With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on education funding.
This coalition Government are determined to make opportunity more equal and to reverse the decline in the performance of our education system relative to that of our international competitors. Over the last 10 years we have declined from fourth in the world for the quality of science education to 14th, from seventh in the world for literacy to 17th, and from eight in the world for mathematics to 24th. At the same time the gulf between rich and poor has got wider, with the attainment gap between students in fee-paying schools and those in state schools doubling. But the action necessary to improve our schools is made more difficult by the truly appalling state of the public finances left by the last Government.
This coalition Government have inherited a national debt approaching £1 trillion, a budget deficit of £155 billion and debt interest costs every year that are more than the entire schools budget. It is no surprise then that the last Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer felt he had to pledge a 50% cut in all capital spending, the last Labour Education Secretary could not make any firm promises to protect schools capital spending in the future, and the last Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury left a letter saying simply, "There is no money left."
Faced with the desperate mess left by the last Administration, this Government have had to prioritise, and our first priority is raising the attainment of the poorest by investing in great teaching. We know that the world's best education systems have the most highly qualified teachers, and we are fortunate that the current generation of teachers is the best ever, but we must do better if we are to keep pace with the best in the world.
No organisation has done more to attract brilliant new recruits into the classroom than the charity, Teach First. Since its launch, Teach First has placed hundreds of highly accomplished graduates in our most challenging schools and has helped to drive up attainment in those schools for the very poorest children. We believe that every child should have access to excellence, especially the poorest, which is why we will more than double the size of this programme from 560 new teachers a year to 1,140. We will help recruit hundreds more teachers into areas of poverty, so there will be Teach First teachers in one third of all challenging schools, and, breaking new ground, we will fund the permanent expansion of Teach First into primary schools so that more than 300 superb new teachers will be working in some of the country's most challenging primaries.
However, while we have chosen to invest in people, there have been alternative submissions on how to make savings in the education budget. The shadow Education Secretary has argued in The Sunday Times that we should be sacking 3,000 heads and deputy heads this year in order to balance the books. I have rejected that advice. While the Labour party's answer to our economic mess is further undermining the teaching profession, our answer is supporting great teaching. Therefore, in order to clear up the economic mess we have been left, we have to bear down on the waste and bureaucracy that has characterised Labour's years in office and rein back the projects that have not been properly funded.
Even before we formed this coalition Government and had the opportunity to look properly at the scandalous mess we inherited, we knew that Labour Ministers had no proper respect for public money. The whole process by which the then Government procured new school buildings was a case in point. The Building Schools for the Future scheme has been responsible for about one third of all this Department's capital spending, but throughout its life it has been characterised by massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy.
The BSF process had nine meta-stages: preparation for BSF; project initiation; strategic planning; business case development; procurement planning; procurement; contractual close; construction; and then operation. Each of these meta-stages had a series of sub-stages. Meta-stage 3-strategic planning-for example, had another nine sub-stages. Step 1 required local authorities to produce a strategic overview of the education strategy. Step 2 required local authorities to produce a school and further education estate summary. Step 5 required local authorities to produce another strategic overview-this time with "detail and delivery". Step 6 required local authorities to use the school and FE estate summary to develop an "estates strategy". Only once we had reached step 9-once the Department for Education had given approval-did part 2 of the "strategy for change" become complete. This level of bureaucracy was absurd and had to go.
For those who doubt that money was wasted on the process, I have here just the first three of more than 60 official documents that anyone negotiating the BSF process needed to navigate. This whole process has been presided over by the Department for Education and the quango Partnerships for Schools, and at various times has involved another body, 4ps, and Partnerships UK. Local authorities involved in this process have employed a Partnerships for Schools director, a Department for Education project adviser, a 4ps adviser and an enabler from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment-another non-departmental public body.
Local authorities have also had to set up a project governance and delivery structure, normally including a project board of 10 people, a separate project team of another 10 people and a further, separate, stakeholder board of 20 people. They formed the core group supervising the project. Beyond them, local authorities were expected to engage a design champion, a client design adviser and a 4ps gateway review team-a group of people who produce six separate gateway reviews over the course of the whole project. It is perhaps no surprise that it can take almost three years to negotiate the bureaucratic process of BSF before a single builder is engaged or brick laid.
Some councils that entered the process six years ago have only just started building new schools. Another project starting this year is three years behind schedule. By contrast, Hong Kong international airport, which was built on a barren rock in the South China sea and can process 50 million passenger movements every year, took just six years to build from start to finish.
Given the massively flawed way in which BSF was designed and led, it failed to meet any of its targets. BSF schools cost three times what it costs to procure buildings in the commercial world, and twice what it costs to build a school in Ireland. The last Government were supposed to have built 200 wholly new schools by the end of 2008; they had only rebuilt 35 and refurbished 13. Those schools that were refurbished had to abide by a regulatory regime that prescribed the size and shape of cycle racks and of changing rooms next to showers, and even the precise species of plant allowed on school sites. The cost to each school for just participating in the early stages of the programme was equivalent to the cost of a whole newly qualified teacher. The cost of setting up the procurement bureaucracy before building could commence has been up to £10 million for each local area.
And this expenditure did not guarantee quality. One BSF school was built with corridors so narrow the whole building had to be reconstructed; another had to be closed because the doors could not cope with high winds. One was so badly ventilated that additional mobile air conditioners had to be brought in during the summer, and pupils were sent home. In three other BSF schools pupils collapsed from heat exhaustion, as design faults repeatedly sent the temperature up to 38° Celsius; that is hotter than August in the Sahara. After Labour's 13 years in power only 96 new schools out of a total secondary school estate of 3,500 schools have ever been built under BSF. The dilapidated school estate that we have today is, alongside our broken public finances, Labour's real legacy. Far from using the boom years to build a new Jerusalem, the previous Government only managed to fix just under 3% of roofs while the sun was shining.
The whole way in which we build schools needs radical reform to ensure that more money is not wasted on pointless bureaucracy, to ensure that buildings are built on budget and on time, and to ensure that a higher proportion of capital investment gets rapidly to the front line. That is why I can announce today that a capital review team, led by John Hood, the former vice-chancellor of Oxford university, Sir John Egan, the former chief executive of BAA plc and Jaguar, Sebastian James, the group operations director of Dixons Store Group, Kevin Grace, Tesco's director of property services and Barry Quirk, the chief executive of Lewisham council, will look at every area of departmental capital spending to ensure that we can drive down costs, get buildings more quickly and have a higher proportion of money going directly to the front line.
