HC Deb 28 November 1994 vol 250 cc914-5
4. Mr. Sweeney

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many schools in Wales have so far applied for grant-maintained status; and what steps he is taking to encourage more schools to do so.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Rod Richards)

Some 18 schools have applied, of which 16 have been approved. A number of measures in the Education Act 1993 make it easier for schools to become grant maintained. We have made booklets available to all schools about grant-maintained status and are providing grant aid to enable the Grant-Maintained Schools Foundation to establish an office in Wales to provide information to schools.

Mr. Sweeney

Does my hon. Friend agree that, given the successes achieved by the schools that have already acquired grant-maintained status in Wales, it is very important that the Government give every possible encouragement for other schools to apply? Will he join me in condemning those Labour placemen who are appointed by Labour-controlled education authorities and who are only going through the motions of considering grant-maintained status for their schools each year, rather than making serious recommendations to the members of those schools?

Mr. Richards

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. Conservative Members are interested in giving choice to parents and in raising standards in education. The Opposition are interested only in political dogma, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales demonstrated a moment ago in relation to the disgraceful letter from the director of education in South Glamorgan to all Labour governors. May I remind my hon. Friend of some of the benefits of grant-maintained schools? A recent survey showed that, in 10 of the 16 grant-maintained schools in Wales, there are a greater number of pupils; in 11, there are more teachers; in 14, more money is being spent on books and equipment; and in 12, more money is being spent on music.

Mr. Win Griffiths

Can the Minister tell us, then, why less than 1 per cent. of all schools in Wales are grant maintained, despite eight years of continuous propaganda from his Department, and why in his own county the worst-performing school—by the Government's standards—is, in fact, a grant—maintained school? If we are to regard the Welsh Office as the marketing department of Government for grant-maintained schools, with its record of the past six years, should those people not all resign or be fired?

Mr. Richards

Well, well. I hear all about new Labour; it looks like old hat to me. Last week, when the tables for the GCSE results were announced—grant-maintained schools had done very well—the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), the shadow education spokesman, wished to be identified with them and said that Labour party policy would also be to publish tables. However, when the friends of the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) in the National Union of Teachers heard that, they instructed their puppet in Bridgend to change the Labour party's education policy and he appeared on television and said exactly the opposite to his hon. Friend the Member for Brightside. Would an incoming Labour Government publish tables or not? Which is it?

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