Orders of the Day — Education Service

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th March 1981.

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Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 4:21 pm, 5th March 1981

I beg to move, That this House, recognising the direct relationship between the maintenance and enhancement of educational standards and an appropriate investment of resources and the fundamental importance of this investment in the struggle for national economic recovery, notes with grave concern the Report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate on"The Effects on the Educational Service in England of Local Authority Expenditure Policies—Financial Year 1980–81"; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to undertake positive action to safeguard standards of provision, opportunity and performance in education. It is a fortunate coincidence in many ways that we have just heard the Minister of State, Civil Service Department, quoting from a section of the 1979 Conservative manifesto. I doubt if it will surprise hon. Members that I propose to do much the same thing during part of what I have to say. It is now 22 months since the right hon. Lady gave that glutinous rendering at the front door of No. 10 Downing Street of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. As a background to that day, we had the Conservative document"The Right Approach", in which some pages were devoted to education. With that peculiar tone of homily which was characteristic of the remainder of the document it said: But when all is said and done, the raising of standards remains the first priority …We are determined to raise standards in comprehensive schools in which so many of our children are now educated. An impartial enquiry into their achievements and shortcomings is urgently needed. As the weeks and months progressed and we got to the election we had the manifesto itself which said: We must restore to every child, regardless of background, the chance to progress as far as his or her abilities allow…. We shall promote higher standards of achievement in basic skills. Right up until the Queen's Speech after the election we had the same ringing tone of homily, the same view of education, the same simplicities. The Queen's Speech itself said: The quality of education will be maintained and improved. Those are the documents to which I choose to refer because they form the background to what has happened since. They were simple, virile propositions that we could in various ways secure a dutiful teaching force, earnest and obedient pupils and parents who exercise judicious choice and participation. It was suggested that we could have careful husbandry and use of resources and that there would be local authority freedoms; in fact, there would be a new era in the development of education. The raising of standards and the maintenance of quality were to be ushered in.

Now, 22 monetarist months and £400 million of cuts later, what we have is the catalogue of what has occurred as a consequence of the implementation of those Government policies of simplicity, of cuts and of a determined and absolutely conscientious diversion of resources out of the maintained sector of education, coupled with an endorsement, enhancement and sponsorship of the private sector of education to the disadvantage of the whole education system.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The hon. Gentleman will get his chance to make a speech later. He said,"Rubbish"; he is an expert on the matter, of course.

The report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate refers to the whole education service. I choose to concentrate on what it said about the schools. Later my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, will be speaking with great authority and at some length on the implications for further and higher education. At this time, just weeks after the publication of the report on education for the 16–19 age group by the Uender-Secretary of State for Education and Science, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane), it is important to mark that the attitude of the Government to all areas of education, no less than this crucial area of provision for 16 to 19-year-olds is scarred and, indeed, strangled at birth by the refusal to make additional resources available for the extension, expansion or improvement of any part of the maintained education service.

What the report shows in respect of the schools, as in many other areas such as adult education, further education and higher education, is that standards of curriculum provision and pupil/teacher ratios are worsening. The children have less and less chance, in the words of the Conservative manifesto, of progressing

as far as his or her abilities allow. Secondly, it shows that standards of achievement in basic skills in subjects like mathmatics and English are jeopardised by larger classes, less individual attention and fewer qualified teachers. Thirdly, it shows that children with remedial education needs are suffering additional difficulties and that their position is being worsened.

It shows too that gifted children are being inhibited in their development for much the same reasons. It demonstrates that the principle of educational provision, free at the point of consumption, is being significantly eroded and that many of the principles to which all parties in the House have subscribed since 1944 have been discarded by the Tory Government. Further, it shows that there is worse to come.

The report warns specifically of worse to come unless there is a significant change in policies. I hope that in the course of the Secretary of State's speech and, indeed, in Back-Bench renderings throughout the remainder of this debate, we will hear no nonsense about the impact of the 7½ per cent. settlement made by the teachers earlier this week, because all the figures I shall use, all of the warnings I shall give and all of the authoritative judgments that have been made are drawn directly from the report provided by Her Majesty's Inspectorate.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I will not give way yet; I may do so later.

The power of the Opposition to halt and reverse this disastrous course to which the Government have set their hand is very limited, because of the size of the majority which the Government currently have, which is partly attributable, I suppose, to the kind of falsehoods that they presented as their policy at the time of the election. But we try to divert the Government and to secure changes in policy, and we are not alone in that. Every teachers' organisation, education officers, organisations of parents and councillors of every political hue have made efforts over the past 22 months to halt and change the Government's policies on cuts. They have failed, and sadly we have failed so far. All I hope is that the force of argument and the authority which is embodied in this report will at least cause the Government to pause, to think again and to make significant amendments to their intended policy.

When we have made complaints, levelled charges and led protests, the Government have invariably responded with the same reaction. The Secretary of State has been chief among those respondents. We have been accused of exaggeration, hyperbole and over-statement. He has made every effort to characterise the complaints we have made. No matter how well authenticated they have been, no matter how many documents from whatever head teachers, education officers and education conferences have backed them up, they have always been dismissed as a misunderstanding of the reality of what is taking place in the education service.

Now we have the authority and the independence of a non-partisan dedicated professional body of people, Her Majesty's Inspectorate. Does the Secretary of State think that in this document, which he has had in his possession for some weeks, they are exaggerating, that they are guilty of hyperbole or that they are fantasising about the position of education?

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The Secretary of State says"No". I therefore invite the House to examine with me precisely what this document says.

I offer two comments by way of preface. First, I want the House to bear in mind that all these calculations are made on the basis of the figures as the HMIs knew them before the December announcement of an extra cut in the rate support grant. Secondly, it is necessary in the course of this debate for me—and I suppose other hon. Members—to make extensive quotations from this report, for the simple reason that it carries a force, a conviction and an authority which it is not within the power of any partisan Member to carry.

I therefore place great emphasis on what the HMIs have said, while congratulating them on the publication and hoping very sincerely—I think officially, too, on behalf of those on this side of the House—that we shall not only see such a publication as this annually but, possibly not this year but perhaps the next year or the year after, also see an appendix to the report which will give details of the authorities to which it is referring. I think that is necessary if we are to encourage the kind of participation and understanding of the education service in Britain which we on this side of the House seek to create, generate and encourage throughout the community of Britain.

In paragraph 9 of the report the HMIs, on the matter of teachers and teacher supply, say: There are indications that many LEAs have reached the position where they cannot reduce the level of supply cover further without causing a breakdown in schools' programmes when staff are absent owing to illess or released for in-service training. If I used a phrase like"causing a breakdown", that would be described as exaggeration, but those are the words of the HMIs.

Paragraph 13 says that in one-sixth of the primary schools and one-fifth of the secondary schools there was evidence of teachers teaching subjects (not only those in which there are national shortages) for which they were inadequately qualified or not qualified at all; of large teaching groups; and of classes of children widely mixed in ability or age or both. In both primary and secondary schools there were cases where the teachers' collective range of expertise did not match the needs of particular age groups. In paragraph 16 they say: In the secondary schools … reduced expertise or lack of expertise in some areas of the curriculum; the existence of a disproportionate number of temporary staff in some departments, including major ones like English; probationers under pressure; staff teaching 35 to 40 (sic) periods in a 40-period week; and teaching groups combining pupils of much wider abilities including mixed target groups in major subjects for public examination. That is characteristic of the education service in Britain now. Then, in the primary schools: Adverse effects on the curriculum were noted where the range of specialist knowledge and skills had been reduced as teachers left or were deployed. Science, mathematics, remedial work, craft, PE and music were specifically mentioned in several returns. There was a considerable increase in mixed-age classes, of which teachers had little experience. We have heard very frequently, as we heard at the time of the discussion on the publication of the ILEA report, how horrified the Government are by the whole idea of mixed-ability teaching. How many times have we heard from Back-Bench Members condemnation of the system of school organisation and class provision which conscientiously makes for mixed-ability teaching. But we get mixed-ability teaching—mixed in ability, mixed in ages—in primary and secondary schools, not as a consequence of a policy by teachers and by school heads, not in order to meet specific needs, not with the material, physical and manpower support required for the proper development of mixed-ability teaching, but because of the cuts. That is how the Tories bring about mixed-ability teaching.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to family group teaching when he talks about mixed-age teaching. This is an educational concept—not one that I support—which has come substantially from Left-wing educationists. That is what this is about.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I can save the time of the House if I refer the hon. Gentleman to paragraphs 13, 14 and 16 of the report and specifically draw his attention to the fact that the HMIs would not be making a complaint about a conscientious act of policy about group teaching. They are making a complaint about the mixed-ability and mixedage teaching that is becoming characteristic of the schools as a result of the cuts. It would not otherwise be appearing in this form in this document.

If we refer to paragraph 17 and look at the ways in which schools have tried to handle the consequences of the cuts, we see that they have tried to spread staff, and the report says: further cuts will frustrate these policies. Paragraph 18, the most interesting paragraph, deals with the impact on children of above average ability: Additional stimulus on an individual basis for exceptionally able pupils is also more difficult to provide. This House last year passed an Act of Parliament in which section 17 referred to the establishment of an assisted places scheme which was to provide access to independent schools for children who might not otherwise be able to get it. Here, as a consequence of the cuts, the very children who presumably the Government had in mind as children of above average ability who needed to benefit from an alternative system of education are being penalised, according to the HMIs, because of the effects of the cuts on schools.

Paragraph 19 states: The stricter application of staffing formulae, combined with cuts in expenditure on books and materials, has reduced the ability of some secondary schools to provide alternative or specially designed courses for less able pupils. Charging for instrumental music tuition or for swimming has taken these activities also out of the reach of some children. The growing dependence"— I emphasise the word"dependence"— of some primary schools on parental contributions, when added to the constraints on the numbers of teaching and non-teaching staff, all seems likely to work to the disadvantage of those from families with low incomes and other problems and the less successful pupils. So at both ends of the scale, and right across the spectrum—from the most able to the least able, from those who have the strongest chance of survival because of their instinctive native talent or the fortune of family background to children of low ability or children who have parents who do not give them the necessary support or who attend, possibly, the schools in that 15 per cent. which the inspectorate registered as the low baseline groups—children are suffering most critically.

Photo of Mr Daniel Jones Mr Daniel Jones , Burnley

I have never been involved in the teaching profession, so can my hon. Friend tell me whether this will have an effect upon the dedication of teachers as well as on the ability to teach properly?

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

No.

My hon. Friend asked what the effect would be on teachers. One of the ways in which teachers are affected is in the refreshment and retraining that they need to equip them better to do the job that they want to do. What the HMIs register is the fact that in-service training was satisfactory in about half of the local education authorities. My hon. Friend can guess the consequences on teacher attitudes and teacher morale of a statistic like that referred to in paragraph 21 of the HMI report. What has been the impact on the advisory services which are essential for the improvement of standards of teaching, of curriculum and of attainment? The impact, according to paragraph 25 of the report, is this: Poor coverage was frequently mentioned for mathematics, English, science, modern languages and for phase responsibilities, both primary and secondary. What is the background against which we are discussing this subject? Is it promoting higher standards of achievement in basic skills when there is only half the requirement in advisory service and only half the requirement in in-service training, when there is a reduction in teaching numbers, a growth in classes, a contraction of the curriculum and inadequate provision of teachers in maths and English and other basic subjects? Do not the Government realise that when they are provided with a report like this documenting the crisis in the British education system, especially those parts of it which are registered by the HMIs as being unsatisfactory, they have a duty, as the Government of the whole country and not just of little bits of it which are better favoured, to make amends, to reverse their policies and to cause a new flow of finance and resources of manpower into the schools of this country?

