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Hansard 17 Feb: Column 1085-1087;1100-1100 ...
Hansard 17 Feb: Column 1085-1087;1100-1100

Even though the sponsorship requirement for specialist schools had been reduced from£100,000 to£50,000, the government realised this was still 'an enormous challenge in some areas', education secretary David Blunkett acknowledged to MPs from deprived and rural areas.

That was why the government and the Technology Colleges Trust was working to get major companies to put up resources targeted specifically at such areas.

He was replying to Colin Pickthall, Labour MP for West Lancashire, who said it could take an inordinate amount of time by head teachers and governors in places such as Skelmersdale - deprived low-wage towns - trying to rustle up money from a large number of sources.

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, said in rural areas such as Stowmarket there were not enough local private sector companies and organisations to make the necessary donations. He asked if allowances could be made when schools from such areas applied for

specialist status.

Mr Blunkett said it was not possible to change the regulations for schools in areas such as mid-Suffolk, given the inherent level of wealth and employment across East Anglia. 'However, we would be prepared to look more closely, with the TCT, at ways in which we could link schools in areas of deprivation within areas of greater wealth and privilege, so that we can link companies that are prepared to reach out to them'.

Gordon Prentice, Labour MP for Pendle, asked whether there was a danger when the target of 600 specialist schools was reached in May 2002 that the 80% who did not achieve that status would feel isolated, and that they were failures.

Education minister Jacqui Smith said the government ensured there was a link between the funding provided for the specialist facilities in the school and the support provided to neighbouring schools. The good work should benefit other schools in the system.

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