HC Deb 21 March 1995 vol 257 cc129-30
3. Mr. Pawsey

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what are the financial benefits that come from grant-maintained status. [13244]

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

Grant-maintained schools control the whole of their budgets, not just the proportion that would have been delegated by a local education authority. That gives them greater flexibility to spend more money where it really counts—in the classroom.

Mr. Pawsey

I thank my right hon. Friend for that extremely interesting response, which I am sure will be noted by all schools with tight budgets and tight settlements. They may see that reply as representing a way forward. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the principal attraction of grant-maintained status is not the added funding that such schools receive but the greater freedom that they enjoy, and the fact that we have cut the cords that secure such schools to local education authorities?

Mrs. Shephard

I know that my hon. Friend is a great enthusiast for grant-maintained schools, as are all my right hon. and hon. Friends—as are many people on the Opposition Front Bench. Grant-maintained schools are indeed good and popular schools that continue to attract keen recruits. One of the strongest reasons for their success, as any head of a GM school will tell us, is their freedom from LEA control, as was made clear last autumn by The Times Educational Supplement survey covering more than 500 GM schools.

Mr. Kilfoyle

Notwithstanding the platitudes of the loony right of the Conservative party, does the Secretary of State recognise that immense damage is being done to the education of the vast majority of our children by preferential funding? How can she justify the situation in South Glamorgan, where two grant-maintained schools have received £4 million of capital funding as opposed to the total of £3 million which is going to 200 LEA schools? Is that not blatant bribery of schools for ideological ends

Mrs. Shephard

I am disappointed to tell the hon. Gentleman that I am not responsible for South Glamorgan, but I can make it clear again that grant-maintained schools will continue to receive extra resources to reflect their extra responsibilities. We shall make sure that they continue to receive also a fair share of locally available resources, despite the best endeavours of hostile local authorities controlled by the Labour party.

Mr. Allason

Does my right hon. Friend accept that one good way for a school to become insulated from the profligacy of local education authority spending is to go grant-maintained? Is she aware that grant-maintained schools in Torbay have been protected from the disgraceful threats of cuts made by Devon county council?

Mrs. Shephard

One of the greatest strengths of grant-maintained schools is their independence from LEA control, and they also have flexibility to manage their own budgets in a tough year.