HC Deb 26 March 1998 vol 309 cc667-8
4. Dr. Lynne Jones

If he will make a statement on the special needs of primary schools with a high turnover of pupils. [34897]

Mr. Byers

Primary schools with a high turnover of pupils clearly face particular problems. The Department's draft guidance on education development plans encourages local education authorities to take account of those needs.

Dr. Jones

I take it from that answer that my hon. Friend accepts that it is difficult to raise standards in schools in which the whole population turns over every three or four years. Will he consider looking at the formula for delegated budgets to provide additional resources for such schools?

Mr. Byers

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Teachers in such schools face particular difficulties. It would be irresponsible of the Government to ignore their needs. I assure my hon. Friend that, as we examine the local management of schools and the delegation of budgets, we shall take into account the particular needs of primary schools with a high turnover of pupils.

Mr. Bercow

How does the Minister hope to encourage more people into the teaching profession—which is a laudable objective—when the Government seem intent on weakening the ability of schools to expel the most disruptive pupils? Why does he appear to disagree with Nigel de Gruchy, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, who has said that cases for expulsion should be judged on their merits, not on whether artificial targets will be met?

Mr. Byers

I will not comment on whether I agree with the general secretary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] There is a long list of questions on which I disagree with him and it would take far too long to rehearse them to the House.

The hon. Gentleman raised an important point about exclusions. He will be aware that the Prime Minister established the social exclusion unit, which will make recommendations on the concerns about exclusions in a few days' time. Those will take into account some of the matters that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. It will be more appropriate to await those recommendations.

As the School Standards and Framework Bill goes to the House of Lords we will have the opportunity, with their Lordships' agreement, to make changes as appropriate. The Government's view is clear: we want to ensure that children can have high-quality education that is not disrupted by unruly individuals.

Mr. Allan

Will the Minister consider seriously the issue of the clawback of funds when turnover has led to fewer pupils than expected attending a school? At Greystones primary school in my constituency, a clawback of £14,000 has led to a proposed class size of 42. Does he agree that clawback is illogical, because one cannot save money simply because there are slightly fewer pupils? One cannot get rid of a bit of a teacher, so the clawback makes no sense.

Mr. Byers

Obviously, I am not aware of the precise details of the school to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but I can assure him that we are taking action to introduce a far fairer system of funding for schools. A review is being conducted with our colleagues at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to ensure that we have a fair, transparent and understandable system of funding from central to local government and then, as our local management scheme takes effect, from local government to individual schools.

We are confident that, by taking that action, we can assure the school to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and schools throughout the country, that they will be treated as a priority and will be funded according to their needs, to help them to raise standards.