In order to ensure that we do not waste any more money on a dysfunctional process, I am today taking action to get the best possible value for the taxpayer. I will take account of the contractual commitments already entered into, but I cannot allow more money to be spent until we have ensured a more efficient use of resources. Where financial close has been reached in a local education partnership, the projects agreed under that LEP will go ahead. I will continue to look at the scope for savings in all these projects. Where financial close has not been reached, future projects procured under BSF will not go ahead. This decision will not affect the other capital funding in those areas; schools will still receive their devolved capital allowance for necessary repairs. The efficiencies that we make now will ensure better targeting of future commitments on areas of greatest need.
There are some areas where, although financial close has not been reached, very significant work has been undertaken, to the point of appointing a preferred bidder at "close of dialogue". There are 14 such cases, in which two or, occasionally, three projects have been prioritised locally as sample projects, to be the first taken forward in the area. I will be looking in more detail over the coming weeks at these sample projects to see whether any should be allowed to proceed.
As we believe in supporting those in greatest need, my Department will be talking to the sponsors of the 100 or so academy projects in the pipeline-those with funding agreements or that are due to open in the coming academic year-which are designed to serve students in challenging schools in our most deprived areas. Where academies are meeting a demand for significant new places and building work is essential to meet that demand, where there is a merger and the use of existing buildings would cause educational problems, and where there is other pressing need, I will look sympathetically on the need for building work to go ahead. But where projects are some way from opening or sponsors can use existing buildings to continue their work, any future capital commitments will have to wait until the conclusion of our review.
That review is made all the more necessary because as pupil numbers rise in years to come we have to ensure that our first duty is guaranteeing an expansion in capacity to meet that demographic growth. Action is urgently needed today because the whole of my predecessor's Department's spending plans were based on unsustainable assumptions and led to unfunded promises. In the forward projections that we inherited, the previous Government were relying on taking massive underspends, worth billions of pounds, across Government to fund promises on college places for teenagers and school buildings. That was a fundamentally irresponsible approach to so important an area. Fortunately, in this coalition Government we have a proper relationship between the Department for Education and the Treasury. That is why we have deliberately reduced our forecast reliance on underspends elsewhere and brought our spending into line. In the process, we have kept capital spending within the envelope outlined by the previous Government, so there are no reductions beyond those for which the Treasury had budgeted.
By bearing down on costs now we can ensure that money will be available in the future to help secure additional places, to help the most disadvantaged pupils and to refurbish those schools in greatest need. We have safeguarded front-line revenue schools spending, we have safeguarded front-line spending on Sure Start and we have safeguarded front-line spending on school and college places for 16 to 19-year-olds this year. We have cut spending on wasteful quangos, we have cut the unnecessary bureaucracy which has swallowed up so much money and we have reduced the amount spent on regional government, on field forces and on unnecessary Government inspection regimes; but we have prioritised funding for better teachers, we have invested more in the education of the poorest and we are giving schools greater control of the money that has previously been spent on their behalf. For everyone who believes in reforming education that has to be the right choice, and I commend this statement to the House.
Order. I am sorry to say that the Secretary of State significantly exceeded his time, which he will not be allowed to do again. In fairness, I shall also have to allow some modest leeway for the shadow Secretary of State.
The Labour Government built or refurbished 4,000 schools-the biggest school building programme since the Victorian era-and today is a black day for our country's schools. It is a damning indictment of this new Tory-Liberal coalition's priorities and it is a shameful statement from this new Secretary of State, who will for ever go down in history as the man who snatched free school meals from 500,000 poorer pupils and has now, today, in one stroke axed hundreds of brand-new schools from communities across the length and breadth of our country.
Building Schools for the Future was a once-in-a-generation chance to transform the whole local fabric of education-of secondary education, special schools and vocational learning, too. The freezing of the programme that has just been announced is a hammer blow for many hundreds of thousands of children, parents, teachers and governors who will now not get the transformed new school they were promised.
I predicted this day during the general election, and, after weeks of indecision, uncertainty and media speculation that has led to widespread confusion and concern in schools and in the construction industry, too, I am grateful that the right hon. Gentleman has finally made a statement to this House. However, is it not a disgrace that, even now, the Secretary of State has not provided a list of all the schools that will be affected? How can hon. Members on both sides of the House ask questions of the Secretary of State when they do not know which of the schools in their constituencies will be affected? The Secretary of State knows the names of the schools. I believe that he has a duty to tell the House and the country and that he should agree to publish the list now-straight away-so we can give it proper scrutiny.
Let me turn to the some of the detailed issues that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. On standards, will he confirm that in the recent trends in international mathematics and science study-or TIMSS-England has risen from 25th in the world to seventh in the world and that among 10 to 14-year-olds we now have the highest achievement in mathematics of all European countries in that study? Why cannot he stop running down the achievements of our children and teachers in our schools?
On teaching, does the Secretary of State agree that we have the best generation of teachers that we have ever had? Will he confirm that the previous Government had already invested in expanding Teach First, including pilots for primary schools? Is he aware that it was the leadership of Teach First who warned me that to accelerate the expansion of the programme any faster would put at risk the quality and success of Teach First-a risk that he has just taken in this statement?
On the Building Schools for the Future programme, the National Audit Office looked into the programme last February and said that originally the forecasts were "overly optimistic", and that local authorities were asked
"to spend more time to improve their proposals, because...it was more important to improve the quality than to accelerate the programme."
The NAO concluded that the processes for procurement had "significantly" improved and also found that the total capital cost of each BSF school was similar to that of other schools and 17% cheaper than that of previous academies.
In the next year, as the Secretary of State travels around the country opening the 200 new schools set to open under the BSF programme, will he tell pupils, parents, governors and contractors that their school is part of a programme he believes to be "dysfunctional" and a "waste" of money? Or will he withdraw these unrepresentative and vindictive remarks? It is not the bureaucracy that he is abolishing, but hundreds of new schools for children in our country.
As for my record as Secretary of State, some very serious allegations have been made. I have this afternoon written to the permanent secretary at the Department for Education, who was also the accounting officer for the whole time I was Secretary of State. I have asked him to confirm that all capital funding announcements, including those on BSF, were made with prior agreement between the Department and the Treasury in a normal and fully legitimate way and with his full agreement as chief accounting officer and to confirm that if that had not been done properly, the accounting officer would have insisted on a ministerial direction but that no such directions were issued by me and none were requested. If the right hon. Gentleman has evidence that the proper processes were not undertaken, it is incumbent on him to provide that evidence to the House, rather than make these allegations. I hope that he will agree that his permanent secretary must be encouraged to clarify these issues as soon as possible today.
