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Church Schools

Volume 300: debated on Thursday 13 November 1997

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13.

What proposals he has for further support for Church schools; and if he will make a statement. [14333]

Thank you so much. I felt the same myself.

We have had detailed discussions with the Churches about the new school framework. We recently announced developments to that framework to meet representations made by the Churches, with a view to safeguarding the ethos of Church schools within an education service based on partnership and co-operation. I am pleased to say that the Churches have welcomed those developments.

I notice that it has taken until nearly 3.20 pm for the Minister for School Standards to make it to the Dispatch Box.

Will the Minister assure the House that voluntary-controlled schools will be able to opt to become aided schools sooner rather than later, and that if they do so they will not have to pay retrospective compensation to local education authorities?

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman came into the Chamber at 3.15 pm. I was getting worried that I would not have a single question to answer.

The Government have listened to representations made by the Church authorities, in the light of which the Bill will be revised. The Government are prepared to take on board the views expressed by other parties because we know that any changes that we introduce will mean a better Bill which will serve the interests of the nation's children—unlike the previous Conservative Government whose policies were based on arrogance and dogma, who did not listen and who, as a result, were rejected on 1 May.