HL Deb 16 July 2002 vol 637 cc1101-18

3.33 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills. The Statement is as follows:

"Yesterday, my right honourable friend the Chancellor confirmed that education is this Government's number one priority. Since 1997, we have broken the cycle of under-funding in education. But we have done more than that. We have demonstrated that our policies of resources for reform work.

"In 1997, we took the tough decision to focus our extra resources and reforms on early years and primary schools because we know that we have to get the basics right. The results are there to see: more nursery places; 500 Sure Start areas; and the biggest ever expansion in childcare. Every primary teacher has been re-trained in the teaching of literacy and numeracy and the result has been a huge leap in the performance of our 11 year-olds.

"We also laid the foundations for raising standards in secondary education. Again, where we committed resources for reform, we delivered results. The number of specialist schools increased from 181 in 1997 to 982 by September this year; and in these schools GCSE results are rising more swiftly. In our Excellence in Cities areas results are increasing faster than elsewhere. Our record is one of investment and reform, and thousands of pupils and parents have benefited from it.

"Because we know it works, it is now time to step up the pace of investment, matched by a step up in the pace of reform. England will now see education spending rise by an average of 6 per cent a year over the next three years. That is a £12.8 billion increase, a total investment of nearly £58 billion a year in 2005–06—more than £1,000 per pupil more in real terms than we inherited in 1997.

"In the time available to me today, I cannot do justice to every issue covered by my responsibilities as Secretary of State. Today I intend to focus on the reform of secondary education. But when we have completed our consultation on our reform document for further education, I will make further announcements. I can confirm that, subject to agreement to this reform, core unit funding in further education will increase by 1 per cent per annum in real terms over the next three years.

"We will publish in the autumn a 10-year strategy for our universities, setting out how we 'will deliver the twin goals of excellence in teaching and research and widening access and participation. But I can announce today, as part of the Government's commitment to research excellence, that we will substantially increase recurrent funding for research, raising the additional investment by over £200 million by 2005–06. Alongside the investment in the science budget announced by the Chancellor yesterday, this will enable our research to be truly world class.

"To carry on now to raise standards in our secondary schools, we need to make a decisive break with those parts of the existing comprehensive system that hold us back.

"In saying this, I want to be clear about one thing. This is not a return to the old, failed two-tier system. The comprehensive principle was right and remains right. Every child is of equal worth; where ability is not determined by the family or background you are born into; and where every child has a right to an education that meets their highest aspirations and helps them to achieve their individual potential. That is as true now as it has ever been.

"Without doubt, the move to comprehensive education brought progress. It has given more people the qualifications for higher education, and more children are gaining good GCSEs. It has led to an entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum for all children; huge progress in the achievement of girls; and more life chances for many young people.

"But progress at secondary level has not been fast enough, and no one can say that what we have now is good enough. Too many pupils still go backwards between 11 and 14. Pupil behaviour too often deteriorates at secondary school. Half of 16 year-olds do not get five or more GCSEs at A to C. The UK still has one of the greatest class divides in education. Too many schools are failing or coasting along without stretching all their pupils.

"It has not achieved all we hoped for. So we need to be bolder and change our secondary system if we are deliver high standards for all our children. We need radical reform in four areas: school structures; school leadership; teaching and learning; and the link between rights and responsibilities both within schools and between schools and the broader community.

"First, the reform of school structures. In the past, the comprehensive system has been too uniform. There have been insufficient incentives for schools to improve. Excellence has been isolated and has not been used to raise standards across the school system as a whole.

"So we need a secondary system which, instead, promotes specialism and diversity; where every school is honest about its strengths and weaknesses and has clear incentives to improve; and where our best schools are rewarded for levering up standards in the rest.

"The new secondary system must have schools that are in some respects the same as each other. They must have high aspirations, a broad and balanced curriculum, good-quality teaching and leadership, fair admissions and clear routes of progression.

"But every school should be different as well. That is why specialist schools are central to our school reform. Their specialism is in addition to the national curriculum and encourages them to develop their own ethos and mission. Let me be clear: our aim is that, over time, every school which wants to be, and can be, a specialist school will be able to do so. I can announce today that we will increase the number of specialist schools to 2000 by 2006. More than half of our secondary schools will be specialist within four years.

But it is not just specialist schools. We will create at least 33 new academies by 2006, and new extended schools—each school with its own mission, each school with its own strengths, all contributing to raising standards.