The right hon. Gentleman has chosen today to freeze BSF and to ask one of the Prime Minister's old university chums to review the whole programme. He has offered no assurance that this review is anything more than a fig leaf, however. Is it not the truth that 750 schools that have not yet signed their contracts will now be told that they will not get their new school building? We need to know how many schools will be affected, where they are, and how much money has already been spent on those programmes. Is it correct, as the Financial Times reports, that more than £1 billion-worth of new undertakings have been signed since the general election? Does the right hon. Gentleman have an estimate of how much his Department will now have to pay in legal and contractual costs associated with those frozen or cancelled contracts? How many private sector jobs does he think will be lost as a result of these decisions?
The Secretary of State says that this decision is inevitable. That is what Ramsay MacDonald said in 1931, and Margaret Thatcher said to the House in 1980 about investment spending cuts. Only a few weeks ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House in the Budget statement that
"an error was made in the early 1990s when the then Government cut capital spending" and said that he had decided that there
"will be no further reductions in capital spending totals".-[ Hansard, 22 June 2010; Vol. 512, c. 170.]
Is it not the truth that, while I won my battles with the Treasury for rising education spending, the Secretary of State has lost his battle and is now planning cuts of between 10% to 20% to the schools budget? Will he also confirm that his top priority for the spending review will be his free-market schools policy, which will see new schools being built in an unfair two-tier system paid for by cuts to the Building Schools for the Future programme and to the new schools that were promised over the past year or two in the constituencies of hon. Members on both sides of the House?
What we have seen from the coalition today is another attack on jobs, another assault on opportunities and a huge blow to the life chances of children in communities across our country. This was not an unavoidable decision; it is a choice that the right hon. Gentleman has made, and in my view, he has made the wrong choice. I say to every family, every school, every Member of Parliament and every community blighted by this decision that we on this side of the House will fight to save our new schools. We not stand idly by and see this happen.
I am grateful to the shadow Secretary of State for his questions. As I pointed out in my statement, the number of schools rebuilt under Building Schools for the Future under the previous Government was just 96 out of 3,500 secondary schools. Under this Government, 706 projects will go ahead. It is also the case, as he said, that we know where those school projects are. As hon. Members will know, projects will go ahead in those local authorities that have reached financial close, and I presume that they will know whether their local authority has reached that stage. Every single one of the school projects that is to go ahead will be listed, and every Member of the House and every local authority is being written to today to be told which projects are going ahead- [ Interruption. ] The Opposition will appreciate that, with more than 1,500 projects involved, many of them needed to be looked at in detail. That is why I will be writing to every Member of the House.
The right hon. Gentleman said that we were going to cancel free school meals. I must remind him that not a single child in receipt of free school meals will lose their free school meals under this Government. That is an unsubstantiated allegation. He also said that he predicted today's announcement during the general election. However, during the general election, my hon. Friend Mr Gibb said that we would be looking at Building Schools for the Future, and that we could not guarantee any project beyond financial close. So there was no prediction on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, but there was a grim warning on the part of my hon. Friend that the devastating assault on the public finances over which the right hon. Gentleman helped to preside meant that tough decisions would have to be taken by anyone, whatever the result of the election.
The right hon. Gentleman argues that under the proposals, the private sector will lose out. I have to point out to him that we are sticking precisely to the limits on capital laid out by Mr Darling. If Ed Balls thinks that the proposed level of capital spending is devastating for the private sector, he should have been campaigning against the last Chancellor of the Exchequer before the last election. [Interruption.] Let me rephrase that. He should have been campaigning more vigorously against the last Chancellor of the Exchequer before the last election.
The right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood says that the leadership of Teach First did not back our proposals for expansion. I have to say that our proposals for expansion were negotiated with the leadership of Teach First, who were delighted to see the Government carry forward what the previous Government were not able to do. He says that that is money wasted, and he refuses to back that expansion of Teach First. I believe that investing money in quality teaching in our poorest schools is the right choice for the future. It is interesting that he thinks it is the wrong choice. It is also interesting that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that having gone to a public school and Oxford university automatically rules someone out of making any decision about the future of school capital, in which case he is hoist by his own rhetorical petard.
Let me make it clear that if we compare the improvement in attainment between Building Schools for the Future and Teach First, a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that Building Schools for the Future had little statistically significant impact on people's attitude and behaviour and there was no firm evidence of improved attainment, whereas Teach First, in a study by the university of Manchester, has been shown to have led to a statistically significant improvement in GCSE results.
The truth is that the right hon. Gentleman made unsustainable and irresponsible promises that he knew no Government could keep. He went around the country saying that new schools would be built, when the Chancellor had pledged to cut capital spending in half. He asks about the reality of his irresponsible spending. In the three years in which he was in charge of his Department, the amount of spending that he was relying on coming from other Departments-the amount of underspend that he was relying on-rose from £80 million to £800 million and now to more than £2.5 billion. That £2.5 billion of unfunded commitments is evidence of scandalous irresponsibility.
If anyone in the House wants an example of a truly damaging decision on school building, I remind Opposition Members what the last Labour Government did with the Learning and Skills Council. Ministers invited scores of schools and colleges to submit building plans, which cost those schools and colleges millions of pounds. Ministers then arbitrarily and without warning cancelled 90% of those projects scheduled to go ahead. When those projects were cancelled, schools' budgets were devastated and there were holes in the ground-
Order. May I gently say to the Secretary of State that I am witnessing something that is, in my experience in the Chair, unprecedented? The right hon. Gentleman must answer the questions that are put to him. He is not supposed to be reading out a previously written script which either was or was not said before. What I want the Secretary of State to do is briefly to respond to each question, and I would like Back Benchers to have a chance to participate.
I am very grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. The point that I was making is that if we are looking at school building projects and we want to see what scandalously went wrong, we need to look at what went wrong under my predecessor. When he was responsible for the Learning and Skills Council, 90% of projects were cancelled. When he was responsible for education funding, we know that 90% of projects had to be-
Order. I am sorry. Let me say to the Secretary of State that the assurance of his gratitude is of no interest to me; adherence to my ruling is. The right hon. Gentleman has had his say. We will now proceed to Back Benchers. I want to accommodate as many as possible, and that requires economy both in question and in answer.
Building Schools for the Future achieved too little at too great a cost, as the Labour-dominated Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families concluded in the previous Parliament. When will the new review team report back to the Secretary of State so that we can have a clearer view of the policy going forward?
We hope to have an interim review reporting in September, which will tell us how we can make significant improvements in efficiency, which will feed into the spending review. The culmination of that review should be by the end of the calendar year.
Schools in Liverpool will be devastated by the Secretary of State's announcement today. When the Building Schools for the Future programme was devised we deliberately decided to focus first on the schools in the poorest parts of the country. He said at the beginning of his statement that his priority was raising the attainment of the poorest. How does the announcement today do that for communities such as the one that I represent in Liverpool?
