Baroness Blatch (Conservative)
That response was interesting and extremely revealing, on two counts. First, I turn to the matter of city technology colleges. Ministers have gone on the record lauding them. Ministers have gone on the record congratulating my noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking for initiating the city technology colleges. They have remained a part of the patchwork offering variety in educational provision. Indeed, the Minister's colleagues in another place have quite rightly built on the model of the city technology colleges in their plans for specialist schools. They are looking at ways of conferring greater economic freedom and autonomy at the school level. However, the noble Baroness says, "We have had enough of them and there will not be any more".
Secondly, I turn to grammar schools. Ministers on the Government Benches both here and in another place have said: "We are neutral on grammar schools and we take no view on whether they stay or they go". Indeed, the right honourable Mr Blunkett has commented that, "there are only 166 of them and I have other things to worry about in education". However, the noble Baroness has revealed her petticoat on this matter in that she has argued against them philosophically. She has argued against their existence and why we should have them. She has argued that they are wrong.
The noble Baroness made a comment with which I absolutely agree: all children should have the best possible quality of education appropriate to their needs. That is what I am arguing for here. A very bright child living in a part of the country where the schools are not able to offer the kind of highly academic, fast-stream education appropriate to that child's needs has nowhere to go. If there are some grammar schools, or if such a child could take advantage of something like the assisted places scheme to take it to an independent school, at least those provided an avenue. The latter scheme has already been denied to such children. Furthermore, over time, however painful it might be under the pernicious system supported by the noble Baroness and her colleagues, they would like to see the demise of our grammar schools. That is lamentable.
Perhaps the noble Baroness wishes to intervene.