HC Deb 21 February 2000 vol 344 cc1253-305
Madam Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. I have had to limit Back-Bench speeches to 10 minutes on the education motion only.

4.22 pm
Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead)

I beg to move,

That this House notes the Government's failure to meet its manifesto commitment to spend a higher proportion of national income on education than the previous government, despite the Prime Minister's pledge that education would continue to have 'the first call on public resources'; deplores the Government's complacency in the face of the damage being done to excellence in education by increased bureaucracy, interference in schools, abolition of grant maintained status, introduction of grammar school ballots, obsession with targets and diversion of funds to meet political goals rather than the needs of schools; views with concern the Government's disregard for parental choice or student need; and calls on the Government to introduce common sense policies to improve standards by setting schools free, letting parents choose and trusting the professionals. In the general election campaign, the mantra of the then Leader of the Opposition was that his Government's priority would be education, education, education. Since then, the Labour Government have broken their manifesto commitment to increase the share of national income spent on education; introduced tuition fees, despite pledging that they had no plans to do so; abolished grant-maintained status; introduced rigged ballots to get rid of grammar schools; presided over a rise in average class sizes and in the proportion of pupils in classes of 31 or more; underfunded the teachers' pay award; produced mountains of red tape, with 400 regulations and about 1,000 circulars; caused the closure of about 2,000 pre-schools and playgroups; presided over a fall in the rate of improvement of standards in literacy and numeracy; introduced discrimination against English students in Scotland; cut spending per pupil; cut spending per student in higher education; put school sixth forms under threat; and pensioned off heads who would not do what they told them.

Andy Warhol said that, in the future, everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. This Government will be famous for their 15 failures in education. As they have failed to deliver on their promises and presided over the beginning of a fall in standards, what has their reaction been? Typically of a Labour party that lives by press release and photo-opportunity, they have tried to spin themselves out of the problem. Far from education, education, education, we have had spin, trickery, betrayal.

Let us consider education funding. The Labour party manifesto pledged to spend a higher proportion of the national income on education. What happened in the Government's first three years? The proportion of national income spent on education went down. Ministers may say that it is not fair to consider only one or two years, so I will be generous to the Government and consider the average of education spending over the previous and the present Government. The answer is still clear. Under the Conservative Government, an average of 5 per cent. of national income was spent on education; in the five years of this Government, it will be 4.7 per cent.

Let us consider what that means in actual money. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State says from a sedentary position that my figures are untrue, but they are independent figures produced by the Library.

The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. David Blunkett)

The figures that the hon. Lady put out in her press release today attempt to show what she has just described, but they do so by taking only the first three years of this Parliament and not including the full comprehensive spending review. In the previous Parliament, there was a fall of 0.3 per cent. in gross domestic product spent on education, and there will have been an increase of 0.2 per cent. of GDP as a proportion of national income in this Parliament.

Mrs. May

As this is Maths Year 2000, I suggest that the Secretary of State has a few maths lessons. The source of my figures is the Treasury and the Office for National Statistics—

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Jacqui Smith)

My right hon. Friend is right.

Mrs. May

No, he is not right. Average spending by the last Conservative Government was 5 per cent. of national income and over the term of this Government, including the comprehensive spending review, it will be 4.7 per cent.

What does that mean in actual money? Just to keep spending at the same level as the previous Government, Labour would need to put in not an extra £19 billion, as the Government have claimed, but an extra £32 billion. They are already £13 billion short even of keeping level with the previous Government's spending on education. That is the reality of another broken promise.

What do the Government claim to be doing? They are announcing more money, more money, more money and more money. Indeed, the money for one programme has been announced 21 times. It is little surprise that, when they said education, education, education, they even had to announce that key policy three times. Every time that they announce more money, people think that it is new money, but it is not. We have looked at the Government's announcements of extra money for education in the past nearly three years and we have added them up. Do they come to the £19 billion that the Government told us that they would spend, or the £32 billion that they would need to spend to keep up with the last Conservative Government? No, they add up to £185 billion of extra spending on education—the equivalent of the Swedish GDP. It is a deliberate attempt by the Government to prove that they are doing something that they are not. They are saying one thing and doing another.

Tell that figure to the secondary school I visited on Friday, which says that it cannot even afford paper for its pupils. Tell that to the Queen Elizabeth high school in Hexham, which has written an open letter to the Secretary of State saying: Our goodwill is being severely tested by poor staff facilities in deteriorating buildings, by relentlessly increasing class sizes and by a lack of money to invest in the kinds of support which teachers need if they are to succeed. We would welcome an explanation from you as to how, when faced with new challenges to meet, including Curriculum 2000, a real terms cut in the budget is being proposed for our school. This can only lead to a deterioration in our already unsatisfactory working environment and, ultimately, a deterioration in student achievement.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley)

I thank the hon. Lady for giving way, as she mentioned Hexham in Northumberland. Only this morning, the letter she is reading out appeared in the Newcastle edition of The Journal, and it was signed by 15 heads of high schools in Northumberland, all complaining of cuts and even suggesting that there has been a 1 per cent. cut in the Northumberland education authority budget.

Mrs. May

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I have visited schools in Northumberland and heard directly from them the genuine concerns that they have about the funding problems that they face. They hear what the Secretary of State tells them about money going into education, but they do not see it in their budgets. What they see are deteriorating conditions for their pupils.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

In my constituency, the standard spending assessment per pupil—in real terms, at 2000–2001 prices—fell from £2,578 in 1992 to £2,464 at the end of the previous Government's term of office. Since then, it has increased to £2,591 under this Government—an all-time high, and higher than it ever was under a Tory Government.

Mrs. May

I am pleased to say that Conservative-controlled Cambridgeshire county council has increased the amount spent on education above the SSA level. It is spending more than the increase that the Government have proposed.

However, the problem of funding is not confined to Northumberland. A letter sent out to parents of a school in Dorset stated: The general view being given is that Education is receiving substantial increases in funding from Central Government leading to higher level of funding in individual schools. The fact is that most of this increased funding is targeted at specific initiatives and Dorset County Council is required to make an equal contribution. School budgets in Dorset are at best standing still and in many cases reducing. From the Isles of Scilly authority, the Tresco Times stated: Education, education, education—

Mr. Blunkett

The silly times.

Mrs. May

The Secretary of State chooses to laugh, but I remind him that the Isles of Scilly authority is this country's best-performing local education authority. It has said: Education, education, education. That was Mr. Blair's sound bite at the last election. Remember? Now the best Primary Schools in the country are coming under threat. Teachers and parents are becoming increasingly frustrated that the Government are all mouth and no delivery, and that the failure to deliver is damaging excellence in education. The right hon. Gentleman thinks it funny, but the Government are letting children down.

Mr. Blunkett

I do not think it funny, but it is amusing that the hon. Lady should cite figures relating to the Isles of Scilly authority, which has a cohort of 1,500 and no secondary school. Moreover, that LEA has invited me to open the extra facilities paid for by the new deal for schools.

Mrs. May

I suggest that the Secretary of State prepare himself for the comments that he may hear from those schools. However, I am interested in what is happening in all this country's schools, not just in the chosen few. Unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I do not want to reject the Isles of Scilly simply because that LEA does not have any secondary schools. The right hon. Gentleman says that what is happening in those primary schools does not matter and that they should not be quoted as an example, yet the parents and teachers involved are worried about what is happening as a result of this Government's failure to deliver on their education pledges.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the problem goes further than the amount of money that is not getting to the chalk face? The Government made another promise before the election. Labour party spokesmen—they are Ministers now—said that a Labour Government would equalise the amounts of funding available to counties, and that they would resolve that problem in their first year in office. However, the Government are now saying that they will not even consider the matter until after the next election. When the Minister for School Standards was asked about that, she said that Staffordshire and other counties should not worry and that Wigan and Poole were worse off than Lichfield.

Mrs. May

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I intend to comment on some of the funding inequities that exist between the education authorities. The Government promised to sort out the problem inside one year but, three years on, they have not even started looking at the matter. That is yet another broken promise—another of the Government's failures to deliver on one of the pledges that they made when they took office.

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

If the Secretary of State is going to make fun of the Scilly Isles, perhaps, on the way there, he might be encouraged to call in to the secondary school in Somerset that I visited on Friday. They were discussing whether full-time teachers or part-time assistants, in one form or another, would have to have their hours cut, how great the reductions would be and how strange they found it that, three years into education, education, education, they should be facing such a situation.

Mrs. May

My right hon. Friend rightly points out the very real decisions that schools have to take against the background of the Government's failure. The Secretary of State always quotes broad figures, but the reality is what is happening in schools in Somerset, such as that to which my right hon. Friend referred. Difficult, harsh decisions are being taken about teaching staff and classroom assistant redundancies, reductions in the number of courses and the inability to buy the equipment and books needed for the school. That is the reality of this Government's education policies. Yet they continue to try to spin themselves out of the problem.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)

Would my hon. Friend care to comment on the situation in Gloucestershire? I had a letter from the Secretary of State, informing me that Gloucestershire local education authority, already one of the lowest funded of any county, was this year to receive a lower-than-average increase in standard spending assessment while having an above-average increase in the number of pupils. Gloucestershire LEA is so poor that it cannot afford to apply for the full amount of the new deal in schools, which the Secretary of State makes so much of, because it cannot produce the match funding. How should I respond to the teachers and head teachers in Gloucestershire who, for the second year running, have had a standstill budget for their schools?

Mrs. May

The answer to the head teachers and governors in those schools is that that is a direct result of the Government's education policies.

The spin does not even stop there. On several occasions, Ministers have said in the House that the Government are increasing the spending per pupil by £200. Yet the figures show that the average spending per pupil under this Government is more than £50 less than that under the previous Conservative Government. That is nothing new. We already knew that the average spending per student in higher education was £135 less under this Government than under the previous one—and that from a Government whose Prime Minister promised only last December that education will continue to have the first call on public resources. Or perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us this afternoon that that was just an aspiration.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

While my hon. Friend is talking about the use of resources, would she care to comment on a matter that is raised repeatedly with me at schools in my constituency by teachers, head teachers and governors, about the amount of money that the Government spend on glossy brochures? They are besieging teachers and governors with vast amounts of publicity material containing Government spin—there is nothing in them to help with teaching, nothing to help pupils.

Jacqui Smith

Like what? Name just one.

Mr. Hawkins

Every day, another glossy brochure arrives. If the Government spent less money on them, would that not be better for education?

Mrs. May

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I was in a primary school recently, where the head teacher pointed to a bookshelf full of glossy Government publications. She said that she wished that she had only a very small percentage of the money that was being spent on those to spend in her school. Perhaps the Secretary of State could offer to stop publishing his speeches in glossy publications—that would save a little money.

The Government, faced with the reality of their actions, will never take responsibility for them. They always try to blame the local education authorities. The Secretary of State is keen to tell us how much more money LEAs are getting for education—he can even get the figure up to an increase of more than 8 per cent.—but those are fantasy figures. The actual amount of money received by the authorities is much less, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) pointed out. However, I do not need to rely on my hon. Friends to point that out to me. The Secretary of State told us so—at least, he told that to the School Teachers Review Body in a letter written last December.

Mr. Blunkett

That is old news.

Mrs. May

The Secretary of State says that they heard that last week. I am sorry, but I am going to quote a different part of the letter today. Is the Secretary of State saying that he is embarrassed about his letter to the School Teachers Review Body, and that he does not want his words to be repeated so that more people understand the reality of his actions?

In the letter, the Secretary of State said—far from the 8 per cent. increase that he had claimed local authorities would receive—that some authorities have receive grant increases which would make a pay award much greater than inflation difficult to handle. For example, Newcastle has an education uplift of only 3.47 per cent., Sunderland has 3.44 per cent. and Middlesbrough has 3.67 per cent. That does not sound like more than 8 per cent. to me—even if the Department has its figures right.

Imagine the consternation in Leicestershire when the local education authority—the lowest-funded shire county authority—was told that its share of the £50 million Government grant to LEAs would be £8,000. Leicestershire had been given the figure for the Isles of Scilly, and every LEA was told the wrong grant figure. How much did that piece of departmental incompetence cost schools?

Leicestershire is a member of the new deal-fair deal group—formerly G40—and my right hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell), my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), and my hon. Friends the Members for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) and for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) wrote to the press to point out the absurdity of the Government's position. If Leicestershire county council spent what the Government advise, it would have to cut education spending by £85 a pupil. Instead, the council—under a Conservative leader—is increasing education spending.

The Secretary of State does not even listen when authorities want to discuss funding with him. Last November, the chairman of the regional assembly for Yorkshire and Humberside wrote to the Secretary of State about education funding. He wrote to the permanent secretary in late January on the same subject. In his letter, he said: One common problem we face … is the relatively poor level of funding for education in the region that is available through the Standard Spending Assessment when compared with other regions, not to mention Scotland. The chairman was writing on his own behalf, and for the chairmen of all the local authorities in Yorkshire. He has yet to receive a reply.

The Government try to blame LEAs, but are simultaneously increasing control over what the authorities do. More and more, money is made available only if the LEA does what the Government tell it to. In a letter to me on 25 January, the Minister for School Standards said that £50 million extra grant … will go to all local education authorities. However, some authorities, such as Shropshire, have been told that they will receive the money only if they do as the Government say they should on their SSAs.

The best example of central control is the standards fund. The money will be spent on the Government's priorities, not on the priorities of the schools. With this Government, children come last.

Liz Blackman (Erewash)

As the debate is on education, and fundamentally, therefore, about children, will the hon. Lady mention improved standards at some point?

Mrs. May

If the hon. Lady had been listening to the beginning of my speech, she would have heard me quote comments from teachers to the effect that the problems caused by her Government's failure to deliver in education are causing a real threat to school standards. That is the reality of the situation. The hon. Lady may shrug her shoulders, but I suggest that she visits schools in Northumberland, because that was the view expressed by a school in Hexham and in others in that county.

Under the standards fund, Labour-controlled Luton is receiving the equivalent of £114 pupil while Conservative-controlled Wokingham receives less than £55. Is that fair funding? The Government said that there would be a cap on the amount of money in the standards fund, but the proportion of education total spending provided through the fund will rise from 1.8 to 7.6 per cent. The point is that that money is being spent on what the Government think right, not on what schools think right. Schools should be given budgets and the freedom to decide what is right for them. It is common sense to say that heads and teachers know best what is right in the classroom. We want freedom for schools—not departmental dictatorship. The greatest madness in the Government's funding figures is that Sheffield has to cut school budgets in order to obtain access to Government funding—robbing Peter to pay Paul.