Order. At this point the Secretary of State's answer is entirely orderly. Let us hear it.
Ever since I was a candidate, I have watched local education partnerships-mentioned only briefly-soak up endless time and money. Academy sponsors have come to me in despair because of the amount of money that those bureaucratic layers have soaked up-money that should be going to the poorest. I believe that Labour Members have a concern for bridging the gap between the rich and poor, and I know that my right hon. Friend does. Does he agree that it is a tragedy to see every penny soaked up by local education partnerships, by the papers on his table and by bureaucratic layers, rather than going to those children who most need it?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. In every local authority that has entered Building Schools for the Future so far, the average amount spent on local education partnerships is between £9 million and £10 million. That money should have gone to the front line, into bricks and mortar and into improving education, not into the pockets of bureaucrats.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that some schools in his local authority area have reached financial close, and those that have reached financial close, including Shirebrook, are unaffected.
Order. I do apologise for interrupting the right hon. Gentleman, but I am hearing from a sedentary position, "Point of order". May I say gently to the House that points of order follow statements? I have an almost insatiable appetite for hearing- [ Interruption. ] Order. I have an almost insatiable appetite for hearing and responding to points of order, but everything in its time. The House will want to hear Sir Alan Beith.
Does the Secretary of State realise that the arbitrary rules of Labour's Building Schools for the Future programme excluded schools in desperate need of replacement in counties such as Northumberland? Will the mechanism that he proposes to use allow for some of those urgent cases to be considered?
I am very conscious that Building Schools for the Future was constructed, as I have pointed out, in an absurdly bureaucratic way and often meant that schools in real need, such as The Duchess's community high school in Alnwick, did not receive the funding that quite properly the right hon. Gentleman has argued for. It is hoped that our review will concentrate on ensuring that all schools in need receive the funding that they deserve.
Three years ago, within weeks of a Tory-Lib Dem council being elected in Bury, a state-of-the-art school for the most disadvantaged community in my constituency was scrapped. Within weeks of a Tory-Lib Dem coalition Government having been formed in this country, the same school has been denied hope as a consequence of Building Schools for the Future funding being cancelled. Why has the Secretary of State not responded to my request for a meeting of five weeks ago, so that he might hear for himself from representatives of that disadvantaged community about why, if it is to have a future, it desperately needs a state-of-the-art school?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point; I know that he is a passionate supporter of improving educational standards in his area. I shall be delighted to meet him, and I understand that the school that he mentions is under review. I shall come back to him.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that now there should be an inquiry into the abuse of the end-of-year flexibility rules by previous Ministers, under which so much false hope was extended on the basis of commitments that were not properly funded?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. In the past three years the dramatic rise in the Department for Children, Schools and Families' reliance on end-of-year flexibility has been striking. In effect, the Department was relying on underspends throughout the Government to sustain its own programme, including the so-called September guarantee-the guarantee of school and college places for 16 to 19-year-olds. The agreement that the Department entered into with the Treasury in order to rely on underspends elsewhere is not one that we believe to be either sustainable or prudent.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that for more than 100 years we have had a proud tradition of democratic participation in education and an education system in every local education area? Is he today announcing, finally, the death knell of democratic educational participation in our country?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the many intelligent questions that he asks, but sadly that was not up with the best of them. I am absolutely insistent that we move towards a greater degree of local participation in deciding educational priorities. That is why future capital decisions, instead of being a matter for the bureaucrats who have been responsible for making so many of the decisions in unaccountable quangos, will increasingly be a matter for local communities.
At the moment we expect that there will be a significant saving of billions of pounds. I will write to my right hon. Friend about the precise sum when we have made our final decisions and determinations on the sample projects that I mentioned, which we are reviewing, and the academy projects, which we are also reviewing.
When the Secretary of State started his speech, he said that he wanted to make opportunity more equal. He then went on to say that in determining which schools were to get funding, he would give priority to schools where there was a financial close, to academies and to free schools. Will he please tell me why he will not give priority to the 12 projects in my constituency, many of which are designed to provide the additional places that are required because of the additional numbers of pupils coming into the borough?
I respect the right hon. Lady, who is now Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, but I fear that she may be confusing two things; that is entirely understandable given the complexity of capital funding arrangements. I think that she may be confusing Building Schools for the Future with basic need capital, which will continue to be supplied. I believe that there are four projects in her constituency, not 12, one of which is a sample project that is under discussion.
Is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State as appalled as I am to learn that consultants extracted £60 million-worth of fees from local authorities-enough to build three new schools-under the Building Schools for the Future programme? That is yet another example of the previous Labour Government throwing money around like confetti.
My hon. Friend makes an impeccable point. The fact that so much money was spent-I would argue wasted-on consultancy rather than on going to the front line marks one of the greatest deficiencies in the way in which the Building Schools for the Future programme was managed.
Does the Secretary of State accept that, to use his words, the truly appalling legacy was the legacy that was left to a Labour Government in 1997-that of schools throughout Birmingham with leaking roofs and kids getting taught in corridors? Does he also accept that today's announcement will be a bitter blow for Birmingham, leaving 50 schools in limbo; a bitter blow for the children of Birmingham, who deserve new schools to get the best possible start in life; and a bitter blow for Birmingham's construction workers, many more of whom will end up on the dole as a consequence of the Secretary of State's announcement?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. I appreciate his disappointment and the passion with which he puts his case. As regards the impact on the private sector, as I pointed out earlier, under the projections for reductions in capital spending made by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West, capital spending overall would have been reduced by 50%; we are operating within that capital envelope.
On the hon. Gentleman's broader point about the legacy that the Labour Government inherited in 1997, that legacy was a healthy economy, growing fast, and an opportunity to make investment not just in schools but in hospitals. It is a pity that the Building Schools for the Future programme was so bureaucratic that in the 13 years that the Labour Government had, only 96 new schools were built.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. One of the things that I am most determined to do is reform the way in which teachers are trained by ensuring that we improve and increase employment-based and school-based initial teacher training. That will mean that more great teachers can be trained in the classroom, learn their craft from existing great teachers and continue to improve the quality of education that young people receive.
What was markedly missing from the Secretary of State's quite shameful and inadequate statement was any concern for the future of all our children. My constituency is served by two local authorities, Brent and Camden. Both are facing a serious shortfall in places not only in secondary schools but in junior schools. His failure to give any information to parents, pupils, schools and my local authorities on which schools will go ahead and which will not, and on what funding will be available to provide additional places, was an absolute and utter disgrace.
