HC Deb 27 June 1995 vol 262 cc673-4
6. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for Education if she will commission studies into the educational impact on their original schools caused by the departure of pupils on assisted places schemes. [29112]

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

No. The scheme is an outstanding success, and it is here to stay.

Mr. Flynn

Nought out of 10, I am afraid. Would the Secretary of State care to read the question again and try to do better next time? I am seeking to make the serious point that none of the appraisals of the assisted places scheme has concentrated on the effect on feeder schools of having their brightest pupils creamed off. Such schools lose those pupils who give an example to others and who take the lead and set the pace. If we are to make a proper appraisal of the scheme, is it not essential that we consider the effect of creaming off those pupils?

Mrs. Shephard

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not articulating any hostility towards selection, the assisted places scheme or, indeed, independent schools. His Front-Bench team has performed at least half a dozen U-turns on education policy since the beginning of the year. Last week, we were given to understand that it was paying lip service to diversity in education—although the small print revealed that it was not. Next month, the hon. Gentleman might find that his Front-Bench team has left him in the lurch—and that is not a very comfortable place to be.

Miss Emma Nicholson

Surely my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will agree that whether a school is full of SAT—standard assessment task—level 8 or SAT level 2 children should make no difference to the quality of the school. As the purpose of teaching is to bring the best out of every child, it should make no difference to a school, although it may make a difference to the individual child. Should not every teacher concentrate on each child's potential, regardless of the level that each child is innately able to reach?

Mrs. Shephard

My hon. Friend is, of course, right. The whole point of the assisted places scheme is that it offers choice and opportunity to able children from less well-off families, and what a pity it is that at this stage, and this month, Opposition Members do not seem to be in favour of it.