"We need to build a ladder of achievement to make sure that every school has clear incentives to improve, a system in which every school knows where it stands, is challenged to raise its level, is incentivised and is supported when it does so. Rather than "one size fits all", we need an acknowledgement of the truth: that different schools are at different stages in school improvement and need different levels of challenge and support, freedoms and responsibilities.

"On this ladder of improvement, weak and failing schools will have extra resources, but matched to tough improvement programmes. And if schools do not improve, there will be quicker action to close them down, re-open them as academies, replace their leadership or let them be taken over by more successful schools. For coasting schools there will be incentives to develop school improvement plans and work towards the specialist status. For good schools, such as our specialist schools, training schools, and extended schools, there will be extra resources matched to the development of real centres of excellence in each school, whether in curriculum, teaching, inclusion, or partnerships for improvement. For our best schools there will be new resources and new freedom, but matched to new responsibilities to improve the school system as a whole.

"As a result of this ladder of improvement, a vital new principle for our new secondary system will be that for the first time we will be using our best schools and head teachers to lever up the rest. That is why we will encourage our best schools to expand. That is why we will promote our best schools taking over and running weak and failing schools. That is why we will provide incentives for our best schools to federate and improve standards in our weaker and coasting schools. That is why we will reward our best heads for taking on new roles as chief executives of clusters of schools.

"Today we are announcing that we will designate 300 advanced schools over the next four years. These schools will be charged with helping to lever up standards in our weaker schools and will have the resources to do so.

"But it is not only school structures we need to reform. Leadership is essential to the success of any school. We have already established the National College for School Leadership as the world's first institution dedicated to identifying and training excellent leaders in the school system. The college will ensure that every new head is properly qualified and that existing heads are properly supported and trained, with access to mentors from outside education. The college will take on new roles in developing a new generation of transformational leaders.

"We recognise that it is vital to get the best possible leadership for schools that face the toughest challenges. So from next year we will introduce a leadership incentive grant to make sure excellent leadership is in place in our most challenging secondary schools. The grant of about £125,000 a school will be paid to about 1,400 schools in Excellence in Cities areas, excellence clusters and schools in challenging circumstances outside those areas. Where schools are well led, the grant will be paid directly with no strings attached. Where leadership is weaker, the head and governors will need to agree a development plan with the director of education in their local authority. Where necessary, these plans will include the replacement of the head teacher if this is in the best interests of the school and its pupils.

"The third area for reform is teaching and learning. Every child realising their potential is what every teacher wants for their pupils and what every parent wants for their child. Increasingly, the new specialist secondary school system will be able to tailor education to the needs of each child. But that needs a radical change in how teachers use their expertise and their time, in the professional development they have, in how they use technology—in fact, in how they do their job.

"We have already been discussing with the profession how we can bring about these changes. Now we can back up these discussions with resources.

"The money schools receive through the standard spending assessment will rise 3.5 per cent in real terms for each of the next three years. On top of that record sum, the Chancellor has also announced a substantial increase in the school standards grant, paid direct to schools. The grant will increase by £325 million in 2003–04 and by £375 million in each of the following two years. That means that from next year, direct payments will rise by £50,000 a year to at least £165,000 for a typical secondary school in England. Direct payments to a typical primary school will rise by £10,000 to at least £50,000.

"This, together with the increase in general funding, can be used at head teachers' discretion. But I want to make absolutely clear that the extra school standards grant is conditional on reform of the way schools work. It must be matched by a commitment from across the schools sector to a restructured teaching profession and a reformed school workforce—more flexible, more diverse and focused on raising standards. We need a commitment to new professional roles for teachers. We need a commitment to new roles for school paraprofessionals, taking on new tasks in schools and supporting teachers. We need commitment to an improved pay and performance management regime that rewards excellent teaching and eliminates poor teaching. So we will set out in the autumn our more specific proposals and the process for achieving this agreement.

"We know we need to do more to tackle bureaucracy. We will reduce reporting requirements on the Standards Fund to a single annual return, with schools having additional flexibility on how grants can be spent.