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I may give way later.

The question of books and capitation, as anyone with even the most elementary understanding of the requirements of education will understand, is absolutely vital. The Secretary of State has frequently demonstrated in his responses to me and in speeches around the country his complacency about adequate book supplies. He does not see anything wrong with a system which is increasing its dependence on parental subscriptions. Indeed, he spoke in his reaction to the HMI report of book supplies being satisfactory in 70 per cent. of the schools.

I wonder how I would react. However, I rarely entertain myself with that thought, because these matters do not often have a place in our exchanges in the House, but I know what my reaction would be if my child were in one of the 30 per cent. of schools where the supply was not satisfactory. I wonder what the right hon. and learned Gentleman's reaction would be if his child were in such a school. Would he be as complacent as he was when he made the statements that he made at the time of the publication of the report? Would he then be taking refuge in the fact that 70 per cent of schools were satisfactory in this respect? Indeed, the HMIs define the word"satisfactory" as"at least acceptable"."Satisfactory" is the word used in hospitals when someone is in between"comfortable" and"well as can be expected." It is certainly not an adequate description of provision in schools. It is no basis for complacency, for self-congratulation or for the inactivity which the Secretary of State engages in.

Paragraph 29 of the report is one of the most damaging paragraphs. It states: District inspectors reported satisfactory provision of books in just over half the LEAs. In reports that they had back there was reference to the use of outworn and out-dated books in primary and in secondary schools and to shortages in secondary schools which resulted in sharing text books in class and the curtailment of homework. Inadequate library book-stock was mentioned in many returns. Fund-raising activities are no longer being undertaken for what used to be considered to be the fripperies or luxuries or for the fortunate extensions of educational experience. The money no longer goes towards providing mini-buses, new strips for football teams or for video tape recorders. Indeed, I read in the day before yesterday's issue of The Guardian—it could only be The Guardian—that parents would chip in to provide computers. However, that is not happening now.

The inspectors record an increasing dependence by schools on parental contributions for the provision of fundamentally essential teaching texts, such as books and other materials. Nevertheless, the Secretary of State views the situation with complacency. In fact, he thinks it is fine. Last summer he told me that the situation has been continuing for hundreds of years. Plague and starvation have been going on for hundreds of years, but that does not mean that we have to sit back and say that they constitute an acceptable system of population control.

On every occasion the Secretary of State has endorsed his view that there is nothing wrong with schools relying on parental subscriptions as a major factor in the supply of basic teaching needs. Her Majesty's Inspectorate does not agree with him.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I shall not give way for a moment.

Paragraphs 37 and 38 state: in almost all the schools visited and in almost all authorities there was evidence that contributions from parents in cash, kind or labour"—

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The hon. Gentleman should worry a little less about arrogance and a bit more about principle. He should listen; he might learn something. The report goes on: continue and that such support is increasingly important to schools … Some large schools were seeking the services of special fund-raising agencies and some staff were devoting official time to organising fund-raising activities. The amount of additional income schools obtained varied widely, but in a number of schools it exceeded— I stress the word exceeded"—"the annual per capita allowance.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Last year the right hon. and learned Gentleman was challenged about his statements on school books and on the way in which money was raised for them. He had the cheek to concentrate entirely on a comment that I made, and to seek to avoid his responsibilities. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was not right, but I would forgive his intemperate attitude on that occasion and his incautious approach if he would now recant and agree that the prospect is terrifying. As the report states: the general impression is that heads of both primary and secondary schools have a large degree of latitude and many rely on this additional finance to provide for example new sets of readers or mathematics books, new library books and other teaching materials and equipment. A disturbing outcome of such practice is that it makes more pronounced the difference in levels of resources between schools; large schools become better resourced than small ones, and all types of schools in areas of socio-economic difficulty tend to remain at a disadvantage compared with schools in favoured areas.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

Does my hon. Friend agree that the most disturbing factor about such payments is that it not only discriminates against the poor but is also, in many cases, against the law? The 1944 Act made it quite clear that it is illegal to charge for primary or secondary education.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

As is often the case, my hon. Friend has anticipated my remarks. I was about to make that point. The HMI believes that this is a"disturbing practice". The Secretary of State remains totally calm and undisturbed. He has that special calm that he uses as his favourite weapon. He is a sort of educational zombie in these matters. In the past 22 months the attitude that he has demonstrated might have been enormously enhanced if he had said, or even hinted, that he thought this development disturbing. Given the legal provision—

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Mr. Kinnock I shall not give way as I wish to address a question to the Secretary of State. The hon. Gentleman is much more likely to get an answer from me than I am from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Nevertheless, I shall ask my question.

Sections 8 and 61 of the 1944 Act laid down, perhaps not specifically enough, the duties about provision and they prohibited the charging of fees. Given the legal case fought in the High Court last week by Mr. Jones of Pershore, what will the Secretary of State do? Will he apply sections 61 and 8? It is clear that local education authorities with schools that draw more support from parental contributions than from local education authority capitation allowances are not sufficient in materials and books—however generous the interpretation of the word"sufficient" in section 8 may be. They are clearly"not sufficient" in their provision.

In the course of today I should like the Secretary of State to respond to the following question: will he apply the law, or will he come before us with a miscellaneous provisions Bill to amend it? There is a terrifying prospect that he will take the latter course. I should welcome his reassurance that he will apply the law and provide sufficient resources to stop the widespread breaching of the law. The law is either being breached or is being threatened by local education authorities, which make courses conditional upon the paying of fees by parents.

In 22 months we have seen Tory philosophy being implemented in a way that has not been witnessed for perhaps 50 years. Tories think that the State's responsibility is restricted entirely to making a rudimentary general provision for education. They think that all advances, improvements and sophistications—above and beyond that rudimentary and very low general provision—should be purchased. They think that such advances should depend entirely on the willingness and capacity of parents to pay. Indeed, that is clearly shown in the Government's sponsorship and support of the private sector. However, their attitude is becoming increasingly apparent—although it is insidious—in the way that the Government can cheerfully preside over an education system that would be at the point of collapse if it were not for the subscriptions that come from parents.

The Secretary of State is a barrister and a man of the law. I want him to ensure that the law is effectively maintained in this vital sector of educational provision. His reaction to the HMI report, as to all our complaints and those of others concerned for education, has been a mixture of superciliousness, statistic juggling, and semantics. One of his most powerful weapons is continually to make simpering references to national needs. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is fond of saying that the cuts can be justified by falling rolls and that falling rolls relieve pressures. He is fond of saying that all will be well if and when falling rolls provide the education service with a full surplus benefit. The HMI does not agree with his bright view. Paragraph 3 states: The falling school roll is one of these"—

namely, one of the pressures and difficulties encountered— and it should be noted"—

of course it is— that its major impact is still to come. Side by side with the need for overall reductions, it will involve diseconomies of scale,"— it would seem that the Secretary of State has hardly taken that into account— the impact of which is as yet imperfectly understood"— that is an understatement when it is applied to the Secretary of State— and problems of honouring commitments to pupils in secondary schools who are already embarked on courses of anything from 2 to 7 years' duration.

The Government's failure to maintain consistency in standards of provision will ensure that children engaged in education will be let down. As a result of the Government's policy of cuts, there is not sufficient provision to ensure that the Government fulfil their promise that children would be educated to the maximum of their abilities. That is what the Tories promised at the last general election.

The Secretary of State has repeatedly said that his critics were in danger of undermining teacher morale. He lectured to the National Association of Head Teachers, back in September 1979 and has been preaching the same sermon ever since to anyone who dared to criticise the cuts. The HMI takes a different attitude on teachers' morale. The report says: Nevertheless there is evidence that teachers' morale has been adversely affected in many schools. Its weakening, if it became widespread, would pose a major problem in the effort to maintain present standards, let alone improve them.

The Secretary of State visits sufficient schools and encounters enough teachers to know that that is something of an understatement by Her Majesty's inspectors. I know the semantics that he engaged in—both last summer at the Association of County Councils conference and more recently at the North of England conference on 6 January—trying to jumble up the words"quality" and"standards". He is a lawyer and an expert in the interpretation of words, and I want him to tell us the difference between maintaining levels of quality and standards. It is totally implausible for him to say that we can maintain the necessary quality of education as measured in the breadth of the curriculum, the opportunities for children, the numbers of teachers facing classes or the materials that teachers need, the attributes and amenities of schools, the extra school activities and all that is required for a full development through educational experience. It is impossible to sustain the quality of provision without maintaining standards of provision. Those standards, as the HMIs firmly demonstrate, are not being maintained.

The senior chief inspector, Miss Sheila Browne, in the Select Committee last week, told us why the inspectorate chose to undertake the exercise and to choose and publish this baseline. The Secretary of State should be ashamed of being the Secretary of State at a time when the senior chief inspector can say that, because of the continuing economic policies, this is the first year in which it was thought necessary to undertake the exercise in that form. Miss Browne and the Secretary of State will have seen the Select Committee report and will be able to check the quotation. In reply to the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Brinton) she said: It is only in the last year that the continuing economic circumstances made it seem necessary to us to arrive at this baseline classification.

There, with all the command of moderation that Miss Browne has in her power, with the necessary moderation that she has to deploy, is a condemnation that only in the past year have continuing economic circumstances made it seem necessary for HMIs to undertake the exercise.

The reaction has been the most astounding complacency, amounting to contempt, for the maintained system in this country. But the Secretary of State told The Guardian on the day of the leak of the HMI report: But this does not mean that the fabric of education is disintegrating or about to disintegrate. The HMI report makes it clear that in many respects and, in many places, the quality of service continues to be satisfactory. Mr. Carlisle pointed out that in 80 per cent. of the 1,000 schools visited, the staffing was assessed as satisfactory. Seventy per cent. were said to have a satisfactory book supply".

He is getting so rigid in his complacency that it seems impossible for him to throw it off even when he gets terrifying evidence of that sort.

There is further evidence of that complacency and worse than complacency. A week after the publication of the HMI report, the Secretary of State went to Bishops Stortford and gave an address to the Newport grammar school. He said: cuts in education have been peripheral—school meals, overseas students, which did not affect students or provision in the class room".

The Bishops Stortford Observer reports him as saying: I strongly believe that the standards of education and its; quality do not only depend on the standards of material provision.

That is dishonesty compounded by dereliction. It is dishonesty concerning the changes that have been made to the peripheral cuts such as school meals. Has he not seen his own Department's publication? Has he not seen the accumulated statistics produced by the National Union of Public Employees as a public service? Has he not read the"black paper" and the way in which it drew attention to the need to maintain nutritional standards and a wide provision of school meals? How can he consider that there is any value? He has failed to save £120 million of the £200 million that he expected to save on school meals and he has failed because of what he did to school meal prices and because of the changes which he made in the law as it affects school meals.