My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) referred to bureaucracy. Much is spent on that. We asked teachers about bureaucracy and they told us: Bureaucracy has increased massively since the Labour Government came to power. They confirmed that bureaucracy had certainly increased, saying: The bureaucratic burden on heads is such that being with children in a classroom occasionally has to be firmly held as a priority or is lost under tides of policies and administration. The damage to schools and to children's education does not stop with funding and with increased bureaucracy. One of the Government's first acts was to abolish grant-maintained status, despite their manifesto commitment that Schools that are now grant maintained will prosper with Labour's proposals. Prosper—as their budgets fall, as they are forced to make teachers redundant, as they are forced to cut back on courses or as they ask parents to pay? Perhaps the Secretary of State would like to ask the Prime Minister about that last point.

Another of Labour's promises that bit the dust when they came into office was that grammar schools were safe in their hands. In a letter of 10 February 1997 about Wirral, the Prime Minister, then the Leader of the Opposition, wrote: Let me put the record straight. A Labour Government will not close your grammar schools. That is my personal guarantee. However, the guarantee went further. In 1997, the Secretary of State said: There's no threat to the continuance of the grammar schools or to their ethos or their quality. He said that he had felt "enormous energy" when he had visited Wirral grammar school for girls. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman will need only the energy to run away from parents who see their children's educational chances being taken away by the Government.

Mr. Blunkett

The energy that I felt came from the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who broke into the school because I was there. He even tried to persuade the press to join him, although the head and the governors had banned him from the school.

Mrs. May

I am not certain that that intervention added anything to the debate. It merely suggests that the Secretary of State always runs away when he sees my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth).

I am not surprised that the Secretary of State wants to change the subject, because he gets a little nervous when we talk about selection. Under the Labour Government, specialist schools can select pupils according to aptitude. Under the right hon. Gentleman's excellence in cities programme, schools can select between 5 and 10 per cent. of their pupils according to ability. That is the man who said, at a Labour party conference in 1995:

watch my lips: no selection by examination or interview". The right hon. Gentleman was pressed on that matter in an interview with Jonathan Dimbleby, who pointed out that the excellence in cities programme states that selection will be based in significant measure on the results of National Curriculum tests, public examinations and other available tests data". The right hon. Gentleman replied: Well they self-select so it's not a selection process based on a one-off examination … This is not about saying a small elite must be selected, must be educated well and, and, and … He trailed off, because he had failed to understand that, under the excellence in cities programme, he accepts selection in schools, but that he denies some schools the opportunity to continue to be selective.

At present, a ballot for grammar schools is taking place in Ripon. Parents are working not only to save a grammar school but to protect the school system in that town. Ripon grammar school and Ripon college have both served that town well for a long time. One of the greatest problems faced by parents is uncertainty, because of the disruption that will be caused if the school structure is changed, should the vote go against the grammar school.

The Government have failed on so many of their pledges. They have failed on their class size pledge: average class sizes are going up and the proportion of pupils in classes of more than 31 is going up. Tell Bob Bushell up at Northfold county primary school in Cleveleys that class sizes are falling; he has to teach a class of 41. Yet again, we see the Government failing to deliver on their pledges in education.

The Government promised that their priority would be education, education, education. They have failed to deliver on their pledge to support grammar schools. They have failed to deliver on their pledge to let grant-maintained schools prosper. Class sizes are rising, bureaucracy is burgeoning and spending per pupil and spending per—

Mr. Vernon Coaker (Gedling)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. May

Too late. I am sorry; I am just coming to the conclusion.

Jacqui Smith

This is the climax.

Mrs. May

I am just coming to the—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady. I really have heard enough from the Under-Secretary. That is not the way to behave on the Front Bench.

Mrs. May

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The Government have failed to deliver on their pledge to support grammar schools. They have failed to let grant-maintained schools prosper. Class sizes are rising. Bureaucracy is burgeoning. The Government have failed to deliver on their funding pledges. It is little wonder that one teacher has told us:

Look, I have never voted Conservative before, but there is one thing that might make me do so next time—this current Government. Instead of education, education, education, we have had spin, trickery, betrayal. Labour is letting our children down. This country needs the commonsense policies that will give freedom to schools, allow parents to choose, trust the professionals, raise standards, provide the education that is right for every child and lead to excellence in education—commonsense policies that will be delivered only by a Conservative Government.

4.51 pm
The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. David Blunkett)

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

welcomes the Government's commitment to raising standards and achieving excellence for all from the early years to life-long learning after 18 years of neglect; recognises that education spending will rise as a share of national income over the course of this Parliament, in contrast to a decline of 0.3 per cent. between 1991–92 and 1996–97; recognises the early success in lowering class sizes in the early years and the achievement of introducing the literacy and numeracy strategies which, with the hard work and commitment of teachers, have raised standards; supports the promotion of diversity which will deliver excellence for the many and not the few; recognises the role of specialist schools and the importance of excellence in cities; supports the drive to raise standards in secondary schools through the extension of the literacy and numeracy strategies and an expanded programme of summer schools; recognises the value of teachers and supports the new proposals for performance-related promotion; recognises the role of school leaders; notes the increase of £1.8 billion in funding for schools and Local Education Authorities in England for the coming year and the role of the fair funding framework in tackling excessive bureaucracy and ensuring that increased funding benefits classroom services; notes the increased resources made available to expand access and improve quality in further and higher education; and supports the Government's determination to build a socially inclusive knowledge economy in which learning and skills are the foundation of success and prosperity.". I wish to address the motion in a way that the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) failed to do. She spent two thirds of her speech advocating that more money be spent on education. No Conservative spokesman could display greater cheek than the hon. Lady does in lecturing us on education spending. Over the period of the last Conservative regime, spending was slashed in real terms. In 1995, as the Conservatives started to slash education spending, governors, parents and teachers took to the streets even of market towns—even in places such as Maidenhead, which the hon. Lady represents—to march. They did so because they could feel the impact, in terms of what was happening in the classroom, what was happening to teachers and what was happening to the buildings around them.

If we examine just a little of what the hon. Lady is saying in the light of what happened to education under Conservative Governments and what is happening under ours, we shall obtain a better picture of the real legacy that she and her colleagues bequeathed to us.

Back in 1995, people were on the streets demanding an end to the retrenchment that had led to schools without books, to crumbling classrooms, to a total failure to introduce any policy on information and communication technology, to a failure to implement any form of literacy and numeracy strategy, to a lack of any form of programme to reward teachers, and to the absence of any method of relaxing the curriculum to allow teachers—in the language of the Conservative motion—the freedom to determine for themselves how to set about the task.

Although the hon. Lady did not mention the fact, the motion speaks of the obsession with targets and diversion of funds to meet political goals". Well, I plead entirely guilty to that. Those political goals are absolutely clear. We made a class size pledge. In infant schools, there were 485,000 youngsters in classes of over 30; now there are 171,000, and the number is falling. In primary education, for 10 years, class sizes increased year on year; for the first time, we have stabilised and reduced them. Average class sizes and pupil-teacher ratios are falling for the first time in 10 years.

Yes, we have made a commitment to introduce sure start programmes to invest in the foundations of children's education and development. Yes, we have used ring-fenced money, which did not go into the revenue support grant, specifically to introduce new provision for the early years, to ensure that all four-year-olds have the choice of a nursery place, if their parents wish it, and to double the places available for three-year-olds. Under the Tories, there was no programme; there was simply a voucher system for four-year-olds. That is what we inherited. We have insisted that there should be an improvement in the adult-pupil ratio in our schools; so, over the next two and a half years, 20,000 teaching assistants—directly paid for with ring-fenced money—will be available.

The hon. Lady mentioned Sheffield. Through excellence in cities, we have now ensured that match funding does not have to be found in the six major conurbations to which the earmarked, specialist funding is provided. We will therefore be able to transform the life chances of children in our major cities and we will do what the previous Conservative Government never did—target resources where they are really needed.

Mrs. May

The Secretary of State has referred to the fact that the 100 per cent. grant will now be given to schools in the excellence in cities areas. Will he confirm that schools will be able to receive 100 per cent. of the grant only if the local authority puts in its full bid for standards fund money?

Mr. Blunkett

An authority will have the money available to put in the initial amount only if it actually applies for the money in the first place. That is certainly true. The standards fund, to which the hon. Lady referred, is additional ring-fenced money over and above the revenue support grant and has been applied directly to the policies that she has dismissed: namely, those targeted political policies known as the literacy and the numeracy strategies. Far from undermining the life chances of children, those strategies are beginning to transform them.

Why did we set about the ring-fenced, earmarked and targeted funding that the hon. Lady mentioned? Why have we taken the actions that we have? It was because, when we took office, four out of 10 children could not read, write or add up properly at the age of 11. The hon. Lady can judge whether that is a legacy to be proud of.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North)

Is my right hon. Friend surprised, as I am, that the speech of the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) made no mention of the latest Ofsted report? In it, the chief inspector of schools refers to rising standards, particularly at key stage 2, and says: This is a very significant and promising development, which is directly linked to the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies". Why does my right hon. Friend think that there was no mention of that in the hon. Lady's speech?

Mr. Blunkett

Because the hon. Lady never attempted once to talk about what is happening in the classroom to improve the life chances or achievement of children. In fact, I am not sure how many times she mentioned children other than to suggest that, somehow, what was needed was the extra money that the Conservative Government had not allocated to them. It was the height of jiggery-pokery, to use a slightly different term.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Blunkett

That has got people going. Which of the pokery and jiggery shall I give way to first? How about the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles)?

Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar)

When the right hon. Gentleman examined the Ofsted reports, did he see the report on the St. Martin's school and the Anglo-European school in my constituency, which were designated exceptional secondary schools? The reward to those schools and other secondary schools in my constituency is to lose £1.2 million funding this year and to face the prospect of having to make teachers redundant and reducing education provision for my constituents. Is that any way to reward excellence?

Mr. Blunkett

I am very happy to consider the school in question—the Anglo-European school. We shall ensure that we make access available to it and that we examine its resources. However, we have given absolute guarantees to the schools that the hon. Member for Maidenhead mentioned and which receive additional funding because they are grant maintained, rather than because of their pupil numbers or particular circumstances. We have given absolute guarantees of continued funding in real terms and we shall continue to ensure that those schools are supported.

I believe the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) was among those who wished to intervene earlier.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

Does the Secretary of State understand how offensive it can seem to someone teaching in a primary school on the Isles of Scilly or in a primary school in Wokingham that has had its funding cut when he laughs at the name of the Isles of Scilly, which has real educational problems, and when he authorises large sums of expenditure on glossy brochures to publish his own speeches and other words from the Department for Education and Employment? Is not that the wrong priority? Will he now say sorry, and will he say that more money will be made available to primary schools in need?

Mr. Blunkett

I did not, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, laugh at the education system in the Isles of Scilly. Certainly I laughed at the attempt by the hon. Member for Maidenhead to draw conclusions for England as a whole from the situation in the Isles of Scilly, where the Government are protecting, and will continue to protect through our small schools fund, schools that would otherwise have been threatened by the actions and policies of the previous Government.

Under that Government, there was no small schools fund and no attempt to ensure that schools could stay open by linking technology, by co-operative working and by pulling schools together instead of making them compete with each other. There is now a fund specifically to provide small primary schools with administrative support so that head teachers are free to do their job. All that is entirely new and did not exist under the previous Government.

I shall not apologise for putting out the speech on the future of secondary education from the north of England conference, because secondary education had been grossly neglected by the previous Government, standards had not been maintained and almost a third of children in the first year of secondary schools found themselves going backwards. We face a major issue in tackling the under-achievement in our secondary sector: to provide diversity, to increase specialism and to ensure that we have a truly comprehensive system.

Nor do I apologise for putting out a major statement on the future of higher education—an issue that the previous Government ducked time and time again. The hon. Lady had the audacity to say that we were cutting funding per pupil. Between 1989 and 1997, there was a cut of £2,500 per university student, and we have reversed 36 per cent. of that. We have cut the efficiency gains to 1 per cent., as recommended by Dearing. We have put in £1.1 billion—an increase of 11 per cent. in real terms—over the three years of the spending review, and we have lifted the cap on numbers.

Mrs. May

As the Secretary of State has specifically referred to Dearing and the 1 per cent. efficiency gains, will he comment on the remarks of the Association of University Teachers—that current expenditure plans not only do not provide for tuition fee income to be additional income but go well beyond Dearing's call for 1 per cent. efficiency gains for two years, amounting to aplan for cuts of this level for the remainder of the current spending plans"?

Mr. Blunkett

I do not accept that for a moment. We announced that we would retain the 1 per cent. cuts that we introduced rather than the enormous 4 per cent. real terms cuts that were taking place under the previous Government, and we have said that we will do so throughout the remainder of this spending review. We have put in an extra £295 million for 2001, bringing the total increase, as I said, to 11 per cent. in real terms. We have every intention in the spending review of ensuring that we maintain a world-class university system that is open, equal and equitable for all students, not just those who can afford it.

Over and above the revenue support grant increase of 5.4 per cent. for the coming year, we have funded the teachers' pay award. The better teachers do, the better we shall pay them, and we shall encourage their professional development and provide performance-related promotion. That is all ring-fenced money on top of the amount available in the revenue support grant, and responds entirely to schools that ask us to ensure that when there are substantial changes of that sort, they get the money directly, rather than through the standard spending assessment.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

In order that Conservative Members, at least, may prick up our ears in readiness, will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell the House at what point in his speech he intends to refer to, and to apologise for, the massive damage that he inflicted on children's education during his tenure as leader of Sheffield city council?

Mr. Blunkett

That beggars belief. Let me put the facts on the record. I accept responsibility in respect of the city of Sheffield for the years 1980 to 1987. In 1985, a report by Her Majesty's inspectorate said that Sheffield's was one of the three best education authorities in the country. That was matched by an Audit Commission report that said that Sheffield's public services were "a shining example".

I stand on my record on education and the comparability of Sheffield with other cities. If I had my time again, I would have introduced 15 years ago some of the measures that the Government are introducing now. The children of Sheffield would have had a greater chance of receiving a better education. However, at that time, we faced a Conservative Government who slashed public expenditure at every opportunity, denigrated public service, undermined the education system and encouraged people to go private. Anyone who looks back to those years should feel ashamed of the former Government's actions.

The Conservative Government allowed our schools—public buildings—to deteriorate to the extent that we have had to double expenditure just to return some of them to the state in which they provide an acceptable environment where teachers can teach and pupils can be taught. In two years' time, 11,000 schools will have benefited from the new deal for schools—a programme introduced, not with match funding, but with direct grant; not with credit approvals and borrowing, but with direct funding—to ensure that schools obtain the sort of investment that they never got under the previous Government. That is what we have been doing at every stage, through the standards fund work with head teachers and the new leadership college to bring about a transformation of management; through helping small schools; and through the improvement grants made under the standards fund.

