HC Deb 18 December 1995 vol 268 cc996-7W
Mr. Stewart

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to implement the expansion of the assisted places scheme in Scotland. [7152]

Mr. Michael Forsyth

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced on 13 October 1995 that the assisted places scheme is to he doubled in size over time. I am today announcing the plans for achieving that expansion in Scotland.

At present, just over 3,000 children in Scotland benefit from the assisted places scheme. The first new places under the expansion will be created in the 1996–97 school session. Thereafter, the pace of expansion will depend largely on the parental demand and the rate at which Scottish independent schools can provide additional places for assisted pupils. This expansion will provide greater choice for parents, greater opportunity for their children, and will be warmly welcomed by parents and schools alike.

In addition to the on-going consultation with the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, my Department is writing to independent schools to seek bids to increase the number of assisted pupils at their schools and the number of aided places at the St. Mary's music school; to invite schools to bid for day places for children below the age of 10 in integral junior departments of independent secondary schools; to invite more independent schools in Scotland to take part in the scheme; and to seek schools' views generally on how the scheme might best be expanded further over time.

I will he looking in particular to receive bids from schools which increase the number of places for children from families with the lowest incomes and children from deprived areas who would not otherwise have the opportunity of education offered in independent schools.

I intend to continue the present broad framework of means-tested parental contributions towards approved fees. Arrangements for means testing and fee setting are reviewed annually for the purpose of the regulations, and I shall consider any representations on these matters for the reviews in 1996 and subsequent years.

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