In Bishops Stortford the Secretary of State went on to say—this is always his classic defence—that we can, as a country, only spend on these services what, as a country, we can afford, without crippling the economic basis on which its potential wealth depends.

Here is. the deepest chasm of disagreement between the Secretary of State and all those interested, involved and engaged in education, as parents, teachers, education officers, councillors or the general community. There is a huge chasm of difference between his interpretation of the national interest and their interpretation.

In this time of monumental technological change of seismic change in the economic organisation of the world, of changes in diversity of skills of continual changes that will present challenges to people throughout their working lives that will require them to exercise various forms of creative leisure as they have never done before, the last economy that we can afford is cuts in the education service, especially on the scale demonstrated by Her Majesty's inspectors' report.

I am asking Conservative Members to vote for the motion and to reject the Government's amendment. If they vote for it, they will not be the first Tories to act in such a way, because in the Council of Local Education Authorities conference last July in Solihull a motion was moved by the chairman of the Somerset education authority, Mr. Dowse-Brennan. He made an impassioned and effective speech, and the resolution was passed.

Dominated though it was by Tory authorities, and by Tory representatives and Tory votes, that conference asserted that there was a direct relationship between the maintenance and enhancement of education standards, an appropriate investment in resources and the fundamental importance of the investment and the struggle for national economic recovery. Even the colonels, even the bluest blue in the shires, understand—in a way that the Secretary of State does not understand—where the real economic interests, the national interests, of this country lie. They were the ones who were insisting, with only one vote against—that of somebody from Kent, who is a positive Neanderthal in these matters—[HON. MEMBERS:"Rubbish".] Yes, he is that as well. His was the only vote against that proposition at the conference. That shows how overwhelming is the feeling against the Secretary of State's representation.

We have a different response, of course, from the Under-Secretary of State. From that prefabricated assembly line of cliches that is his stock in trade, we have had a whole list of all the famous bits of Tory graffiti about provision. The Secretary of State, by comparison, is more apologetic. I suppose that is because the Under-Secretary of State is a born-again Tory, and the Secretary of State is a dead-again Tory. That is the only difference between them. They both serve the same policies.

I say to the Ministers, not just in partisan terms, from the Opposition Front Bench, but in the words— [Interruption.] Conservative Members ought to take note of this, because this is the HMI report and not the Opposition spokesman. I ask the Secretary of State to take the words of the report very seriously, to recognise that he is in a shrinking majority, to recognise that there are legions of people up and down the country who, whatever their politics, disagree fundamentally with the view that he takes of the education service and of the part that it has to play in the economic recovery, the technological advancement, and the social and cultural creativity of this country.

I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to look at the HMI report, where it says that the possibility of dealng with children with any form of learning difficulty, or offering special work for the gifted, is reduced as a consequence of these cuts. It says that secondary schools cannot easily make up for this at a later date, and that The observed effects of constraints to date may therefore be more important as symptomatic of the future than the actual level and scale of effects may at first suggest. What now look like limited anxieties could become major problems, unless positive action to counter them can be built into policies".

I plead with the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his right hon. Friends, with all the sincerity that I can muster, to take direct action to reverse the policies and to save the education system of this country.

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn 5:03 pm, 5th March 1981

I beg to move, to leave out from"That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: this House notes the report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate on 'The Effects on the Educational Service in England of Local Authority Expenditure Policies—Financial Year 1980–81', and whilst recognising the need to restrain public expenditure expresses confidence in the ability of the education service in England, through the co-operation of all its partners, to secure maximum educational value from the extensive resources which continue to be available to it. I welcome the debate. I welcome it in particular as an opportunity to answer the wild allegations made by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), both in this House and outside it, both on the content of the inspectors' report and on the effect of the Government's policy as a whole.

The hon. Gentleman said that I had accused him of exaggeration, hyperbole and overstatement. I have and I do. He has, if I might say so, a well-justified reputation for hyperbole. It appears that he has got into the habit, on all occasions, on each subject, at any time, of delivering the whole of his speech in one gear, which can probably best be described as a gear of raucous indignation.

I propose in the course of my reply to deal with the various allegations that the hon. Gentleman has made in the light of the report, but before I do so I should like to make one other comment about the hon. Gentleman's speech. It must surely have been unique that he managed to speak to this House for 42 minutes on the importance of further funding for education without at any stage making one reference to the overall economic position that the country is facing.

The hon. Gentleman tackles the issue as though in some way education can be looked upon in isolation from the means by which if is financed. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman said that the huge chasm which divided him from me resulted from the fact that I had stated that as a country we could spend on education only what we could afford. Now we know that, in the opinion of the hon. Gentleman, the ability of the country to pay for the educational service to be provided is apparently a matter of no regard.

If the hon. Gentleman believes that it is for the benefit of those who are at school today to continue to provide services beyond those that we can afford, I can only tell him that we shall be creating greater economic problems for the future which will have to be faced by those who are at school today.

The motion and the amendment rightly focus on the recent report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate. First, I want to deal with the issue concerning the publication of that report. It was referred to by the hon. Gentleman today, and it was also referred to at an earlier stage outside this House. It is, in fact, the fourth annual report that the inspectorate has made to the Secretary of State of the day, but it is the first of any such reports to have been published.

The hon. Gentleman said in the course of his speech today that he would like to congratulate the inspectorate on its publication of the report. The inspectorate did not publish the report; I published it. I published it because I chose to publish it. I chose to publish it because I believed that it was right that Parliament and the public should have the opportunity of seeing what I accept as being an accurate picture, provided by the inspectorate, of the position which existed in the schools at the turn of the year.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas , Merioneth

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth) rose

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

I did so also because I believed that the education service would find it helpful in the discharge of its responsibilities. That draft document—not the final document, which was published last week—was published on a Friday. What has happened? The publication, which the hon. Gentleman claims today to welcome, was immediately attacked by him in the most intemperate language. He said that the timing of the publication was a deliberate and excessive abuse of Government power". I published on a Friday. Why did I publish on a Friday? It was because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, I had given an undertaking to the House of Commons Select Committee that I would provide it with a draft on the same day as the draft was going to local government for its comments. The timing of the date of publication of the draft document to the local authorities depended on the date of the meeting, which had been fixed many months in advance to be on a Friday. So it was on a Friday that I not only gave the document to the local authorities but published it also to the House of Commons Select Committee and published it as a whole.

The report, as I intended, received full press coverage. The hon. Gentleman's allegation that it was in some way slipped out in the middle of the night is just another of those little fantasies with which he is wont to mislead this House and the country.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

I accept absolutely the Minister's account of the timing of the publication, but is he really saying that his decision to publish the report for the first time ever had absolutely nothing to do with the Select Committee having sent for it some time ago under its powers to send for persons and papers'? Does the Minister regard Select Committees in that offhand way?

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

I said in answer to a question in this House—I cannot remember the date—that I still had not got the report, and that when I received it I would consider its publication. When I went before the Select Committee I confirmed that I would allow it to see a copy. The fact is that we do not know what is in the previous reports because the Secretary of State for Education and Science in the last Government chose not to publish them.

I come now to the report. The hon Gentleman has described it as an alarming report. He is quoted as saying: It shows evidence of the malice and criminal complacency of the Tories and their education Ministers". The hon. Gentleman claims that the law is being extensively broken. He did the same today. That, I suggest, is in total contrast to the tenor of the inspectorate's report.

I have had words put into my mouth by the hon Gentleman at various times during his speech that I am not aware of having made. I have stated, on many occasions, that reductions in expenditure are bound to have some impact on education provision and on the numbers employed in the education service. The fact is that we, as a Government, believe that it is necessary, in the public interest, to reduce the level of public expenditure. Education, as a major part of that public expenditure, cannot, regrettably, be excluded. I cannot look at education in isolation from what is happening in the country as a whole. We cannot spend money that we have not got.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

I would prefer not to give way, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind. I turn now to the facts. Of course, there are disturbing points made in the inspectorate's report. I accept that. That is why I published it. I would, however, point out to the House that in over 80 per cent. of the schools in the survey, staffing observed was judged by the inspectorate to be satisfactory. In nearly 90 per cent. of the schools covered by the report, the provision of materials was judged to be generally satisfactory. In about 70 per cent., the supply of books was judged to be satisfactory. The report rightly then goes into details about the minority of schools where provision was not observed to be satisfactory. That is what one would expect. That detail is a small part of the overall present picture. It does not detract from that overall picture. The whole picture, I suggest, is certainly not the one painted by the hon. Gentleman or the one implied by the Opposition motion.

The standard which our public education service has attained since the war has been one of the strengths of this country. It has been built up by the enthusiasm and commitment of those who work in it—teachers, staff, councillors and officials. The present inevitable constraint on resources will, I accept, certainly test that service. It will have some impact on provision, but to say, as the Opposition motion does, that the effect of these necessary savings is disastrous, is, I believe, a ludicrous exaggeration. It displays a deplorable lack of confidence in the education service's ability to cope. It raises false and unnecessary alarm in the minds of many parents who are rightly concerned about the standards of their children's education.

What are the facts? Some 5½ per cent. of the gross national product of this country, or twice what it was in 1950, today goes on education. International comparisons, I accept, are notoriously uncertain because there are different circumstances in different countries. For what they are worth, the bare figures indicate that the proportion is as high in this country as in that of our major European Community neighbours and, indeed, rather higher than in either Germany or Italy. In 1979–80, the first year of this Conservative Government, we spent more on the schools in real terms than ever before—twice as much in total and half as much again per pupil as we were spending 20 years ago. Where has that extra money gone? Much has gone towards providing additional teachers and a reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio.

The hon. Gentleman said that the report showed that the pupil-teacher ratio was worsening. In January 1980, the overall pupil-teacher ratio in England was 18·7 to 1. In primary schools, the ratio was 22·7 to 1, and in secondary schools, 16·6 to 1. All three ratios were the most favourable ever recorded.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

Six months after you got in.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

I hope, very soon to be able to produce the provisional overall pupil-teacher ratio for January 1981.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

On the basis of returns so far received, I am confident that it will be at least as favourable as in 1980.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is satisfied about that, will he refer to paragraph 16 which shows significant evidence of any change in the ratios obviously being for the worse? Will he deny that by 1983, he expects the number of teachers to fall by 12 per cent. when the most that can be expected from falling rolls is a reduction of 13 per cent.? How much improvement in pupil-teacher ratios does he expect in those circumstances?

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

I am coming to that. As the hon. Gentleman directs me to the report I should like to refer to paragraph 8 which states: In most LEAs, pupil-teacher ratios remained little altered". It goes on to say that in nearly one-sixth, the ratios got somewhat worse and, in just over one-fifth, somewhat better. That does not fit in with the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the report shows a worsening pupil-teacher ratio.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas , Merioneth

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman carry on with the rest of the paragraph and address himself to the issue that it raises relating to the differential between different areas and different schools? How will he cope with that in a situation of reduced expenditure?

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

If I may make my speech, I will try to deal with these points. I am asked to look specifically at paragraph 16 which deals with those schools where the situation was not found to be satisfactory. I accept that there are some.