"Finally, we must strengthen dramatically the link between rights and responsibilities. This new system needs to capture not only what schools can do for themselves, but how parents and the wider community can play their part. We must have zero tolerance of indiscipline in schools. Today I can announce a significant expansion of the measures taken earlier this year to tackle poor behaviour and crack down on indiscipline. We have already seen the success of learning support units—on-site centres that can better deal with the small minority of pupils who cannot settle and who disrupt others in the classroom. As part of a national behaviour strategy to be launched in the autumn, we are now able to announce that we will provide learning support units for every school where these are needed. There will be more police on site at our toughest schools. Outside schools, truancy sweeps will be extended.

"But broader than this, I want to break down the walls and do more to help schools become a central part of their communities. We will therefore be developing new extended schools, which will provide a range of services on site.

"Moving to the new comprehensive ideal means higher standards, zero tolerance of bad behaviour and a greater choice of good schools for parents.

"The Government have made their choice. We have chosen to make education our number one priority. We have backed this choice with sustained investment on an unprecedented scale, matched by reform of unprecedented ambition. We have a proven model of reform. We have the best teachers ever in our schools. We have the resources and the ambition to achieve the change. And the prize is worth winning".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.46 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement made by her right honourable friend in another place. We already know that the Secretary of State is flexible in her use of language. For example, we read in today's papers that the Secretary of State deliberately used different language when negotiating with the Prime Minister from that she used when negotiating with the Chancellor. Nevertheless, she has been very successful and for that we congratulate her. However, the British people are less easily fooled and will make their own judgment over time.

This is a complex Statement and in parts it is a confusing one. The gap between rhetoric and reality haunts the Statement. It makes no mention of special educational needs. Every other part of education is mentioned, but not special educational needs. Reference is made to there being more than £1,000 more per pupil in real terms than was inherited in 1997. However, the Statement does not say that an unprecedented proportion of that money is controlled and allocated from the centre. Indeed, the Statement goes on to exacerbate that problem.

The Statement says: But when we have completed our consultation on our reform document for further education I will make further announcements". It goes on: We will publish in the autumn a 10-year strategy for our universities". What is the residual total sum available to answer the strategy for further education? What is the residual global sum that will be available to fund the 10-year strategy? At least the total sums should be known at this stage.

One could be forgiven for being confused by the Secretary of State's Statement, which includes the following: The comprehensive principle was right and remains right.…Without doubt the move to comprehensive education brought progress. It has given more people the qualifications for higher education; more children gaining good GCSEs; an entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum for all children; huge progress in the achievement of girls; and more life chances for many young people". It goes on: Too many pupils still go backwards between 11 and 14. Pupil behaviour too often deteriorates at secondary school. Half of 16 year-olds do not get five or more GCSEs at A to C. The UK still has one of the greatest class divides in education. Too many schools are coasting along without stretching all their pupils.… The comprehensive system has been too uniform: insufficient incentives for schools to improve; and excellence has been isolated and not used to raise standards across the school system as a whole". Yet the Government claim that the comprehensive system was right and remains so. That is very confusing.

The noble Baroness referred to the ladder of improvement. She said that weak and failing schools would get extra resources, coasting schools would get extra resources, good schools, such as specialist schools, training schools and extended schools, would get extra resources and our best schools would get new resources and new freedom to match their new responsibilities. How much more money will be held back at the centre, thus denying core funding to all of our schools, in order to provide for the fairly large number of civil servants needed to make judgments on weak and failing schools, coasting schools, good schools such as specialist schools, and the so-called "best schools"? Which are the "best schools"? Are they the beacon schools, the extended schools or the advanced schools? Let us know what they are and who will be making that judgment.

There is only one mention in the Statement of bureaucracy, the one issue that dogs every school in the land. After our consideration of the Education Bill and our discussion of the bureaucracy issue, the noble Baroness now knows that, in every staff room in every school, there is a poster which states, "Please do what you can to persuade the House of Commons not to overturn the Secretary of State's duty to reduce the amount of regulation and bumf going into schools". All the Statement says is: To free up headteachers and teachers we know we need to do more to tackle bureaucracy. We will reduce reporting requirements on the Standards Fund to a single annual return, with schools having additional flexibility on how grants can be spent". There is nothing about regulation, the daily bumf or the other forms of bureaucracy.

What we do know is that the Secretary of State is travelling even further down the path of central direction, second guessing from the centre and nitpicking interference in our schools. Today's Statement will not promote any improvement in what parents worry about. It will not help to solve the crisis in discipline, whatever has been said, which has seen 130 teachers seriously injured in violent incidents in schools in the past year alone. It will not help teachers to spend more time teaching rather than dealing with bureaucracy.

