HC Deb 15 March 2001 vol 364 cc1180-1
9. Sir David Madel (South-West Bedfordshire)

How many comprehensive schools have been closed since May 1997; and if he will make a statement. [152558]

The Minister for School Standards (Ms Estelle Morris)

Up to the end of 2000, a total of 143 comprehensive schools had closed since May 1997. That figure includes schools that have closed owing to the amalgamation or merger of two or more schools, and schools in local education authorities that have moved from a three-tier to a two-tier education system.

Sir David Madel

The right hon. Lady is aware that, following the closure of the upper school in Houghton Regis, Northfields upper school, in Dunstable, faces additional challenges. She is also aware of the changing nature of employment in my constituency, where there have been heavy job losses in the motor and allied industries. Will she do all she can to grant Northfields school technology status, the better to prepare its young people for the new, high-skilled jobs that are so essential to the south Bedfordshire area?

Ms Morris

Indeed I am aware of Northfields school—thanks to the hon. Gentleman's efforts, it is one of the schools emblazoned on my memory. I fully recognise that he has campaigned long and hard for it to be granted specialist status. I can say no more than that I know that it has submitted a bid—I think for the third time—which will be evaluated against a set of criteria. We shall just have to wait and see. However, it is acknowledged that if schools are really to serve their children, they need to reflect on the changing demands of a changing local economy. I am delighted that he has a school in his constituency that accepts that responsibility and is gearing up to meet it. I very much hope that, if not this term, then at some time in future, Northfields school will achieve specialist status. I, like the hon. Gentleman, realise that that will further help it to deliver quality education for his constituents.