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Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough): We, too, are grateful to the Secretary of State for allowing us sight of the statement half an hour before we came to listen. It was worth coming just to hear the latest Tory U-turn on spendingthat makes four this week.
This package has all the hallmarks of a Reader's Digest prize draw: people think that they have won until they examine the small print. Yesterday, we had a proud statement about extra grants to primary and secondary schools; today, we have the small print, which says that the grants are conditional on schools meeting certain criteria. Similarly, leadership grants were announced, but today we have the small print, which sets out criteria.
The Secretary of State must recognise that although she is right to say that simply putting money into schools will not resolve all their problems, managing every school from her office is not the way to improve matters.
Why is there nothing in the statement about the two crucial issues affecting schools? Yes, there is a little bit about discipline, but there is nothing about any new policy initiative to tackle the problems facing our schools. Let us talk about the other big issue: the number of teachers going into our schools. Evidence produced this week by the Teacher Training Agency showed that the number of mathematics teachers entering the profession was down by 30 per cent. and that of science teachers by 25 per cent. There was not a single new proposal in the statement to deal with those key issues.
On ideas about specialist schools, I apologise sincerely to the Secretary of State for saying that she was setting up a two-tier system, because today it is a three-tier system, or perhaps even a four-tier system. How will super-specialist schools, as they will now be called, be chosen and funded? How will we guarantee that the
Why is there nothing about further education in the statement, apart from a 1 per cent. increase in funding? Fourteen to 19-year-olds have been identified as a key sector, yet FE, we are told, will get a 1 per cent. increasewe have not been told what strings are attached. We welcome the universal expansion of education maintenance allowances[Hon. Members: "Hurrah!"] He pauses. How will those allowances be paid for? Will the Secretary of State guarantee that they will not be paid for by removing the universal access to child benefit, as the Chancellor wanted to do two years ago, or by raising tuition fees and interest on grants? Will she make sure that both those things do not happen?
Finally, the Cassells report recommended a 28 per cent. target for the increase in modern apprenticeships, and we are delighted that the Secretary of State included that in her statement. Will she make it clear to the House that that target will not simply mean a re-badging of other provisions, but will be a genuine target to get 28 per cent. of young people into modern apprenticeships by 2004? There is a great deal in the statement and we welcome the extra resources, but please do not tell everybody how to do their job.
Estelle Morris: I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman acknowledged and welcomed the increase in resources. We have spent many more pennies than his party has promised at successive general elections, and have delivered our pledge.
I shall deal with FE and HE, which were mentioned by both the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green). We are always faced with difficult decisions. My Department has a wide range of responsibilities and deals with education from the cradle to the grave. I decided that the statement should be about secondary education, because I wanted to do it justice and have said all along that it was one of the main priorities of the spending assessment. So that there is no misunderstanding, let me say that the statement was not intended not to value further or higher education. We have decided to make a separate announcement on further education once we have completed consultation on the reform document that we launched some weeks ago, in recognition of the importance of that document.
However, I wanted to send a clear signal to people in further education that extra funding is available as part of the comprehensive spending review, which is why I made an announcement about the 1 per cent. annual increase in real funding now and did not hold it back until the autumn. That was a tough decisionthe hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) will do as he wishes, but I hope that the FE sector will not regard it as diminishing its responsibilities. Equally, with higher education, I decided, rightly or wrongly, that I wanted to look at long-term funding for higher education, student finances and ways in which to extend participation and
I want to go over two key points, but first I shall give the hon. Gentleman an assurance about modern apprenticeships. We were extremely grateful for the Cassells report. What has come out of that is a better modern apprenticeship than we had before. We are keen to promote and extend modern apprenticeships to encourage as many young and not-so-young people as possible to enter them. It is not our intention merely to badge something else to reach that target. In the months ahead, we shall say more about our ambitions for those who follow the vocational route. I know that the hon. Gentleman and I share at least the wish to improve that, and I hope that he will accept from me our commitment to improve modern apprenticeships and to retain the modern apprenticeship as a high-status vocational route.
The hon. Gentleman and I differ in two areas. He may not accept it, but if he looks at the grants that have been made available today, he will see that there are far fewer strings attached than in the Government's first term. I say that partly at my own expense. If he goes through the grants one by one, he will find that in the vast majority of cases, and in some cases at all times for some schools, the grant comes without strings attached.
I shall be clear about why I have made the two provisos. I see no point in putting extra money into a school that does not have a leadership that is geared up to spend it effectively. I shall defend that, otherwise at the end of my time in this post, people will say, "You put in the money, but you did not bring about the change." There is always a tension between giving the money to those who can spend it and letting them do it, and supporting those who cannot and making sure that they spend it effectively. I feel that we have got the balance right.
We might disagree on my decision to hold back some of the increase in the special grant until we get the work force agreement. The grant would not go out until next April anyway. I am hugely heartened by the approach of the trade unions and their representatives in the education service to the talks that we have been holding over the past few months. I have every confidence that we will come to an agreement, but make no mistake: I need to fund that work force reform, and that money has now been announced. I have no intention of letting it go to schools unless I am assured that it will bring about the biggest prizea remodelled teaching work force.
On the advanced schools incentives for improvement, the hon. Gentleman says that there is no incentive for improvement, only strings, and he does not like advanced schools and specialist schools. He must accept that those are incentives for improvement. We are on a journey. I hope that in 10 years' time, we will have reached the point where every school that is able and wants it is a specialist school.
We must start somewhere, and at every opportunity that we have had as a Government, we have increased the number of specialist schools and we shall continue to do that. That is where the incentive for improvement is in the
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on articulating so clearly the links between resources, reforms and results. There will be a warm welcome in North-West Leicestershire secondary schoolsI am a governor of two: Ibstock community college and Ashby-de-la-Zouch grammar schoolfor the 3.5 per cent. increase in SSA funding year on year.
Will my right hon. Friend look closely at the review of the SSA formula? Three of the four options would leave Leicestershire worse off. The grant needs to bridge a gap of 6 or 7 per cent. relative to the average county and 13 per cent. relative to the most generously funded county. Will she make it clear to her colleagues in government that any review of the formula that leaves Leicestershire worse off will run entirely counter to the warmly welcomed statements that we heard yesterday and today?
Estelle Morris: I expect that my hon. Friend will make representations to the effect that the one option by which Leicestershire apparently does well is the one that he prefers. He is entirely within his rights to do that. The matter is out to consultation. If one makes the arguments about the SSA consultation document, one must make them about the formula, not about whether this area or that area is better or worse off. The formula must be fair. That is the key criterion. I understand my hon. Friend, and no doubt I would do the same on behalf of Birmingham, but the debate must be about the formula, as it is that which dictates the outcome. All that I would say is that the leadership grant and the increase in the schools standard grant are not weighted for any of the things for which the SSA formula is weighted. I remind my hon. Friend that, as ever under this Government, we are talking about a larger share of a larger cake. Under the previous Government it was always a larger share of a diminishing cake.