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Estelle Morris: No, any interested party, including the LEA, will be able to present proposals. However, the measure will not squeeze out every other party but the LEA. It is a way of inviting a number of partners and creating a level playing field. When we decide between the proposals, we will take into account quality, value for money and local opinion, following full local consultation.
It is essential that the extra money makes its way to schools. We have made sure that we delegate more to schools than has ever been delegated before, but in the Bill we will take a reserve power to require local authorities to set at least a minimum level of budget. I say again that I anticipate that the power will rarely be used, but it will allow the Government, if necessary, to make sure that schools benefit from the extra money put in centrally.
Chris Grayling: The Secretary of State has been speaking for 32 minutes on a Bill which is, for her, a flagship piece of education reform. Why, during that time, has she made no reference to teacher work load or antisocial behaviour in the classroomthe two issues which, according to every independent organisation, dominate the problems in our schools?
Estelle Morris: I am moving the Second Reading of a Bill which does not include those issues. Not all legislation needs to do so. The hon. Gentleman must realise that there are more ways of achieving change than passing laws in the House of Commons. Some things need a legislative framework, some need orders, some need directions, some need letters and some just need money. If the hon. Gentleman wants me to tell him what we have done with regard to pupil behaviour, I will do so.
There are more than 1,000 learning support units in our secondary schools. They did not need legislation; they needed only the commitment of a Government who were prepared to put in the resources and listen to teachers. Every secondary school in our excellence in cities areas now has learning mentors. That did not need legislation; it needed a Government who were committed to making the change and putting in the resources. By next September, every excluded child will have a full-time education in a pupil referral unit and there will be more such units. That did not need legislation; it needed a Government who were committed to doing it and who would provide the resources.
That is exactly why I have not referred to those matters in relation to the Bill, which contains measures to change the procedures and processes for making exclusions. It will give more powers to head teachers and ensure that they are given more freedom to remove from school pupils who are interfering with the learning of students and annoying staff as well. It gives them more freedom to get troublemakers out of school. The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell must realise that the fact that something that is not in the Bill does not mean that it is not being acted on. We are already acting on the problems in schools, which is better than spending six months in the House introducing legislation.
Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East): There is a problem with regard to the so-called better schools, some of which are taking the exclusion route too freely. That results in school hopping, which happens when parents
Estelle Morris: I have huge sympathy with my hon. Friend's point. The perfect example is that of a child in year nine who is excluded, cannot find a place in a school that is already filled to capacity and therefore goes to a school that has places. By the nature of life, such schools will often have more than their fair share of challenging pupils. That is why we have deliberately targeted them in making our decisions about allocating resources in respect of learning support units and mentors. However, there is also a wider problem, and I have thought about it a lot, as it is difficult to solve. I believe that the solution is for local head teachers to meet, talk and find a solution meeting the needs"allocating" would be the wrong wordof excluded children.
The Bill contains a measure to ensure that all local authorities must have forums where such matters are discussed. I very much hope that head teachers will accept their responsibility not to put any school in a positionI shall not speak about "loading", which is a terrible word to use in respect of children who have as much entitlement to education as anyone elsewhere it has more than its fair share of challenging pupils, if another way can be sought. I accept that, if a school is full, it is genuinely difficult for it to take in other pupils. I applaud schools that do their share in that respect despite already being full or almost full.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) has made a good point about a significant problem. I genuinely believe that that problem cannot be solved by central diktat. My responsibility is not only to send the resources to the schools that end up with the challenges, but to put in place a framework to ensure that schools can make decisions about how these matters are dealt with.
Mr. Willis: Will the Secretary of State guarantee, whether by central diktat or otherwise, that no school that can opt out under the Bill, no new academy that is created, no new city academy or city technology college that continues to function and no new faith school will be permitted to have an admissions policy that does not allow the local education authority to place a child where there is a place in a school?
Estelle Morris: I am happy to give an assurance that all those schools, including city academies, will be covered by the admissions framework that applies to all maintained schools. That is an important point. Many city technology colleges already take excluded children and do a reasonably good job with them. The issue that faces the education system is huge. I have seen the problem best solved by head teachers who have been generous in spirit, like the hon. Gentleman in a former life, and got together locally to ensure that the needs of the children are well met.
The Bill takes forward a number of other important reforms. It continues the radical transformation of early education and child care. One of the most effective things that this Government have done in the long-term interests
The Bill gives us powers to build on the successes of the past four years and it will lie at the heart of our endeavour to ensure that we continue to succeed in the next four years. It is a major package of reform that will affect every school and every child in the country. It makes our good schools the leaders of educational reform for the first time and gives us more powers to work with and improve struggling schools. It paves the way for the long overdue reform of the curriculum for 14 to 19-year-olds and the opportunities that it offers, and emphasises the value that we should place on vocational education. At long last, it gives us the legal framework to consider the way in which we staff our schools. It also gives us the framework to continue to raise standards. That is our pledge to parents, teachers and others. I commend the measure to the House.
Once, long ago in opposition, the new Labour mantra was standards, not structures. Yet today we are considering a Bill of 211 clauses and 22 schedules that are devoted mainly to structures. No wonder the disappointment is so deep and the opposition so widespread.
The Secretary of State deserves congratulations on two matters. She mentioned the first the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures, which show how well our 15-year-olds did when they were tested in 2000. I am delighted about that. Everyone involved deserves the congratulations of the House, and I am happy to congratulate the right hon. Lady on that success happening on her watch. However, thanks to the excellent state schools that I attended, I am mathematically competent enough to work out that those children were born in 1984 and that, for the first 13 years of their education, they benefited from the reforms of the previous Conservative Government.