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Lord Burnham: It might be for the benefit of the Committee if an appropriate amendment were brought forward on Report. The noble and learned Lord might then be able to study the situation and provide a slightly more conclusive answer.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am certainly happy with that. I think that one needs to be quite particular about the answers one gives to questions. I am perfectly happy to do that. In some circumstances, the answer of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, would be correct. In other circumstances, there might be alternative criminal proceedings to be taken against United States servicemen. But answering general questions and trying to be specific does not help anyone.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend
"Four years ago, we promised that we would improve school standards. Last week, the Chief Inspector's report confirmed the improvements in literacy and numeracy which have transformed primary schools. Standards are rising fastest in those schools where under-achievement has been most pronounced--in education action zones and through the Excellence in Cities programme. We have seen over 650 schools successfully removed from special measures. We will deliver our class size pledge ahead of schedule.
"We are laying the early foundations, with 120,000 more young children in free nursery places than four years ago. We are committed to universal free nursery education for all three and four year-olds and to providing childcare places, benefiting 1 million children by 2004.
"Our task now is to build on these foundations to sustain change in primary schools and to transform secondary education. We have made a start, in particular through Excellence in Cities and the considerable expansion of specialist schools and through our investment in buildings and repair. But in partnership with teachers and parents, we need to move further and faster.
"Today's Green Paper, Schools: Building on Success, sets out the three key challenges. First, we need to improve standards still further. For primary schools, we are consulting on new targets for achievement at age 11: 85 per cent gaining level 4 in English and maths by 2004 and 35 per cent reaching level 5. We aim for a step change in performance in the early secondary years. We will be setting demanding targets for achievement at age 14, building on success in primary schools. Attainment at this age is a key determinant of GCSE performance. Ninety-three per cent of those who reach level 6 gain five or more good grades at GCSE. So, that is why we are already taking action. We have introduced new programmes of teaching in 200 schools with more challenging targets and catch-up provision, and with tests for 12 year-olds who have fallen behind.
"The second challenge is a focus on diversity and choice to ensure that the individual talent of pupils is fostered and that their weaknesses are addressed. Through a more diverse curriculum and improved support, we can transform their life chances. The national curriculum remains a basic entitlement. However, in addition, we will ensure that children have access to sport, the arts and to citizenship programmes.
"I can announce today our intention that over time every child in primary school will have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and experience one of a range of sports. But we need to do much more to offer real choice. We will accelerate pupil achievement with experimental programmes for youngsters taking tests at 13 rather than 14 and ensuring more early entries for GCSE. I am also able to announce today the establishment of a new centre which will spread good practice in addressing the needs of gifted and talented pupils. We will offer a new vocational route, providing choices in work-based as well as in full-time, practical GCSEs, leading on to apprenticeships for those who would benefit.
"The third task is to extend diversity among schools, so that every secondary school develops a particular ethos and plays to its strengths, as well as contributing to its community and to the wider education system. We will double the current number of specialist schools, with a new target date of 2003 for the first 1,000, and leading to 1,500 schools within five years. Consistency is important. I can today also announce the creation of advanced specialist schools, extending their role to assist in teacher training and school leadership. We have already announced the first city academies in inner cities. Today, we are proposing new forms of partnership with the voluntary and private sectors to support schools.
"Beacon schools enable the best of our schools to share best practice with others. I can, therefore, tell the House that, as well as offering beacon status to 1,000 schools by this autumn, we will also expand the programme to some schools which demonstrate excellence in working with their community. This Government have been the first to support new voluntary-aided schools for different faiths. We believe it is important that, where there is parental demand, we support such schools. We recognise that the costs to Church and other faith schools of funding 15 per cent of capital investment have been considerable, in particular with improved funding from government. I can today announce that, following discussion with the Churches and other faith groups, we intend to reduce this contribution to 10 per cent.