The Opposition motion speaks of "setting schools free"; I am not sure what the Conservative notion of a free school is. It talks of parental choice, but so-called free schools are the ones that choose the child—that is what happened under the Conservative Government. The motion talks about "trusting the professionals", but the Conservatives have opposed the improvement of professional standards through professional development matched by increased pay—extra resources that will be in the pay packets of hundreds of thousands of teachers in the years to come. Instead of attacking the changes that the Labour Government have made, Conservative Members should take a leaf out of the shadow Chancellor's book and re-examine their policies to find ways of mirroring, matching and challenging us on the basis of improving standards.

We know that our schools need more resources and that greater investment is desirable; with our economic policies and our growth record, it will be possible for the Labour Government to achieve those goals. We also know that in the last three years of the Conservative Government, not only did the proportion of gross domestic product invested in education start to fall, but there were real-terms cuts in spending on primary education of £80 per pupil, pupil-teacher ratios worsened, and class sizes rocketed. In 1997, we inherited a budget profile that, had we implemented it, would have resulted in 15,000 teachers losing their jobs; instead, we immediately put in £835 million. We had promised to stabilise and freeze spending, but we did not; instead, we put in more money and saved schools from disaster. Then we started the process of investment.

Under the spending review, in the final three years of this Parliament, spending on education as a proportion of GDP will rise, based on the new European resource accounting model. It is no good quoting figures that do not compare like with like. The House of Commons Library is welcome to see the figures that we at the DFEE and the Treasury are using—figures that include not just revenue support, but all the ring-fenced resources that I have described this afternoon, which are going into schools to raise standards and lift opportunities for our children.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

I am grateful to the Secretary of State. If we are to compare like with like, may I compare South Wigston high school in my constituency before and after the election? Before the election, the head teacher was able to increase the number of teachers and to improve and expand the buildings belonging to the school. Since the election, as a direct consequence of what the Government have done, the head teacher's income budget has fallen and he may have to get rid of three teachers. Will the right hon. Gentleman add that to the general problem that those of us who represent Leicestershire seats have found with his Government's policy on education spending?

Mr. Blunkett

We will take no lectures about the distribution of spending. We inherited what we have; we did not invent it. It was the hon. and learned Gentleman's Government who invented it, and we are doing our best to ensure that we get things right. I would welcome Conservative-controlled authorities presenting proposals for changes in standard spending assessment which they believe would be right and fair across the country. When they do so, through the Local Government Association, it will be possible to take them seriously.

If authorities are not—I hesitate to use the jargon term "passporting", in case sketch writers get their own back on us all, as they did last week, and a suitable reminder it was too—passing on the hard won resources that we are allocating to them, so that schools can spend that money on the improvement in standards that we are seeking, we will take action this summer to make sure that they do. For the first time, we have the figures. For the first time, we will know what is being spent on administration and bureaucracy, and we will be able to do something about it.

Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Blunkett

I will in a moment, as I have not given way to the Liberals yet. [HON. MEMBERS: "There is only one here."] In that case, I had better give way straight away.

Mr. Willis

May I assure the Secretary of State that what we lack in numbers, we make up in quality?

The right hon. Gentleman makes a serious point about the standard spending assessment and the fact that it has not changed since the Government came in, as was promised. Will he admit, however, that with more and more funding being centrally directed, the time has come to stop the nonsense about maintaining a standard spending assessment, and to accept that the minimum entitlement that he expects schools to deliver through the curriculum should be funded by a minimum entitlement through his Department or through local authorities?

Mr. Blunkett

The hon. Gentleman makes a valuable point. There is a case to be made for a basic entitlement for pupils at various key stages. That debate should be set in the context of the review and the proposed Green Paper. I look forward to his party contributing constructively to that debate, as he has this afternoon.

The proof of the pudding is what is happening to children in schools and whether standards are rising. My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) referred to the chief inspector's report. At key stage 2, there have been a 10 percentage point improvement in numeracy and a five percentage point improvement in literacy in just one year, both of which were attributed by the chief inspector to the very literacy and numeracy programmes that have been denigrated by Opposition Members. GCSE and A-level results are improving year on year.

In the words of the chief inspector, over four out of every five schools have undergone an improvement in their teaching compared with the previous year. Lessons are judged to be good and improving. Those judged to be good have risen from 54 per cent. to 58 per cent. in just one year. Unsatisfactory lessons are down by a quarter on the previous year. Leadership and management are seen to be improving.

All that is happening around us—it is there for people to see. For the first time since the regime was introduced, more schools are coming out of special measures than are going in. A higher proportion of gross domestic product is being spent on education. Real improvements are taking place in the classroom, with an average of £4,000 being spent on additional books in every school. Those funds are provided directly by the Government, and do not come through the revenue support grant.

Whether we consider early-years and primary education, or the action that we are trying to take on diversity and specialism—such as beacon schools and excellence in secondary education in cities—or our programme for further and higher education, the Government put the people's money where the people's mouth is. We are improving the chances of every child in the country by intervening when necessary, supporting when appropriate, increasing professional development, paying teachers more, rewarding them well and celebrating success wherever it occurs.

5.15 pm
Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough)

At the end of his remarks, the Secretary of State tried to address one of the saddest features of education debates—the impression that we often give the public and the press that our education system is failing and in total crisis. I reject that.

My party and I have often criticised Her Majesty's chief inspector of schools. However, in this year's report, he made several positive statements. For example: The quality of teaching has improved in all types of schools, in all subjects and in all year groups". That is a positive message to send to our teachers. The report also states: More headteachers are raising expectations and challenging and supporting their staff". That is also positive. The report continues: Nearly nine out of ten Secondary Schools inspected had a higher proportion of good teaching compared with the previous inspection". Those comments need to be emphasised from our Benches. We must constantly tell our teachers, governors and heads that they are doing a good job.

Let us consider the improvements in GCSE results in the past 10 years. In 1989, 203,105 A to C results or their equivalents were gained compared with 278,300 last year. A-level results give an indication of the number of students who stay on at school, or go to sixth form or further education colleges post 16. They have not even been mentioned in the debate. In 1989, 87,800 students had three or more A-levels compared with 151,300 students last year. That is a remarkable 80 per cent. increase in the number of students who obtain three or more A-levels. We should put it on record that we accept that our teachers, heads, governors and students are doing well in our schools. We should not accept the view that is commonly held in the Tory party and increasingly, I am sad to say, by the Government, that because the state provides the majority of a service, it must, by definition, be failing. It is not.

The hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) made interesting comments. I expected the vast majority of comments during a Tory Opposition day debate to be about the Tories' review of education and the lessons they had learned from 18 years in government and three years in opposition. After all, they have consulted widely about their policies, and introduced "The Common Sense Revolution". I wondered why the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) jumped on the back of a lorry to begin his latest disastrous campaign when he would have been better served by putting all the "Common Sense Revolution" documentation on the back of it and driving it to the nearest recycling plant. I go further; the latest common-sense utterances on education should carry the following health warning: "These policies, if implemented, could serious damage your child's education".

I cannot believe that after such a disastrous defeat in 1997, with education policies that had failed and been universally derided, Conservative Members should take the same tack, with the same philosophy that competition, division and fewer resources form the basis for a better education system.

Mr. Redwood

Will the hon. Gentleman explain how trusting parents and teachers could possibly damage children's education? Will he stop misrepresenting a policy that acknowledges the need for allocating proper sums of money?

Mr. Willis

May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention and say how marvellous it is that he attends debates regularly now that he is a Back Bencher. He was a serious Minister, but he has not once apologised for the gross underfunding of our schools, our colleges and our universities.

Mr. Stephen Dorrell (Charnwood)

Answer the question.

Mr. Willis

I shall answer the hon. Gentleman. I am sorry; I shall answer the right hon. Gentleman. I apologise profusely for that omission.

Nothing in the Conservatives' remarks today or their so-called revolution addresses the further education sector, which was set loose in a sea of confusion in 1993 with the sole aim of reducing the cost base in our FE colleges. We have heard nothing from Conservative Members to address the mounting problems in our universities, where under-investment in teaching and research were the hallmarks of their Administrations. Instead, we hear puerile attacks on schools and local education authorities and solutions that are simple, but not credible. Successive Tory Governments undermined state education to almost total breaking point, but the common-sense answer is more of the same with knobs on.

The Conservatives' rallying cry is, "We will set our schools free." Free from what and from whom? According to the previous Government's Education Reform Act 1988, schools are free to carry out a vast array of tasks. What greater freedoms do they seek than those under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998?

Mrs. May

The hon. Gentleman has made a couple of references to what he perceives as the failure of the Conservative party's education policies. Can he tell us which policies the Liberal party rejects: the introduction of the national curriculum, the introduction of the Office for Standards in Education or the introduction of testing?

Mr. Willis

I shall answer the hon. Lady directly. As a head, I supported the introduction of the national curriculum until it arrived at the school—lorry load after lorry load of it. Indeed, it arrived on the same lorry that the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks is now using. My staff and I were constantly fed up with two-stage pay awards every year and the local authority—of which I was an elected member—having to spend all its time reducing its education budgets every year.

If the hon. Lady is talking about the abolition of school organisation committees and the so-called independent adjudicators and returning admission and appeals to democratically elected local authorities, I shall stand by and support her. However, I suspect that she does not seek that. If she wants to remove from schools the necessity to produce an absurd number of individual plans on subjects ranging from literacy to asset management, my party and I shall support her. [Interruption.] From a sedentary position, Ministers ask whether we want to get rid of asset management plans. The last thing that most small rural primary schools in North Yorkshire want is to look after asset management—they want somebody to do it for them. A two-class primary school has a lot on in looking after the curriculum and standards, so the amount of planning that goes on is an issue.

If the hon. Lady wants to put an end to the torrent of centrally driven initiatives, proposals and targets, we shall stand with her. We want them to be reduced. If she wants to reduce the amount of paper that comes out of the Department for Education and Employment by the equivalent of a rain forest a year, again we shall stand with her. Papers regularly come through the doors of school governors and one of their great cries during the recent Education and Employment Committee inquiry was for an end to that. If the hon. Lady wants to campaign with the Liberal Democrats for the removal of tuition fees from our students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, again we shall stand with her. But no: the revolution that the Tories have in mind is a free-for-all that could produce 23,525 separate admission authorities, 23,525 separate appeals bodies and 23,525 schools that could spend more time dealing with legal disputes than with the curriculum.

The Tory party wants to support heads. It wants to support teachers, so that they can raise standards. However, it wants to give parents the power to call ballots to sack head teachers, and then, presumably, to fund the expensive legal battles that will follow from school budgets. It says that parents should call for more inspections by the Office of Standards in Education when standard assessment test results dip. In last year's Ofsted report, 8 per cent. of schools were said to have serious weaknesses, and the average cost of an inspection is £13,000. If every one of those schools asked for an extra inspection, another £25 million would be needed. Is that how parents want their resources to be spent? Is that the "common-sense approach" to the reduction of bureaucracy?

The Tories also want to establish "free schools". The idea has been copied from the charter school movement in the United States, but has been taken one step further, because a Conservative Government would fund the buildings as well as revenue costs. It is a doubtful message: if schools are freed from all state or local control, they will deliver a better education system for our children. There is no evidence whatever to back up that proposition, certainly not in the United States, where we have seen a ragbag of institutions, the so-called best controlled by private-sector companies.

Mrs. May

Free schools do not owe their origin to the charter school movement in the United States, and we do indeed have examples of the way in which schools can improve education when they are given their freedom. We see that in the grant-maintained schools, which use money previously spent by local authorities on bureaucracy to increase the number of teachers, and to do various other things that greatly improve the quality of education.

Mr. Willis

I am pleased that the hon. Lady has dissociated herself from some of her Back Benchers, who claimed that they had brought back this solution for Tory thinking from America, and were proud of having done so. I talked to one who extolled the virtues of the marvellous so-called free schools, controlled by private companies such as Edison and Advantage. With those providers, schools must take the curriculum they are given, the methodology they are given and the materials they are given. Is that really what we want for parents and teachers in the future?

Let me ask the hon. Lady this. What happens to the special-needs child in the free school movement? What happens to the advantages that we have secured over the past 10 years in terms of inclusive education? How will such children fit into a free school that has its own admissions policy? Can it refuse a child with severe learning difficulties, or educational and behavioural difficulties? A child with cerebral palsy or sensory impairment will have no right of access to free schools.

What about the disruptive child? Will another free school be obliged to take him? Will the only provision be made in the "headway centres"—or pupil referral units, which is what they actually are? Given that those are grossly underfunded at present, what will happen when students are excluded from schools, perhaps permanently? I can tell the hon. Lady that in parts of London, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham there could be more students in her headway centres than in mainstream schools, if heads were allowed simply to turf them out. However, parents, governors and teachers should not worry: the likelihood of a Conservative Government being elected with such nonsensical policies is pretty remote.

That is not to say that many of the hon. Lady's criticisms of the Government are not justified. The Liberal Democrats share her concerns about the smoke and mirrors over finance. I, too, visit schools where I am asked, "Where is the £19 billion that is being spent on education? Where do I see it in my budget?" I worked in a local authority that passported every penny of the £12.9 million for education last year and increased council tax by 9.6 per cent., but still cut school budgets by nearly 1.5 per cent.

We are concerned about the increasing centralisation of the curriculum and teaching methodology. Of course the literacy hour initiative was needed in many of our schools, but it certainly was not needed in every school. Teachers wanted the flexibility that would enable them to do things as they wanted to do them, in accordance with the needs of children.

We are concerned, too, about the creeping privatisation of the education system—the Government's belief that the private sector can always do things better. The events at Rams episcopal school in Hackney demonstrated that there are no sure-fire solutions. It was interesting to note that, after Islington council had been forced to hand over the running of its local education authority to Cambridge Education Associates Ltd, the first thing that it did was to recruit a chief education officer from Richmond upon Thames to lead its team—an example of the fact that, in the public sector, we still have some fine officers and leaders.

In the time that is left—I understand that we are on a tight schedule—I want to highlight our concerns about the most important issue facing the school system: the promotion of a highly qualified, well-motivated and well-paid teaching profession. It will not be the Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Maidenhead or I who will improve standards in schools, but our teachers and heads. The Liberal Democrats continue to have concerns about the Government's proposals on performance-related pay. We continue to believe that they are divisive, fail to address the key issues that face the profession and will ultimately fail both to motivate and to retain staff. Above all, they will do precious little to persuade the best potential teachers to join the profession.

My main criticism is not about the principle of PRP. Clearly, it works in other sectors, but it will not achieve the desired outcomes for the profession, schools or the Government. Where is the evidence that it is possible to accredit an individual child's performance to an individual teacher, other than in the most simplistic way? No evidence was presented in the Green Paper. None has been presented since.

Teaching is a team activity. Who is to say that the influence of a sports teacher or music department on a child's motivation is more or less important than what the child sees in classrooms elsewhere? How do we assess the effects of early-years experience; access to private tuition; the number of children in a class with special needs; children with English as a second language; the size of the teaching group; and the work of other members of staff? The list is endless.

