HC Deb 26 April 2001 vol 367 cc440-2
11. Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)

If he will make a statement on the impact of his future funding proposals for sixth forms in schools in Lancashire. [157919]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. Malcolm Wicks)

Schools can only gain from our proposals because their funding levels are protected by our real-terms guarantee: that their funding will be maintained at the 2000–01 level plus an annual uprating, provided that their numbers do not fall. This is an unprecedented guarantee. Schools have never before had a commitment to guarantee their real-terms funding in this way.

Mr. Jack

I do not think that the head of the Lytham St. Anne's high technology college in my constituency would have understood much of the Minister's answer. The words from the Dispatch Box would give him little comfort about the fact that he is still struggling to deliver the new A-level curriculum. In addition, there is growing suspicion, now that the learning am skills councils are responsible for funding sixth-form education, about whether there will be discrimination against schools with a traditional sixth form. Can the Minister make an unequivocal statement today that the learning and skills councils will not discriminate against schools with traditional sixth forms and that such schools will be properly funded in future?

Mr. Wicks

We have provided extra resources for curriculum 2000 for the new AS-level regime. Today I have given an unprecedented real-terms guarantee about the funding of those schools. I am sure that that will be good news for the head teacher, pupils and parents of that school. With the new learning and skills councils, which take over funding from April 2002, there will be a new regime. We are consulting and listening hard. It is important for each and every school with a sixth form that the funding is maintained. The role of schools with sixth forms is paramount in our education policy.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Is it not a fact that the sixth forms at schools such as Haberghan and St. Theodore's in Burnley, like those in the rest of Lancashire, will be able to go forward and build on their success of the past four years and that they have nothing to worry about? Nobody should be putting scare stories around about what the Government are doing.

Mr. Wicks

I congratulate those schools on their work. With curriculum 2000 our young people at 16 can now study four or five subjects rather than be narrowed down to two or three. I hope that no political party will try to dig out from the skip of scaremongering stories to the effect that we are against school sixth forms. We are not. Our guarantee ensures that their funding is safe with the Labour Government.