Alongside this improvement in provision, there has also been a gradual improvement in standards. There is research evidence supporting the view that reading standards of 11-year-olds have improved progressively. Whereas, 16 years ago, in 1965, half of all school leavers had no graded examination results, only 13 per cent. today leave school without a result of some nature. Seven per cent. of school leavers from maintained schools have three A-level passes or more today. Fifteen years ago, the figure was only 5 per cent. This gradual improvement has raised our expectations. This is understandable and healthy. Just because we have had to revise earlier, unrealistic plans to take account of the reality of our economic situation, this does not mean that we are now about to lose all that has been achieved over those years.

If one listens to Opposition Members, one might be excused for believing that the Government were planning to go back to a scale of provision which would have been typical in the 1950s. The facts are different. In the current year 1980–81, the second year of this Government, we plan to spend slightly more, in real terms, on children of statutory school age—I accept that that is excluding our cuts in meals and milk expenditure—than was spent in 1978–79, the last year of the Labour Administration, in both primary and secondary schools, even though there are 5 per cent. fewer pupils in our schools now than there were two years ago.

The first year in which there were significantly fewer teachers in our schools was 1980. The inspectorate's report refers to some of the problems of adjustment that this entails. I recognise that not all local authorities will spend in accordance with our plans. Many authorities have chosen to continue to subsidise school meals to a greater extent than the Government had planned.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

They have done so because they could not in practice make the changes that we asked them to effect, or because they have felt it right to spend more on meals and to make cuts elsewhere in education expenditure. Having allowed for the fact that our plans for savings were not put into effect totally, spending on schools, which has doubled since 1960, is likely for the current year 1980–81 to be at the very most about 1 per cent. below the level of 1978–79 although there are 5 per cent. fewer children in schools.

What of the future? The Government have to reduce the unrealistic expenditure plans of the Labour Government. The extra money that has been found over the years has been obtained at a price, namely, an increase in the total real resources going generally into the public sector. That increase could be justified only so long as the national economy could afford it. Without some limitation in public expenditure on education and other services there cannot be growth in the private sector, a growth that will benefit us all. Therefore, we have made reductions in the proposals.

I announced in December our revised plans for expenditure in 1981–82. On primary and secondary school expenditure we are planning a 3½ per cent. reduction as against that which was spent in 1978–79. However, pupil numbers will have fallen by 7½ per cent. over that period. We are allowing, both in the current year and in the coming year, for a higher cost per pupil than was provided for by the Labour Government in their last year of office.

The Government's plans for the years beyond 1981–82 will be published next week. However, we are planning to maintain the position that I have described in later years as well. There will be relatively more older pupils and a reduction in average pupil numbers in our schools and I accept that there will have to be some tightening of the proposals for staffing standards. However, I have no doubt that staffing ratios throughout the Government's lifetime will still be better than the average of the past five years. The effect that those ratios will have on education standards will depend on the extent to which all our partners in the education service, especially the local authorities and the teachers, can work together to get the best value for money out of the resources that the nation can afford.

The motion suggests that the problems of the education service arise only from the restraint on resources for which we now have to plan. Anyone listening to the hon. Member for Bedwellty would be forgiven for thinking that the Opposition are contending that the problems of the education service have arisen since May 1979. If Labour Members are honest, they will accept that many of the problems that we now face have their roots much further back in the past.

I begin with staffing. The report refers to staffing not being judged or observed to be satisfactory. According to the report, that does not mean, as the hon. Gentleman seems to have implied and as many others have suggested, that numbers in that area were clearly inadequate.

It is far more complicated than that. One of the difficulties referred to—it appears in the report as an area of unsatisfactory teaching being observed—was the shortage of teachers in certain subjects. In many of those subjects there have been long-standing national shortages—for example mathematics, physics, chemistry and craft design and technology. Until 1980 there were several years of continuing decline in the supply of newly qualified teachers in those subjects. I am glad to be able to say that there has been a sharp reversal of that trend.

In autumn 1980 enrolments in postgraduate certificate of education courses in mathematics, physics and chemistry were 45 per cent. up on the autumn 1979 figures. These students will be available for employment as newly qualified teachers this summer. All the signs from the applications received so far are that the 1981 enrolment will at least maintain that level. I remind the hon. Gentleman that a Government-sponsored pilot scheme for national scholarships for high calibre students to enable them to take postgraduate certificate of education courses in mathematics, physics and chemistry will begin in the autumn of 1982.

The supply of teachers in craft design and techonogly has benefited from the recruitment of mature entrants and the retraining of serving teachers. The numbers training to teach craft design and technology within the training and retraining scheme in the current academic year are 30 per cent. up on the previous year.

Photo of Mr Daniel Jones Mr Daniel Jones , Burnley

Why is it that the Secretary of State is so satisfied with his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), when the professionals with responsibility for education are completely dissatisfied?

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. I am not saying that I am satisfied. I have said that I propose to answer the wild allegations and statements that have been made about the report by the Opposition. I propose to put the report, which I accept, in perspective and to try to identify the causes of the difficulties that the inspectorate found and to explain what we are attempting to do to overcome them.

Recruitment to bachelor of education courses in certain subjects is below the planned level. That is not the result of expenditure restrictions. The places are available. The difficulty has been in finding students wishing to come forward to fill them. The early signs are that there will be an improvement in B.Ed. recruitment to most of the shortage subjects in the autumn.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

I am interested that the hon. Gentleman has made that sedentary remark. I shall leave my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State to deal with it when he replies. I think that last year there was a lower level of unemployment among newly qualified teachers than there had been in any of the previous two or three years.

The report notes that teacher shortages appear in other areas of the curriculum, especially in subjects taken by a small number of pupils in minority subjects. This is a cause of concern. We are concerned that minority subjects should be dropping out of the curriculum. There should be as wide and varied a choice as possible within the curriculum. The problem is not one of money alone and it is not a new problem. Provision for minority subjects is bound to be affected by sharply declining pupil numbers. It is for local education authorities to offer a reasonable breadth of choice within each school and to make provision within their areas for the minority subjects for which there is significant demand, taking into account facilities in further education as well as within the schools. I am not pretending that that will be easy. However, I believe that authorities can achieve that objective within planned levels of expenditure. As the report explains, the picture for the schools shows not only the effects of local authority expenditure policies, but the effects of falling pupil numbers.

I remind the House that in paragraph 6 the report says: In respect of the schools, which give HMI most cause for concern, two things must be stressed. What is the first? We have not heard very much about this. The first is that it is not possible to disentangle in the returns the results of financial policies and inflation from the effects of falling rolls. Whatever the expenditure position, local authorities need to cope with the educational problems caused by schools shrinking beyond a certain level. Where this happens, the best way to maintain educational standards and opportunities may be to amalgamate schools. We all have to face the fact, however, that there is often much local opposition to any proposal for any school closures even though they are often designed to improve the educational opportunities of the children concerned.

As the hon. Gentleman rightly said, the report refers to more mixed age teaching, particularly in the primary schools, Of course there is. But there are many more small primary schools that have not yet been amalgamated or closed and where the local inhabitants invariably oppose any attempt to rationalise.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bovtman:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

I am grateful for my Friend's support. For a moment, I thought that she was about to object.

It is a combination of those factors which has led to some of the problems that the inspectorate found.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

The Secretary of State has been very eloquent about the various minorities which may still, perhaps, be treated by school amalgamation. He has said nothing about the reference in paragraph 46 of the report to the position of children with learning difficulties and that of gifted children. The report is particularly critical in relation to those two minorities.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

The hon. Gentleman will accept that I cannot deal with everthing. I agree that remedial education and the education of gifted children are areas of concern. One of the reasons for publishing the report was to allow the education authorities to see where the areas of difficulty occurred.

I make one further point to the Opposition. I believe that it is worth making, even though some will say that it is controversial. Other legacies from the past are also adding to the difficulties of the education service in coping with the inevitable restraint on resources at a time of falling numbers. I believe that if the forced move towards comprehensive schools had been carried out in less of a rush and had been better planned there would have been fewer small comprehensive schools and fewer problems in the curriculum of many secondary schools today.

The hon. Gentleman rightly made great play with the subject of books. I am naturally concerned about the report's findings with regard to schools in which there is a shortage of books. But past practices have not helped the shortages of books which are observed in 30 per cent. of the schools. It may come as a surprise to the hon. Gentleman, after all the speeches that he has made on the subject, to know that the amount spent on books per pupil in secondary schools consistently fell in every year of the lifetime of the Labour Government. By 1978–79, the Labour Government's last year in office, the amount spent on books was 33 per cent. less than it was in 1972–73.

I accept that until recently it has tended to be deliberate policy in schools to rely less on textbooks than in the past and to spend more on other forms of equipment. That fashion is now seen to have been overdone. For whatever reason, some schools have a history of inadequate provision of books. There is nothing new about this. The HMI national survey based on inspections in 1975 and 1978 showed shortages even of what were described as standard texts, especially in mathematics and science. It takes time to correct the situation, particularly now that resources are tighter and book costs have been hit by inflation. It is a priority area for the Government, and in our public expenditure plans we have provided for a slight increase of 2 per cent. per year in the resources available.

I believe that the Opposition motion deliberately misrepresents the message of the HMI report. It also introduces a fallacy into the argument. It is simply not true that there is a direct relationship at all levels between education standards and resources. That point may be clearly inferred from the recent HMI report on ILEA. Of course there is some relationship between what is spent on the education service and how it performs, but a great deal depends on the skill with which authorities and schools plan and organise the service. Important though good management of resources is, there are also other factors which determine the quality of education, and on these the Government have acted.

First, there is the school curriculum. With my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, I shall shortly be issuing a statement containing broad guidance on the curriculum to local authorities and schools.

Secondly, examinations have a vital part to play in contributing to standards. The Government have resolved long-standing uncertainties and set a new course for examinations at 16-plus, 17-plus and 18-plus.

Thirdly, we are reviewing the role of the Schools Council. With the agreement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, following consultation with the local authorities associations, I have invited Mrs. Nancy Trenaman, principal of St. Anne's College Oxford, to review the council's functions, constitution and methods of work and to make recommendations. As it seemed wrong to make a change of chairman during the course of the review, I have invited the present chairman, Mr. John Tomlinson, to serve for a further period beyond April when his term of appointment would normally end. He has agreed to serve until the end of this year when he has made it clear that other duties will compel his resignation from the council.

Parents also have a major part to play in strengthening the education system and in helping to make it serve the country better. The Government are giving parents more choice in the selection of schools and enabling them to play a more important role in the management of schools. Despite all that the hon. Gentleman has said, I welcome the help that so many schools are receiving from their parent-teacher associations, whether it takes the form of money or some other kind of help. Of course, parental contributions are no substitute for provision that it is the duty of the local education authority to make, but they can be a valuable supplement. While I accept that some schools will do much better than others out of parental contributions, the remedy is not to denigrate and to discourage contributions.

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer , Worcestershire South

On the question of parental contributions, and particularly with reference to the court case brought by a constitutent of mine last week, will my right hon. and learned Friend react to the fact that many parents in my constituency are now incensed and very anxious that the effect of that decision will be to deprive many of their children of additional music education? So concerned are they that some of them are apparently handing back the refunds given to them. Despite what has been said by the hon. Gentleman, will my right hon. and learned Friend therefore give serious consideration to amending the legislation?