The Government have obviously been listening to some of the arguments—the dropping of reference to progress towards national levels of achievement is welcome—but they have failed to understand the complexity of assessing who is responsible for a child's performance.

The rest of the proposals are fraught with inconsistencies. If PRP is there to motivate staff and to raise standards, why is it voluntary? Why is not applied to all colleagues already at point 9 on the scale?

Those teachers already working well are being told that they must work harder to receive and to retain a threshold payment, but what of the others? Are those who do not put themselves forward to be judged as "ineffective" teachers and perhaps lazy? Will parents be informed of their status? Will women, who form the bulk of teachers, particularly at primary level, be discriminated against because they do not want to take on the increased burdens of additional activity?

Of course there is merit in rewarding our best teachers, but surely the challenge is to encourage teachers to work better, not simply harder, for more pay. Access to quality professional development as a statutory right would make a huge statement about valuing our teachers, yet the Government have ignored that option. Statutory access to non-contact time to prepare materials and to mark work would do much to raise the quality of teaching and morale, particularly in primary schools.

A fundamental principle of any PRP scheme is additionality. I was pleased when, on Thursday last, the Secretary of State appeared to commit the Government to continuing ring-fencing of resources to meet the costs of PRP after the initial two years. May I press the Government on that commitment? Will the Minister make it clear that, after the initial two years, the Government will continue to guarantee threshold payments and to ring-fence resources directly from the DFEE? Can she say how that mechanism will work?

Will future performance-related payments in the upper range or on the management scale be ring-fenced with additional money? Without such a guarantee, the scheme is bound to fail. If the Government intend to ask schools to incorporate any PRP payments from initial budgets after two years, we shall be back to the situation that I faced as a head teacher, when I had the option to give promotion points and excellence points, but no money to do so.

Will the Minister also clarify the position of those who become advanced skills or fast track teachers? As I understand the guidance, they will have to give up many of their present conditions of service, including the limit of 1,268 hours of directed time. If so directed, they will have to be available to undertake breakfast clubs or after-school clubs. If that is the case, there will be a large price to pay for going through the threshold.

There is an absurd timetable for the implementation of the scheme, with insufficient time to train heads and allow them to carry out assessments appropriately for September 2000. The reduction in the number of criteria from 16 to eight may superficially appear to simplify matters, but it has resulted in a massive expansion of guidance notes for heads, opening the floodgates for a tidal wave of bureaucracy. Few teachers will have the documentation available. That may well create huge tensions between them and the head.

I make an earnest plea to the Secretary of State to think again about the timetable. If a performance-related pay scheme is to be introduced, all the questions that are being asked must be properly answered and there must be a proper time scale—otherwise, it will fail.

Last year, the Government proudly announced that their teacher recruitment targets were being met. One of the fundamental issues for the PRP scheme and the Green Paper was to address the fact that so few quality people were choosing to come into teaching. The Secretary of State announced in December that maths teacher training was up by 16 per cent., but the Government made little noise about the fact that they had missed their recruitment target by 23 per cent. They made even less noise about the fact that most children at key stage 3 are not taught by a maths specialist. There are few press releases about the fact that in 1999 only history and PE reached their recruitment targets. This month, applications for maths teaching were 19 per cent. below last year's figure. Science and English are also down by 19 per cent. When I visited Imperial college recently, none of the third year undergraduates whom I talked to wanted to come into teaching, because they could get a starting salary at least £10,000 better elsewhere. We have to address the fact that we are in a competitive marketplace for teachers. If we want to ensure that we recruit the best, it is not good enough just to give teachers £2,000 extra at point 9 on the salary scale—we have to raise the starting salary.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Even within the restriction of 10 minutes for speeches—of which I remind the House—it will be difficult to fit in every right hon. and hon. Member who is seeking to catch my eye. I appeal for short speeches.

5.38 pm
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

I realise that I have been in the House for a long time. When I was a university teacher—when I worked for a living—I used to lecture about the great value of Opposition days, which are at the centre of our parliamentary democracy. As I listened to the opening speech from the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), I wondered whether anyone outside who believed in parliamentary democracy, let alone education, would value this debate very highly.

The opening speech could have set us off on the right footing. It could have been creative and full of insight. Fortunately, we are bringing about changes to the procedures of the House, with pre-legislative inquiries and the on-going work of Select Committees. That allows us to talk more constructively about education across the House.

I want to go through a quick checklist of how well the Government are meeting their obligations under the manifesto and the mandate to prioritise education. I want to give marks out of 10, some good and some bad. The hon. Member for Maidenhead was a very constructive member of the Education and Employment Committee and knows something about the subject, so it is surprising that she could not bring herself in this debate to talk about what we have in common.

The Government have adopted an approach that one would have thought would be dear to the heart of the Conservative party. They used good business methods, recognising that we must organise education in a more businesslike way, with achievable targets towards which all the stakeholders in the business can work together. That is fundamental tomorrow's company stuff about which anyone who has worked in the private sector knows.

Some of the successes came because the Government threw away some things that our party used—more in rhetoric than reality—to believe in, and took a realistic stance, looking at the problems pragmatically and solving them with any best technique that was available. I would have expected a little more frankness and honesty from the Opposition on that.

There is a problem. The Government came to power desperate to make changes. There was a huge backlog of neglect, stretching back well beyond the previous 18 years. We all used to accept that education was essentially for the elite. The Conservative party was more comfortable with that than us, but we all accepted that only a few people would be educated to a high level and that many would be looked after until they were 14—or subsequently 15 and 16—and would then get a job.

I remember cycling to school past factories displaying notices stating, "Hands Wanted". They wanted hands, not brains. That is a thing of the past. We cannot have an educational elite, be it 3, 5 or 30 per cent. of the population. All our work force and all our people must be encouraged to attain the highest levels of education and skill. I think that the Opposition accept that fact, too, although very reluctantly.

It is not surprising that an incoming Labour Government rushed at the target. Of course they did not get everything right—what Government do?—but some of the measures have been highly successful. Let us consider the Ofsted report. The figures were mentioned by the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis). We have had great success in helping pupils in the early years and through to 11. That positive result means that we can consider more seriously what is happening for those from 11 to 14. There are serious deficiencies in that area. The transition to secondary school has proved difficult for some.

The difficulties are not only in problematic schools. I get sick of the terminology. We can call them failing schools, more difficult schools or challenged schools—we know which ones we are talking about. One problem is that the Government devise a strategy to do something about the most challenged schools and are not too clear that it might not be the right management strategy for what we call coasting schools—the 40 per cent. that are not getting worse or better in a hurry but need to be encouraged to achieve higher standards. That is the problem in the 11 to 14 sector.

In the difficult 14-plus sector, the Government's joined-up thinking has come later. It has taken time. Hon. Members know my old hobby horse about having too much of an academic education and constantly making those without the obvious academic abilities feel like second-class citizens. They do not get the high grades and the illustrious results and are made to feel failures throughout their education. Tackling that, especially at 14-plus, is something to which the Government have begun to set their hand. It will take time, but it is important that the Government do better. The match of skills and education is important, because they go together and should be considered together.

All of us who care about education are worried that too much emphasis is placed on driving basic standards up—increasing literacy and numeracy—while flair, creativity and imagination can fly out of the window. We must get the balance right.

I disagree strongly with the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough because I believe that performance-related pay, if introduced in the right way, must be right. Performance-related pay works in every other aspect of human endeavour that I know of, so why should teachers be different? I would also like to see performance-related pay—and better pay—in higher education, because if we are to maintain world-class standards in world-class institutions that compete globally, we have to do something radical quickly, before our higher education system is endangered.

Of all the aspects of education I have mentioned, I am most worried about higher education. We have not yet reflected and asked what will be the effects of too much standardisation and too much reliance on the state. We do not allow for diversity and creativity in higher education. They are most important if we are to provide the high-quality intellectuals on whom the nation depends.

I have a wish list. We must be cautious about the sort of pragmatism that always seems to lead to the private sector being invited in. Yes, the private sector can do a good job, but the expertise in the private sector is thinly spread and there are few firms around. Why cannot we build on the idea of the public sector producing superb administrators who are also managers who know education at a fundamental level? We could have a corps—a concept familiar in France and some other countries—from the public sector, with a good managerial ethos, to do the job.

We must ensure that we develop a methodology for breaking into the culture of low expectations in education. What strikes me from all the literature that I have read since becoming Chairman of the Education and Employment Committee is the lack of success with parents and how few parents we get through to and engage. I hate it when people say, "Well, parents do not turn up to the annual meeting." We have to have a strategy that engages parents and the home situation if we are to build on some of the fine work that we have done in early-years education. I have tried to bring some balance to the debate. There are some ticks and some crosses and some must-do-betters on the Government's record, but that is true of any Government.

5.48 pm
Mr. Stephen Dorrell (Charnwood)

The central charge against the Secretary of State is simple. For three years, we have had relentless activism. He has abolished grant-maintained schools, he has introduced measures that threaten the future of grammar schools, he has reasserted the comprehensive theory and he has abolished the assisted places scheme. He has done a whole host of things, but the one thing that he has not done is reform the one aspect of the administration and structure of our school system that cries out for reform. That is the system of funding individual schools in such a way as to give sufficient freedom to the heads and the teachers to meet the needs of the local communities the schools are there to serve.

Our funding system for individual schools is hopelessly opaque and is, in many cases, entirely perverse in its consequences. It allows Ministers to make decisions for whose effect they do not have to accept responsibility because the machinery is so complex that they understand it no more than do teachers or parents.

I am pleased to say that the chief inspector of schools made it clear in this year's annual report that he largely agreed with that analysis. He wrote: We do not, as yet, have a transparent and educationally defensible mechanism for the equitable devolution of resources from central government to LEAs and from LEAs to schools. We should. I wholeheartedly agree. First, it is essential to the delivery of high-quality education that we understand where responsibility lies in the system. Secondly, and more broadly, in a democracy it is fundamental that people should know what is done in their name with their money, and why. The problem with the present system is that Ministers never come to the Dispatch Box and defend, at the level of individual institutions, the decisions that they make.

Earlier, the Secretary of State noted that the present SSA funding system was the creation of the previous Government. That is true, historically, although it is also true that the SSA system is a close cousin of the system of rate support grants that preceded it. The present system grew up under Governments of both major parties over many years. We shall not make progress on this fundamental matter by seeking to score party political points. I want Ministers to come to the Dispatch Box and accept responsibility for introducing a fundamental reform of a system whose time has long since passed.

I shall illustrate my argument from the local perspective of a Leicestershire Member of Parliament. People in Leicestershire do not need to understand the elaborate algebra of the formula to understand the stark consequences of that formula in their county. My hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) mentioned the Government's SSA recommendations for Leicestershire county council. I invite my constituents—and the House—to compare what would happen in Leicestershire if those recommendations were adopted, with the circumstances of the not dissimilar authority of East Sussex.

I do not doubt that East Sussex faces its own problems with funding for schools, but it enjoys relatively more generous SSAs than Leicestershire. The last time that I visited East Sussex, it did not feel like a county in immediate need of regional assistance, but the computers tell us that the Government believe that education there should cost £270 per pupil per annum more than in Leicestershire. I do not understand that disparity, and I do not expect my constituents to.

However, the comparison with Lambeth is even more stark. I accept that deprived inner-city areas face extra costs in delivering essential social services, but I do not accept that there is anything inherent in the state of Lambeth that means that education provision should cost 75 per cent.—or nearly £2,000—more per pupil there each year than in Leicestershire. I accept the principle that education may cost more in Lambeth, but I certainly do not accept the result that the formula currently determines.

I made it clear earlier that this problem cannot be resolved merely by tweaking the system. We need something that the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) touched on when he intervened on the Secretary of State. I listened to the hon. Gentleman's speech, and I agreed with almost none of it. Indeed, I fundamentally disagreed with the vast majority of what he said—but then, he and I have argued about these matters in Standing Committee for more hours than either of us would have chosen.

However, the hon. Gentleman said that the formula should relate the funding of individual schools to the number of their pupils and to their specific needs. He added that such a formula should be clear, accountable and comprehensible, and I warmly agree with him on both points. However, that proposition was fundamentally at variance with the larger case that he made in his speech, in which he argued for detailed LEA control of how individual schools go about their purposes. From the proposition that resources should flow to schools in a clear and accountable fashion it follows naturally that head teachers, staff and governors should be encouraged to be responsible for the use of resources once they reach a school.

I warmly agree with the ideas advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead for free schools financed by a formula that is clear and accountable. That would give head teachers and governors the confidence that their institutions would be fairly funded. It would also assure parents that their voices mattered in the running of schools. Most important, it would give pupils confidence that the professionals in the education world had the freedom to use resources to meet the needs of pupils in the best way possible.

5.57 pm
Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

I am pleased to be called to speak in this debate, as education is the most important issue in my constituency. I shall begin by saying how delighted everyone in my area was when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State overturned the plan of the Tory county council to close Coleridge community college. That very important secondary school has high standards of educational achievement. It is the only city secondary school to win a mark of approval as most improved school. Its closure would have left one of the most deprived parts of my constituency without a school and without a thriving community centre.

Last Friday, I visited St. Philip's community primary school in Cambridge. I was delighted at the progress that had been made since my visit last year. The 1997 Ofsted report said that St. Philip's was a successful and improving school working in a challenging area of high social need. It is important to understand that, as many people assume that any school in Cambridge is very middle class and in a leafy suburb. There are many schools in my constituency of which that is not true, and it is certainly not true of St. Philip's. Of its pupils, 43 per cent. are entitled to free school meals, 10 per cent. do not have English as their first language, and 21 per cent. are from ethnic minority backgrounds and speak two languages.

On both my visits to the school I was greeted by polite, well-behaved children determined to be helpful. They displayed enthusiasm for, and pride in, their school. The head teacher, Jill Pauling, showed me the building programme made possible by the additional money to reduce infant class sizes. The percentage of infant class children in Cambridge being taught in classes of 30 or more has fallen from 37 per cent. when this Government came into office to 7 per cent. now. That is thanks to the money made available by the Government.

I saw small groups of under-achievers being given tuition, with money from the standards fund, to bring them up to a higher standard. Children told me that they enjoyed the literacy strategy and the numeracy strategy. I was amazed that they understood those words, but they used them with confidence. One boy told me about his achievement levels in the different subject areas.

I also saw an adult literacy class going on in daytime school hours. One young mum, who had two children at the school, told me how she was taking GCSE English and enjoying it as she had never enjoyed learning when she was at school. These are remarkable achievements in a school in a deprived part of the city that does not have the advantage of many well-off, better-educated parents. I take this opportunity publicly to congratulate the head teacher on the excellence that she has created.

