New Deal for Schools

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th April 1999.

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Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes Labour, North East Derbyshire 12:00 am, 29th April 1999

What representations he has received concerning the outcome of the new deal for schools: capital programme phase 3. [81523]

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Employment

Since the announcement of successful projects under the new deal for schools, the Department has received many representations from hon. Members, local education authorities and schools, including one from my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes Labour, North East Derbyshire

I appreciate that everything cannot be funded at once, especially the provision of new schools. Derbyshire has had resources allocated to build a new school at Swadlincote. In my constituency, the Holymoorside school needs to be replaced. I encourage the Minister to examine our proposals. I hope that he will visit the school because it is vital that provision be made for it in next year's allocation. Derbyshire has many problems with the state of its schools and a strong case can be made for this one, although we realise that it was stuck behind another application.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Employment

My hon. Friend understands the situation fully and argued a powerful case for Holymoorside school. I am prepared to visit it to see for myself the conditions about which he is concerned.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Employment

My right hon. Friend is right. Hon. Members may be interested to learn that under phase 3 of the new deal for schools, the amount per pupil paid for Derbyshire was greater than for any other shire county except one. It had a good settlement, but I am acutely aware of my hon. Friend's points.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

Can the Minister confirm that only 1,053 out of 5,909 bids under phase 3 of the new deal for schools have been successful? As Allan Shaw county school in Steeple Claydon and Chackmore school in my constituency have had their bids rejected by him, can he confirm that where health and safety considerations are involved, special priority will be attached to bids by the schools in question?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Employment

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's confirmation of the terrible backlog in school spending that we have inherited. I repeat that, although we are making good progress, we are the first to recognise that there is a long way to go to deal with the problems. I have received representations from the hon. Gentleman on behalf of the two schools that he mentioned. He wrote to me and I wrote back with a full answer. I am speaking from memory, but I think that the schools were not given sufficiently high priority by the LEA to be given a grant. He is right about health and safety. It is the first consideration in the new deal for school spending and the first criterion under which LEAs submit their bids.

Photo of Bob Blizzard Bob Blizzard Labour, Waveney

I spent 25 years in classrooms before I entered the House, the last of which was spent teaching in a portakabin. I wonder whether hon. Members realise how dispiriting it is for children and teachers to have their lessons in sheds that are too hot in summer and too cold in winter. I welcome the effect that the new deal capital programme is having in my constituency. It is making a start on taking out the 18-year inheritance from the Conservative party of terrible portakabin classrooms, especially at Carlton Colville primary school and Warren special school. Will my hon. Friend give an undertaking to continue the work of ridding this country of these horrible classrooms? They are wrongly referred to as mobiles, as they rarely move, but they are on the move now.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Employment

My hon. Friend is right; he has highlighted an important point. My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have given priority to the new deal for schools precisely because, unlike other capital allocation processes, it focuses on dilapidation and serious problems of the type that my hon. Friend describes, and health and safety, to which the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) referred, among other issues. The new deal programme focuses on ridding this country of the terrible backlog of 18 years of Conservative neglect.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

When the Minister is reviewing the new deal for schools, will he reflect on two things? One is the proliferation of bidding processes, which Labour decried in opposition, and the other is the massive scale of the problem of temporary classrooms referred to by the hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard). There are 800 so-called temporary classrooms in Somerset, which represent a huge inefficiency in terms of cost and the teaching environment. It is a massive problem which needs to be addressed with huge resources to provide the sort of teaching accommodation that we want for our children.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Employment

We are addressing the problem with huge resources—far more, I may say, than the penny on income tax that the hon. Gentleman's party has suggested. We acknowledge that there is a massive amount to be done, and we are doing it. I understand what the hon. Gentleman says about the bidding process, but that is why we are asking LEAs to introduce asset management plans. We are funding the process precisely to achieve the most efficient local assessment of needs, management of capital and all the rest of it, so that the bidding process becomes less important. We will have a better system as a result of that and of the Government's commitment.