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

I have to say to my hon. Friend that I too fear very much that the result of that case may be a reduction in the opportunities for individual musical training. Clearly, Hereford and Worcester must obey the law, and the law says that one cannot charge in the circumstances in which provision was being made in that instance. In many parts of the country, education authorities—more than 40 per cent. of them, I believe—make some form of charge for individual instrumental tuition. There is nothing new about this at all. Like my hon. Friend, I fear that one result of that case may be that less individual instrumental tuition will be provided, although the judge made it perfectly clear that it was discretionary so far as the local authority was concerned.

There has been much loose talk by the hon. Member for Bedwelty about local education authorities breaking the law. The report does not claim that individual local education authorities are in breach of their statutory duties, nor have they been forced into breaking the law. A less than satisfactory performance in some institutions within the whole of a local education authority's area does not amount to a breach of that authority's statutory duty. The report is an analysis of what the inspectorate has observed. Some of its observations relate to individual departments of an institution rather than to the institution as a whole. I stand ready to exercise powers available to me under the Education Acts if I am satisfied that an authority is in default of a relevant statutory duty.

The report records the strong impression gained by the inspectorate during its visits. It notes that there is evidence that teachers' morale has been adversely affected. That must be taken seriously. But in the current position the duty of responsible people is to act responsibly. To paint the picture blacker than it is is thoroughly irresponsible. To pretend that everything could be put right by spending more money is worse than irresponsible—it is mischievous. We cannot spend on our public services money that we have not earned and do not have. Expenditure of resources that we do not have is not made possible by giving that expenditure the label of"investment".

The Opposition are calling today for higher taxes and higher rates. They do so at a time of general recession. They ask that individuals, industry and commerce should find yet more money and should be left with fewer incentives and resources to invest in the wealth-producing process, and with less money to create jobs in the private sector, whose performance in the end determines how much money we can spend on education.

I see a great deal more of schools than do Opposition Members. Of course the service is going through a difficult period, but it is absurd to claim, as the hon. Gentleman did this afternoon, that it faces ruin. The Opposition's claim displays a lack of confidence in the men and women who work in education. I believe that most of them would resent that. They may feel that the Opposition are using their difficulties for purposes which have little to do with the needs of education. I ask the House to throw out the motion.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough 5:42 pm, 5th March 1981

The Secretary of State had the bland effrontery to refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) as one of raucous indignation. I can only describe the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech as one—to coin a phrase—of raucous complacency. It is clear from the attitude of Conservative Back Benchers—especially the rumbling from one of them—that in the amendment the Secretary of State embodies the policy of the Conservative Party with terrifying accuracy. It is fascinating to read the amendment, which states: this House notes the report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate". The amendment then makes it quite clear that, the House having noted the report, the Government will take not the slightest notice of it.

The Government's attitude to the teachers is quite appalling. I say that as a former head teacher who knows exactly what teachers are thinking about what is happening to the education service in the hands of the Tory Government. The amendment continues: and whilst recognising the need to restrain public expenditure expresses confidence in the ability of the education service in England, through the co-operation of all its partners, to secure maximum educational value from the extensive resources which continue to be available to it. It is time that the Secretary of State took note of the opinion of NUPE, which represents 300,000 ancillary workers in the education service. More than 30,000 NUPE jobs have been lost, and it is expected that another 100,000, especially in the meals service, will be lost. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that NUPE will praise what is happening in the education service? Does he think that the teachers, whom he praises to the skies, will applaud the cuts in education, especially the 10,000 jobs that have been lost? Many more teachers fear that they will lose their jobs. Our motion calls upon the Government to undertake"positive action". The expression"positive action" does not come from nowhere. Paragraph 50 of the report states: What now look like limited anxieties could become major problems, unless positive action to counter them can be built into policies. The inspectorate—whose report is noted but of which no notice will be taken—points out that something is drastically wrong.

The whole of the education world is seething with the report. Of course the Minister published it. It is such a damning indictment of Government policy that, if it had not been published at the behest of the Select Committee, it would have been leaked in the way that other reports have been leaked, and eventually the Minister would have been forced to publish it. The teachers would have demanded that he make public the opinions being voiced throughout the corridors of power and outside.

There were 10,000 fewer teachers in the schools in November 1980 than there were in November 1979. The report states: There are indications that many LEAs have reached the position where they cannot reduce the level of supply cover further without causing a breakdown in schools' programmes when staff are absent owing to illness or released for in-service training. It continues: there was evidence of teachers teaching subjects (not only those in which there are national shortages) for which they were: inadequately qualified or not qualified at all …In the primary schools there was evidence of increasing pressure on heads to undertake heavy teaching responsibilities. Most heads who teach are not able to do that, as they have schools to run. The report continues: Adverse effects on the curriculum were noted where the range of specialist knowledge and skills had been reduced as teachers left or were deployed. We know that the position in secondary schools is little short of desperate. The number of part-time teachers is being reduced. The children's education is suffering. There is no replacement of remedial teachers. Yet we all know that the children who are slow learners and late developers urgently need remedial teachers. Anybody who has taught—and one or two Conservative Members have done so—knows that in both secondary and primary schools remedial classes are absolutely vital. Yet the non-replacement of remedial and part-time teachers is part and parcel of the education system since the Conservative Government took office. Let us make no mistake about it—that has been the policy since the Government took office. People can check on that if they so wish.

It makes me tired to listen to Ministers and Conservative Back Benchers using the pupil-teacher ratios—good ratios which the Opposition established—and boasting about them as though they had established them when, in fact, they are damaging them. When we quote pupil-teacher ratios it must be made clear that they do not refer simply to teachers facing classes. Heads are counted and teachers doing administrative work—and there are many—and teachers who teach for only a few periods, are included. The teachers who fact; classes all day are angry and indignant about the ratios given by Governments of both major parties, because they have to face 20, 30 and, in some cases, 40 pupils in a class. Even that number is rising. That is the reality.

Photo of Mr Christopher Murphy Mr Christopher Murphy , Welwyn and Hatfield

Am I not right in thinking that this is an Opposition Supply day? Is it not true that there are no Labour Back Benchers, barring one, present in the Chamber?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine):

That is not a matter for the Chair.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

There are areas now with great social problems and which are being subjected to rigid staffing ratios, in a way in which in the past we did our utmost to avoid.

There are cuts in every sphere of education—in books, paper and materials. The Minister talks as if we should pose the question of books against that of materials. It is true that some time ago, when schools needed major equipment which cost a great deal of money, many secondary schools had to cut down on books, but they did not deliberately pose books against equipment. They cannot pose the two against each other now, because books and equipment are going down side by side because capitation allowances are going down.

The morale of the teaching profession is at an all-time low. I have spoken to the leaders of the NUT—as is my wont—almost weekly. I have also spoken to the leaders of the other unions. They all admit that the morale of the teaching profession is at its lowest ebb for many years. Teachers are struggling under adverse circumstances of every kind to keep the education system going. However, that cannot go on for ever, no matter how they do their best, because they are frightened for their jobs, as are other working people. They fear more dreadful cuts in education.

All those matters are talked about in the staff rooms. Teachers fear that educational ancillaries, more of whom are needed urgently, are instead steadily disappearing in front of their eyes. They know those people and have worked side by side with them. Ancillaries have helped throughout the school, in the kitchens and so on. As those ancillaries are leaving, education is suffering.

Teachers fear for their pupils' safety at lunch time. Hitherto, pupils had meals at school—in the school precincts, yards and on the grass verges—but now they are out in the towns because they are not able to have school meals because of the price.

Teachers fear for the limitations of the nutritional standard of pupils. All teachers know that when pupils are well fed it is easier to teach them, especially in the lower echelons of teaching, in the primary and nursery schools. Teachers fear increasingly large classes and more inroads on the equipment which they need to use for teaching.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

If the hon. Member interrupts all the time, other hon. Members will not be able to speak.

I turn now to charging for swimming lessons and instrumental tuition. In my constituency, swimming lessons were free all through the 1920s when I was a small boy. Throughout the 1930s, they were free in most of the major cities, whatever was happening in the shires. It is new in most of the cities that anyone thinks of charging for swimming lessons. Musical tuition is free in our city and in most cities. As an experienced teacher I know that the musical life in any school is a vital part of the school. It is not a frill. The children of Conservative Members who are in private education will have access to that.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

No one will cut down on that access as Conservative Members have plenty of money to pay for it. However, our children need that. The outcry of Conservative Members show that it hits home when I say it.

There is now a reduction in the number of peripatetic teachers. All teachers of music, and other teachers who are involved in the cultural life of the school, are fearful for their jobs and for their charges. They have produced the great concerts we attend at Christmas and at other times. All those activities will steadily disappear if Conservative Members have their way.

It is almost breathtaking how Tory Members dare to carry on in such a way when they pledged that the quality of education would be maintained and improved. Is there the slightest evidence in the report to which I referred that the quality of education is being maintained and improved? [Interruption.] Conservative Members may laugh, but they know as well as we do that the quality of education is now dropping. The report shows that, no matter what they say. Ordinary children are being ruthlessly attacked.

Is it to be expected, when unemploynent is heading towards the 3 million mark, that in working-class areas ordinary people will be making further parental contributions as well as paying their rates and paying for the education of their children? Do the Government think that unemployed workers can give more money on top of the rates, rents, lack of housing and so on which are being induced by the Government? Do the Government believe that those people will suddenly come out with a great deal of money to help education? Parental contributions will come from the well-off areas. In the working class areas where unemployment is almost endemic, our children will suffer. The hon. Member for Luton, West knows that.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

I wish the hon. Gentleman would stop interrupting and let me get on. He can make his speech later if he is capable of doing so.

The report says: The growing dependence of some primary schools on parental contributions, when added to the constraints on the numbers of teaching and non-teaching staff, seems likely to work to the disadvantage of those from families with low incomes and other problems and the less successful pupils. In other words, those who are deprived and disadvantaged as a result of the Government will be further deprived and disadvantaged. The inspectorate must be complimented on issuing such a courageous report. If the Secretary of State took the decision to print that report, I compliment him on that.

The report shows that in-service training for teachers, which is urgently needed to keep up with modern teaching methods, and which all teachers want and need, is being cut so drastically that in many areas it may disappear altogether.

Advisory services with poor coverage in maths, science, modern languages, and so on, are being cut to the bone. Every aspect of education which we have patiently built up over the years in order better to educate our children is being drastically cut. The per capita funding for each child has been cut in four-fifths of local education authorities. The figure of 17 per cent. was mentioned, but that is only one aspect. The report says that in half the LEAs there are too few books. Materials in two-thirds of the LEAs are unsatisfactory.

The appalling neglect of the food for our children is evident to everybody. The Child Poverty Action Group says: Norfolk are discussing the possibility of closing kitchens in primary schools. A decision to end school meals in primary schools in April 1981 has been taken in Gloucestershire subject to ratification by the Education Committee. No school meals are provided in Dorset for children in primary schools (except those who are entitled to free meals). A cafeteria system is in operation in secondary schools … According to a report in The Times … Lincolnshire are proposing to end the school meals service in primary schools from March and in secondary schools from the autumn. I could go on to give many more examples. As the price of school meals goes up, the number of children taking school meals—those who need them most—is steadily going down.