Most of the unhappiness in Cambridge centres on the funding formula. Neighbouring local education authorities in Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire have much more generous allocations than Cambridgeshire. For primary schools, the standard spending assessment per pupil for the year 2000–01 is £77 more in Bedfordshire, £128 more in Essex and £161 more in Hertfordshire. For secondary school pupils, the corresponding differences are £117, £182 and £206. It is important to place those figures on the record, because the Liberal Democrats in my constituency are very fond of sending out newsletters and leaflets which exaggerate those figures grossly. They are quite large, but the figures issued by the Liberal Democrats bear no relation to reality.

If these differences are reflected in school budgets, a secondary school with 1,000 pupils in Hertfordshire will have £200,000 a year more to spend than a similar school in Cambridgeshire. That will mean six or seven more teachers and more money for books and equipment. Those differences are very hard to explain to parents.

I am interested in the barrage of complaints from Tory Members. They have the cheek to complain about a funding formula which they put in place and which they totally failed to reform in the following seven years of their term of office. Every year since I was elected in 1992, I have been to see the Minister responsible for local government about the reform of the area cost adjustment. I started with the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) in 1992, through to the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) in 1996. Every year I was told that it was being reviewed, but those reviews never led to reform.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Campbell

I am sorry, but I have limited time and, tempted as I am, I am not prepared to give way.

Now that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and the Regions is in charge of the process, I am confident, from my many conversations with her on the subject, that the review will lead to proposals that can be agreed. May I stress to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that it is essential that when the review is completed, they should make it clear that it must be acted on? We simply cannot afford to dash expectations which were dashed so many times by the previous Government.

In the past few months, I have asked many parliamentary questions to determine Cambridgeshire's position in the funding league. I have discovered that Cambridgeshire schools have seen increases in the SSA per pupil in real terms since the Government came to power. According to a parliamentary question answered on 20 December 1999 by my right hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards, the SSA per pupil in Cambridgeshire was £2,578 in 1992–93. Throughout the remaining Tory years, it plunged year on year to a low of £2,464—£114 lower than at the beginning of the Tory Government. That was the figure that this Government inherited in 1997–98. Since then, there has been a steady increase, and the figure will be £2,591 per pupil. That is higher than it ever was in the Tory years.

Yet Tory Members of Parliament and county councillors continue to criticise, and to blame the Government for their own ineptitude. What has changed is the amount of cash by which Cambridgeshire county council tops up the SSA for education. The hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) said that Cambridgeshire spends more than its SSA. Yes, it does—it is spending around £4.8 million more than its SSA this year. However, in 1995–96, when Cambridgeshire was controlled by a Labour-Liberal Democrat administration, and we had a Tory Government, the top-up was £15 million—a great deal more. We have lost £10 million in that period.

This is the first year that the Tory county council has passed on the full increase in education SSA to the education budget, so schools in Cambridgeshire should see their financial situation eased somewhat in the coming year.

We have heard a great deal in the past few months about how the Tories intend to reduce the share of national income taken in tax. We have heard nothing from them about how they intend to continue increasing education spending in line with our increases. Given that the previous shadow Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), described our spending plans as reckless, mad and a mistake, do we take it that the current shadow Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo), shares that view? If the Tories were ever returned to power, would we see a steep drop in the real-terms funding of schools such as we saw in 1992 to 1997, which resulted in a 4.5 per cent. drop in Cambridgeshire? Parents need to know the answers to those questions, which are vital to our children's future.

Finally, no one so far has mentioned the vital issue of further education. Last Friday, I visited the Cambridge regional college, a medium-to-large further education collection in my constituency, which achieves very high standards. Like the two sixth-form colleges in Cambridge, the college has a number of Oxbridge entries each year, but it also provides a wide range of vocational as well as academic courses. The college principal, Ann Limb, told me how much they were looking forward to the vocational A-levels. She warmly welcomes the reforms to further education and training that have been introduced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

There is a great deal to celebrate; I know that there is also a great deal to be done. I think that we have made a huge amount of progress, and I look forward to seeing more improvements in future.

6.6 pm

Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon)

The epic journey of hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) through the area cost adjustment suffered a somewhat truncated conclusion. I seem to recall the Labour party in opposition saying that it would solve it in its first year of office, then in its second year, and now it has been frozen to the whole of the Government's term. I hope that the hon. Lady will continue to address her concerns, this time to a place where there is the ability to answer them, although of course Ministers no longer receive delegations on any local government matter. They are hiding behind the iceberg. As I have said, the area cost adjustment is like the north-west passage—at the end of the day, it does not exist. I shall look forward to seeing how the Government try to get out of it.

I may be unique in this debate, as I do not intend to speak about finance. I hope that the House does not believe that all education problems boil down to finance. It is true that some problems can be made easier if we throw money at them. However, money is irrelevant to the problem in my constituency. I refer to the ballot that is taking place on the future of the two secondary schools. I insist that it is about the two secondary schools in my constituency, not just about the grammar school.

I do not want to talk about the substance of the issue, which must be decided by the people who are entitled to vote in Ripon—far too few of them, as a matter of fact—but I do want to talk about the mechanics. If the Government had wanted to invite parents to decide on the future of grammar schools, they should have required every local education authority in which selective schools exist to draw up a plan of reorganisation. They should then have submitted that plan of reorganisation to a ballot of parents so that they could choose between clear alternatives. The Government have succeeded, remarkably, in making everyone feel cheated. Those who wish to save the grammar school believe that the ballot is rigged against them. Those who wish to get rid of the grammar school also believe that the ballot is rigged against them. It is not hard to see why.

To cap it all, the issue is very divisive in a small town. I realise that there may be ballots to follow in whole education authority areas, in places such as Kent, Surrey or Buckinghamshire. But in Ripon, which is a small town of 15,000 people, and its immediate hinterland, a ballot that is open for five weeks is divisive to the point where it is almost impossible to speak of it in conversation without being marched to the frontier and expelled. Unfortunately, one would be expelled into the constituency of the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis), a fate that most people wish to avoid at almost any cost.

The mechanics of the matter make it obscure. The choice is not clear. When the ballot was introduced, people assumed that the question would be whether the grammar school, which is on one side of Clotherholme road, and Ripon college, which is on the other, would become a single comprehensive. That, however, is not what the debate is about. North Yorkshire county council, to whose impartiality and fairness I pay tribute, issued a question and answer paper to parents. It asked whether, if the vote was yes—that is, to end selection at the grammar school—that would result in a single comprehensive, and it answered its own question by saying, "Not necessarily."

The council also said that the purpose of the ballot was to alter admission arrangements at the grammar school. Would that mean that parents who wanted their children to go to the reorganised grammar school would be able to do so? The council again said, "Not necessarily." It is small wonder that people feel that they are being asked to choose between the known and the unknown. There is no clear choice.

I suppose that I should be pleased about that because, as I have made clear in the constituency, I believe that people should vote against reorganisation. I should be happier, however, if I felt that the choice was clear and the electorate more representative. There are anomalies in the ballot. The choice is limited to 15 feeder schools—those that sent five people to the grammar school over the previous three years. Which schools fall into or out of that category is almost accidental. Had the ballot been held earlier, parents at Borobridge primary school, from which a tiny number of pupils go to the grammar school, would have been included, although most parents send their children to Borobridge high school, an extremely good comprehensive whose strong sixth form I helped to obtain when the school was in my constituency. Most of those parents have no interest, other than neighbourly feeling, in what happens in Ripon, but they would have been enfranchised.

A further anomaly is that two of the schools in Ripon have infant schools that are constitutionally separate from the junior schools to which they belong. In practice, the distinction is tiny, but parents with children at Holy Trinity and Moorside infant schools do not have a vote. If their children were at the infant schools attached to the Cathedral school, they would have a vote. Once again, the electorate is nominated under entirely perverse arrangements. Three independent schools are able to vote. Under the system chosen by the Government, it is logical that they should be able to vote, because they meet the criteria. However, at least some of the parents will have not the faintest interest in education in Ripon.

The worst thing of all is that anyone with a child in the final year of a feeder primary school can vote on the future of the two secondary schools. However, anyone with a child in the first year of either of the secondary schools—a child with up to seven years of education ahead—is not entitled to vote. I want parents of children at both secondary schools to have a vote. I do not want to confine it to those at the grammar school; that would be unfair. All parents should have the opportunity.

If the vote is for change, it is definitive. However, if the vote goes against change, there could be another in five years' time. I am not sure that head teachers should have to survive the same uncertainty as politicians, looking constantly towards the possibility of challenge. If the vote is for change, we will all work to make the best we can of it. We shall certainly try to ensure that the technology college status achieved by Ripon college, with which everyone is delighted—I am grateful to the Minister for School Standards, who was highly supportive and who understands the importance of that status to Ripon—will carry over to the new school. However, if the no vote wins, we will focus on the college's progress so that it can become a school proud of offering a distinctive and first-rate education. The colossal progress that it has maintained under its head teacher, Paul Lowery, should be continued.

Matters remain to be checked. In the selection system, the appeals procedure in North Yorkshire is not impeccable, and it should be revised. We should revise constantly to ensure that the constellation of schools in the area offers the best possible education. We are focusing increasingly on what goes on inside schools and on the quality of education internally generated rather than externally imposed by a Government apparently determined to Bonapartise education with Napoleonic prescriptions. The Government must decide whether they truly believe in internal dynamism arising from the quality of the head teacher and staff, which will generate an ability to improve performance and competitiveness in a school.

There is a choice to be made, but the Government are trying to take both options, leaving schools confused. I hope that the issue will be resolved in Ripon, and that lessons will be drawn elsewhere. I hope that we may have an opportunity to develop a partnership of schools of equal but different excellence. The Government must reflect on the sheer perversity of the arrangements in place. They must see why so many parents think that the system is perverse in its mechanics but definitive in its outcome. If the wrong choice is made this time, there is no going back. If a different choice is made, uncertainty may continue ad infinitum, and that would be wrong.

6.16 pm
Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South)

A clear pattern is developing in Opposition motions. We might call it the Rip van Winkle theory of politics, which allows the Opposition to pretend to have been asleep for 20 years and, having awoken, to see only education today, and not the system that the previous Government left behind. I am disinclined to let them get away with that. We should remember where we came from on education policy. In primary and secondary education, we inherited: underfunding; sterile competition between schools; inequities between grant-maintained schools and others; falling standards in basic subjects; and assisted and overfunded pet minority projects, such as the assisted places scheme and the city technology colleges.

In further education, we inherited: continued cuts; large and impossible efficiency targets; lack of supervision in many cases; and falling standards. In higher education, there was a sense of drift compounded only by what one commentator called the fit of absent-mindedness with which the Conservative Government expanded HE while doing nothing to fund it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to the fact that, between 1989 and 1997, investment in HE was cut by 36 per cent.

Teachers were battered and demoralised by a continuous stream of denigration and competing instructions throughout that period. The hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) stood before us earlier arrayed in scarlet—appropriate dress for one whose speech about teachers was the biggest masquerade since the wolf put on a cloak and pretended to be Red Riding Hood's granny.

I think that it was Winston Churchill who said that there was no point in Britannia's ruling the waves if we could not flush the drains. Today, after nearly three years of Labour Government, 95 per cent. of our secondary schools and 60 per cent. of primary schools are on the internet. The Tories left many schools with a top priority of removing asbestos and outside loos, about which their Government did absolutely nothing.

When we talk of excellence in education, we talk of raising standards, but we also mean widening access and social inclusion. I venture to suggest that we have got the basics right on standards. The literacy figures for 1999, which are up by 5 per cent. for 11-year-olds, the figures for mathematics, which are up by 10 per cent., and the GCSE improvements are testimony to that.

It is not just a question of quantity; we also need to achieve quality. The Government have introduced the new General Teaching Council. Recently, my colleagues on the Select Committee and I interviewed Lord Puttnam and were enormously impressed by such an inspiring and thoughtful choice. We have set up the national college for school leadership. Our targets for primary and nursery teachers have been raised significantly.

We said that we would make improvements in quality and we have done so through the education action zones. We have taken firm steps through the excellence in cities programme. Our A-level reforms will enable us to meet the vocational needs and the demands of globalisation that were neglected by the previous Conservative Government. We have allocated £5.5 billion to school repairs—the bread and butter matters. None of those points was addressed by the previous Government.

Let us talk about access. There is a new educational maintenance allowance. There are new proposals for the post-16 sector. We have made the most generous settlement for years in further education. My right hon. Friend has just announced that there will be £68 million of extra help for mature students. That is a valuable part of our programme.

We are taking each segment that was systematically neglected by the Conservatives and dealing with it—special educational needs; education for people with disabilities; the new deal for single mothers. The new learning and skills councils and our focus on universities will give a strength of direction that was sorely lacking under the previous Government.

The Labour Government pursue a joined-up education policy. That is why we introduced sure start, the early-years partnerships and the connections initiative—a holistic strategy for a proper youth service. We are looking at individuals and not only at output numbers—as the previous Government would have done. The results of our mentoring programmes and the initiatives to cut truancy and social exclusion are increasingly becoming apparent.

We are setting exacting targets, which are being met. Only 10 days ago, it was noted in an OECD report that:

The UK was the only country to come out well on all ten recommendations from a joint report by employers' organisations across seven European countries. I am not making these points merely because I have seen them at macro-level. In my constituency, I have seen the success of the summer schools and the family learning centres that the education authority has set up with money from the standards fund. I observed the significant reductions in class sizes, and the good response to our sure start project on the Mereside estate. I have seen how the Government and Ofsted—in response to feelers put out by the Select Committee—are tackling mobility. I have seen Blackpool and Fylde further education college and Woodlands special school receive commendation and beacon status from the Government.

It is hardly surprising that there should be a difference in the performances of Labour and Conservative Governments. It results from the philosophical divide on education that has always existed between the left and the right. For us, the issue is education for the many— about collaboration and raising expectations. For the Conservatives, it has all too often been about education for the few. It is about cut-throat competition and a narrow hierarchical approach that puts people down—setting up a sheep and goats system, often ending in education paralysis. The Tories have too often been happiest with the mushroom theory in education—as they have in democracy. Parliamentary language forbids me to explore that theme further.

Labour Governments introduced the Open university and the university for industry. All too often, the Tories have abandoned the bipartisanship of the Education Act 1944. Our view of education threatens the deference, the prejudice and intolerance that have often characterised Conservative views and policies. I am not entirely surprised that some of their backwoodsmen are so comfortable in embracing the bigots' charter of section 28.

Even when the Tories take education on board, they treat it as narrow, repetitive training. They have not acknowledged it to be an empowering aspect of life, as we have done. In government, the Tories produced a stream of unlinked initiatives, which were underfunded on the basis that the market would solve all. In opposition, they demonstrate a sense of atavistic frustration and genuine bewilderment about where to go. A few weeks ago The Times Higher Educational Supplement reported:

Conservatives have cancelled a long-awaited announcement on higher education policy because it would have been 'premature'. How, one wonders, can an announcement scheduled weeks ago for next Tuesday, suddenly be deemed premature? After all, the party has had close to three years, since the last election, to come up with a higher education policy. Neither in theory nor in practice have we fallen for the false antitheses proposed by the Conservatives. The question is not between whether there should be excellence and access in education or education that provides economic utility. Education should do all three. In a globalised world, we need all three. Over the past three years, our Government have shown that our motto for the national health service—"From the cradle to the grave"—should also be applied to education and education strategy.

