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Quantock School History: Parliamentary Records

Commons Hansard, 1 February 1996

[Mr. Jamieson summarises the case against Quantock School, directing his statement towards the Ministry of Defence.]

Business of the House

Mr. Jamieson: The Minister may have seen the article that appeared on 3 December 1995 in The Observer which was deeply critical of a school in Somerset called the Quantock school. Many of its children come from service families. I asked a parliamentary question about it to find out what assessment had been made of the suitability of the Quantock school, Taunton, to be retained on the list of the admissible schools. The Minister replied:

"A number of reservations were expressed concerning the quality of pastoral care available, and as a result, the suitability of Quantock school to remain on the MOD admissible schools list is being reviewed." - [Official Report, 11 December 1995; Vol. 268, c. 479.]

It appears, following a further question of mine, that it will take until March 1996 before anything is done in this respect.

The Minister must deal with the problem of inadequate schools immediately. I do not know whether he has seen a document entitled "Ofsted and Onward". It has been produced by a private contractor, CfBT Education Services, for the Office for Standards in Education. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West has quoted Gilbert today, and I want to quote Evelyn Waugh's "Decline and Fall", referred to also in the aforementioned document:

"We class schools... into four grades: Leading School, First-rate School, Good School and School. Frankly... School is pretty bad."

The document goes on to describe a prep school that had been the subject not of an Ofsted report which is then made public but of a rather cosy inspection by other people from other independent schools. The Minister should take note of what was said about the school:

"But in reality this... institution is - if the term has meaning - a 'failing school'. Its fees are high and its pupils are drawn from wealthy (albeit often broken) families, the sons and daughters of military officers, British expatriates and successful businessmen. Very many of its pupils failed to gain entry to the public schools of even their second or third choice; several teachers are incapable of keeping order, let alone organising and encouraging learning; bullying and other forms of unacceptable behaviour are rampant; and 'value for money' is a cheerless joke."

This school, wherever it may be, is being supported by taxpayers' money via the MOD. The Minister should look into the problem and investigate the school. If it is indeed failing, the least we can do is make sure that service families are informed.