I know how passionately the hon. Lady fights for her constituents. She mentions junior schools; she will be aware that junior and primary schools are not covered by the BSF programme, and today's announcement does not affect the primary capital programme.
As far as secondary schools go, the hon. Lady will know that her principal local authority, Camden, has reached the close of dialogue but not yet financial close. As a result, she will know that there are two sample projects in her local authority area, and they fall under- [Interruption.] I am sure that she will know the schools in her own constituency that are sample projects.
While money has, in many cases, been squandered on consultants, pre-procurement processes and wasteful bureaucracy, my constituency has not had a single school built through the Building Schools for the Future programme. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is outrageous that fewer than 200 schools have been built while billions of pounds have been spent?
The Secretary of State said that he would look sympathetically on the need for building work to go ahead where the use of existing buildings would cause educational problems and where there was other pressing need such as a rise in pupil numbers because of demographic growth, both of which are issues in my constituency. Will he confirm that that applies to schools that are currently part of BSF but are not academies and do not intend to become free schools?
I share my right hon. Friend's concern about the wastage of resources, but I am obviously concerned about schools in my constituency, particularly a special school, Montacute school. Can he assure me that special schools will be given every consideration in the review?
Sutton Centre community college in my constituency is in the process of gaining academy status. In order to get that status, it was guaranteed a new building because the college is in urgent need of repair. The Secretary of State says that he wants more academies and wants to help pupils in deprived areas. Will those two principles mean that the new building for Sutton Centre can go ahead?
If Sutton Centre has either signed a funding agreement or has academy status in the pipeline, it will be one of the projects that is reviewed. I hope to talk to the hon. Lady to ensure that its progress towards academy status is encouraged if it is proceeding properly, but I do not know the specifics of that particular school's case.
Will the Secretary of State consider fast-tracking academy status for outstanding schools that were hoping to benefit from the BSF programme? I particularly mention the case of Castle community college in Deal, which, seeing the writing on the wall, is now seeking to be an academy. It is an outstanding school, and I hope that the Secretary of State will give it full consideration.
I welcome that application from what I know is an outstanding school, and I will do everything possible to ensure that if the headmaster and governing body want to take advantage of academy freedoms, they can do so. With that, there is no additional preferential or other capital spending commitment that I can make. I can, however, reassure my hon. Friend that the Duke of York's royal military school in his constituency, which is moving towards academy status-in fact, I think it enjoys that status now-and which required extra accommodation for the children of service people, is one of the academy projects that I am most anxious to see go forward.
I am afraid that I do not know the difference between the close of dialogue and financial closure, and the local authority does not ring me up and tell me when they happen. Will the Secretary of State confirm that all nine schools in the BSF programme in Leicester East will remain in it? If there are any financial penalties as a result of what the Secretary of State has said today, will the Government reimburse local authorities that signed contracts in good faith?
I am afraid that local authorities entered this process under the previous Government and the responsibility lies there. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the difference between close of dialogue and financial close, and I agree that the process can be confusing. It is precisely because the Building Schools for the Future programme was so confusing that we needed to simplify it. As I pointed out to Liz Kendall, Leicester is a local authority that has reached financial close, so the projects that were slated to go ahead in the right hon. Gentleman's constituency should go ahead.
Following the point made by my hon. Friend Mr Wilson, I should say that the people of Suffolk had the temerity not to return a suitable number of Conservative Members of Parliament in previous elections and therefore were right at the back of the queue for Building Schools for the Future. They were kept waiting under this inadequate system. Can the Secretary of State confirm when the people of Chantry high school and Stoke high school, who have been kept waiting for many years, might expect some sort of investment? I am thinking also of Holywells school, which is part of the national challenge scheme.
I am disappointed that Ipswich has had to wait so long as a result of that. I am afraid that schools in that local authority area did not reach financial close. There is an academy in my hon. Friend's constituency that will form part of our review programme. I am afraid that today's announcement means that, sadly, Building Schools for the Future investment will not go ahead for Chantry high school.
Wakefield City high school serves pupils on the Eastmoor estate, one of the most disadvantaged in the country, yet it is one of the top six schools in the country for gross value added. Can the Secretary of State tell us how that school will be served following his triple whammy of cutting the extension of free school meals, cutting local council funding for both capital and programmes for disadvantaged pupils, and today's cutting of the Building Schools for the Future budget? How does that assist his avowed aim of helping the education of the poorest children in the country?
I am sorry that the position we inherited meant that the capital investment for which the hon. Lady quite properly argues in her constituency could not be delivered. She should bring up the issue with her parliamentary neighbour Ed Balls and with Mr Darling, who were responsible for taking us into the dreadful economic situation that necessitated today's unavoidable announcement.
Is the Secretary of State aware that Building Schools for the Future spent £20 million on building a school in Essex and that, sadly, Essex county council was forced to close it down six years later? Is he also aware that the BBC quoted a local authority IT officer who said
"lots of money has been spent and nobody seems to know where it's gone"?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I have lost count of the number of people in the educational world who have made it clear to me that the Building Schools for the Future programme was not managed as it should have been if it was to guarantee the best possible investment of taxpayers' money.
Does the Secretary of State understand the huge levels of concern and anxiety in my constituency and throughout the rest of Barnsley because of his announcement today? He has had a bit of a shocker at the Dispatch Box, so I will try to be helpful. If he has a list affecting my constituents, or others in Barnsley or elsewhere, why does he not put it before the House now?
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be aware that his local authority in Barnsley has reached financial close, and for that reason the schools will go forward unaffected. I will write personally to every Member to make it clear to them exactly what is happening in their own constituency. I shall also, of course, be writing to every local authority. I appreciate how seriously Members take this issue, so I presume that most Members will know whether their local authorities were in financial close or at close of dialogue.
More than 300 Teach First teachers will be going into primary schools, and Teach First will be expanding for the first time into every part of the United Kingdom. Hitherto, it has not operated in the south-west of England, but now it will. The Teach First model has concentrated mainly on major cities, but we are consulting Teach First on precisely how it can expand into areas such as the south-west.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that the excellent BSF applications from the previously Lib Dem-Tory council in Brent, which were supported at the time by the Minister of State, Department for Education, Sarah Teather, will be subject to the freeze? Could that be why the Minister refused to debate those issues with me at the Brent teachers association last week, and why she looks so bloody miserable today?
Order. My tender sensibilities have been gravely affected, but I am more concerned about people in the country, particularly young people. Will the hon. Gentleman please withdraw that unseemly term?