We have a far broader social purpose for education than could ever be dreamed of by the Conservatives. That is why we are allocating funding and working with teachers and parents. That is why we shall deliver a system of education that is second to none.

6.26 pm
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

I have declared an interest in the register, which includes two modest, unpaid contributions to the world of higher education.

The Government say one thing and do another. We have seen that in so many fields. My hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) has shown admirably how the Government have misled the British people over money for our schools—for our children's future and for our education. My hon. Friend and I know that well because the Wokingham local education authority, which covers parts of both our constituencies, is one of the worst affected. Over the past two and a half years, we have received the meanest of settlements from the Government. There is no relief in sight. Our schools have been put under far too much pressure. There is not enough money for books, nor for all the teachers that they need. It is a disgrace and it is no wonder that we all feel let down.

However, I shall not concentrate on money—others have been extremely eloquent on that subject. Education matters enormously. It is the means through which children from less privileged backgrounds or from families with lower incomes can get on in the world. They can make progress and see that there is a much better world that can stretch their imaginations and, yes, it can even provide them with better jobs and fill their wallets and bank accounts.

I was one such child, who was grateful for the opportunity given to me by a free place to a direct grant school. It meant that I could attend a school that was well beyond the dreams of my parents—they could not have afforded that school place. I and many like me benefited from that and went on to university. Look what followed—I even got into the shadow Cabinet. Then I rode on the great roller-coaster of life in this place—as we saw two or three weeks ago. I would not want to take such an opportunity away from others who come from the same background as me. It can be good fun and good for the soul. I hope that the Government will think again about assisted places—the modern equivalent of the direct-grant free place from which I benefited.

Of course, a previous Labour Government destroyed those direct grant places. That meant that my school had to become fee paying only; it can now only take children whose parents can afford to pay. That is a shame. It is an even greater pity that many children who, only three or four years ago, could have taken advantage of our assisted places scheme find that it has been taken away from them.

If the Government needed more money for more teachers for other schools—there was a case for that—why not find the extra money? Why not save on the glossy brochures and the published lectures of the Secretary of State and allocate the money for extra teachers? Why not find the money from elsewhere—from the quangos and the regional governments that they are setting up? We should have preferred to see teachers in our schools.

It is also a sign of the times that there have been so many rows in the Labour party about a good school such as the London Oratory. I do not wish to go into the details of all the pupils who attend the school, but Labour Members know that there are children who benefit from such a school. Is it not a sad fact of life that now parents at the Oratory are being asked to make a monthly contribution to top up the school's cash because their Labour Government have cheated that school of the money? I believe that it, too, is a good school. It deserves the extra money. Why cannot the mean-minded Labour Government find that money, if for no other reason than to cover the embarrassment of some of the parents caught up in that educational problem?

I also have a word for my hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead. As she knows, I am a strong supporter of her idea of a free school. I believe that, through the free school, we can recapture some of the excellence of the direct grant school, and we can capture some of the excellence to which children had access as a result of the assisted place and some of the excellence that we were getting through the grant-maintained schools, which have been so needlessly and recklessly thrown away, now that their money has been cut, too. However, I hope that, as my hon. Friend develops the policies, she will ensure that several things are part of the scheme.

First, we would not wish to end up nationalising the schools and giving the Department for Education and Employment too much power to fiddle with the schools, to intervene and to meddle too much or too often with the money formula. The schools must be given that independence and they must be able to use it in the certain knowledge that the money will come every year and that they will not have to perform good works or tricks, in the way that they have to for this Government, to qualify for the cash that they obviously need for their progress.

Secondly, we must guarantee that free schools are given every encouragement to expand when they are doing well. When I was responsible for education in Wales, I launched an initiative called popular schools, the idea of which was to offer the money, especially for new buildings, but also for the extra teachers and personnel that would be needed, so that, when a school was doing well and parents wanted to send their children to it, the money was available to add on the extra classroom or classrooms to provide the extra facilities so that more places could be provided. I hope that my hon. Friend will consider that scheme, or a variant of it, and add it to her free schools, because I believe that it will be the magic ingredient that causes many more parents' dreams to come true.

One of the saddest times of year in my constituency, and probably in many others, is the time of year when parents are trying to get their children into the school of their choice but discover that there are not enough places at that school. No wonder parents want to choose, given the enormous scatter of performance even among schools serving a very similar catchment area. In my part of the world, a child who attends the worst-performing school has only a two in five chance of getting five A to C grades at GCSE, which is the bare minimum to allow them to go on to some other advantage in education; whereas a child who attends the best-performing comprehensive school—we have grammars that take some of the brightest pupils—has a four in five chance of getting those five A to C grades. The second child's chances are doubled. The school gets no more money than the school that performs badly. No wonder parents want to exercise their choice.

How sad it is that we cannot get enough money to expand the really good, popular school, so that more parents can have that advantage for their children. One should not have to enter a lottery based on postcode and address in order to get a good education for one's child. If the Government do not know how to sort out the badly performing schools, let us launch an expanded free school scheme that gives parents the hope that, under a Conservative Government, they would be able to choose and their choice would be translated into action.

It is most important that this Conservative Opposition show how much they care about education, how much many of us have benefited from it and why we want those benefits for others. We must expose the humbug of 13 members of the Labour Cabinet to date who attended grammar schools and now, by stealth, are trying to destroy those schools and take that choice away so that others cannot follow after them.

We must stand for excellence. We must stand for choice. We must stand for proper money for those schools. We must stand for parents having more control over their children's lives as pupils. That is what free schools can do. That is what the Government's failed education policies cannot possibly do. I plead with Ministers to change their minds before more children from modest backgrounds find that they cannot get the lucky break in life.

6.35 pm
Liz Blackman (Erewash)

I confess that I have not read the education chapter of "The Common Sense Revolution" by the Conservative party, because I do not see the two as synonymous. I also confess that the Opposition's diatribe this afternoon about Government spending caught me by surprise, but it will cut no ice in my constituency, where we have smaller classes, new classrooms, mended roofs and a much better provision of education.

I was not at all surprised by—in fact, I entirely expected—the sterile arguments on selection, structure and status as means of raising educational standards. They are bygone arguments, they are bogus assertions and in 1997 the electorate voted against them.

All parents want the best for their children, and that includes the best education. They want results; they want standards to be raised. The Opposition motion is not about results, standards or achievement, but it jolly well should have been. I do not recall the Opposition using the words "standard" or "comprehensive" more than once or twice in the Chamber this afternoon. That is a disgrace, because it is what the education system should provide—the raising of standards for all our children.

I spent part of the weekend studying the reports by the chief inspector of schools and making some useful comparisons. I compared the report for 1996–97, which effectively was the last year when Tory education policies prevailed, and the most recent annual report available. The information is not surprising, but it is very pleasing. The quality of teaching has risen in a record number of schools since that time, across all key stages. There are fewer unsatisfactory schools and far more good schools and very good schools in that category.

Teachers have been judged on knowledge and understanding, pupil management, planning, use of time and resources, methods and organisation, expectations, homework and quality of assessment—the bread and butter of teachers—and standards have been driven up considerably since the last year of Tory government.

Information has been broken down into subject and progress across key stages. Very good or good progress is now being made across virtually every subject in a far higher percentage of schools.

I make no apology for returning to key stage results—notably key stage 2 results, where there has been a sharp rise in pupil achievement, especially in maths and English. The chief inspector of schools said:

In that the drive to raise standards depends above all else on raising standards in the basic skills, this is a very significant and promising development, which is directly linked to the National Literacy and Numeracy strategies. Many schools started early on those strategies, and I give full praise to the teachers in my constituency and across the country who have achieved these spectacular results. Chris Woodhead attributes the rise in quality of teaching in part to the literacy and numeracy strategies. He says that they are starting to influence other areas of the curriculum, such as science, where the percentage of those hitting level 4 at key stage 2 is up from 62 per cent. to a staggering 78 per cent.

Interestingly, there is little evidence of these strategies undermining standards in other subjects, but that stands to reason: a child who can read and write and is numerate can access other subjects. Most primary schools have a broad, balanced curriculum. I draw attention to both those facts because the Opposition continually allege that education will become unbalanced as a result of the strategies.

The number of schools serving disadvantaged areas and achieving good results has increased. Unsurprisingly, Chris Woodhead makes the point that illiterate and poorly literate children come predominantly from areas of disadvantage, but he adds that the literacy strategy is a real ray of hope in achieving an improvement in results: The key lies in the Primary School. If the Literacy Strategy continues to deliver, we shall at least have a solution to a deeply intractable problem which has resisted every attempt in recent years to find more immediate remedies. No wonder he calls the literacy and numeracy strategy value for money. When it is combined with targeted strategies in areas of disadvantage, excellence in cities, educational action zones—he says that they may have a profound effect—sure start and the new deal for communities, the cycle of under-achievement, especially in areas of social and economic disadvantage, should at last be broken.

I refer briefly to key stage 3 results, which a colleague mentioned earlier. Those results are slightly more erratic, but Chris Woodhead confirms the need to build better foundations in literacy and numeracy at primary level. Of course, the key stage 3 cohort has no exposure to the strategies that are now in place. In part, that probably explains the erratic nature of the results.

It cannot be said often enough that two fifths of 11-year-olds were not achieving level 4 when the Tories left office in 1997. Given Chris Woodhead's positive comments about the current strategy and the striking key stage 2 results, why was that strategy not adopted in the 18 years of the Tory Government? Why were so many children failed? Why were so many children unable to access the curriculum? Why were those children more likely to play truant—or allowed to? Why were so few of them unable to obtain GCSE passes, and why were so many of them unemployed or unemployable?

Although I spoke in the previous debate on education, I also tried to intervene then on the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May). I wanted to ask her whether she intended to mention the literacy and numeracy strategy. I was not able to intervene, but she did not mention it and she has not mentioned it today. That is significant. After 18 years of Tory rule, Conservative Members should apologise for the two fifths of children who went through school without learning the basic skills to enable them to make their way.

There was no excuse for not putting in place a national literacy and numeracy strategy. There is no hiding place and there is no answer other than that Conservative Members failed to recognise the need for all to obtain and develop core skills. It is no good their hiding behind local education authorities; it is no good talking about trendy lefty reading methods. They were the Government for 18 years and they had a strategic responsibility to serve all our children. They failed miserably.

I refer now to the quality of teaching. Good education can be delivered only by good teaching methods. The vehicle is quality teaching, and that ensures quality learning. The trend unfortunately thus far has been for good teachers, who have the skills and the expertise to improve their children's learning, to move swiftly out of the classroom and into the management structure. That is how they raise their pay. It is therefore absolutely right to introduce performance-related pay. We have to attract, retain and reward good quality teachers, because only through their commitment and skill will standards continue to rise and our children continue to succeed.

The pay rise of 3.3 per cent. this year was much welcomed by the teaching profession. It is 1.5 per cent. above the rate of inflation. I have no problem with asking teachers to be assessed so as to go through the threshold to achieve, in the first instance, £2,000. We are not asking teachers to do more than what most of them who are good teachers are doing already. We are simply asking them to have their skills verified. Is it outrageous to ask them to submit to assessment—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)

Order. I call the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway).

6.45 pm
Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

One of the interesting features of the debate is that anyone who has listened to it would get the impression from Labour Members that, until 1997, everything was a disaster and that, since 1997, everything has been wonderful.

The most telling point came when my hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) intervened on the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis), and asked which of the Conservative Government's policies he regretted had been introduced. My hon. Friend mentioned the national curriculum, standard assessment tests and Ofsted. It was revealing that, for all the hon. Gentleman's bluster, he did not oppose any of them. The same is probably true of every Labour Member. Although they opposed those fundamental reforms when they were introduced by the Conservative Government, not one of them has said that they oppose them now.

I wish to refer to a constituency case. I do not know who said that all politics is local, but a small illustration gives the feel of what is going on in the Government's attempts to implement their pledge to keep class sizes in infant and primary schools down to 30.

Woodcote infant school in my constituency is a feeder school for the local junior and high school. It is in a delightful location on the north downs, and it is important for its environment. It has a playground on the one side and a little grassy strip on which children can play on the other. Until September 1999, like most infant schools, it had three years—a reception year, a year 1 and a year 2. There were two classes for each year, making a total of six classes. Those six classes were housed in seven classrooms, one of which was used as a library and for group work.

The crime that Woodcote infant school committed was that each class had, on average, 33 or 34 pupils. I am glad that the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Croydon, North (Mr. Wicks), is present, because he knows the school well. The important point is that each class had not just a teacher, but a classroom support assistant, so that there were two adults in every classroom. Its standards were impeccable. It had a 100 per cent. record in English, mathematics and science tests. That, in itself, demonstrates that class sizes are not a key determinant.

Since September 1999, as a result of the Government's endeavours to implement their election pledge to keep class sizes down to 30, everything has changed in the school. The reception year was obliged to take on an extra class, and it follows that in successive years there will be an extra class in years 1 and 2 as well. Three new classrooms are needed. Nothing has been received from the Government or the local council for year 1, and the staff have been obliged to put the extra class in the library. The school, therefore, has lost its library and storage facility.

That is okay for year 1, but back in September, the school still needed two more classrooms. Yet here we are at the end of February and outline plans have only just been submitted and those plans are inadequate. First, Croydon council has reneged on its pledge to replace the outside huts and to have proper classrooms; and of the three options available, it has, unsurprisingly, chosen the cheapest. However, that option is utterly inadequate, environmentally damaging and disruptive. It has been chosen because of a shortage of funds from the Department for Education and Employment and Croydon council's refusal to put a penny into implementing the Labour party's policies.

A classroom block will be built on the playground, and the grass strip that was used for sporting facilities will be turned into tarmac. That is the bare minimum of what must be done—it will create three rooms for three classrooms. There is no cover, so if it rains the children will get wet. There is no decent play area and no extra storage. The assembly hall, which can house the entire school at present, will not be able to accommodate all the extra children, and there will be no library.

Worst of all, the school's expansion means that there is no guarantee that there will be class support assistants in every classroom, so the Government's endeavours to implement their pledge mean that the school will go from having two adults in every class and a 100 per cent. record in exams, to a worse ratio of pupils to adults. Standards will be at risk, and my guess is that the 100 per cent. record will go.