"The Green Paper proposes that we consult universities about developing teaching modules within a wide range of undergraduate courses, so that young people gain a taste and experience of what teaching has to offer, and, for some, to complete the in-school graduate teaching programme on a fast track. Beyond this, in shortage subjects--maths, English, languages, science and technology--we will assist new teachers by paying off their student loans at the rate of one-tenth of their debt in each year that they remain teaching in the state sector. During that period, they will not have to make repayments. This is a substantial new incentive to graduates to come into and to stay in teaching.
"The programme I have announced today sets a clear direction for schools over the next five years. It builds on policies that work. It offers consistency and continuity together with modernisation. Teachers will be supported by improved training and by cutting out bureaucracy and addressing teacher workload. It will be backed by increased autonomy for headteachers of successful schools, building on changes in inspection and funding, including over the curriculum and improved pay and conditions for staff. It will be underpinned by the substantially increased investment we have provided in both the day-to-day running costs of our schools and in the fabric of their buildings.
"Our policies are designed to develop the potential of, and offer equality of opportunity to, every child from whichever background they come and whichever school they attend. We have today moved beyond the old arguments to create a schools system appropriate for the 21st century. I commend the Green Paper to the House."
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement in this House. I should also like to point out that we have seen the content of this Green Paper trailed throughout the weekend and this morning in the Sunday Times, the Sunday Telegraph, the Sunday People, the Independent, the Daily Mail and various other newspapers; on the BBC, on ITN, on Sky and Radio 4 and, of course, on almost every other broadcast media.
The Statement is breathtaking in its audacity. It is easy to understand that panic has given rise to it. We are told that the Government now believe in selection, in private sector running of schools for profit and in academies for talented, young children.
The Secretary of State also knows that, under the Government, class sizes in secondary schools have risen--a point consistently made during the passage of the Bill in this House which dealt with primary school class sizes. As confirmed by Ofsted, the Government's targets on exclusions have undermined discipline in classrooms, and the energy and enthusiasm of our teachers has been absolutely stifled by burdening them with red tape and paperwork--a directive per day since the beginning of last year.
The Government are presiding over a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, about which more will be said next week, that has left schools around the country without sufficient staff and has done serious harm to the education of tens of thousands of children. As we all know, many subjects are without specialist teachers in our secondary schools. What is the Government's answer to these problems today? Immediate steps to reduce bureaucracy and enforce discipline? A task force? A czar? No. I am afraid that all we have is a Green Paper and a speech from the Prime Minister mapping out his "agenda for the future". We have been here before. As your Lordships would expect, both the Prime Minister's speech and this Green Paper are awash with spin but very little promise of delivery.
In his speech last Thursday, the Prime Minister made some definite pledges in relation to students. However, each of those so-called new pledges had already been announced by the Secretary of State in a press release on 14th September 2000. Perhaps that slipped the Prime Minister's mind. In this regard, as in so much, the Government are at least predictable. Today on the radio we heard the Prime Minister pledging to increase, in the next Parliament, the share of national income spent on education--exactly the same pledge that the Prime Minister made before the previous Parliament, exactly the same pledge that the Government have failed to deliver in the present Parliament.
We have asked on a number of occasions for information about action zones. To date we have received none. Given today's Statement, will the Minister now let me have any evaluation reports on action zones and the part played in them by the private sector? Will the Minister also confirm that, during this Parliament, the Government have spent an average of 4.6 per cent of GDP on education, compared with an average of 5 per cent by the previous Conservative government, and have therefore failed to deliver on their 1997 manifesto commitment to spend a greater proportion of national income on education than the previous Conservative government? The Secretary of State has not delivered on that pledge. Why should we believe him this time?
