HC Deb 15 December 2003 vol 415 c1316
16. Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con)

What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Education and Skills on the provision of good schools for forces families; and if he will make a statement. [143783]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin)

There is frequent contact between officials from the Department for Education and Skills and the Ministry of Defence in order to discuss the issues faced by schools with children from the service population, and to ensure that the provision meets their educational requirements. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the supporting essay on people published in support of the White Paper last Thursday, which includes further comment on the ongoing discussions between the Departments at all levels of Government.

Mr. Cameron

Does the Minister agree that schools with a high proportion of children from forces families face particular pressures? Is he aware that, at the Gateway school in Carterton in my constituency, next to RAF Brize Norton, where about 80 per cent. of the children are from forces families, about 45 per cent. of those turned over to different schools last year? As the number of missions has increased and the number of personnel remains static, the position is likely to get worse. Will the Minister speak to the Department for Education and Skills about special funding for those schools? Surely that is the least our armed forces deserve.

Mr. Caplin

The Ministry of Defence has established a schools liaison policy in the area to which the hon. Gentleman refers. That is to ensure regular contact between the services, schools, parents and the local education authority. I expect that that would be the most appropriate forum for those discussions. I am, of course, aware of the changes coming to Brize Norton. They were the subject of an Adjournment debate initiated by the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) on 15 July, when we laid out the Government's policy on the matter.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD)

I agree with the hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron). Is the Minister aware that discussions are one thing, and delivery is another? Earlier this year, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills visited Colchester and promised the head teachers of schools with a large component of children from military families that more money would be forthcoming. When will that be delivered?

Mr. Caplin

I was tempted to say, "Better late than never" to the hon. Gentleman. Following the visit of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, there have been more discussions about the matter in relation to the Colchester garrison.