No matter what Conservative Members say, that is the reality for teachers, who, unlike them, have to stand in front of classes and teach children—not in private schools, but in the public sector. In 1979, 29 per cent. of primary classes and 12 per cent. of secondary classes had over 30 pupils, yet 12 per cent. of teachers have since left. Those numbers will now steadily climb. Even though rolls are falling, teachers will have more pupils in their classes.

There has been a ruthless attack on nursery education. The education of our young children in those vital years between 3 and 5 will go in many areas. Children will not begin to be educated until they are 5. The school meals service and the nursery service are being steadily dismantled by the Government.

What about the private sector? Amidst the gloom and doom about the public sector, induced by the Conservative Party, the private sector is booming. The sector to which the kids of Conservative Members go is growing. They are taking money from our children and food out of their mouths. They will shortly be taking £55 million of our money—taxpayers' money—in order to strengthen the private sector. When they are told that, they immediately begin to fight back. It is a classic example of Tory thinking.

Let me give an example of what it means. A two-child family with an income of £3,800 per annum will no longer be entitled to free school meals. A one-child family, whose child takes the exam for a private school under the so-called assisted places scheme—it should be called a filched places scheme—and whose annual income is twice that, will be entitled to £500 of taxpayers' money in order to send the child to that school. It is utterly disgraceful.

The Tory Party is engaged in creaming off some of the ablest pupils from comprehensive schools, which it loathes and hates because of the democratisation that we started in education. Even though 85 per cent. of our children go to comprehensive schools, the Government are determined not only to take money from us and our children, but also to cream off many of our ablest pupils for their schools. At the same time they state that the quality of education will be maintained and improved. It will—in the private sector to the detriment of the public sector, where they are trying to ensure that the standard of education decreases.

What a squalid, selfish education scheme our children and teachers are having to contend with. As the Minister says, the teachers will try to make it work. They will steadily begin to fight back. It is unbelievable that this dreadful Government still blandly pretend that they are helping our children. They are helping their children at the expense of ours. I do not know how they dare to go round to schools and to look our children in the eye. They will never change. The only thing that the electors in Britain can do is to change them.

Photo of Mr Robert Rhodes James Mr Robert Rhodes James , Cambridge 6:01 pm, 5th March 1981

I am glad to have the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). One of the few things to be said for politics is that it brings into the House of Commons people like him and takes them away from the school rooms, where they can have an influence over children.

Apart from anything else, as the House knows, the hon. Gentleman is a little casual with his facts. He said that the assisted places scheme was costing £55 million. In fact, it is £3 million, out of a budget of over £8 billion. That is just one of those facts that the hon. Gentleman somehow got wrong.

I regard education as too vital a subject to be reduced, as the hon. Gentleman did, to part of the political bag and baggage of public debate. I briefly wish to make certain non-political points. They are based on my deep concerns. All Governments and all political parties have made considerable achievements and suffered considerable failures. They have all made errors over education. One could easily attack the record of the previous Government. One could also demonstrate clearly the record of the Conservative Party over State education. We have the 1902 Act, the 1944 Act and other contributions. I also willingly pay tribute to the creation of the Open University by a former Labour Government. All political parties, including the Liberal Party, have made considerable contributions and considerable errors.

What is behind the motion, quite apart from the HMI report? What in short, is education? Why are we spending £8 billion a year on it? The reason why generalisations and politicians are so perilous in this area is that we are dealing with an extraordinary and unique relationship between a gifted and enthusiastic teacher and someone who wants to be taught. It can occur in the most unlikely circumstances and in the worst conditions. It often does not occur under the most lavish and expensive conditions. One cannot legislate for the relationship and the conditions.

When one considers the amount that we have spent as; a nation on our education system over even the past 20 years and remembers that we have 3 million people classified as illiterate, a vast number who are innumerate and an enormous need for remedial teaching, one cannot reasonably claim that it is a success story or that we have achieved anything like what we should expect to achieve for the money involved. Any debate on education that concentrates entirely on money misses the whole purpose of improving and maintaining standards and the interrelationship of education. It is equally wrong to go to the other extreme and claim that standards can be improved by eliminating resources.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and his colleagues have done magnificently since the formation of this Government. However, I wish to speak through them to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to others to express my concern that we may well be getting to a point when the balance between resources and standards could be seriously affected. I do not say that it is yet affected. The HMI report does not give that confirmation. However, we are getting somewhere near the border. I am particularly concerned with further education and university education. Looking at the proposed reductions, I express to the Chancellor my concern that we may be getting very near the border.

A valid criticism of every Government over the past 25 years is that we have not had a serious strategy for education since the 1944 Act. We have lived on that Act, yet circumstances have changed so much. We have had a piecemeal changing of the situation without trying to place each part of the section within an overall strategy. We are all to blame.

In a recent debate on adult education, I mentioned the vital link between industry and commerce—the real world, as it were—and education. There is becoming a vital need for that gap significantly to be closed. For the first time in my experience, there is a real understanding within the education profession and in industry and commerce of how important that is. The day has long passed when industry can simply complain about the results of the education system. It must involve itself far more in the system and feel responsible for it.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that involvement would be intensified, not least in this House and in politics, if hon. Members and others in the Conservative Party used the State system?

Photo of Mr Robert Rhodes James Mr Robert Rhodes James , Cambridge

The hon. Gentleman has chosen the wrong person.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

I know the hon. Gentleman uses the State system.

Photo of Mr Robert Rhodes James Mr Robert Rhodes James , Cambridge

So do others of my hon. Friends.

Photo of Mr Robert Rhodes James Mr Robert Rhodes James , Cambridge

I do not make any point of it. However, I emphasise that everyone has the right to choose the education for their children that they wish. If people wish to use the independent sector, so be it. If they make sacrifices to do so, it is not my concern.

The role of independent schools is not my concern and nor is it the concern of the House. We are concerned with the State system and with making it the finest free education system in the world. The link between education, higher education and industry represents one of the most hopeful opportunities of all. In spite of the irrelevant intervention of the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), I emphasise that realisation is stronger than ever.

However, I want to get away from the political aspect and come back to the point that I made at the beginning. We must look hard at what has happened over the past 20 years and recognise the mistakes and the achievements of all parties and all Governments. We must view the matter with realism. What is our purpose, and what is our policy? It is to improve standards and to create the finest State education in the world, bar none. That is our purpose, and that is our policy. When we get away from the politics of the matter, that is what the debate should be about.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West 6:11 pm, 5th March 1981

I start with a small point, which I may have misunderstood. It appeared to me that the most unworthy of the allegations made by the Secretary of State was that in some way the present situation has something to do with comprehensive reorganisation. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman thinks about it, he will see that that statement cannot be true. He seemed to be saying that one result of comprehensive reorganisation is a proliferation of schools that did not exist before.

The Government cannot have it both ways. The usual allegation against comprehensive schools is that they are too big, that they are monolithic and that they have been formed by an amalgamation of small schools into one big school. Now the right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to be saying the opposite. If comprehensive schools are too big and too monolithic, he cannot at the same time say that they are inefficient in terms of resources. I accept that there is a resource problem, but I do not think that he can blame comprehensive education for the sort of problems that Miss Browne, the senior chief inspector, exposed in the report.

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn

I have criticised comprehensive schools in the past as being over-large. I was merely making the factual point that if rolls are falling and if there are smaller secondary schools of a comprehensive nature—which, by their very nature, are trying to cover a wider area of the curriculum—it is therefore more difficult not to have gaps at each end of the curriculum.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

I do not believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman can sustain that argument. If the 11-plus had not been abolished and if we still had secondary modern and grammer schools, we should have more schools and they would have been getting even smaller. The same problem of sustaining the curriculum, particularly in the 14 to 16 age range where choices begin to be made, would have been more acute, not less. I do not want to make too much of that problem, but I do not believe that the charge the Secretary of State made really stands up.

I want to say a word about the origin of the report. Had it not been for the Select Committee, this report would not have seen the light of day. In a sense, that is a tribute to the Government, not to the Opposition, because the present Government set up the new system of Select Committees. There is no party divide on the Select Committee about the demand for information on the report. We sent for the report quite early on. I initiated the debate on 12 January about providing information to Select Committees. On that occasion the Government were clearly worried, because the entire payroll vote had its leave cancelled and hon. Members were wheeled in at half-past two on a Friday. The Government had to make one or two concessions. In that debate we heard the Pym pledge and the Carlisle concession. The Leader of the House promised that if there was substantial worry about lack of information we should have a debate, and the Secretary of State said that the Select Committee could have the report simultaneously with the local authorities.

I do not wish to be churlish, because it is a good thing that the report has been published, but I very much hope, now that the Secretary of State has taken a deep breath and published it once, that he will continue to have courage and publish it next year and the year after. If I am still in this House and if a Government of a different colour come to power, as I fully expect, and seek not to publish the report, I pledge that I shall be foremost in trying to force a report out of them.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

We have the pledge of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) that that is not a problem. I suspect that the Government deserve credit in this regard, but they cannot stop now.

I wish to voice one worry: that of all the departments in the DES to be investigated by Sir Derek Rayner, the inspectorate has been chosen by the Secretary of State for investigation. Perhaps I am of a suspicious nature, so perhaps it will all come right in the end, but if there were an attempt, in the light of the report, to clip the wings of the inspectorate and erode its independence in any way, that would be seen not as a part of normal internal reorganisation, but as a reaction by Government to what was contained in the report. I put that on the record now, so that there shall be no diminution in the independence of the inspectorate.

When the Secretary of State appeared before the Select Committee he emphasised the independence of the inspectorate. The senior chief inspector was asked a number of questions recently in the Select Committee, and she emphasised her independence. She will come back to give us further information because she could not remember the names of certain local education authorities—a matter to which I shall come in a moment. As a result of the considerable courage of the senior chief inspector and her colleagues in collecting this information, I hope that it will not be said—not by the Secretary of State himself but by the"Yes Minister" bureaucrats below him—that this is a bad thing and something that should not happen again. I say that simply to put it on the record.

The most worrying event, almost more worrying than the report, is the Forbes judgment in the Hereford and Worcestershire case. Clearly, we are reaching the point at which the standards laid down by law in the 1944 Education Act can hardly be sustained any longer by local education authorities. The particular case was brought by a teacher who is also a parent, but there are many parent groups throughout the country which are contemplating taking their local education authorities to law because they consider, rightly or wrongly, that the law is being breached.

The Secretary of State has an important responsibility here. He cannot leave the matter to the local education authorities because section 1 of the 1944 Act is specific, not only about their responsibilities but about his responsibilities. His duty is: to promote the education of the people of England and Wales and the progressive development of institutions devoted to that purpose, and to secure the effective execution by local authorities, under his control and direction, of the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive education service in every area". The duty is laid on him by law to control and direct education authorities. He cannot allow Hereford and Worcestershire, and then perhaps other counties, to lose case after case and simply stand back.