So far, we have something old and something borrowed. What is new in the Government's package? It has to be the Government's decision today that they suddenly favour selection. Everyone who watched the Secretary of State's lips at the 1995 Labour Party conference, saying, "No selection by examination or interview", will have been startled by today's announcement. On this issue, the Government are guilty of much confusion. The Secretary of State said that specialist schools would be able to select 10 per cent of their pupils. However, he told Radio 4 that they are not selective. And what of the new national academy? Will the Minister tell the House how pupils will be selected, if not by examination, interview or aptitude, to attend the national academy for gifted and talented children?
Labour's confusion over selection is symptomatic. They have attacked grammar schools but have introduced selection in inner cities for the brightest children and now propose to introduce it for those who wish to take vocational GCSE examinations. When will the Government stop their vendetta against grammar schools and scrap grammar school ballots? Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister's office that our comprehensive schools are merely "bog standard"? How does the Prime Minister believe that parents, children and staff in our schools will feel about being described in such an inelegant way?
The Secretary of State refers to diversity and choice. He offers bureaucracy and confusion. It is clear from the Statement that the centre will still impose its will on our schools. Will the Minister now accept that the only way to provide for the freedoms that she, the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State advocate is to free our schools of the shackles of LEAs, to provide, on the basis of a national formula, direct funding for each school, and to set schools free to decide what is right for their pupils, untrammelled by bureaucratic and politically correct interference from central or local government? Why should we believe a government who abolished maintenance grants and introduced student loans, without any manifesto commitment, and now suggest paying off student loans? That would be tough on a teacher of music, history or geography, because they do not feature in the Secretary of State's list.
Our schools need to encourage and develop the talents and abilities of every child, enabling all children to achieve their full potential. Our aim is to provide the education that is right for every child. To achieve that,
Since coming to office, the Labour Government have conducted a vendetta against grammar schools. In opposition, the Labour Party opposed choice and diversity in schools, selection, performance tables, city technology colleges, specialist schools, freedom for schools to make their own decisions at local level and private sector involvement in the running of our schools. This is a most extraordinary volte-face. However, it remains rhetoric. The Government have not delivered in this Parliament. Why should we believe that they will in the next?
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and for introducing the Green Paper. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, I also noticed that over the weekend the Statement was widely leaked. However, that had the beneficial side-effect that those of us wanting to respond to it today were well briefed as to its contents. As with so many papers on education produced by the Government, we on these Benches regard it as a curate's egg. We welcome many of its proposals. There are other aspects of it about which we are extremely wary.
I begin with the issues that we welcome. First, we are delighted to see an expansion of the Sure Start programme. We all agree that there is an urgent need for an expansion of nursery provision, especially in the most deprived areas of this country.
Secondly, we welcome the new initiative on music and sport in primary schools. That is long overdue. Irrespective of their parents' income, children should be given opportunities to learn a musical instrument or enjoy specialist sporting facilities. It is not right that access to those provisions should depend on income and class.
Thirdly, we welcome the introduction of teaching modules to undergraduate courses. On a number of occasions undergraduates have already participated in teaching their specialist subjects in schools. I know that that was an initiative of Imperial College. It is a very important way of introducing undergraduates to the pleasures, perhaps as well as to the downside, of teaching. We on these Benches welcome that new initiative and wish it well.
Fourthly, we congratulate the Government on the success of the literacy and numeracy strategies. The report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools last week set out some very real achievements in that regard. We were delighted to learn of them. It is very
For that reason, we also welcome the fact that the Government are now turning their attention to secondary schools. For a long time, many of us have wondered what goes wrong in the first years of secondary school. Children going up from primary schools are often full of zest for learning but, in one way or another, they lose that zest in their first year. As we have seen from the inspector's reports, not only do they lose it but in some instances their performance goes down during those first years. It is therefore extremely important that we look at some secondary schools and try to improve the quality of teaching. There are, of course, very many good secondary schools but, sadly, perhaps too many that do not come up to scratch.