As a result of a political pledge, the Government will be £400,000 worse off; the pleasant environment of the school will be ruined; and standards will be put at risk. At the same time, Croydon council, which has refused to indulge in proper forward planning or to put any money into the school, is spending £150,000 refurbishing the bureaucrats' offices in the town hall. This is not only a disaster for local schools: it is a scandal beyond belief.

6.51 pm
Valerie Davey (Bristol, West)

After the theory and rhetoric of Conservative Members, I, like the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), would like to focus on local schools to demonstrate that life in the education world has certainly changed since 1997.

During the last year of Tory Government, £4.4 million went to subsidising private schools in Bristol every year. At the same time, the local authority was seeking to make cuts of £6 million. The right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) seemed to want justice and fair funding for pupils at different schools. I can assure him that the assisted places scheme paid out two or three times as much per pupil as the local educational authority funding in the same city. That was certainly not fair or just.

The money went to the few, not the many, and our use of that money as the core of funding to ensure that every young person starts school in a smaller class is demonstrably fairer. Every child deserves a fair start, and in Bristol, numbers in early years classes are falling and the quality of education is therefore improving.

I assure the House that the two remaining grammar schools in Bristol will open as comprehensives this September. Why? It is because none of the parents, staff or governors at the schools objected to the change. The previous Secretary of State had turned down the proposal, but it is what the communities wanted, and I was therefore delighted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was able to sign those orders, and the two schools will go forward with a completely different character.

Cotham grammar school is to become Cotham school, with a special status for performing arts. To get that status, the school has collaborated with the feeder schools, the Old Vic theatre school, the BBC, and other secondary schools in the city, and all of them will benefit. The school will no longer be exclusive; it will be wide-ranging and collaborative. The other school, which is largely multicultural and very lively, is looking with other schools to form an education action zone in the centre of Bristol. That is a progressive development for those former grammar schools, and it is to the advantage of many more young people than simply those within the walls of the schools in question.

The literacy hour was pioneered by primary schools in Bristol, and as a result they have seen standards rise well above the national average. Other schools are now pioneering the numeracy hour, and we are beginning to see the same effect.

Sure start, with the early-years excellence centre, is also coming to Bristol. The city has a long tradition of early-years education, going back to the period after the war when the first nursery nurses college was set up in Bristol, and to have the new centre bringing together social services and education provision is particularly significant. That is happening in a deprived area, and the centre is a flagship for such work. We are seeking to bid for a second centre, with a great deal of encouragement from the Department for Education and Employment. Provision for the early-years work in Bristol was made by previous Labour-controlled authorities, despite the cut in funding, because they recognised its importance and value.

On the subject of LEA funding, Bristol is anticipating freezing the rise for the third year running, but all the funding given by the Government for education has been spent on education. In the coming year, it looks as though we shall delegate to schools £174 per pupil more than the national average. That can be done, and it is being done by a Labour-controlled authority.

In Tory-controlled North Somerset, where there is to be a 4.5 per cent. council tax rise, there will be a significant cut in education funding, so that money will not be funded through to the schools. That causes concern, because the local authority has taken part in one of the education action zones and received extra funding for that. One must question whether it has taken funding from one hand of the Government and is refusing to spend money from the other.

Bristol's LEA is doing a good job, although there is much more to do. In further education, where the need of so many young people to have a second chance has been demonstrated, the City of Bristol college has set up a drop-in centre in the centre of the city. People can drop in from 7 o'clock in the morning until 10 o'clock at night to use various types of information technology. The centre caters for a range of people, from those who are picking up a mouse for the first time to those who want to use digital technology to do degree work or to use video conferencing linked with the university of the West of England. That resource is a fine example of what can be done through collaboration.

Before the end of the year, we hope that there will be new buildings for the college in the city centre, near the harbourside, the reference library, the new millennium science projects and the new millennium natural history centre. I assure the House that the college will be a centre of excellence not only for Bristol but for the surrounding area.

I must mention also the three universities that serve the community. All are beginning, perhaps a little more slowly than I would like, to consider the ways in which universities can, as they do in America, demonstrably support secondary education, not only so that more sixth formers will go to university, but so that youngsters of 13 and 14 get a flavour, through the summer schools that we have been pioneering, of what it would be like to go to university. University staff experience the excitement of eager 13 and 14-year-olds, whose imaginations they can capture. All that excellent work is under way.

There has been a transformation since 1997, but—I must add a "but"—we have still not yet achieved all that we would like to achieve at secondary level and in inner-city schools. We have taken positive steps, but all city schools have to be challenged and supported.

The IT provision that many schools now have is exciting, and we have done excellent work through special schools, such as the one in my constituency which I mentioned. However, I want there to be a special school for languages in Bristol, and I want to encourage primary schools to specialise. I have heard of primary schools in which bilingual children are encouraged to develop their special language skills. At that age, youngsters have a flair for language; rather than waiting to enter secondary school and reach the age of 14, 15 or 16 before taking on a second or a third language, they can benefit from the superb practice of some of our city primary schools. When some mentors came to one of my local schools to offer help with reading in English, I told them—fairly tactfully, but fairly bluntly—that the children at the school could already read in English, Punjabi, Arabic and Swahili. We have an opportunity to encourage the work that such schools are doing and to make people see that children being bilingual at primary school should be celebrated, not regarded as a problem—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but there is a 10-minute limit on speeches.

7.1 pm

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak in such an excellent debate, kicked off so splendidly by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May). I do not have time to go through the 15 failures of the Government's education policy that she listed so eloquently, but I should like to comment on certain issues.

University students have been let down. The Government always promised that they would increase funding per capita, but they have instead cut it. To add insult to injury, not only are they reducing funding per capita for students, but they are taking £1,000 a year off students in the form of tuition fees. Students are paying more but getting less. That the Government are pocketing the tuition fee money and not guaranteeing that it will go directly to the university concerned is a great shame and it will damage the progress that universities should be making. The Government are considering the possibility of uncapping tuition fees, so people might have to pay £10,000 or £15,000 a year to attend a British university. If the Government do that, will they guarantee that that money will go to the universities at which the students study?

The House will be disappointed if I do not refer to the selective education system in the borough of Trafford, as it is affected by the current grammar school ballot. I see that the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) looks forward to my remarks. Had he addressed this issue, I would have intervened to ask him to explain why his robust opposition to the grammar school system is not shared by Liberal Democrats in my constituency, who put a leaflet through my door saying that grammar schools are excellent schools that should be left alone to prosper, without interference from the Government's rigged ballot system that is threatening them all. Liberal Democrat policy can be one thing in one place, and another somewhere else, just as the Government say one thing and do another.

The record of the education system in Trafford is one of almost unparalleled success in a mixed local authority area, ranging from affluent communities to fairly poor ones. Through grammar schools, secondary schools and high schools, our education system delivers excellent opportunities and excellent results for children whatever their social background. That all that is threatened by the Government's actions is a great tragedy. I am pleased to echo my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who spoke so cogently about the terrible assault that the Labour Government have launched on the opportunities of ordinary children who do not have money to pay for their education.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) said, the quality of all of the schools in our areas, not only the grammar schools, is threatened. I represent a constituency that has seven excellent grammar schools and excellent high schools. The Government have recognised one of those high schools as a beacon school and I hope that at least one of the others will follow suit before too long. The Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic school in my constituency has just had an outstanding Ofsted report. Our schools, both grammar and high schools, are delivering excellence in education. The record adjusted to take account of the number of children who receive free school meals and ranked by educational performance reveals that, last year, the borough of Trafford would have come seventh in national league tables for GCSE results. That is a creditable performance of which we should be proud. We regularly get the best A-level results in the country, but to do that well at GCSE and to deliver such results in respect of children from the less affluent parts of the borough does special credit to our system.

The petition is proceeding in Trafford and the anti-grammar school campaigners say that it is on course to deliver a ballot, but the whole process is rigged. In the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon, the ballot was rigged by affecting the electorate. In my area, where the ballot is to be a whole-LEA ballot, the system is as rigged as was the Labour London mayoral ballot—

Mr. Curry

And no more successful.

Mr. Brady

Quite right. The Government do not appear to know how to offer people a genuinely free choice: rather than risk a decision that is openly taken, they stack the odds and rig the system.

To suggest in the ballot question on grammar schools that the effect would merely be to ensure that grammar schools are opened to admit all regardless of ability is nonsense, but there is a real danger that such a ruse will mislead parents. As if that were not enough, the ballot rules have been broken by Trinity Church of England high school in Hulme, which five months ago wrote to Trafford parents enclosing literature from the stop the 11-plus campaign. I complained four months ago about that clear breach of the ballot code, but it has taken until now for the Department to rule on the subject. In the Department's letter, the Secretary of State upholds the complaint, but takes no meaningful action; instead, he merely says that the school must write to the parents explaining why he has found that it did the wrong thing—not that the school must write setting out the opposing argument and thereby ensuring that the damage to the possibility of a fair and properly conducted ballot is undone.

Nothing in the Secretary of State's disciplinary action means that the false information given out will be balanced. Even though several parents have received campaigning literature that has been sent out at public expense and can be construed only as an attempt to influence the outcome of the ballot, the Secretary of State is "satisfied" that the school involved did not intend deliberately to breach the legislation, but is persuaded that the intention behind the letter of 28 September was to pass on information, rather than to support a particular side of the argument. I do not have time to read out the leaflet that was sent out, but it is definitely a piece of campaigning literature that no reasonable person could construe as an attempt to inform; on the contrary, it is an attempt to influence the outcome of the ballot. Ministers accept that it was sent out at public expense, bearing the imprint of a state-supported school. It prevents a truly fair ballot proceeding in the borough of Trafford.

If that goes ahead, and if Ministers have their way and the excellent selective education system in Trafford is destroyed, they will have destroyed opportunities not just for the brightest in our community and those who come from the wealthiest parts of the borough, but for everyone, even from the poorest parts of the borough.

7.10 pm
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

This has been a fine debate, characterised by some outstanding contributions, principally those from my right hon. and hon. Friends.

My hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), the shadow Secretary of State, eloquently set the scene with a fearsome denunciation of the Government's failures in the past 33 months. She was followed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell), who highlighted the inequity of the existing funding system and the need for change.

Subsequently, my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), in a thoughtful and measured contribution, which will have commanded respect in all parts of the House, pointed to the success of existing provision in his part of the country and to the dangers of needlessly tinkering with that provision.

Not long afterwards, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) gave a characteristically sparkling speech and an analysis of the education scene that was a veritable tour de force. In the course of that oration, my right hon. Friend pointed to the wisdom of the free schools policy and offered helpful advice for its development. He also explained to the House the benefit that he had derived from his education.

My right hon. Friend is renowned throughout the length and breadth of the land for his natural charm, courtesy and self-effacement, which prevented him from telling the House of the benefit that the country had derived from the magnificent education that he enjoyed. I need no such self-denying ordinance.

Sadly, the dismal failure in the debate was the truly risible speech from the Secretary of State, who sat arrogantly sniggering, sniffing and laughing at anyone who dared to disagree with a smidgen of what he had said or what he was doing. He showed himself guilty of the most gut-wrenching complacency, which will have appalled teachers, head teachers, parents, governors and pupils across the country, who are conscious of the besetting woes of our education system.

The Government's record is appalling. It is a litany of promises broken, trust betrayed and hopes destroyed. We saw once again this afternoon that the Government are insensitive to public concern and that their approach is characterised by shiftiness, a lack of principle and a simple incapacity to engage in straight dealing with regard to education.

Let us consider public expenditure on education. When the Government were in opposition, the then Leader of the Opposition said that over the course of the Parliament, Labour would raise the proportion of gross domestic product spent on education. The simple, irrefutable fact is that by the end of this Parliament, that share will have declined from 5 per cent. bequeathed by the Conservative Government to 4.7 per cent. under the present Government.

Not content with misrepresentation on that score, Ministers seem to delight in exaggerating the increased education expenditure that is planned. They have calculated it on exactly the same basis as the health service funding increases, which resulted in John Ford, an adviser to the British Medical Association, saying that the Government had calculated the figures in—I quote, for the delectation of my right hon. and hon. Friends—"an unconventional way". In short, they fiddled the figures. The promises are bogus; the delivery is meagre, if not non-existent.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood pointed out the legitimate concerns that the chief inspector of schools has already expressed in his annual report about

the absence of a transparent and educationally defensible mechanism for the equitable devolution of resources from central Government to local education authorities and from LEAs to schools. Such a mechanism is required. On class sizes, the Government's performance is pitiful. There has been a tiny reduction at key stage 1 at a cost of £620 million to the British taxpayer, but for other primary school pupils, for secondary school pupils and for nursery school pupils as well, the classes are bigger, bigger, bigger in every case—up, up, up, in lingo that is interpretable by Labour Members.

After 33 months of Labour government, there are 48,581 classes containing more than 31 pupils. There are 3,500 pupils more in classes of more than 36. The head of economics at the leading firm of City accountants, Chantrey Vellacott—

Mr. Coaker


Mr. Bercow

—has pointed to the fact that the proportion of pupils in classes above 30 has risen by 15 per cent. I am sorry about the ignorance of the hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker), but we can try to ensure that he is better informed about leading accountants in future.

The consequence of even the Government's modest reduction in class sizes at key stage 1 is a grotesque denial of parental choice throughout the country, as a result of which we are all getting letters of protest from parents, teachers and head teachers, telling us that they cannot run education locally to meet the needs of pupils. [Interruption.] The Chief Whip, from a sedentary position, expresses disapproval—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) is not yet the Chief Whip, but he may be one day.

The hon. Gentleman will not escape from the other failure—the Government's disgraceful treatment of our grammar schools. Intervention, said the Secretary of State, will be in inverse proportion to success. Standards, not structures, the Government said. I have news for them. They cannot possibly object to the standards attained by grammar schools. It follows logically, therefore, that it is to their structure that Ministers mean-mindedly object.

Grammar schools are beacons of excellence in our education system, renowned for their academic results, their sporting prowess and their cultural achievements. There is no reason to interfere with them, other than political spite and malice on the part of the Government, more than a dozen of whose Cabinet Ministers since 1997 climbed the ladder of opportunity afforded by a grammar school education. Now they want to kick the ladder of opportunity away from today's bright children from ordinary backgrounds.

Why do not the Government concentrate on doing something about education in Manchester, Hackney, Calderdale, Haringey, Islington and Leicester—in the benighted areas represented by Labour Members and undermined by inadequate, ineffective, politically correct Labour local education authorities? [Interruption.] I know that Labour Members do not like it, but there is a lot more to come, so they had better get used to it.

The Government's policy on school exclusions is equally stupid. They have a ridiculous, arbitrary, artificial target of reducing school exclusions by one third by 2002. What do the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers and the Secondary Heads Association say of that ridiculous position? They say that it is unacceptable for the Government and local education authorities to undermine the legitimate management role of the head teacher by imposing targets for exclusions because it will not serve the interests of the school or meet the needs of individual pupils. It is just a totem of political correctness that causes the Government to opt for an artificial school exclusions target.