My hon. Friend the Minister enjoys debating with the hon. Gentleman at every available opportunity. He will be delighted to know that we want to ensure that the academy that is being opened by ARK in his constituency goes ahead. We also want to ensure that in future, we look to guarantee that future capital spending that might affect his constituency goes to those pupils and schools in greatest need, including primary schools.
The Secretary of State specifies 14 cases in which he will reconsider so-called sample projects. Can he explain what criteria and aspects he will consider when looking at those so-called sample projects, and what will most guide his decision making with regard to them?
I want to be sure that the legal and contractual position is secure for those sample projects, and also at the arguments that have been made specifically to them. There are sample projects in Blackpool that we will want to review. I know that my hon. Friend, as a passionate fighter for education in his constituency and more broadly, will want to ensure that effective representations are made on behalf of his constituents, and I look forward to receiving them.
How many school building projects have been frozen as a result of the coalition Government's announcement, and how many of our children are affected by that coalition freeze?
I know that my hon. Friend, as a lead member for children's services in his local authority area, has been a dedicated fighter for improved investment in school fabric, and how disappointing the current BSF process has been for him. I will certainly do everything I can to seek, in the course of the review, to prioritise investment in schools whose fabric has, over the years, become so dilapidated that we need desperately to do something.
Again, I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. It would undoubtedly be helpful if she could tell me whether her local authority is in financial close or in close of dialogue. My understanding is that Walsall has not reached financial close, but I believe that her constituency benefits from an academy project.
The court of public opinion will judge the shambolic way in which the BSF programme was administered by the previous Government. Does my right hon. Friend have an estimate of the number of teaching hours that were wasted by teachers and schools devoting time to the BSF programme?
We know that thousands of teaching hours were devoted to it. In many cases, deputy and assistant head teachers had to take time out of school-often for as many as two or three days a week-in order to take part in the procurement process. Time that could have been spent on teaching and learning was instead spent entangled in bureaucracy.
On Friday I had a meeting with the head teachers and chairs of governors of the six schools in my constituency that were expecting to be rebuilt or refurbished later this year under wave 6 of BSF. None of those six schools was a sample school, and none of them was at financial close, but all of them had proceeded on the basis that this vital investment would be forthcoming. Why does the Secretary of State think that it is okay for some students in my constituency to learn in portakabins?
I do not believe that temporary accommodation is right for any student if we can do better. The problem that we have is that we inherited a financial situation and the money simply is not there. As the hon. Lady knows, her local authority was a participant in an earlier wave of BSF. There are some schools in Liverpool that have benefited from that earlier wave, but a later wave has not reached financial close and so, regrettably, the investment cannot go into those schools. That is a direct consequence of the economic mess that we inherited from the last Government-and she stood in their support in the election.
Again, if the hon. Gentleman can let me know whether his financial authority has reached financial close, I will be able to tell him. I will write to him, and a full list of schools is being put in the Library. In Rochdale, I think that all the schools will go ahead.
Order. Questions with the brevity demonstrated by Simon Danczuk are an inspiration that others might seek to follow.
My right hon. Friend will be aware of the hard work that the many inspirational teachers in West Suffolk do to wade through some of the bureaucracy with which they have to deal. Does he agree that it is irresponsible to raise hopes of new schools when no sustainable funding is available?
I entirely agree. It is irresponsible, cynical and poor politics. It was one of the terrible things about the last Government that they raised hopes before the last election knowing that they would not be able to honour them.
The Secretary of State will know that I asked him in education questions a few weeks ago about Stoke-on-Trent. My city was in the unique circumstances of being in phase 1 of the process. He said that he would look at the position sympathetically, so can he now give the people of the area, who are anxiously awaiting this decision, a positive answer?
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's commitment to his constituents. He will be aware that the situation in Stoke-on-Trent is one of the worst examples of the way in which the bureaucracy associated with BSF has delayed necessary investment in rebuilding the school estate. Stoke-on-Trent is one of those local authorities that has reached financial close, so therefore school rebuilding will go ahead-and I hope that it will do so more quickly and efficiently.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is curious that Labour Members seem so obsessed with state-of-the-art buildings and so uninterested in the quality of teaching in schools? Will he confirm that our Government will have different priorities?
We are in the absurd position of constantly having to ask the Secretary of State to read from his list. I know precisely which schools in my area have not reached financial close, but I do not know if they have got to the close of dialogue stage. Those three schools are La Retraite, Dunraven and Bishop Thomas Grant. Can he tell me from his list whether they will go ahead?
Again, I hope that hon. Members appreciate that the confusion that exists about whether schools have reached financial close, close of dialogue or another position is a consequence of the way in which the whole BSF project was designed. Their confusion is a direct result of the bureaucracy. Dunraven school is a sample school, and therefore falls within the group of local authority schools that we will look at. Elm Court, a special school in his constituency, has already opened under BSF. I believe that two other schools have not reached financial close, and I will confirm that in my letter to him. A full list of all schools is being placed in the Library-[Hon. Members: "When?"] It is in the Library now.
When the review team reports, can the Secretary of State ensure that its recommendations give priority to tackling dilapidation, so that schools such as Carshalton girls school in my constituency can get the works that they need?
I appreciate my hon. Friend's determination to ensure that dilapidation forms part of the criteria for our capital review. I can confirm that we want to ensure that those schools that are in the worst state receive the most favourable treatment possible in future, given the constrained financial circumstances in which we are all operating.
This is an absolute disgrace. The Secretary of State has a list that he is reading from. He could have stated at the outset that the list was in the Library, so that Members could have asked him about what was happening in our constituencies. Can he tell the House whether there are any phase 1 schools for which he has stopped projects and whether there are any phase 5 schools that are going ahead? We need to know what is going on in our constituencies, because we have learned nothing today that was not in the papers over the weekend.
The hon. Gentleman makes the point that we need to know what is going on in our constituencies. The point that I would make is that inevitably, because of the complicated way in which Building Schools for the Future was arranged, there is confusion. However, I can say that I believe that the phase 1 projects in his constituency-I hope that he will confirm this-of Broadoak, Crown Woods, Eltham Hill and Thomas Tallis are unaffected. The academy base for Eltham Hill is under discussion, but I am afraid that in four other areas the later wave of projects has been stopped because they have not yet reached financial close.
As somebody who completed their teacher training in a new school that did not originally have enough entrances to get the pupils in, I certainly welcome the common-sense approach to new school design. Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is not just about buildings, but about what goes on inside them, and that there are plenty of schools and authorities throughout the country that did not qualify for BSF? Can we therefore have an assurance that he will ignore the petty, party point scoring from the Opposition? Does he agree that, as we move forward, we need to divert resources to the most needy children in our local communities, and especially those who are excluded?