There is a question as to whether the move towards more specialist schools is the right one. It is on this issue, in particular, that we have doubts about the Green Paper. It raises the question of when is a specialist school a selective school. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, left us in no doubt whatever that, as far as she was concerned, this is an extension of the introduction of selection. The Secretary of State, Mr Blunkett, was more careful, both in the Frost interview yesterday and on the Today programme this morning. He talked about selection not by ability but by aptitude. But those are words, words, words. When is ability aptitude? What does "selection" mean?
The problem, quite frankly, is that we are moving towards a situation in which 46 per cent of secondary schools will have specialist status. That is fine. In Guildford, we have five secondary schools, four of which now have specialist status. I worry, to some extent, about the one that does not have specialist status; or, if you like, the other way round, the 54 per cent of secondary schools in this country that do not have specialist status.
The largest of our comprehensive schools in Guildford has only recently had specialist status. It was announced among the latest batch of schools to be given specialist status. It did not really want to become a specialist school--it is a very successful comprehensive school--but it felt that it could not afford not to apply for specialist status. Why? Because it means money. It means an extra £100,000 in terms of capital expenditure and, for the next four years, an extra £123 per pupil. It is therefore of considerable advantage to any school to claim specialist status. However, the danger is that the schools which do not get specialist status will be the schools which perhaps need the money and the resources most.
I am delighted that the Statement mentions that schools in the most deprived areas will receive resources. Perhaps the Minister can spell out precisely what is meant by that. It is left extremely vague. The Government will be,
This brings me to our final query on the Statement, the issue of teacher shortages. Again, it is nice to see the Government at long last admitting that there is a crisis in teaching. We on these Benches have been saying for a long time that we were building up to a very real crisis, and time and time again the Government have assured us, "Crisis"? What crisis?" There is a crisis. The Government have to face the fact that they cannot possibly deliver on their promises on secondary education unless they can get teachers into place in the schools.
I have been arguing for a long time that we need to do something special about science and maths. I have seen with my own eyes that, time and time again, we are not replacing teachers who retire. Increasingly, pupils are being taught maths by non-specialist teachers. It is not good enough. We now know that, in terms of recruitment of new people into teaching, teacher numbers are down not only in science and maths, but in modern languages, history and geography. Even English is now a shortage subject for secondary schools.
Yes, we need to attract many, many more good graduates into teaching, but I am wary of whether these sticking plaster gimmicks are the answer to the crisis. We need to pay the profession decently. Even more importantly, we need to give teachers the trust and status that their profession deserves. There has been a steady erosion of those two values, which, if I may say so, is as much a result of the policies pursued by the Opposition as the policies pursued by the Government. That has landed us in the crisis we now face. Until the Government take action to reverse the trend, I fear that they will never solve the problem.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I was amazed by the response of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, to the Green Paper. Not a single thing could she bring herself to welcome. I accept that it is the job of the Opposition to oppose, but usually a thoughtful Opposition think deeply about a Green Paper of this kind and are able to find some areas where they can say, "The Government are doing the right thing. We welcome it and we support it". But not the noble Baroness.
I am, however, grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for the welcome that she gave to some of the proposals in the Green Paper and for the fact that she was willing to acknowledge that there have been improvements in our schools, notably in literacy and numeracy results in our primary schools.
The noble Baroness went on to berate what she called red tape and the paper chase in our primary and secondary schools. She neglected to accept the absolute commitment that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has made to reduce the amount of material that goes into our schools. He has pledged that there will be a reduction of one-third in the number of papers sent to schools, and that there will be a reduction of 50 per cent in the number of pages that teachers--in particular, head teachers and senior teachers--have to read. A good start has already been made.