The Secretary of State already sends 4,500 pages of guidance and advice to every school annually. One thing that is surely predictable is the extra paperwork that will be generated by the changes announced today. This is not real reform, and it is certainly not reform that our schools need.

The Secretary of State talks tough about closing schools that miss their targets. It is proposed that teachers who miss their targets will probably lose their jobs. But what about government targets such as their truancy target? In 1998, the department set a target to cut truancy. In 2000, that target was strengthened. This year, however, the old target was scrapped and replaced with a new one which aims at a reduction that is 70 per cent less than the original target. Does the noble Baroness accept that this is an appalling example of double standards? If teachers miss a target, the teacher will be sacked. If Ministers miss a target, the target is sacked.

The centrepiece of the Statement is the introduction of new types of school. Will they replace beacon schools and centres of excellence? What will be the criteria to decide whether they should be extended and/or advanced schools? How will they be different from beacon schools and those in the centres of excellence? What will happen when a super head and/or a chief executive of an advanced school is tasked to take over four or five poorly performing schools? Will those poorly performing schools be headless? Will the new chief executive become the head of all of the schools? Or will those head teachers, who have a sovereign responsibility for their own school, Find themselves superseded by the new chief executive? How will a chief executive of four to six schools get to know the children and the staff in those schools? These are important practical issues which the Minister will have to address.

What message does the Minister have for the head teacher Janette Smith, from Lealands High School, in Luton? She is quoted today as saying of the Government's spending plans, It's always been tied up, attached to this initiative or that scheme. I need to be trusted to decide what my school needs". I think that she is absolutely right. Many good heads are good precisely because they concentrate on every detail in their school. Today's proposals would take the best heads out of schools and make them strategic chief executives of half the schools in their area. What evidence does the Minister have that this is the best way of improving all the schools that the Secretary of State would not touch with a barge pole? There will be real worries, especially among parents with children at schools with good heads, that this is a gimmick that will do more harm than good.

What is the logic behind concentrating on 300 schools, out of 25,000, to solve the crisis? Would it not be better to focus directly on the failing schools, dealing with their problems, rather than proposing yet more gimmickry and interference?

For a Statement that is meant to set the course for education policy in this Parliament, there are several glaring gaps. There is nothing about reducing exam load in secondary schools and nothing about slimming down the national curriculum. As for further education—well, whither further education? Nothing has been said about the universities—where morale among both students and teachers is even lower than it is in the schools sector—other than a promise of more tomorrow. Does the noble Baroness accept that the dithering over student funding, on which we were promised a decision early in the new year, has contributed to this collapse in morale?

This Statement is a sad waste of an opportunity by the Government. Instead of retreating from the path of dictating to schools and too much bureaucracy and intervention, the Government have chosen to go further down that route than ever before. There will be more quangos, more targets and more regulation. When will they ever learn that micro-management from the centre is not the way to create world class schools'? The devil as always will be in the detail. We await the details, as will all teachers, governors and parents.

Finally, money without real reform will be wasted, as it has been over the past few years. There is an alternative vision for our schools whereby heads control the discipline policy; teachers are allowed to concentrate on teaching, not form filling; and parents know that the school is concerned with their children's needs and not with the latest initiative from the Government, such as that in regard to running ill thought through companies. The Government have chosen instead the dead hand of central control.

When the euphoria over additional money has settled to an air of reality, it will dawn on everyone that this is not reform but a recipe for continued crisis in our schools, colleges and universities. The Government talk devolution, but I am afraid that they do not understand the meaning of the word.

3.57 p.m.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

My Lords, given the time constraints, I shall try to be as brief as possible.

We on these Benches welcome the extra money that is going into education. It is long overdue. In 1997, the Government were elected on the back of the slogan "education, education, education", after which they proceeded to reduce the proportion of resources going into education. They are now, at long last, putting in what is necessary. Average annual spending per pupil in our state secondary schools is about £2,800. Average annual spending in private schools per secondary pupil is £6,000. It is not surprising that private schools do better in achievement as measured by examinations and so forth than state schools. It is long past the time when we needed more resources for our state schools. So we welcome that money.

We welcome, too, the leadership initiatives. For too long we have neglected leadership in schools. The training now being given to heads and deputy heads is necessary and long overdue. We also welcome the initiatives to increase the number of in-school learning support units. As far as possible, disruptive pupils must be kept within the school framework rather than expelled.

