Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    As the campaign hots up to protect Hertfordshire schools from the threatened ?25million shortfall, Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has invited Shadow Education Minister, Damian Green, to Hitchin and Harpenden to meet parents, governors and teachers this Thursday, the 23rd October, at 7.00pm at the Sun Hotel, Hitchin.

    Peter Lilley said: I want to let Damian Green see for himself how much we in Hertfordshire value our excellent schools and dedicated teachers. I also want him to spell out his plans to give parents a greater say in where their children can go to school and to improve standards.

    “Under the plans for a ‘Better Schools Passport‘, parents would be able to ‘spend‘ the money that the state currently pays for their child‘s education at a school of their choice. It would be made easier for schools to expand. At present they are not allowed to do so as long as there are ‘surplus‘ places elsewhere. I am particularly keen to see the many excellent oversubscribed schools in my constituency enabled to expand. In addition, charities and community groups would be able to open new schools if there was demand from parents,” Peter Lilley explained.

    “These passports will give the money that the state spends on their child‘s education to parents, and let them decide in which school it should be spent.

    “School choice should not be restricted to parents who opt to go private. Everyone deserves a fair deal. This scheme will extend a quality state education to all; starting in the inner cities, where too many children are currently being left behind, and then rolled out across the country.

    “The scheme will give parents access to new schools, funded by the state but run independently, to meet the needs of those parents who cannot currently find the right school.”

    Notes to Editors

    About the Better Schools Passport

    The next Conservative Government will establish the Better Schools Passport, allowing parents to use the money spent on their children‘s education at a wider and better range of schools. Starting in inner cities, where too many children are currently being left behind, we want to see a radical extension of school choice.

    The scheme will be initially rolled out in areas of greatest education need (covered by Phase One, Excellence in Cities zones): Birmingham, Manchester/Salford, Liverpool/Knowsley, Leeds/Bradford, Sheffield/Rotherham and Inner London. The intention is then to extend this policy to the rest of the country.


    How will it work?

    We would allow for the introduction of extra school places to a level of 7 to 10 per cent higher than is currently available. This will allow enough flexibility in the system to give parents genuine choice, dropping the old doctrine of surplus places. This will be especially important in the inner city areas that this policy will initially affect, where figures show that in the inner cities one in five admissions are appealed by parents unhappy with their child‘s allotted school, compared to about one in ten nationally.

    Charities, community groups, not-for-profit and profit companies, and parents‘ groups would be able to set up new schools or provide new management to existing ones, and receive funding through the Better Schools Passport for the pupils that they attract. Fee paying schools will not be allowed to ask parents to top up the Passport. But if schools choose to subsidise pupils themselves, they will be allowed to do so.

    Across the board, our plans would introduce a level of dynamism and innovation previously unseen in our education system, our plans would foster a network of state funded but independently run schools, as is common in many other countries.

    Why are we doing it?

    Too many children are being left behind by a system that traps them in inadequate education. In inner city schools especially there is too often a culture of low expectations and low achievement.

    Creating real pupil choice for the first time is not all that we are proposing. We plan to allow good schools to expand, by scrapping the rule that prevents new capacity being created while any spare capacity remains. Choice in education is not an alien concept, but until now it has been the preserve of a few. Our proposals would for the first time give real choice to parents regardless of their social or economic background.

    We think that school choice should be the norm, not an option only open to those prepared to move or to ‘go private‘. Conservatives are determined that no child be left behind and no child be held back by our education system. We will do this by trusting heads and teachers with greater autonomy, trusting parents to choose what school is best for their child, and allowing every young person the opportunity to go to university based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay.

    Better Schools Passports – International Examples

    USA: There is greater freedom to set up schools in the USA. Charter schools, which offer free education, are particularly popular among parents in deprived or inner city areas.

    Germany: In Germany there is a properly defined system of vocational education that involves flexibility with the academic curriculum and the involvement of industry of all sizes to provide high quality training.

    Holland: Parents have a constitutional right to open a school and have it funded by the state if they can attract enough children to make it viable. 70 per cent of children attend privately run schools. It also has a well-defined system of vocational and technical education, similar to the dual-system continental model that Germany uses.

    Denmark: Denmark has a long tradition of private schools that receive substantial subsidies from the government. 12 per cent of pupils attend privately run schools, although this rises up to 30 per cent and more in some cities. It too operates a dual-system continental model of vocational training.