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City Technology Colleges

Volume 115: debated on Tuesday 28 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what features of grammar school education he envisages the new city technology colleges adopting; and if he will make a statement.

My intention is that city technology colleges should develop new ways of improving the quality of education in a number of urban areas drawing on examples of existing good practice in maintained and independent secondary schools, including grammar schools.

Having always admired the work and dedication of staff at all our grammar schools, may I say how much I am encouraged by the news that Leicester is likely to receive a city technology college. I urge my right hon. Friend to give the go-ahead for that college as quickly as possible, as I know how much the students will benefit by the type of system that my right hon. Friend so ably presented to the House. It will certainly encourage all our young children to get on and develop.

I am glad that my hon. Friend is pressing me for a city technology college in Leicester. I very much hope that it will be possible to find sponsors for one—certainly it might be possible to find sponsors elsewhere in the east midlands. I am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome such a college, as it will increase the choice for parents, which is presently limited, for free education from 11 to 18.

Order. The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) is seizing his opportunity.

The hon. and learned Member is very grateful for his opportunity to ask the Minister whether he thinks that Leicester, along with other cities, would be much better served if it had adequate educational resources. That would ensure that we have enough nursery schools, enough facilities for our primary and secondary schools and proper education for older people instead of being starved of resources, the means for which have been cut by this awful Government.

The only opportunities that the hon. and learned Gentleman can seize are those created for him by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels). The resources available for city technology colleges are not at the expense of local education authorities' expenditure. The money that has been provided for CTCs is extra money. Therefore, the local education authorities will not lose money through the establishment of such schools.

Would my right hon. Friend care to say that the new CTCs, like grammar schools, will be places of excellence, hard work, discipline and respect for teachers and the opportunities that they present—especially in my constituency, where planning permission has already been granted by the Labour-controlled authority for a CTC 0on Teesside?

Yes, I have been very glad to hear that my hon. Friend's local authority is prepared to provide a site for a CTC in Langburgh. I think that that decision shows the authority's foresight. At least one local company is prepared to come forward—I suspect others will do so—to provide the private funding. I am sure that, as a result of that CTC, the quality of education and the choice available to the parents in my hon. Friend's constituency will be enormously increased.

But surely the Secretary of State must now know how damaging and divisive the city technology colleges will be. He has been told that by every major organisation and every reputable expert in the education world. Indeed, recently the director general of the CBI, John Banham, called the city technology colleges an "irrelevancy". What has the Minister to say about that? What has he to say about the more interesting experiments conducted on the Boston pattern to achieve a better relationship with industry, not a divisive one?

Many companies have come forward to support the CTCs.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Name them."] I shall shortly he in a position to announce a third CTC. I assure the Opposition that sponsorship for others has been pledged and, in the course of time, we shall be announcing further CTCs.

On the question of starving resources, I remind the Opposition that I do not agree that the CTCs will drain off the teachers. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) should appreciate that the numbers for teacher training this year have shown a dramatic increase. Overall there has been an increase of 14 per cent. in applications for later this year. There has been a 42 per cent. increase for mathematics teacher training, 80 per cent. for physics teachers and about 92 per cent. for craft design technology teachers. That shows that many young people want to go into the teaching profession.

Does not the opposition to this concept indicate the cultural divide between us, because we on the Government side are looking for choice and variety and all the Opposition parties want just one option—the local authority? Is my right hon. Friend aware that in some authorities commercial and planning pressures are being placed upon those who would help this system? I find that utterly disgraceful.

My hon. Friend is right. Those who oppose the principle of city technology colleges do so because they want to maintain the monopoly of the local education authority. We want to provide choice and variety—significant and real choice for parents. The city technology colleges that we have launched point the way to many other types of schools that we have in mind for after the election.