HC Deb 20 March 2000 vol 346 cc715-6
23. Dr. Doug Naysmith (Bristol, North-West)

What steps his Department is taking to improve access to schools for service families. [113711]

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. John Spellar)

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer that I gave earlier today to my hon. Friends the Members for Stockport (Ms Coffey) and for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Charlotte Atkins).

Dr. Naysmith

I thank the Minister for his earlier replies and point out that they were mostly concerned with United Kingdom service families. Does he accept, as I do, that it is important to look after the needs of service families overseas? Will he also say a word or two about what goes on in Cyprus, and perhaps Belize, to ensure that service families' children receive good education?

Mr. Spellar

Given the rate at which we are moving through the questions, I am more than happy to say a few words on the latter subject. However, I am also pleased to have the opportunity to draw attention to the excellent work that is undertaken by our schools for service children overseas. For example, at key stage 1, if such schools were treated as a local education authority they would be fifth in the country—and that is behind a number of extremely well-off areas. At key stage 3, they would be fourth, behind three extremely well-placed areas. That is a tribute to the work that is undertaken by our education services, especially given the mobile and sometimes unsettled life style that service families have to face.

We must ensure that we integrate that work into the educational work here in the UK. That is partly to do with schooling, to which I referred in previous answers, and partly to do with transfers to higher education—in which connection I am very pleased to say that, from September this year, access to student loans will have been achieved, which will be a considerable weight off the minds of many families.