» Monday, December 19, 2005


Asked if Barry Sheerman was right that the Education White Paper was "green tinged" rather than purely white, the PMOS said that firstly, we did not know what was in Barry Sheerman’s report. The PMOS said he was going to go back to first principles on this. Of course we understood that people had concerns, but equally, we believed that that the White Paper already addressed those concerns, as Ruth Kelly would set out this afternoon when she would appear at the Select Committee. The key argument behind the White paper remained: when schools were given the ability to be flexible, they improved, especially in the most deprived areas. That was why City Academies had been such a success, and why they continued to expand across the country. If people looked at the percentage of pupils achieving five good GCSE results in City Academies compared to their predecessors, bearing in mind they were specifically in derived areas, it had gone up from around 16% to around 30%. Equally, if people looked at the percentage of pupils in City Academies who got free school meals, it had also gone up from 33% to 37%. That was the background, and why we believed that the White Paper did address the essential concerns that people had.

Asked again if there was a "green tinge", the PMOS said he did not recognise that term, but the normal Parliamentary process would be taken.

Asked if the Government was sticking by the White Paper, the PMOS said the White paper was there, and it addressed people’s concerns, and we had said that we were quite prepared to address those concerns and talk to people, and we would do that as part of the normal Parliamentary process. No more, no less.

Asked if the White paper was not set in stone at all, the PMOS replied that there was a normal Parliamentary process to be gone though; no more, no less, and people should not read into that that we were in any way abandoning the central plans of this White Paper. We were not. Those were the reasons why we thought the proposals were needed, and why we thought they addressed people’s concerns.

Asked to clarify that the normal Parliamentary process meant on the Bill, or did that mean the Bill being published, the PMOS said it meant the normal process of the Bill going through Parliament.

Asked to clarify that the PMOS was not talking about anything else happening between now and the Bill being published, the PMOS said he was talking about the normal process.

Asked again about the normal Parliamentary process, the PMOS explained again that there was a normal Parliamentary process that a Bill like this required, and we would go through it. At the same time, it was important to explain to people why we thought it met their concerns.

Asked if a Select Committee would get involved in the process, the PMOS replied that the Select Committee would no doubt produce its findings, but we were not aware of what they would be. People should wait and see for the report when it was published.

Asked if there was a compromise between the amendments and the normal Parliamentary process, the PMOS said people should not get into hypothetical situations, but rather deal with it as it came. We believed that the White Paper addressed people’s concerns and was needed, because if people looked at why the status quo was not an option, there had been huge improvements in pupils getting five good GCSEs. It was still the case, however, that it was only 44% of pupils if Maths and English were included, and we believed that figure had to go up if we were to meet the challenge of the future. That was why the status quo was not an option.

Asked if that meant the Government believed the White Paper had to undergo major changes, the PMOS said again that we believed that not only did it meet the needs of education, but it also addressed the concerns of people. Ruth Kelly would set out why this afternoon.

Asked if the doctrine of collective responsibility applied to all Cabinet Ministers, the PMOS said it applied to all Cabinet Ministers and everyone was aware of that.

Asked of we disagreed entirely with what the Deputy Prime Minister had said yesterday in an newspaper interview, the PMOS said what Mr Prescott was echoing was the concerns that people had expressed. We believed that the White Paper addressed those concerns.

Put that the Deputy Prime Minister was not echoing other people’s concerns, but rather that he had concerns, the PMOS replied that people believed that there was some change to the selection procedure in this White Paper. That was not the case. This was a matter that had been discussed in Cabinet, and it would be discussed in Parliament, and that was the normal procedure.

Interrupted that Mr. Prescott was the Deputy Prime Minister, the PMOS said that he reflected the views of other people.

Asked about changes there were to adjudicator’s role the PMOS said that under the White Paper, the role of the Adjudicator actually would increase, not decrease. The adjudicator’s guidance would last for three years, not one year, and in terms of City Academies and Foundation Schools etc, they did already have the ability to control admissions. That did not change.

Asked if we were confident that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State were able to reassure MPs about the White Paper’s selection message, the PMOS said that if people looked at selection in the White Paper, there was no change in reality. That was that schools could do their own admissions policy, but subject to oversight by an adjudicator. The PMOS said that that did not change, and if people looked at the adjudicator’s role, the period over which the adjudicator’s guidance would last was being increased from one year to three years.

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that the Bill had got to such an advanced stage, but the Deputy Prime Minister still did not understand the Bill, the PMOS said there was a normal Parliamentary process to go through, and we would do that.

Asked if someone had explained it to Mr. Prescott, the PMOS repeated again that we would go through a normal Parliamentary process.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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