The Secretary of State said that he would make a statement on the curriculum. In a moment, I shall come to the legal status of that statement.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

To be fair, I think that it should be said that parents have been paying for certain aspects of education provision for many years, going back to 1944. There is nothing new about it. What is new, perhaps, is the scale of it. The principle has been in operation for years, although it has always been against the law and a number of authorities would not allow it.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

I have a great respect for the hon. Gentleman's experience of the education service. He was a deputy headmaster in my constituency for many years, as he knows. I am only sorry that Sedgehill school has lost him and that the electors of Ealing were so misguided as to deprive us of Bill Molloy and to send the hon. Gentleman to us.

Of course, parents have been making contributions ever since 1944, but as far as I am aware—I may be wrong—this is the first time that the quality of education, as defined in the 1944 Act, has been litigated, certainly to any degree. The fact that it has been litigated is a phenomenon which is not irrelevant to this report. The standards provided and what people conceive as the duty of providing basic education under the Act are getting very close together. Inevitably, we shall have some more law cases.

The reason why I think that the Forbes judgment is particularly important—and why I was happy to see the Secretary of State nod a few minutes ago—is that if ever the idea got around that the 1944 Act applies only to reading, writing and arithmetic and that subjects such as music, art and crafts are somehow frills and fripperies, that would be a tragedy for education. Elementary education, before 1944, was defined by law as reading, writing and arithmetic. The whole change, the massive step forward, in 1944, was to get rid of that narrow definition of reading, writing and arithmetic and to move towards a very much wider, much more generous and much more civilised concept of education, which did not have just this narrow utilitarian view but tried to aim at educating our youngsters to something very much broader and more generous.

That is why the Forbes judgment worries me particularly. I think that certain education administrators at local and national level may get it into their heads—and, perhaps, argue in court—that in some way the basic curriculum is reading, writing and arithmetic and that everything else is frills. When the Secretary of State makes his statement on the curriculum, I hope very much that he buries that idea very firmly. Unless schools comprehend the arts in all their forms, they are not worthy of being called schools.

I want to concentrate on the business of the law, because that is what Parliament ought to be particularly concerned about at present. The Government's amendment worries me. It uses the words: to secure maximum educational value from the extensive resources which continue to be available to it. Those are very fine words, but they are not what the law says. What the law says is the duty of education authorities is in section 8 of the 1944 Act. Talking about the standards of schools, section 8 says: the schools available … shall not be deemed to be sufficient unless they are sufficient in number, character, and equipment to afford for all pupils opportunities for education offering such variety of instruction and training as may be desirable in view of their different ages, abilities, and aptitudes"— and the section continues by making references to the time that pupils might spend at school.

Our predecessors, when they wrote those words into law in 1944, thought that they were protecting the standards in the schools. We must make sure that they do so, and stick to those words and not to the sort of new formulation which the Government put forward in the amendment today. The law has laid down the standards that ought to exist in schools, and it is the Secretary of State's precise duty, laid down in the law, to defend those standards and not to erode them.

I know that it is a difficult job in present economic circumstances, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) said, there were difficult economic circumstances in Britain in 1929, 1930, 1931, and 1932. Some of us who are not old enough to remember that period can ask our fathers and grandfathers to tell us about circumstances then. In a whole range of areas in which parents are now expected to put their hands into their pockets and pay for various things, even in the worst years of the slump there was a determination—certainly in places such as Sheffield, but also in various places all over Britain—to defend standards and to make sure that those were publicly provided services and not services provided according to the pockets of the parents.

I should like to put the Secretary of State right on one point. Although he may not have said so, the implication appeared to come over, concerning the report, that the inspectorate had made it clear that there were no breaches of the law. The inspectorate did not say that. There were two statements by the inspectorate about what the law was. On the first occasion the hon. Member for Bedforshire, South (Mr. Madel), one of my colleagues on the Select Committee, asked Miss Browne: Has there ever been a test case?"— to test standards.

Miss Browne said: Not to my knowledge. The report continued: Mr. Madel: 'If ever there was a test case and the court found that the authority was failing, what would happen then?" Then, to protect Miss Browne, I marched in, saying: I think these are proper questions to be put to the legal advisers of the Minister rather than to Miss Browne"— and asked the hon. Member for Bedfordshire to please desist from that particular line of questioning.

Later on, however, I tried to sum up the matter by asking Miss Browne, as Select Committees are entitled to ask, not what advice she gave the Minister, but whether she had ever given any advice to the Minister that schools were breaking the law. This appears on page 21 of the transcript. I said: Have you ever given advice of this kind to the Secretary of State that an authority might be breaking the law? She said: No; although individual full-inspection reports on institutions in certain circumstances could be tantamount to giving that advice. It is important to get exactly on the record Miss Browne's evidence about breaking the law. We should not get away with the idea that this report is conclusive about whether the law is being breached. It is not conclusive one way or the other.

The Secretary of State will be making his statement on the curriculum at the end of this month. I do not think that that statement will have legal force, but he said that it would be a statement of guidance to local education authorities about the curriculum. Does he consider that it would be the sort of statement which could be of use in court so as to enable the courts to decide whether the law was being broken? It is the status of that document which will have very important legal force in the future.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will respond to that point later. It is important, because the groups of parents who are thinking of going to law over this issue and local authorities which are thinking of defending themselves will want to know what they can adduce in court to prove the matter one way or the other.

I move on to another issue of dispute which existed between the Select Committee and the senior chief inspector as a result of our questioning her on this report. There is nothing partisan in this matter. This report indicates, very honestly, that the inspectorate, partly on the objective evidence of money spent and partly on subjective evidence of professional judgments by the inspectorate, has put all local authorities in Britain into three divisions—the first division, the second division and the third division.

It is true that the second division is bigger than the first division or the third division, but broadly they are three divisions.

The role of the inspectorate is changing. In the old days the inspectorate used to inspect only schools. It did not inspect local authorities. In the Select Committee we asked the senior chief inspector if she could give us the names of the local authorities in the different divisions. We did not want to be put in exact rank order with Aston Villa at the top and Halifax Town at the bottom; all we wanted was a broad statement of groups of authorities in the three divisions. The senior chief inspector referred to one Midlands authority. When she was asked which authority that was, she said she could not remember, and I take that completely.

There was a broad bipartisan feeling that there should not be half-open government in regard to these reports. If the Government are going to go public on them, they must go very much more public than they have in this report. I know that there are problems of confidentiality with local education authorities, but with the county council elections coming up the Select Committee feels very strongly that the local education authorities in all three divisions should be identified. Parliament has power to send for persons so that they shall answer questions. The senior chief inspector has promised to answer this question. I know that the Secretary of State feels that it may cause difficulties between the inspectorate and local education authorities in future but my view is that those difficulties must be faced, the questions must be answered and we must know which authorities are in which divisions.

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn

May I say to the hon. Gentleman that I did not include this in my speech because it was long enough? He must face the fact that, as I understand it, the inspectorate, in accordance with normal practice, made it clear when obtaining information from local education authorities and schools that if it was published it would not identify individual authorities or schools. Therefore what he is asking is, after an undertaking has been given to them that any evidence given would not be published, they should then break that confidence.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

I know that is one difficulty, but Miss Browne said that authorities are told and that each chief education officer knows whether the authority is in division one, division two or division three. It is highly likely that in the next week or two some authorities are going to go public on this. One authority may say"We are in division one. Vote for us because we have done so well on education". Another authority may say"We are in division three. Look at this awful Conservative Government. They are not giving us enough money to run our schools". For whatever reasons, with the local elections coming up there will be pressure, and councillors have the right to find out which division their authority is in.

I do not want to press this too hard but there is a real desire to know the identities of authorities according to division. Perhaps it would mean some consultation with the local authority associations. The Select Committee wants to know only the broad categories. It does not want an individual ranking list. Although I know all the difficulties, I think the Secretary of State will have to come to terms with this eventually.

While I am on this, I hope the Secretary of State not only takes seriously this issue of the Select Committee but replies to our various reports more expeditiously in future. We are still waiting for the final reply on the higher education report. Although there are problems, there is an obligation to reply. For what it is worth, the Procedure Committee laid down a time of two months. It is way beyond that now. The Secretary of State is involved with Cabinet committees and I know not what—we are not allowed to know these things. He has problems over his new quango for higher education, but the Select Committee deserves a reply soon, even if he has not got very much to tell us. He can reply more fully later. The Procedure Committee laid down rules and we should try to stick to them.

I asked Miss Browne about the criticisms in the report. I gave a list, starting with the pressure on teachers, and asked her which one caused her the most worry. She had no doubt, and all the inspectors agreed, that if she was allowed to add to the pressure on teachers" also"teaching subjects they were not qualified to teach" and"over-teaching by teachers, that is, teaching 40 periods in a 40-period week—the pressure on teachers was the most serious because, without teachers being in a position to do a properly professional job, it was not possible to have a good education. That is the criticism that the Secretary of State ought to be most worried about. It is not unprecedented in Britain to have a shortage of teachers or to have teachers teaching subjects that they should not be teaching. What is unprecedented is having that situation alongside a situation in which there are good teachers on the dole. Previously when there has been a shortage of teachers it has been in periods of economic boom when all the teachers of mathematics and science have been scooped up by industry. Then schools had to take anyone who came along. This is a different situation. There are good teachers who are not being employed. That is the worry here.

The evidence we got from the mathematics inspector was particularly worrying. He gave all the figures which the Secretary of State has given about the encouraging number of new teachers coming along to train to teach mathematics. He said that the most worrying thing that could happen would be that the economy should take off, because then the teaching profession could not match the salaries which would be offered by industry and commerce for well-qualified mathematicians and scientists and immediately the schools would begin to be stripped of such teachers. I hope that the Secretary of State is thinking about that in relation to our report on higher education; because something needs to be done about it.

To sum up, the standards laid down by the 1944 Education Act are beginning to be breached up and down the country. Therefore, the Secretary of State is in this dilemma: is he to put forward to the Cabinet the recommendation that the law should be changed to reduce the standards in the 1944 Act, or is he to try to get enough money to keep those standards up? I hope that he will follow his duty under section 1 of the Act and will not contemplate any legislation which would be the thin end of the wedge in making parents put their hands in their pockets. He should fight as hard as he can in Cabinet committees and in Cabinet so that he can get the resources to keep up the standards which our forefathers laid down for this service.

Photo of Mr Timothy Brinton Mr Timothy Brinton , Gravesend 6:39 pm, 5th March 1981

I am glad that the tone of the debate has become slightly more moderate, and considerate of the subject of education, rather than one based on party politics or anything like that. There was a consensus in the Select Committee about the HMI report. However, before I lose it in the rest of what I have to say, I must make it plain that I did not want the authorities named and I did not ask for that. Had a previous commitment been given to those local authorities, as it had in this case, it would have been quite wrong to break it. However, in the future I should be quite prepared to go along with any pressure which the Select Committee wished to produce in that direction.

I start with the inspectors' report, from which we have heard many extracts. One fundamental point has not been stressed enough. As I understand it, this is the first such report to have been published. When the inspectors appeared before the Select Committee on 25 February, I asked the senior chief inspector, Miss Browne, how we could compare this report with what had happened in previous years. A baseline had been established by the inspectors which amounted to assessments of each local education authority. That was done by the inspectors in September 1980, and took account of the effectiveness of the education currently provided as well as the availability of appropriate resources.