We have some reservations, however, about the tone of the Statement. The noble Baroness, Lady 131atch, mentioned the article in The Times today which described the two tones adopted by the Secretary of State. I feel that this Statement very much adopts the "new Labour lexicon", as David Charter put it. The emphasis is very much on centres of excellence, beacons of success and "radical reform" of the comprehensive system. However, I am a little unhappy about language such as, we will promote our best schools taking over and running weak and failing schools. That's why we will provide incentives for our best schools to federate and improve standards in our weaker…schools". Yet, only a month or six weeks ago, in Committee in this House, when we discussed federation, we were assured by the Minister that federations will work only if they are entered into because schools want them and are committed to them. She said that federations will only be in the best interests of schools arid that it was vital that the decision to federate must be entirely voluntary. However, we find someone from No. 10 boasting on the front page of the Observer that we will force failing schools into federations. Thal is not what we want or the way in which we should be running the education system. I hope that that is not the intention. That appears to be the language of No. 10 rather than of No. 11, which is a little more emollient and, as David Charter says, in which the socialist semantics come forward.

We on these Benches are also concerned about the fact that the money will go directly to the schools. It is nice to see money going into the pockets of schools but that is yet another step towards getting rid of or bypassing LEAs because the money is put directly into the hands of the head. It will not be very long before those bodies are completely bypassed. Schools forums have been set up, as primary care trusts have been in the health service, to be shadow administrations and to ensure that there will be a convenient group of professionals and lay members who can take over the running of the schools at a local level when we no longer need the duly elected and accountable LEAs. We are worried by the moves that appear to be afoot in the Statement.

I echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and point out that the Statement was billed as a Statement on education. However, it is not about education; it is about secondary schools. There was nothing about further education, although educational maintenance allowances were a big issue in yesterday's review. We are worried about work-based learning, which is a big issue. All the money from education or maintenance allowances will go to those who will continue in education. We had a very useful little debate last night on skills. One of the key issues is to involve those who start in work-based learning. For many who leave school with relatively low GCSE qualifications, work-based learning is a better route. It is important that we discuss further education at some point.

What about higher education? It has lacked resources for a very long time, but we heard absolutely nothing about it in the Statement. The issue has been put off once again until the autumn.

The money that has been routed to schools has gone into recruiting teachers—or the attempt to recruit teachers. One problem is that we have not got the teachers to fill the vacancies that are being created. Do the Government really believe that they can meet the needs for teaching that the funds will generate? How will they cope with that?

Finally, I am glad that extra resources are going into capital spending. We are on the verge of a huge digital revolution in schools. Whiteboards, individual laptops for school kids and so on will become essential within the next five years or so. Will there be enough money in schools to provide the necessary capital equipment that will be needed to keep up with that revolution?

4.3 p.m.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My Lords, in view of the time, I shall be brief.

Special educational needs are a fundamental part of our inclusion strategy. In the Statement, I referred to the important issue of inclusion. I was sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch—unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp—was unable to welcome at least in part the announcement of extra money for education.

We have discussed centralisation. The direct contributions to schools that were referred to in the Statement are an important part of ensuring that schools are able to spend the money directly. There will be £50,000 extra at the secondary level and 10,000 at the primary level. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, feels that that involves bypassing LEAs. I somehow feel that we cannot win in that regard. I make it clear to the noble Baroness that LEAs are crucial to the work that we do. We believe that direct payments involve a shared responsibility between central and local government for our educational system. The great majority of funding will continue through LEAs and the 3.5 per cent real terms increase each year should be welcomed.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, referred to the comprehensive system and the importance of recognising where we have come from and where we are heading. The difference—it is fundamental to understand this—is that a system that decides, when children are 11, what kind of education they can access is fundamentally wrong. It is wrong in terms of what happens to those children and in terms of economics because it does not enable us to make high-quality education available to all children. We recognise the need to ensure that our education system is fit for its purpose in relation to the young people whom it serves.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked about the ways of defining which schools were coasting and which were good schools. We have many measures. We are very pleased with our accountability framework, which enables us—through Ofsted and our "value added" tables, which are coming in—to see which schools perhaps need extra support.

The noble Baroness has previously raised the issue of bureaucracy. We are seeking to do something about that, as she said. It is worth pointing out that DfES administration costs account for less than 1 per cent of its overall budget. The administration costs settlement in the SR 2002 represents a 1.7 per cent reduction in real terms, which will not allow for large increases in the numbers of civil servants.

