HC Deb 18 December 2002 vol 396 cc835-6W
Mr. Pope

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will abolish the financial threshold for schools bidding for specialist college status. [87654]

Mr. Miliband

The Department will not be abolishing the sponsorship requirement for schools applying for specialist school status.

Raising sponsorship is a key aspect of the Specialist Schools Programme. The main rationale behind it is the need for specialist schools to build partnerships with sponsors and the local community. As a task, raising sponsorship links into the enterprising ethos that is integral to the programme as a whole and it serves as a forum for the school's public presentation of its plans for specialist designation.

The Department has already done much to help schools which are having difficulties raising the necessary sponsorship. We grant-aid the Technology Colleges Trust and the Youth Sport Trust, which advise schools on raising sponsorship. The Trusts are often able to help schools with money donated centrally, on the basis of criteria set out by sponsors.

In 1999 we reduced the sponsorship requirement to £50,000, and in May this year we reduced the amount of sponsorship required by small mainstream schools (defined as those with under 500 pupils on roll) to £100 per pupil, subject to a minimum of £20,000, rising to £50,000 for a school with 500 pupils.

In November the Secretary of State for Education and Skills announced the creation of a Partnership Fund. The Fund, which will contain £3 million in 2003–04, is designed specifically to help schools which have had serious difficulties meeting the £50,000 sponsorship requirement. The Department is in the process of developing criteria for the allocation of the fund, which will be managed by the Technology Colleges Trust. The criteria will be based around evidence that the school has made a real effort to raise sponsorship and has created valuable links with businesses.