To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the total number of assisted places in (a) 1980–81 and (b) 1987–88.
In the academic year 1981–82, when the assisted places scheme was first introduced, a total of 5,596 places were available in England and Wales for pupils entering the scheme at the various ages of entry. In 1987–88 there is a total of 34,005 places available for take-up in the scheme throughout the secondary age range.
Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures show just how much the Government have done for parental choice in allowing children to go to schools where they will be able to have the education that they need? Will he say how many children have been given the opportunity to go to schools where they can be given special opportunities to study ballet and music?
I welcome my hon. Friend's endorsement of the excellent scheme. Since September 1987 some 499 pupils have gained places under the aided pupils scheme. This scheme deals with music and ballet, in which my hon. Friend is interested.
How, when the Government are prepared to spend £4,000 per year on some children for some assisted places, can they regard the expenditure of 60 per cent. of that sum in ILEA schools to be overspending?
That comment is entirely worthy of the hon. Gentleman. It is because of the ideological hatred of the scheme that we are determined to make it work and see it extended over a period of time.