The noble Baroness went on to claim that there is a very serious teacher shortage and a decline overall in the number of teachers in our schools. There are 7,000 more teachers today in our schools than in 1998. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, was a little unfair in suggesting that the good ideas set out in the Green Paper about making sure that we increase the number of good graduates that we recruit into teaching--and, indeed, that we retain more teachers--was only sticking plaster. That is not the case. It is beholden on opposition spokesmen to come up with better ideas rather than always to be negative. I have not heard any better ideas from either of the two spokesmen opposite.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked about education action zones. I cannot provide her with an evaluation report containing the information she asked for. We know that schools are improving faster in education action zones nation-wide, and the same is true of excellence in cities areas. In both cases, we are seeing a substantial improvement. Again, it is a pity that the noble Baroness felt unable to acknowledge that.
The noble Baroness asked about school funding. She was not quite accurate as regards the Government's pledge. What we said was that more of the national income would be spent on education at the end of this Parliament than at the beginning. That has been delivered. In 1996-97, 4.7 per cent of GNP went to education; in 2001-02 the figure is 5 per cent, and that will rise to 5.3 per cent by 2003-04. The figure is against a period of economic growth, when national income is going up, unlike under the previous government when, for a number of years, overall national income went down.
The noble Baroness went on to ask about specialist schools, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. We want all schools to have a distinct character and mission. We want all schools to be excellent at the basics and to play to strengths other than the basics. It is our intention to identify more beacon schools, as
As regards selection, only 7 per cent of specialist schools are making use of the option to select up to 10 per cent of pupils by aptitude. The noble Baroness laughs, but I think that answers the question she posed.
The noble Baroness asked about the national academy. There is a slight misunderstanding on the part of the noble Baroness as to the purpose of the centre for gifted and talented youth. It will co-ordinate better provision for gifted and talented young people through, for example, an extension of the summer school programme, which has already been seen to benefit such youngsters. We also want to involve the universities in continuing to work at the further development of what has been a very successful experiment.
I can say categorically that we have no intention of scrapping grammar school ballots. The noble Baroness cast aspersions on the Government's commitment to greater diversity and greater autonomy. The Government are serious about this. We have every intention of making it possible for our schools to be freer in a variety of respects: through what they pay their teachers and through the lifting of the national curriculum, especially for those young people who would benefit from more work-related learning and a more vocational programme. The noble Baroness seems to neglect the fact that financial delegation has increased to the maximum level that it makes any sense for it to reach without cutting into the vitally important funding that local education authorities need for special educational needs and the provision of decent school transport.
I believe that I have answered all the questions that were put to me, with one exception. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, asked about schools in deprived areas receiving pupil learning credits to make it possible for younger pupils to receive some of the benefits that middle class and upper middle class parents give to their children almost automatically. I think I can help her. We have plans in this area. Those schools with 35 per cent or more of their pupils on free school meals will benefit from this help. They will receive between £240 and £360 extra per pupil per year.
This is an imaginative and innovative programme. It is focused particularly on building on the success of changes in primary schools and on taking this through into secondary schools. I am disappointed that the Conservative Opposition were unable to welcome at least some of the proposals.
The Lord Bishop of Lincoln: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I hope that I may give her a little encouragement. Like many diocesan bishops, I have responded to the Church Schools Review Group, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. He has encouraged all of us to increase the
I also welcome the grant increase from 85 to 90 per cent to aid schools with the cost of capital works to provide, improve and repair school buildings. The Church schools are, I believe, the only group which is still paying VAT on such works. It is a continuing problem. Will the Minister give an indication of the timing of the introduction of the increased grant?
Will the Minister indicate how the Government will help the Churches and the minority faith providers to respond to the 100 new schools initiatives? I am sure that they would examine any such proposals with great interest. We want to do what we can. In the diocese of Lincoln, we are working with Lincolnshire County Council to support the teaching of religious education and to undergird the moral framework of many of the county's schools. We want to do all that we can to enhance and support the good relationships we enjoy in that regard. Some of the material in the Green Paper indicates that we may receive a little more encouragement. I should welcome any indication from the Government as to how that might be taken forward. On behalf of the Churches, I thank the Minister for the Green Paper. I welcome it, and in particular the generous increase in the grant.
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