HC Deb 22 May 1997 vol 294 cc822-3
2. Mr. Brady

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when he will approve outstanding applications for grant-maintained status. [191]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Ms Estelle Morris)

Outstanding applications for grant-maintained status will be considered on their individual merits and will be decided as soon as possible.

Mr. Brady

Will the hon. Lady guarantee that the grant-maintained schools that are currently in place and those that are due to be approved will continue to be free to set their own admissions policy?

Ms Morris

We are keen to raise standards for everyone, and the key to that is to put aside the arguments on structure and begin to look at what goes on in the classroom in terms of the quality of teaching and learning. We can guarantee that all schools will flourish under Labour under the new partnership that we have set out in our document.

No good school has any need to fear Labour's proposals. I can tell grant-maintained schools and those currently in the local authority sector that we will work with them to raise standards for the children they serve.

Mr. Miller

Will my hon. Friend congratulate the parents of Meadow County primary school in my constituency who, in the heat of the general election campaign, decided by two votes to one against going grant-maintained? Will she encourage those few governors who are still trying to fight a rearguard action against the democratic wishes of the majority of the parents to realise that their efforts will be wasted?

Ms Morris

I am happy to congratulate my hon. Friend's school on the good quality of education that it provides for the pupils whom it serves. I hope that the school will now concentrate, as it no doubt has done in the past, on standards and put behind it the divisiveness that is a feature of many grant-maintained school ballots.

Sir Peter Emery

Does the hon. Lady understand that her statement is already hollow, because the Government have closed Mount St. Mary's school in Exeter? The previous Secretary of State pledged that it would be given grant-maintained status, but that is now being refused by the current Minister's colleagues. That means that the letter sent to parents which stated that there would be places for all children at the school is completely false. Today, parents have been approaching me and my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) as they try to find places for their children. When will the Labour party realise that closing good schools is a falsehood?

Ms Morris

I fear that the right hon. Gentleman is misguided in his comments; if he consults his right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Education and Employment, he will be told that no decision was given on the school to which he referred.

I should like to reiterate my main answer that every application for grant-maintained status will be decided on its merits. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the statement made yesterday and he will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State also announced that grant-maintained status would be given to Westoning school in Bedfordshire. We are absolutely intent on judging the merits of a case when deciding on the future status of schools.