City Technology Colleges

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th June 1989.

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Photo of Mr Anthony Coombs Mr Anthony Coombs , Wyre Forest 12:00 am, 6th June 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress has been made with the establishment of city technology colleges.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

The CTC programme is already a great success. Kingshurst opened last year, Nottingham and Teesside will open in September, and Bradford, Dartford, Gateshead and the London school for performing arts and technology will open in 1990. We have public commitments of sponsorship for a further seven colleges and more sponsors will bring us easily up to our target of 20.

Photo of Mr Anthony Coombs Mr Anthony Coombs , Wyre Forest

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the success of CTCs is based upon their popularity with parents, the motivation of their students and the commitment of their teachers? In evidence of that, does he agree that applications for Solihull's CTC doubled last year, it is now three and a half times over-subscribed and its teachers, despite earning salaries similar to those in the state sector, work a school day that is 25 per cent. longer than average, showing their commitment to the CTC concept and the ethos underlying that?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

My hon. Friend is correct. The colleges are proving to be popular. Indeed, he underestimates the popularity of the one in Solihull. In the first year, there were some 400 applications to go there, and in the second year, starting in September, there were some 1,200 inquiries from parents who wanted to send their children there. That clearly shows the school's popularity. I confirm that the schools operate for longer hours and take shorter holidays and that students and teachers want to work in them.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley , Glanford and Scunthorpe

Are not the funding arrangements for CTCs dramatically different from what was originally planned and is not the contribution from the private sector a shadow of what was originally proposed? Is not the Secretary of State simply buying the schools to save his own face and are not the schools irrelevant in terms of the needs of children in modern education?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

That is completely wrong. For Kingshurst, the initial contribution was £1 million. That has risen to £2 million, and the school is now on its way to a third million. Taking the programme as a whole, nearly £40 million has now been pledged by British business to this programme, and it will meet its obligations. This is the most successful private industrial fund-raising scheme in the history of education in this country.

Photo of Mr Timothy Devlin Mr Timothy Devlin , Stockton South

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that far from depriving people in schools of much-needed capital investment, the Teesside city technology college is a Government investment which comes on top of a 41 per cent. increase in capital allocation for Cleveland schools this year?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I confirm what my hon. Friend says. I do not believe that the CTCs will have a harmful effect on the schools in their surrounding areas. In the case of Solihull and Birmingham, the other schools have already changed their curriculum, have smartened up their whole approach to attracting students and are attracting more students.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

Has not the public funding of so-called city technology colleges removed public funding from other colleges of technology in cities, such as Oxford polytechnic? The Secretary of State will be aware—because he received on 12 May a letter from me about this case—that this has led, for example, to a second year geology student, Alexandra Spawls writing to 200 public figures asking each of them to lend her £10 until her course is finished so that she can complete a mandatory six-week solo mapping project on the Isle of Mull and thereby gain her degree, which her grant and help from Oxford polytechnic are insufficient to cover. Instead of fancy back-door privatisation schemes, the right hon. Gentleman should fully fund the existing student population, rather than turning them into beggars.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

The increase in expenditure for polytechnics this year, in current costs, is nearly 10 per cent., and I have increased the capital allocation for the polytechnic sector this year from £50 million to £84 million.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell , Gedling

Is my right hon. Friend aware that such is the popularity of Nottingham's forthcoming CTC that I receive regularly letters from my constituents in Gedling complaining that their children do not live within the catchment area of the CTC, and they very much wish that they did?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I confirm what my hon. Friend says, and I am sure that the Nottingham CTC will be as popular as the Birmingham CTC. There is now growing demand from towns and cities all over the country to have CTCs, and I suspect that we shall exceed the original target of 20.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

Is the Secretary of State aware that the proposals to turn the Sylvan school in Croydon and the Haberdashers' Aske girls' school in Lewisham into CTCs are so unpopular with parents that they have voted overwhelmingly against those proposals? Does he appreciate that his refusal to accept conclusively those ballot results will reveal his support for parents' rights to be nothing more than a hollow sham?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question about Sylvan is that, as he knows, proposals for closure will be coming to me shortly and I shall decide on those proposals on their merits. As for Haberdashers' Aske, the result of the ballot shows that the majority of those voting are in favour of a CTC, and that provides a firm and clear basis on which the governors of the Haberdashers' Aske school may make a decision.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has recently received regarding the establishment of city technology colleges in London and the south-east.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I am delighted to say that there is tremendous interest in the establishment of CTCs in London and the south-east. As a result, I continue to receive many representations on a number of different possibilities.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

Does the Secretary of State concede that there is substantial concern among parents and teachers who might be affected by their school becoming a CTC lest their influence on the future of the school is substantially reduced? For example, Bacon school in Bermondsey, which would be entitled as an over 50-pupil school to have five elected parents and two elected teachers, would be replaced by a school with one elected parent and one elected teacher. What does the right hon. Gentleman say to the charge that that is entirely inconsistent with the local management of schools, in which I thought be believed?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would make it clear whether or not he supports the Bacon initiative in his locality, despite his repeated support for a national campaign against CTCs. I know that the governors of Bacon school are considering the possibility of moving to a site in docklands with a substantial amount of industrial sponsorship. That seems to be a remarkably attractive option, but I shall of course await the outcome of their deliberations.

Photo of John Maples John Maples , Lewisham West

In correcting the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), my right hon. Friend showed that he is aware that the parents and children of Haberdashers' Aske schools voted by a substantial majority in a joint ballot last week in favour of a proposal to convert to a CTC. Is he aware that this was in the face of concerted and orchestrated opposition by the Labour-controlled Inner London education authority to stop the ballot taking place? As the parents, teachers and governors have now voted in favour of this proposal, will he join me in hoping that the ILEA will now honour the verdict of the majority?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I know that this was a hard-fought case and that there was considerable organised opposition to it. But, as I have made clear, the result of that ballot showed that the majority of those voting want a change and that provides a firm and clear basis on which the governors of the school can make a decision. I hope that they will make that decision very quickly indeed.