HC Deb 01 March 1994 vol 238 c778
15. Mr. Jacques Arnold

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what steps are being taken to encourage schools to consider the option of grant-maintained status.

Mr. Patten

The governing body of every local education authority-controlled school is now required to consider, at least once a year, whether to hold a ballot on whether the school should seek grant-maintained status and, if they decide against it, to explain their decision to parents. In addition, to be helpful we are setting up a network of local centres to give factual information on grant-maintained schools. There is already one such centre in Bolton, and to be particularly helpful, we are just setting one up at the excellent Castle Hall school in the constituency of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor).

Mr. Arnold

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on taking those steps to combat the immense amount of negative propaganda against grant-maintained schools. Is he aware that, in authorities like Liberal and Labour-controlled Kent, £100,000 of education funds have been diverted to those black propaganda activities? Will he look at the leaflets and at the scaremongering, which is worrying parents and teachers?

Mr. Patten

The parents of Kent have already voted overwhelmingly in favour of grant-maintained status. For example, by 1 April more than half the secondary school children in Kent will be educated in grant-maintained schools. I will certainly look extremely carefully at what strikes me as a scandalous waste of money by the chief education officer for Kent and his officials on that black propaganda.