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The worst argument for these changes was advanced by the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, although the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate also believes in it strongly. The right hon. Gentleman said that parents do not choose such schools, but that the schools, because they are so popular, choose the parents. Let us unpick that argument and see what it means.
There are a certain number of places in such schools, but parents want more, so there are more applications than places. Some of us say that, if there are more applicants than places, perhaps there should be more places to meet the demand. That is a basic democratic demand. Others, such as the right hon. Gentleman, say, "No, selection is so evil that we must eliminate all the places in such schools, so that no one is happy." That is old-fashioned equality of misery[Interruption.] I am delighted to discover, from the noises to my left, that the Liberal Democrats have finally turned into the Labour party circa 1975.
My final message is to the Secretary of State, who will know that the Prime Minister is firmly against the new clause. I take this rare opportunity to agree with the Prime Minister, and I hope and expect that the Secretary of State will have the courage of the Prime Minister's convictions. The new clauses would not improve the education of a single child. On the contrary, they would put at risk the good work done day after day in thousands of schools that serve more than 1 million children. The new clauses are ill-conceived and could be hugely damaging. I hope that the Government and the House reject them.
Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale, East): I begin by honouring the integrity and solid values of my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). It will soon become clear to the House that he and I fundamentally disagree on this issue, but, however we divide on it, I remain united with him in the aspiration to avoid at all costs the spectre of a society fundamentally divided. His is an honest and honourable view that is evidently shared by at least a sizeable minority of Members of Parliament, who question the role played by faith-based and denominational schools in our society. Some, indeed, would argue that such schools should have no place whatever in our society. That is not my view, but I acknowledge that it is the view of some. I suspect that it is not always a view that they have tested thoroughly with their electorates, although again I except my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, who I am sure is always forthright with his electorate on such issues.
I respect Members' right to hold that opinion and to argue for it. I hope that they, in turn, will accept that any proposal to alter the position of faith schools fundamentally should, as my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Ms Ward) has said, be considered seriously in
Mr. Jon Owen Jones: When my hon. Friend speaks of a minority who may support my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), he may be under a misapprehension. Does he not realise that a Whip is being exercised by the two largest parties, preventing any true expression of the genuine view of the majority?
Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): My hon. Friend said that any significant change should happen only after proper consultation. Does he agree that it would be wrong to talk of greatly increasing the number of religiously segregated schools without such consultation?
I am pleased that many faith schools, especially in our main urban centres, contain a wide social and ethnic mix of pupils. An average of 20 per cent. of pupils in Roman Catholic schools throughout the country are not Roman Catholic. I believe, nevertheless, that it would be a huge mistake to enshrine in law a fixed quota for all faith and denominational schools. In practice, it would mean Jewish children being turned away from Jewish schools, Catholic children being turned away from Catholic schools, and Church of England children being turned away from Church of England schools.
I also believe that the new clause would place a huge bureaucratic burden on local authorities and schools that would have to work out the new procedures. That would detract from the important task of putting as many resources as possible into raising standards in all schools.
Mr. Chaytor: The new clause does not in any way contravene the content of the manifesto. It does not deny the possibility of increasing the number of faith schools; it simply proposes a change in the admissions policy of all faith schools.
Mr. Chaytor: My hon. Friend's answer did not relate to my intervention. I said that the manifesto on which we fought the election allowed for an increase in the number of faith schools and that nothing in new clause 1 prevents an increase in their number.
Paul Goggins: I will try to say briefly exactly what I said before. We did not put in the manifesto, and we have not consulted on, a proposal to introduce a fundamental change in the relationship between Church and state, which new clause 1 would bring about. That would need to be consulted on fully and it has not been.
It is important to point out that the Bill does not contain any powers to compel faith communities to establish new faith or denominational schools, which would be wrong and impractical. Having said that, I applaud the Government for their action to ensure a level playing between minority faith communities and the other faith communities that I have mentioned, such as the Catholic, Jewish and Church of England communities, which have a long-established tradition of running their own schools. Many minority faith communities already run their own schools in the independent sector. It would be far better if they were in the maintained sector, where they would be required to follow the national curriculum, employ properly qualified teachers and be rigorous in relation to standards of teaching and results.
In the main, parents and children choose faith schools for two reasons. The first is that they wish to ensure that the faith and values that are supported at home are reflected in the teaching, organisation and ethos of the school. That long-standing and legitimate choice would be undermined by the new clause. The second reason, which has been touched on by several hon. Members, is that on the whole faith schools perform well in terms of standards and examination results.
Dr. Ashok Kumar (Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East): Can my hon. Friend point to an analytical scientific study that demonstrates with ample evidence that faith schools achieve better results than other schools?
Paul Goggins: I am happy to give my hon. Friend evidence of that. There is a separate question: why do faith schools perform better in terms of standards and examination results? I do not make any simplistic assertion. The reasons why faith schools perform better are extremely complex, but the Ofsted report is clear. Last year, the number of pupils who achieved five or more A to C grades at GCSE in Church schools was 7.5 per cent. higher than in schools across the piece. That is the factual evidence that I bring to my hon. Friend's attention.
At key stage 2, results in maths and English were on average 7 per cent. better in Church schools than in other schools. That is clear factual evidence. There are several complex reasons as to why that is the case. I believe that it is explained partly by ethos: parents' values and the school's values complement each other. None the less the facts speak for themselves.