I turn to the issue of violence in schools. I said in the Statement that we are expanding our learning support units to all schools that feel that they need them. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, welcomed that. Those units, which play a crucial role, are having a dramatic effect dealing with behavioural issues in schools. We want that to expand. We are sticking to the existing truancy targets. It is important to address those issues carefully and rapidly. We recognise that there is still much that we have to do in that regard.

I turn to the role of head teachers who are truly excellent. Noble Lords on all sides of the House will have met many such head teachers in their time. We want to get those skills out into the schools sector. That does not mean that we will seek to make schools headless; rather, we want a more strategic role for those who wish to, are able to and can develop that role. The issue, in a sense, involves asking: where do they go next, having been an excellent head? Noble Lords will be aware of many examples of heads who have moved from one school to another for a short time in order to support the school and other head teachers have come in to continue their work. It is very important to expand that process.

4.7 p.m.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Blatch said that the Statement was in many ways complex and self-contradictory. I want to ask the Minister two general questions. First, how does she justify saying that the Government need to do more to tackle bureaucracy and, at the same time, making announcements that increase enormously the power of central government over the provision of education throughout the country? That will be the effect of the Government's approach.

Secondly, how does the Minister justify praising the principles of the comprehensive system when at the same time she is effectively scrapping it—rightly so—by recognising the importance of specialist different schools? She goes so far as to take credit for the fact that 50 per cent—I believe that that is the figure that she quoted—of our pupils will in future be in specialist different schools. Is it not unfortunate for the generation that has just left school that the Labour Party did not earlier take a more sensible view of education and recognise the damage that the comprehensive system was doing?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My Lords, it will not surprise the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, that I believe that the comprehensive system has been a fundamental part of the achievement of all of our young people—of the generations who have had the benefit of that system. It is important for the noble Lord to understand our approach. With regard to our lack of desire to return to what went before, I repeat what I said earlier: this approach is not about deciding at the age of 11 which children are suitable for high-quality education and which children are suitable for another kind of education. Our approach involves a system in which admissions policies are fair and children in schools have the benefit of a broad and balanced curriculum and of specialisms within that school and other schools in the area. As new technology expands, I foresee real opportunities for children to benefit more widely from other schools and to have the education that helps them to achieve the best that they can. I should not wish to return to a system about which many people felt that at the age of 11 they were denied access to A-levels and university. That system is not appropriate.

I turn to bureaucracy. We recognise that there is an issue about ensuring that our teachers do not feel burdened by bureaucracy but we want to ensure that there is continuous improvement in our school system. We have a vital role to play in that regard.

Lord Dearing

My Lords, I congratulate the Minister and her colleagues on achieving a 1 per cent increase in GDP for education, as advocated in this House. However, perhaps I may mention to her that the cost of crime committed by those released from prisons exceeds that figure. According to the report from No. 10 issued this month by the Social Exclusion Unit, those who have not received education or training in prison are three times more likely to reengage in crime than those who did receive education and training.

Is the Minister aware that the report indicates that, whereas the money for pure education is ring-fenced, the money for vocational education—an issue that we debated last night—is not? In recent years, the sums spent on such education in the construction industry— an issue with which we were particularly concerned in our debate last night—have been greatly reduced. Will the Minister undertake to consider very carefully the wisdom of investing in people in prison to make them more fit to engage constructively in life after release? I know that the Minister feels strongly about that matter, but I should be grateful for her reassurance.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My Lords, I agree totally with the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, which will come as no surprise to him. It is most important that we tackle such issues, especially in relation to young men, who are of particular concern. The percentage of young men who have a criminal conviction by the time they are 30 is very high and that is deeply worrying. I cannot recall the figure off-hand but it is of the order of 25 per cent. In a previous life, I was involved in examining ways of engaging industry in supporting training within prisons. In many cases, remarkable results were achieved, and I believe that that work will continue. The noble Lord made a very valid point, which I shall consider.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth

My Lords, the response from these Benches is, "Yes, but" I shall not go into the "yeses" because there is not time, but I want to highlight one or two points. First, over the past few months I have been carrying out a tour of schools in the diocese. In doing so, I have picked up a growing concern about the resourcing of special needs—a point that I raised in a previous debate in your Lordlships' House. That also echoes what the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said.

