HC Deb 29 March 1994 vol 240 cc788-9
13. Mr. Colin Shepherd

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the local management of schools.

Mr. Forth

The most valuable assessment of LMS is that by the schools themselves, the overwhelming majority of whom support its principles and practice. Schools do not wish us to bring back the arrangements previously in place.

Mr. Shepherd

Is my hon. Friend aware that the schools in Herefordshire certainly share the opinion that he has given the House? However, I draw his attention to the concern that has been expressed to me by the Bans Court special school in Hereford, which has a very high level of students with severe and multiple learning difficulties. It is concerned that, with nationally agreed pay awards, it may not be able to accommodate those within the LEA assessed grant. Will my hon. Friend be reviewing the way in which local education authorities assess the allocations made to special schools 8o that they can continue their valuable work, and what advice might he give to LEAs?

Mr. Forth

Local education authorities have remarkable freedom and flexibility in devising and implementing their local management of school schemes, and special schools' budget shares are very dependent on the decisions made by local education authorities within a broad framework, which should be sufficiently flexible to allow the needs of all individual schools to be met. In particular, they can take advantage of the many concessions made for small schools—those with fewer than 330 pupils. I hope that the school will be talking to the local education authority, to ensure that the provision that it receives is adequate to its needs. There is no reason why that should not be the case.

Mr. Bell

Further to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) and of the Secretary of State, would not it be appropriate for the House to offer its condolences to the parents of Nikki Conroy who so tragically lost her life yesterday in Middlesbrough in a stabbing attack? The House will share with the entire nation its sense of sadness at the death of so young and so lovely a person, cut down even before her prime in a senseless and dastardly attack. Does the Minister agree that no blame can be attached either to the management of Hall Garth school or its teachers, that the teachers, not least the head, have coped extremely well in the circumstances and that Cleveland county council has responded magnificently in giving counselling to those involved? Would not it be appropriate for the Secretary of State to ask all managements in schools to review their own security as a matter of urgency and for him to report back to the House on the outcome of such a review?

Mr. Forth

I associate myself and all my colleagues with the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I am sure that our heart-felt sympathy goes to all those involved in the tragedy and I share the hon. Gentleman's admiration for the role played by all those most closely involved, not least the teachers. I have been very impressed by the measured and dignified way in which the chairman of the governors and the head teacher have responded to what happened in their school. I believe that the best service that we can provide for all school children throughout the land who, with their parents, will be upset and appalled at this incident, is to examine carefully what happened and draw whatever lessons can be drawn. However, I believe that, as a result of what happened yesterday, all schools will already be looking at their own arrangements and deciding what they can best do. We will certainly be examining what happened to see what lessons can be learnt and what advice, support and help we can give.