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Schools (East Midlands)

Volume 487: debated on Monday 26 January 2009

So far, eight schools in the east midlands have become trust schools under the Education and Inspections Act 2006. A further 27 are in a support programme and working towards trust status.

The case for trust schools still seems rather unconvincing, in that they create a further level of bureaucracy with which heads and staff have to grapple. They can potentially fragment and undermine school collaboration. Will the Secretary of State reassure the House that we are not opening doors for private individuals and organisations to exploit their curricular interests when better resourced local authorities could give the necessary advice and support to community schools to help them improve?

Of course, trust schools remain maintained schools and therefore part of the local authority family. The reality on the ground is that most of the trusts that have been set up are collaborative trusts between schools. The point is that they make it possible in a more effective way for schools to work together to raise standards and use their expertise. I would say to my hon. Friend, who is a Labour and Co-operative party MP, that we are taking forward proposals for 100 co-operative trust schools, which will take the ideals of the co-op movement with extra finance to ensure that we have more co-operative trust schools. I hope that a co-operative trust school might be something that he could support in his constituency and that might help to raise standards.

Does the Secretary of State agree that it would be wholly wrong for a secondary school in a constituency, whether it was a trust school or another school, to be closed, demolished and not replaced if it was in a growth area?

It would depend on the local authority’s plans. It would also depend on the results that the school was achieving. If councils are making those decisions despite what is happening to standards, that would be entirely the wrong thing to do. If they are making the decisions as part of an overall attempt to improve the school buildings and to raise standards, that might well be the right thing to do. The hon. Gentleman will have to give me more details of the particular case so that I can give him a fuller answer.