Perhaps I may push the question theoretically. Is it possible to conceive that a school might fail because it is inadequately resourced in the area of special needs? That may be like asking whether it is possible for an angel to dance on a pinhead. But I put the question sharply because it concerns an issue which is felt increasingly keenly by our schools. I hasten to add that the issue is not one of failing but of the resourcing of special needs. I know that I speak for schools situated not only in my own patch.

The second point that I want to ernphasise goes back to what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. There is a need for a strategy for further education. From recent meetings that I have had with principals of colleges of further education, I sense an enormous amount of courage among them. But increasingly I also sense that, while developments are taking place in education on other fronts—in secondary and higher education—those in further education are feeling neglected and squeezed out of the picture. I ask the Minister to urge the Minister for Education to address this very important area. It concerns many of our young people as well as those involved in adult learning.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate has raised two very important points. The first concerns special educational needs. In my view, it is not a question of schools failing because they have inadequate resources. Some interesting discussions could be had about the word "adequate". However, we are clear that the aim of our investment in special educational needs is to support schools in funding the resources that they need. We have worked closely with local education authorities to achieve that.

As I am sure the right reverend Prelate would do, I pay tribute to all the schools that do fantastic work with children with special educational needs. Within our settlement, we want to ensure that we support those schools. As was mentioned in the Statement, we talk about inclusion as being an important part of that.

The right reverend Prelate referred to further education. The 1 per cent real terms annual increase is important. We shall obviously look closely at the subject of further education and there will be a great deal more to say on the issues that the right reverend Prelate raised. We want to see better rewards for high-performing staff in FE colleges. We want to ensure that the funding gap between school sixth-forms and colleges is acknowledged and examined, and we shall return to your Lordships' House with more details on that.

Baroness Massey of Darwen

My Lords, clearly education is, or should be, child-centred. That issue has been raised by many other noble Lords today. I want to focus on the issue of child-centredness and ask my noble friend about the educational pathway that the child goes through from pre-school to further education. We all know that there are certain hiatuses where children experience difficulty. They dip and they fail, for example, between primary and secondary school.

This money is clearly welcome. Let us not be mean about that. But how will the extra funding serve to ease the way for young people to move successfully through the system from nursery school to higher education?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My Lords, my noble friend has posed a deeply philosophical question. As she said, there are important moments in a child's pathway through education where more must be done. The particular issue highlighted in the Statement is what we call the "transition" between primary and secondary school. That is one of the most important, and often the most memorable, experiences of any person's life, including, I suggest, that of most noble Lords.

We want to ensure that we engage in the links between our children's early years education and the foundation stage through to the end of the reception year. We want them to have a breadth of experience that will enable them better to engage in a formal education, if I may describe it as such, through to key stage 2. There, we must ensure that their basic needs are met so that they can access a secondary curriculum. An increasing number of our young people should feel able to continue in or rejoin further and higher education through to adult skills.

Education presents a long journey from cradle to grave. My noble friend is absolutely right. A key part of what we do must focus on the important issues of education, maintenance allowances, the transition to secondary school, and foundation to key stage 1, where children need extra support.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest as the president of the Association for Science Education. In that context, I ask the noble Baroness whether her attention has been drawn to a recent report showing a severely deteriorating supply of quality teachers of science in our schools and particularly in the subjects of mathematics and physics.

In yesterday's Statement we were told that the DTI has won a significant increase in money for science and scientific research. But where will the people come from if the schools cannot recruit the necessary qualified teachers to teach young people science and get them into university in that subject? Is it not clear that the Government must be brave and recognise that for many scientific disciplines recruitment is taking place in a market situation? Unless the market rate of pay for such teachers is met by the schools and those schools can offer jobs, they will not be able to obtain the necessary quality of teachers. Is it not clear that there needs to be more joined-up government so that the noble Baroness's department can match the aspirations of the Office of Science and Technology? The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury of Turville, is in his place. The present situation does not add up. There must be an approach that will give schools far greater flexibility in what they pay to science teachers.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My Lords, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that there is a degree of flexibility within the budgets now within schools which enables teachers to be paid differentially, if that is what schools want. I take the point made by the noble Lord. From memory, I believe that figures show that the number of science teachers is increasing. However, in certain disciplines within science we are not seeing the inroads we should like. I suspect that the noble Lord referred to one such discipline. I think also of the Roberts report in that regard.

