to show common sense. All over the country there is a good and fruitful partnership between state and private sectors. I congratulate my hon. Friend's constituent on his wise choice of future career.

Mr. Win Griffiths

Is it not true that, despite all the Government's efforts to push schools into grant-maintained status, only a small percentage of schools in England and Wales are grant maintained? Is it not also true that, in the past three months, two thirds fewer schools have voted for GM status than in the same three months last year, and that twice as many are now voting not to opt out? Is it not further true that the vast majority of schools have seen through the con trick of GM status and want to remain with local education authorities which are, in the main, Labour controlled? Would it not make more sense to divert the excessive resources in GM schools to all state schools?

Mr. Patten

The hon. Gentleman is not as well informed as he should be. Since the beginning of the balloting on grant-maintained status, month after month—including the past three months—eight out of every 10 schools have voted yes, and only two against. The hon. Gentleman should concentrate on the considerable educational benefits of grant-maintained schools. The published results in the performance tables last month showed their excellent performance, and I predict that by the time of the next election—and Labour's fifth defeat in a row—about two thirds of the secondary schools in this country will be grant maintained. This will be an irreversible change.

Mr. Pawsey

Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning local authorities that oppose grant-maintained status not for educational reasons but for political reasons? Will he join me in condemning authorities that do not put the children first and whose first responsibility is to themselves and their own jobs and empires? Will my right hon. Friend go on to say what action he intends to take to promote GM status, not just through governing bodies but through the parents who want it?

Mr. Patten

I think that parents and others are only too well involved. After all, there are the proud parents of the 500,000 children being educated in GM schools. An enraged group of governors and teachers from Lincolnshire came to see me this morning to complain about the attitude of Lincolnshire local education authority to GM schools. They complained in particular about the new and cruel form of 11-plus on which the LEA is insisting—causing maximum stress for the children and having to be taken on Saturday mornings instead of during the school week so that the children being tested for grammar school entry in Lincolnshire do not even notice. New authorities formed by new types of political control in counties such as Lincolnshire should think carefully before putting children under stress in this way.

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