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Mr. Edwards: Does my right hon. Friend agree that such disruption affects other schools as well? While Mrs. Evans was suspended as head of her school, a

10 Apr 2001 : Column 956

head from another school--St. David's school in Abergavenny--was transferred there, so that other school, too, might have been disadvantaged.

Ms Morris: My hon. Friend is right. Schools are learning communities, but they are also dependent on other schools. That wider learning community--all the neighbouring schools--has felt the impact. I have never been to an area where schools did not show generous concern about what happens to their neighbours--they are eager to give of their talents, and care when other schools are in difficulty. I readily acknowledge that.

I suspect that what is beginning to happen at St. Mary's is that relationships are being rebuilt; trust is beginning to be firmed up again; and the focus on teaching and learning is beginning to return. In relation to my hon. Friend's point, we also owe a debt of gratitude to the teachers--both the full-time staff and those who came in to help--who have kept the school going throughout 21 months of turmoil. Learning has continued: children have left and begun school during that time.

Most of all, schools want stability. They want a head who is secure in a permanent post. They want to be able to focus on teaching and learning--for children and for the wider community. St. Mary's school is embarking on that task of rebuilding and of settling down. I am sure that everyone in the House will wish the school well.

After all the turmoil that Mrs. Evans has undergone and after all the support given by my hon. Friend, perhaps something worthwhile will come out, because we too have learned lessons--both as a school service and as nations for whom education is a major service. We shall reflect on the matter. It is poor consolation for people whose lives have been disrupted, but I suspect and hope that in future cases, the lessons that we have learned from St. Mary's will be reflected. In that small way, I hope that something good might have come out of a case that has made people suffer and made them miserable for the past 21 months.

To finish on a note that will unify us, I wish Mrs. Evans well in the career that she has resumed. I thank my hon. Friend and everyone who has supported Mrs. Evans. Most of all, I wish the children, the governors, the parents, the community and the teachers every good fortune as teachers focus on what they went into the job to do--teaching the children who come through their gates.

Question put and agreed to.



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