We shall match the increased investment in the science budget by a significant increase in HEFCE's recurrent funding for university research. That is an important part of the spending review. My noble friend Lord Sainsbury and I are working closely together. As noble Lords may be aware from a recent announcement, we have extended science year for a further year, which will perhaps become, "science year plus one", in order to begin to develop for our secondary schools in particular curriculum-wide new methods and techniques. We are working with our best teachers carefully to consider mentoring roles, the role of business in supporting our young scientists and the important issue of the recruitment and retention of science teachers, as raised by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, what is my noble friend's response to the accusations made today and, indeed, during our education debates in recent weeks that the Government are deliberately seeking to reduce the role and work of local education authorities? The financial aspect is perhaps of most importance.

From time to time there have been specific examples of the newly proposed forums in which LEA representatives are barred from taking part. It would seem to me, perhaps because of my age and experience, that members of LEAs have an important and particular role to play. I am a little concerned that the contributions made by LEAs over many years should now be diminished or, indeed, in some cases abolished. I hope that my noble friend will say something positive about that criticism.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My Lords, during the passage of the Education Bill I spent much time trying to reassure noble Lords and, indeed, put it on the face of the Bill—I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, will agree that it is now on the face of the Bill in several places—that local education authorities have a key role to play. There is no question but that they have a vital and continuing role to play in education. However, individually they do not manage schools.

We have to consider the relationship between schools and local and central government. That has always been a dynamic and, dare I say, on occasions shifting relationship which needs to be constantly monitored if we are to ensure that it works effectively. The increase of 3.5 per cent will go through local education authorities. We have announced direct payments to schools in some cases. We believe that it is appropriate for it to be done in that way. However, local education authorities continue to play a vital role within schools and our education system. In my view, that role is not diminished but may change over time, as all good relationships should.

Noble Lords who may have watched what happened in another place last night will know that we thought long and hard about how to ensure that local education authorities are involved with our schools forums. Part of their purpose has always been to provide the opportunity for schools to understand the role of local education authorities as much as for local education authorities to be involved in schools. That is an important and continuing role.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

My Lords, I declare the same interest that I declared yesterday; that is as deputy chairman of the council of the University of London. When I asked then about the restoration and renewal of our world-class universities, I was reminded about research spending but otherwise referred to today's Statement. In the past year the research assessments have not been fully funded. Is there anything else the Minister can say about universities in advance of the autumn strategy statement, the delay of which has so far been unexplained?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My Lords, I do not believe that the statement referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has been delayed. We promised to put forward a strategy statement which will encompass the range of issues across higher education. Noble Lords involved in universities have been asking for that for some time. I have often been challenged about our desire to have 50 per cent of young people by the age of 30 involved in higher education and the consequences and implications of that for the university sector.

The purpose behind the strategy statement is to think more broadly about the way forward on that issue. I hope that noble Lords will welcome that. However, I recognise that many noble Lords involved in universities will want to see substantial statements made at that time in order to encompass the different issues raised. We are obviously committed to the targets we set ourselves. We expect the Comprehensive Spending Review to be good news for our universities and students. I look forward to being able to give much more detail to noble Lords at that time.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement and wonder whether she can expand a little on two aspects. First, have decisions been taken about the geographical spread of the specialist schools and the advanced schools? Secondly, I refer to the question of zero tolerance of bad behaviour. The effect on schools of disruptive behaviour has been mentioned several times and is important. Is it too early to ask about the kind of measures that will be considered to deal with disruptive behaviour?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My Lords, we have not yet made decisions about the geographical spread of schools. However, we hope to ensure that areas of the country have the opportunity to come forward. That is particularly pertinent in our rural communities, where we are in discussion. As noble Lords will be aware, schools are in discussion with each other about specialist schools status. In Stevenage, for example, the seven secondary schools are discussing a collaborative model of specialist school, and such discussion is common. We shall ensure that the specialist schools that come into existence represent our country and that schools in more challenging circumstances will not feel that they cannot participate.

As regards zero tolerance of bad behaviour, our learning support units have been a success. That is why I made clear in the Statement that every school that needs a learning support unit will be able to have one on site, providing opportunities to work with young people and keep them within the school. It is also important to remind the House of the important work done by pupil referral units and educational psychologists, and of the way in which we have now moved to ensure that any child who is permanently excluded from school is still in full-time education. From September next that will be a requirement across all education authorities, which are working well towards that. That is important.