Conservatives believe in free schools. We believe in the pursuit of excellence. We believe in giving heads and governors the freedom to employ the staff whom they want, to set the timetable that they want, to operate the arrangements that they want, and to determine the opening hours and the term times that they want.

Our education system, as well as being characterised by choice, diversity and the pursuit of excellence, would be characterised by the six Rs: reading, writing, arithmetic, right, wrong and the acceptance of legitimate authority in the classroom, which is what the vast majority of parents throughout the country desire in our education system.

The Government have betrayed education. They have gigantically let down head teachers, teachers, parents, governors and pupils. It is a miserable record of failure, for which the Government should apologise to the House and to the country.

7.20 pm
The Minister for School Standards (Ms Estelle Morris)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) for providing the best advertisement yet for the literacy hour. I am not sure about the numeracy hour—I did not count six Rs, but I counted a W somewhere.

I join in the tribute that the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) paid to the thousands of teachers who do a good job for children in our schools every day. They have responded magnificently to the many demands that the Government have made on them. Most teachers are good teachers. The Government will acknowledge that, and they will be rewarded.

I have some sympathy with the comments of the right hon. Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell), who made a sensible speech about the need for transparent funding. He acknowledged that the funding system that his Government bequeathed us left much to be desired and should have been changed many years ago. The characteristics that the right hon. Gentleman outlined—accountability, transparency and ensuring that everybody knows where the money has gone—guide our work on devising a better system of funding. However, that does not detract from his responsibility for being part of a Government who did nothing to improve the system in the years when they were in power.

Mr. Dorrell

Will the Minister clarify whether her remarks mean that the Government accept the principle of per capita funding for each pupil in a school?

Ms Morris

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State responded to a similar question from the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough by saying that he was interested in an entitlement for children, and in providing a different amount of money for each age group. That remains our position.

I thank the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) for his contribution. As ever, it was interesting to listen to his comments. It was probably even more interesting for his Front-Bench colleagues, given that he has banned them from speaking about grammar schools in his constituency. Perhaps that is why the House filled up when he spoke. I hope that the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) listened carefully. Tonight was probably her last chance to hear the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon speaking about grammar schools.

I am saddened by those on the Tory Front Bench, who seem to spend their time travelling around local authorities to look for the cloud in the silver lining. They seem to advertise for problems and say, "Wherever there's a problem, we'll come and look at it." However, for every local authority that Conservative Members visited or mentioned in the debate, they could have talked about the good things that were happening there, too.

In every local authority that Conservative Members visited, they could have seen extra classrooms and extra teachers, funded through the class size initiative. In every local authority, they could have found children who have nursery places, but would not have had them were the Conservative Government still in power. In 62 of the 150 local authorities, they could have marvelled at the opportunities created by the sure start scheme. In every local authority, they could have seen some of the 20,000 extra classroom assistants that the Government have funded. In every school, they could have celebrated with teachers the increase in literacy and numeracy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) said, they could have marvelled at and shared in the sheer joy that many children experience in the structured learning that is based on best practice.

In every local authority, Conservative Members could have found teachers who have already taken advantage of the money for training in information and communication technology. They could have welcomed the increase from 5 per cent. to 62 per cent. of primary schools that are connected to the internet. They could have talked to the new head teachers in every local authority about the way in which they would use the new laptop computers that the Government recently provided. They could have chosen to visit schools that were financed through the new deal for schools and seen the capital work that is going on.

Everything that I have described could have been seen on any tour of the country. I know that everything is not perfect and that much remains to be done. Some schools still need repairing. However, after all the years of neglect, and of education being part of a Cinderella Department under the previous Government, we have made genuine progress in two and a half years on capital, curriculum, working with teachers, training leaders and out-of-school activities.

Conservative Members have been guilty of sleight of hand tonight in the way in which they have discussed funding. Not one of the initiatives that I have mentioned—from class size to classroom assistants, from national grid for learning to the new leadership college for head teachers—is funded through the straight revenue grant to schools. If Conservative Members want to present a fair picture of the Government's achievements in resourcing, they should not simply examine school budgets. They should add to that the money for the new deal for schools and the £1.6 billion of standards fund money.

The standards fund money is not awarded to pet political projects; it is used for reducing truancy—we care about that—so that we can develop new key stage 4 mechanisms to motivate children who might otherwise be turned off. That money will be used to ensure that, for the first time, children who are excluded receive full-time education rather than the pitiful two, three, four and five hours a week that they received under the previous Government. Standards fund money will be used to ensure that, for the first time, all head teachers have a qualification that means that they have the skills to do the job. That money, as well as the increase in funding, is being given to schools.

Mrs. May

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way because I know that she has only a short time to speak. She claims that we considered only the revenue grant that was given to schools. That is not true. The figures that I cited to show the Government's failure to deliver on funding were figures for net public expenditure on education. They included everything that the Minister mentioned. Does she now accept her failure?

Ms Morris

The figures show that during this Parliament, education spending as a share of gross domestic product will increase, whereas it decreased under the previous Government. Before the general election, we made a pledge to the electorate to increase education spending, and we shall keep it.

I share the anxieties of the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough about attracting the brightest and the best into the teaching profession. For decade after decade, falling numbers of people have been attracted to teaching. The hon. Gentleman spoke as a head teacher when he mentioned the lack of money that was available for promoting staff. I ask him to look back and remember that when he wanted to promote members of staff, he could do that only by giving them management or administrative responsibilities. Through the reform of the teaching profession, the Government have, for the first time, ensured that head teachers will be able to give points for classroom practice and reward existing excellence in schools. We have made it clear that that money will be available, that it will not mean a change in contract and that teachers will not be asked to take on extra responsibilities.

In two years' time, we shall review our method of feeding that money into schools. That makes sense. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave an absolute pledge last week that the extra money would be provided. I hope that that is a cause for celebration: at long last, we have put teaching back at the centre of school activities. We should reward teaching, not management and administration, for which the likes of the hon. Gentleman and I managed to get our responsibility points.

The Tories are keen to promote the notion of free schools. I have no problem with allowing good schools to get on with doing what they do best. However, I have a problem with the concept of free schools when it means no literacy or numeracy hour, no sharing of good practice, no focus on reducing truancy and exclusions, and no class size policy. There is no point in Conservative Members moaning about class sizes; in free schools, classes would be allowed simply to increase, exactly as they did under the previous Government. There would be no measures to act quickly if those schools required special measures or were failing. In 1997, that attitude of let it all hang out and laissez faire led to the circumstances in which four out of 10 youngsters could not read, write or do sums, in which the backlog in school repairs cost £4 billion, in which exclusions increased year after year, and in which there was no focus on standards.

Rather than travelling around the country, the hon. Member for Maidenhead should consider her constituency, where the number of infants in classes of more than 30 has halved in the past two years. In Maidenhead, £128,000 has been spent on 15 teachers, and more than £250,000 has been spent on six classrooms. That is bettered by the constituency of the hon. Member for Buckingham: the number of children in classes of more than 30 has fallen from 6,500 to fewer than 1,500 under this Government and he has netted money for 21 new classrooms and 99 new teachers. Hon. Members should believe what happens rather than the words of a party whose representatives are travelling the country to find failure. Let us rejoice in the success of our teachers and our schools, note that we have made progress and be determined to achieve even more.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 123, Noes 300.

Division No. 84] [7.30 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Chope, Christopher
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Clappison, James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Collins, Tim
Bercow, John Colvin, Michael
Beresford, Sir Paul Cormack, Sir Patrick
Blunt, Crispin Curry, Rt Hon David
Body, Sir Richard Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Boswell, Tim Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Brady, Graham Day, Stephen
Brazier, Julian Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Duncan, Alan
Browning, Mrs Angela Duncan Smith, Iain
Burns, Simon Evans, Nigel
Butterfill, John Faber, David
Cash, William Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael May, Mrs Theresa
Flight, Howard Nicholls, Patrick
Fraser, Christopher Norman, Archie
Gale, Roger O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Garnier, Edward Ottaway, Richard
Gibb, Nick Page, Richard
Gill, Christopher Paice, James
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Pickles, Eric
Gray, James Prior, David
Green, Damian Randall, John
Grieve, Dominic Redwood, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Robertson, Laurence
Hammond, Philip Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxboume)
Hawkins, Nick Ruffley, David
Hayes, John St Aubyn, Nick
Heald Oliver Sayeed, Jonathan
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Shepherd, Richard
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Soames, Nicholas
Hunter, Andrew Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Spicer, Sir Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Spring, Richard
Jenkin, Bernard Steen, Anthony
Key, Robert Streeter, Gary
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Swayne, Desmond
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Taylor, Sir Teddy
Lansley, Andrew Townend, John
Leigh, Edward Tredinnick, David
Letwin, Oliver Trend, Michael
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Tyrie Andrew
Lidington, David Walter, Robert
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Waterson, Nigel
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Whitney, Sir Raymond
Loughton, Tim Whittingdale, John
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Wilkinson, John
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Willetts, David
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew Yeo, Tim
Maclean, Rt Hon David Young, Rt Hon Sir George
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David Tellers for the Ayes:
Malins, Humfrey Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
Mates, Michael and
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Mr. Peter Luff.
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Brinton, Mrs Helen
Allen, Graham Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Browne, Desmond
Ashton, Joe Buck, Ms Karen
Baker, Norman Burden, Richard
Barnes, Harry Burnett, John
Barron, Kevin Butler, Mrs Christine
Bayley, Hugh Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Beard, Nigel Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Benton, Joe Cann, Jamie
Bermingham, Gerald Caplin, Ivor
Berry, Roger Casale, Roger
Best, Harold Cawsey, Ian
Betts, Clive Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Blackman, Liz Chaytor, David
Blears, Ms Hazel Chisholm, Malcolm
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul Clapham, Michael
Borrow, David Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Bradshaw, Ben Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Breed, Colin Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hope, Phil
Coaker, Vernon Hopkins, Kelvin
Coffey, Ms Ann Howells, Dr Kim
Coleman, Iain Hoyle, Lindsay
Cooper, Yvette Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Corbyn, Jeremy Humble, Mrs Joan
Cotter, Brian Hurst, Alan
Cousins, Jim Iddon, Dr Brian
Cranston, Ross Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Crausby, David Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Jamieson, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Jenkins, Brian
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Dawson, Hilton Kelly, Ms Ruth
Dean, Mrs Janet Kemp, Fraser
Denham, John Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Dismore, Andrew Kidney, David
Dobbin, Jim Kilfoyle, Peter
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Donohoe, Brian H Kirkwood, Archy
Dowd, Jim Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Drew, David Laxton, Bob
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Lepper, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Leslie, Christopher
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Levitt, Tom
Efford, Clive Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Ellman, Mrs Louise Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Ennis, Jeff Linton, Martin
Etherington, Bill Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Field, Rt Hon Frank Love, Andrew
Fisher, Mark McAvoy, Thomas
Fitzpatrick, Jim McCabe, Steve
Fitzsimons, Lorna McCafferty, Ms Chris
Flynn, Paul McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath) McDonagh, Siobhain
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Macdonald, Calum
Foulkes, George McDonnell, John
Fyfe, Maria McGuire, Mrs Anne
Gapes, Mike McIsaac, Shona
Gerrard, Neil McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Gibson, Dr Ian Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Gilroy, Mrs Linda McNamara, Kevin
Godman, Dr Norman A McNulty, Tony
Godsiff, Roger MacShane, Denis
Goggins, Paul Mactaggart, Fiona
Golding, Mrs Llin McWilliam, John
Gordon, Mrs Eileen Mallaber, Judy
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Grocott, Bruce Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Grogan, John Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Martlew, Eric
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Maxton, John
Hancock, Mike Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Hanson, David Meale, Alan
Harris, Dr Evan Merron, Gillian
Harvey, Nick Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Miller, Andrew
Healey, John Mitchell, Austin
Heath, David (Somerton & Frame) Moffatt, Laura
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Moore, Michael
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Moran, Ms Margaret
Hepburn, Stephen Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Hesford, Stephen Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Hill, Keith
Hood, Jimmy Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Mountford, Kali Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Mudie, George Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Mullin, Chris Snape, Peter
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Southworth, Ms Helen
Naysmith, Dr Doug Spellar, John
Norris, Dan Steinberg, Gerry
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Stevenson, George
O'Hara, Eddie Stewart, David (Inverness E)
O'Neill, Martin Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Öpik, Lembit Stinchcombe, Paul
Palmer, Dr Nick Stoate, Dr Howard
Pearson, Ian Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Pendry, Tom Stringer, Graham
Perham, Ms Linda Stuart Ms Gisela
Pickthall Colin Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt James Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Pollard Kerry Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Pond Chris Temple-Morris, Peter
Pound Stephen Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Powell, Sir Raymond Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Timms, Stephen
Prescott, Rt Hon John Tipping, Paddy
Prosser, Gwyn Touhig, Don
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce Trickett, Jon
Quinn, Lawrie Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Radice, Rt Hon Giles Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Rapson, Syd Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Raynsford, Nick Turner, Derek (Halton)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW) Tyler Paul
Rogers, Allan Tynan, Bill
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff Vis, Dr Rudi
Rowlands, Ted Ward, Ms Claire
Roy, Frank Wareing, Robert N
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Watts, David
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) White, Brian
Ryan, Ms Joan Whitehead, Dr Alan
Salter, Martin Wicks, Malcolm
Sanders, Adrian Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Sarwar, Mohammad Willis, Phil
Savidge, Malcolm Wills, Michael
Sawford, Phil Winnick, David
Sedgemore, Brian Wise, Audrey
Shaw, Jonathan Woodward, Shaun
Sheerman, Barry Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha Tellers for the Noes:
Skinner, Dennis Mr. Greg Pope and
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E) Mr. David Clelland.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House welcomes the Government's commitment to raising standards and achieving excellence for all from the early years to life-long learning after 18 years of neglect; recognises that education spending will rise as a share of national income over the course of this Parliament, in contrast to a decline of 0.3 per cent. between 1991–92 and 1996–97; recognises the early success in lowering class sizes in the early years and the achievement of introducing the literacy and numeracy strategies which, with the hard work and commitment of teachers, have raised standards; supports the promotion of diversity which will deliver excellence for the many and not the few; recognises the role of specialist schools and the importance of excellence in cities; supports the drive to raise standards in secondary schools through the extension of the literacy and numeracy strategies and an expanded programme of summer schools; recognises the value of teachers and supports the new proposals for performance-related promotion; recognises the role of school leaders; notes the increase of £1.8 billion in funding for schools and Local Education Authorities in England for the coming year and the role of the fair funding framework in tackling excessive bureaucracy and ensuring that increased funding benefits classroom services; notes the increased resources made available to expand access and improve quality in further and higher education; and supports the Government's determination to build a socially inclusive knowledge economy in which learning and skills are the foundation of success and prosperity.