I quite agree. My hon. Friend has consistently made it clear that the care of excluded children is one of the most important things on his mind. When it comes to future investment-for example, in pupil referral units or alternative provision-we want to ensure that we do everything possible to bear down on costs and make sure that more provision can be secured for those vulnerable children.
The Secretary of State has said that we should know what the situation is in our constituencies, but by having the information in advance, we could have seen what was happening in our regions and the country generally. With hindsight, does he agree that it would have been better to provide that information before the debate, rather than during it, and that this would have been in the interests of transparency, so that we could have had a full statement and full interventions by Members from all parts of the House?
I take the right hon. Lady's point, but I have made it clear that there are rules-based criteria by which we have made our judgment, based on whether schools have reached financial close. As Clive Efford made clear earlier, not only was there speculation in the press, but it was also the case that before the general election the Minister of State, my hon. Friend Mr Gibb, made it clear that it was unlikely that we would be able to proceed with those projects that had not reached financial close. Once again, I appreciate that the different stages of the Building Schools for the Future programme have led to confusion. However, I am sure that the right hon. Lady, like many other Members who care about their constituents, will be aware of the precise stage that projects have reached in her area and the local authority area that covers it.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that some of the projects that he has put on hold today were in a position to be signed off by the previous Government before the general election? Is it not also the case that the shadow Education Secretary knew a lot more about what would and would not be possible when he was running his Department than he seems to know now, when he is running for his party leadership?
I am assuming that all of the £210 million of BSF money for Hammersmith and Fulham is gone, including the £20 million for Phoenix high school-one of the most deprived yet improved schools in the country, and where the Secretary of State gave the address at the last presentation evening-and the £21 million for William Morris sixth form, of which I should declare I am a governor. But how are we supposed to know all that from a disgraceful statement comprising four pages of point-scoring waffle and one page that is totally unclear? The language of financial close is not the language that our local authorities have been using with us, so will the Secretary of State please not blame us or our local authorities, but instead blame his Government for not even being clear about which school projects they are cutting?
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman feels that way. I appreciate that Phoenix school in his constituency-a school that I have visited, as he rightly pointed out-is an excellent school. The language of financial close is not my language; it is the language that has been chosen for Building Schools for the Future. It was the language developed by the Government of whom he was a part and the language used by the shadow Education Secretary.
Is the Secretary of State disappointed to hear that when I asked why two of the three allowable phase 3 new build projects in Bradford were in schools with some of the highest levels of attainment in the district-instead of in schools serving deprived communities-I was told that raising educational attainment was not a criterion for the allocation of BSF phase 3 funds?
My hon. Friend makes the very good point that the criteria that govern Building Schools for the Future were not as they should be. The capital review will be looking to ensure that when future money is allocated, a more sensitive set of criteria will form part of that process.
Over the past five years I have seen nine new schools in my constituency improve their standards of education and behaviour. What can the right hon. Gentleman say to parents who have signed up to send their children to the two proposed academies in my constituency, on the basis that they would indeed be academies on
My right hon. Friend's passion for teaching is a welcome change from his predecessor's passion for bureaucracy and financial waste-waste that has cost the taxpayers in Bedford borough council £500,000 on their Building Schools for the Future proposal, with no progress at all made on building. However, as my right hon. Friend is aware, there is a complex change in Bedford, involving a transition from three-tier to two-tier education. Will he agree to have a meeting on that issue?
I have written repeatedly to the Secretary of State over the past six weeks asking him to confirm the funding for the three Durham academies, in Consett, Belmont and Stanley. I have to say that it is absolutely disgraceful for the information to come out as it has, and it has meant that Members are having to stand up in this place and individually beg for information from the Secretary of State.
The hon. Lady asks about the two academies. In my statement I made it clear that Consett and Stanley academies- [ Interruption. ] I will have to write to the hon. Lady about Belmont in due course, but Consett and Stanley form part of our review.
May I first congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement today? I might add that he was far too generous about the bureaucracy, because anybody in local government or schools who has been involved would have been far more attacking than he was. Will he look especially at the two cases in my city-the Priory school and King Richard-both of which are just weeks away from financial closure? If there is a review, may I ask that it take place speedily, so that such schools can get a clear answer? That will prevent several more hundreds of thousands of pounds from being spent, by both the local authority and the bidders for the two projects concerned.
Can the Secretary of State tell me what the names are of the schools that could be affected in my constituency? Ernesford Grange and Finham Park are rebuilds, while there is refurbishment at Westwood, Whitley Abbey and Blue Coat. Let me say to the Secretary of State that it is no good referring the issue to local authorities. It is his job to get briefed by his officials who are in contact with local authorities. If he cannot answer those questions, there is something wrong, because I am appalled at the way in which he has answered the questions in the House today, and I have been politics a very long time.
I thought it was my duty to tell the House of Commons first about the principles that guided this. I made it clear in my statement how we decided that local authority projects that have reached financial close will go ahead and those that have not cannot. I also made it clear where the exceptions would take place and mentioned the reviews that will follow. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, Coventry South is not part of a local authority that has reached financial close, so the projects there will be stopped.
My right hon. Friend is right to focus on teaching standards and value for money, but does he accept that there are some local authorities that have received hundreds of millions of pounds of public money, while others such as my own have received nothing? Will the review look to address that unfairness and, in particular, will he look at the case of the Quest academy, which takes over from Selsdon high school in September-a very dilapidated building that needs major refurbishment?
Is the Secretary of State aware that it is at the very least disrespectful to Members to make a general statement without informing us about the individual cases that we have all raised with him several times both in writing and orally in the House? As far as Coventry North West is concerned, will either the President Kennedy or The Woodlands-both sample schools and both very near final closure-proceed?
I am grateful for the Secretary of State's statement and for his telling me that both Wilnecote and Belgrave high schools in Tamworth are applying for academy status. Does he agree that we should meet to discuss the former Labour county council's decision arbitrarily to abolish sixth forms and give them over to one single sixth form? Can we discuss how to unpick that situation?
I know that my hon. Friend is very concerned about the way in which sixth form allocation has been secured in his constituency. He has already made representations on that. My Department will consider and discuss with him further exactly what we can do to help.
During the general election, the Conservative candidate in my constituency made a public statement to the effect that schools due to be rebuilt under Building Schools for the Future would indeed get their funding and that that had been confirmed by Conservative central office. Can I take it from this that the three schools due to be rebuilt in my area will get their funding?
I think that the hon. Lady falls within one of the local authorities that has reached financial close. I am sure that she will confirm that that is the case and let me know if it is not. As a result, I think that the schools will go ahead. As for any communication during the election, as I say, the Minister of State, Department for Education, my hon. Friend Mr Gibb, indicated that we would find it very difficult to say yes to schools that had not reached financial close.
Does the Secretary of State agree that we need to continue to invest in the science education of our young people, who need to be equipped with the skills they need for the future? If so, will he explain why new academies sponsored by Durham university and a new science campus in my constituency are to be stopped?
I sympathise with the hon. Lady. I am committed to doing everything I can to support science. I will talk to Durham university about the situation, but I am afraid that Durham was one of the local authorities that had not reached financial close.
It is obviously important that we are discussing the issue of school buildings, but I fear that members of the public listening to the questions and answers over the past hour might have been left with the impression that first-class teaching and inspirational school leadership play no part in improving children's life chances. Would the Secretary of State like to confirm that on the Government Benches, we recognise the crucial importance of those things?
I attended Kenton comprehensive in my constituency under the previous Conservative Government in the 1980s. We had great teachers, but we also had peeling walls, leaking roofs and prefab buildings. On Friday, I was able to attend the opening of the new Kenton school, which is a £33 million investment in the future of Newcastle's children, made under the last Labour Government. Now I know that this coalition-
Order. I apologise for having to interrupt the hon. Lady, but we simply do not have time for preambles at this point. Will she please bring herself to put a question?
I know that in Newcastle, schools are either open or have reached financial close. I have had the opportunity of talking to the head teacher of Kenton school, which I know is excellent and I hope to visit it in the future.
I regret that we have to obtain information in this way, and I would be grateful if the Secretary of State told me what reassurance I can give to King Edward VII school, which sits both in my constituency and that of the Deputy Prime Minister. As I understand it, it fits the criteria that the Secretary of State described in being a school that has not reached financial close, but on which very significant work has been undertaken in a project significantly to enhance the teaching of STEM subjects-science, technology, engineering and mathematics-which are critical not only to school students but to our economy.
The right hon. Gentleman knows that I quite like him, but may I say that the way in which he has presented his statement today has been nothing but a disgrace? In so doing, he has treated the House and individuals in it with contempt. He said in his statement that the poorest communities will not be affected, but what will be gained in Stanley in my constituency-one of the poorest areas in this country-by reviewing an academy that has the support of the local community and will put in great work to change the lives of thousands of children in the years to come?
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's kind words at the beginning. I have stressed that academy projects are those that, as we both appreciate, were designed to help children in the most difficult circumstances. If he would like to write to me, we will make sure that we do everything possible to help to support that academy project.
In the light of the shambolic way in which information has had to be eked out of the Secretary of State today, he will forgive me for pressing him a little further. Can he say that he will honour every penny of the previous Government's promise on the primary capital programme, including the £12.6 million to benefit three primary schools in my constituency, and the secondary enlargement programme, which, although outwith the Building Schools for the Future project, is vital to the future of education in my constituency?
I can say that the Furness academy in Barrow and Furness is unaffected. The hon. Gentleman made reference to primary schools in his constituency, but nothing in today's announcement directly affects the primary capital programme or devolved capital for this year. Obviously, future capital decisions will form part of the comprehensive spending review.
Hurworth school in my constituency is an excellent school with inspirational teachers and excellent pupils as well. It was down to receive BSF money earlier this year. I want to know whether that funding will still be in place. If not, the school is already close to falling down. It has shown an interest in academy status. Does the right hon. Gentleman think it should still go ahead for that status, given that it is a broken-down school, or does he think that the 650 pupils should move into a disused shop under the free schools scheme?
I am afraid that County Durham is one of the local authorities that has not reached financial close, but I would encourage all schools that believe that they can make use of academy freedoms to move down that route. We are, of course, encouraging sponsors, with whom we have been in negotiation, to do everything possible not just to transform teaching and learning, but to improve the environment in which children learn.
Does the Secretary of State agree that, whatever his criticisms of the Building Schools for the Future programme, some of which were justified, his announcement today will cast a pall of gloom and uncertainty over areas such as mine, which have yet to benefit from it? Does he also agree that in north-east Lincolnshire, we have particular problems in that we desperately need the new school building as a stimulus to the system and we desperately need the jobs and economic stimulus that that building will bring? It is also an area of high unemployment and under-privilege, which suffers from under-attainment in educational standards. Should not the particular needs of an area such as that be taken into account before deciding to cancel any part of our programme?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his points about the defects in the Building Schools for the Future programme, which shows him being typically bipartisan and capable of rising above party divisions in order to acknowledge such flaws. I also appreciate that in his constituency a fantastic school, Havelock academy, is unaffected by today's proposal. However, I am afraid that because two schools in his constituency have not reached financial close, they will not receive the investment that he might have hoped for. I appreciate that in Great Grimsby there are problems with educational attainment, and I look forward to working with him to do everything that we can to raise attainment in that constituency.
You are aware, Mr Speaker, that I have raised this point on two previous occasions with Government Front Benchers. My right hon. Friend the shadow Education Secretary raised it earlier and did not get an answer. The Secretary of State clearly refers in his statement to projects that have not been properly funded, and uses as an example the new school building programme. As the shadow Education Secretary said, however, if we had announced projects that were not properly funded, he would have been asked for a letter of direction from the permanent secretary. Therefore, will the Education Secretary produce the letter of direction confirming what he has said today? Again, under this Government, Halton has been badly affected by terrible cuts-much worse than more affluent areas.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. My argument is that, because the shadow Education Secretary made spending promises on Building Schools for the Future at the same time as the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was making it clear that capital spending would be reduced by half, those projects were unfunded and unsustainable.
I thank my hon. Friend Ian Mearns for doing the job of the Secretary of State and bringing us the documents from the Library. As a result, I now know that four schools in Blaydon will not get support. Are we not seeing the real cost of the Tory Budget? Is it not the truth that the Government are giving corporation tax cuts, introducing a very timid bank levy and doing nothing about tax evasion and avoidance, but the people paying for it are the schoolchildren of Blaydon?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point. I am afraid that Blaydon will not benefit because it falls within one of the local authorities that has not reached financial close. However, two schools in his constituency have already opened under Building Schools for the Future- [Interruption.] In Blaydon. I hope the pupils in those schools are benefiting. They will certainly benefit in future from the expansion into the north-east of Teach First, which will result in supremely talented teachers in secondary and primary schools who can help to raise attainment in his constituency.
Order. Before I take points of order, let me acknowledge, without apology, that I ran both statements very long today. That is unusual, albeit, I suspect, not unprecedented, and it certainly should not be regarded as the norm or a guide to what Members can expect. I took account both of the level of interest in the two extremely important matters and of the nature of, and likely interest in, the business to follow. I think that is perhaps worth the House knowing.