The substance of my question was to ask how that compared with previous years, and Miss Browne's answer was: The pattern of variation across the country probably has not changed markedly". That is significant if one is seriously considering the position. Obviously, with such economies as have been made, things have changed in our schools, but I suspect that they have changed very little compared with previous years. I do not find it at all astonishing that Her Majesty's inspectors had cause for concern above the bottom 15 per cent. of this league table. I should be very surprised if they did not feel that at any given time.

In addition, it was absolutely clear that in the inspectors' minds it was impossible to separate the element of trouble caused by falling rolls from those caused by any economies. There was little alteration to the pupil-teacher ratio. Much was made of the pupil-teacher ratio by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), but that point must be brought out. The inspectors said: The overall picture is of a stricter application of teacher staffing formulae than in 1979". As a ratepayer and taxpayer, I say"Good". It was about time that a careful look was taken at that. A total of 500 out of 600 primary schools had their staffing assessed as satisfactory, and 290 out of 360 secondary schools were also assessed as satisfactory. I do not find that a bad record.

As has already been said, there was evidence that teachers were teaching subjects for which they were not qualified. That has happened for years. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) referred to the primary school evidence of increasing pressure on heads to undertake heavy teaching responsibilities. As a member of a local education authority, one thing I look for is heads of primary schools getting in and teaching. It is the only way in which they can run their schools. I am delighted about that change.

Photo of Mr Timothy Brinton Mr Timothy Brinton , Gravesend

"Heavy" is a relative word. What is heavy in Hillsborough may not be heavy in Kent.

I turn to the subject of parental contributions. It is possibly astonishing to the hon. Member for Hillsborough, but the primary schools in my constituency are the ones in which the parents want to contribute more. Often they contribute more than parents in the richer areas. It is evil to suggest that parents should not be able directly to contribute to their children's education. That is a positive help to them and their children. Incidentally, it also makes them more interested in what is happening in schools.

I read the report rather differently from the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price). It is an echo of what has probably been written by the inspectors for many years. I should like to see standards and qualities improved. However, I do not believe that the way to improvement is only through extra funding and investment. These days the scream from teachers is always"resources", but machinery is not the way to educate.

If I were to spend a few minutes talking about education, I would want to talk about teaching children how to behave. I would not want to talk excessively about the huge area of social work which has entered our schools. Teachers frequently admit to me that a large portion of their time is taken up by looking after the children, and sometimes the parents, instead of being able to teach. Obviously every teacher needs close personal contact, but the social work aspect has grown out of all proportion, particularly at primary level, over the last 10 or 15 years.

Of course books are needed. There has been little mention of the fact that the allocation of the books, stationery and apparatus allowance is in the hands of the head of the school. He gets the gross amount and decides how to spend it. I am proud to say that in Kent, in 1981-82, the BSA allowance will be improved in cash terms by 60 per cent. over current levels, which will keep Kent in the top quarter of all authorities. A local authority does not have to spend less on BSA. Once the money goes to the head, it is he who can allocate it. Some heads prefer to buy apparatus instead of books, others prefer to buy books. It is their choice, just as it is their choice as to how they allocate their staff.

One of the most effective schools that I have ever known was a small independent primary school in North London, which would have received one of the most damning reports that the HMIs had ever written had they bothered to write a report about it. The furniture was minimal, the classes were big, the building was under-provided for and the fees were not that difficult to pay. There was a dedicated staff. The children enjoyed themselves and behaved. They got lunch, and they learnt.

I may be accused of being a bit of a blimp and of going back to the old-time three Rs. Surely the three Rs should be the priority. By all means let us expand on that. However, at present so much time and money are being spent on the expansion side that we are losing the three Rs in the middle. In that sense, I welcome the economies that have been thrust on the education world. Of course they are hard to live with. In terms of gross national product, we are spending twice as much on education as was spent in 1950. Are our results twice as good? Are we twice as well educated? I strongly doubt it. Money is not the answer. The answer is dedicated teaching and applying priorities in the right place.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons) 6:52 pm, 5th March 1981

I think that this is the first opportunity, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that a Liberal has had of congratulating you upon occupying the Chair. We are delighted to welcome a North-Easterner and a Methodist to the Chair. It is a great pleasure for us, but I know how much you wish you were taking part in this debate rather than presiding over it.

The debate has become more constructive as it has gone along, and, even though I disagree with the views just expressed by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Brinton), I acknowledge that he did at least attempt to set out the case as he saw it for minimal cost education. We have moved in a rather welcome way from party exchanges to a serious discussion of the report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate.

I do not believe that teachers and parents are interested in who thinks who has exaggerated most about this document. Indeed, when the Secretary of State sought to attack as hyperbole some of the things said from the Opposition Front Bench, I thought that what he was quoting sounded remarkably like the things I heard said from the Opposition Benches when they were occupied by the Conservatives during the time of the previous Government, and there was plenty of hyperbole then. That is not what people are interested in. The people want to know how the Government are going to respond to the concerns and worries expressed in the report by the inspectors of education. I do not seek to exaggerate it, and I hope I shall not quote it out of context, but it is quite apparent that it is a worrying and disturbing report. The inspectors state quite clearly that what they now see as concerns could become major worries if action is not taken in policy to counteract them.

Therefore, we are interested in finding out how the Government propose to respond to those concerns, and it is really of little consequence whether they are concerns that have arisen over several years or whether a large part of them is the result of what has happened over the last 18 months. That is not of much concern to parents; their concern is what the Government are going to do about what the inspectors see as wrong in a very significant minority of schools. There are things which the inspectors think are likely to happen in many other schools if positive action is not taken. The Government's amendment does not seem a very good starting point for finding a positive response to what the inspectors have found. The amendment really says to the education service"We are sure you can cope with the resources you have now, or possibly with even less."

Let me start with some of the things the inspectors say about basic standards and the curriculum. They say, for example, in paragraph 13 of the report that in about 15 per cent. of secondary schools there was evidence of teachers teaching subjects for which they were inadequately qualified or not qualified at all. They speak of adverse effects on the curriculum where the range of specialist knowledge and skills had been reduced as teachers left or were redeployed and of many returns indicating a reduced or non-existent specialist cover for minority subjects such as the classics, Russian, Italian or geology. It happens that in that list are a couple of subjects of very considerable importance, although they will probably always be minority subjects—Russian and geology, both of which have very considerable implications for the future of this country.

I have picked out just a number of instances in which the inspectors pointed to important problems that were already arising in an important minority of schools.

On top of that, of course, there is the whole issue that was raised and discussed by the Chairman of the Select Committee on Education, the problem of charging for subjects and the effect that that will have on some minority subjects such as music. I hope that in the course of the winding up of the debate tonight the Under-Secretary will give us some indication of how the Government's thinking is going on this very crucial problem. I agree that this is not a new problem. The legal decision has cast doubt on what has been a widespread practice in many schools over a long period. This has caused a very serious problem now because music tuition in schools is of immense cultural value. It has brought the nation to a position in which it has better orchestras, brass bands and instrument playing than many other countries and it has brought a very rewarding activity to many young people. It would be a tragedy if that very large minority activity were to be destroyed.

So in the areas to which the inspectors have pointed and in those highlighted by the court case there are some very serious problems to which the Government must make a positive response.

Then, on books, equipment and the question of parental contributions the inspectors had some very worrying things to say about what was happening. According to paragraph 29, District inspectors reported satisfactory provision of books in just over half the LEAs. In other words, in slightly under half of the local education authorities there was evidence of unsatisfactory provision.

There was also evidence of an increase in the extent to which parental funding was being used for the purchase of books. I agree with those who have said that the activities of parent-teacher associations in supporting schools and, indeed, in raising money for them are very desirable, and close parental and community involvement in the schools is an excellent thing, but I must protest at the implication that the basic essentials for the school can or ought to be provided by parental subscription. The problems that will result if we accept that proposition are very serious.

I quote one example of what seems to be happening at the moment, and the Secretary of State had better listen to it because it comes from his Chief Whip's constituency. It is the Lakes comprehensive school in South Lakeland, where the parents are extremely worried about what is happening and the co-ordinator of an action group of parents says: Due to the ravages of inflation the effectiveness of the allowance"— that is, the allowance for books and equipment— has now dwindled to an appallingly low level. His group has prepared a schedule of ventures which it was hoped would raise sufficient funds for all children to have their own textbooks, to be able to paint in art lessons, to have test tubes and chemicals for science experiments. These are the basics of the school. He added that a letter was going out to each parent requesting their support in making a contribution to the funds of the LSA"— that is, the Lakes School Association— of £5 per pupil per term"— that is, £15 a year per child in order to maintain the basic essentials for the school— even though with full parental support the group would still be short of the £20,000 initial target to replenish vital school equipment. I believe that if we go too far down that road parents, and particularly parents of poor families, if parental choice is offered to them, will say that they do not want their children to go to a school where they will be asked for contributions on that or even a larger scale. I really believe that poorer parents will be deterred from sending their children to the best schools if the expectation is that any decent parent will chip in with substantial amounts of money for basic essentials if the child is to remain at the school.

I have given one example but there are others, and I have asked the Secretary of State to gather together what evidence he has so far on how much of this is going on. This is a serious worry and I believe that the positive action which the Government must take in response to the report must include an indication that they do not intend schools to become dependent on parents for the provision of essentials. I leave aside the circumstances in which groups of parents have got together in the hope of saving a small village school by providing some of the important ancillary functions. There have been examples of that in East Anglia and elsewhere, and I welcome them as an attempt to maintain small village schools, but even that does not include the essentials of tuition, basic books and equipment.

Teacher training is a subject which nobody has mentioned, but the inspectors did mention it. They said that the limitation of expenditure on higher education was having some adverse effects on teacher training, and the effect that they lighted upon was this. They said that there was evidence, for example, that the range and scope of courses was being restricted in the important area of school experience. If one talks to anybody who has had teacher training, particularly at one of the older teacher training colleges, he will say that the thing that he most valued was the teaching practice and the parts of the course which related to the teaching practice. A phrase in the Conservative manifesto stated that in teacher training there should be more emphasis on practical skills and on maintaining discipline.

As a result of present restrictions, problems are arising in the very areas in which the teacher is being trained and equipped for the classroom and for confronting pupils. Therefore, the Government's actions contradict what was said in the Conservative Party's manifesto. Most of those who know anything about teacher training would agree that the Government risk depriving teacher training of its most important feature, namely, the training of teachers for the classroom. Through teaching experience, the teacher can be assessed and guided. That is more important than courses on the philosophy of education and all the other desirable components of teacher training. It is practical experience, the assessment and the trainee's development during his practical training that are particularly important.

Photo of Mr Robert Cant Mr Robert Cant , Stoke-on-Trent Central

According to the leaked document—the public expenditure White Paper to be issued next week—there will be further closures of teacher training colleges. Is it not a serious matter that the Department of Education and Science seems to be working on that?

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons)

If I were to get involved with the subject of leaked documents and the closure of teacher training colleges, I would be here for some time. For the moment, I shall content myself by saying that whatever institutional framework is provided for teacher training—whether it be a college or a university institute—practical experience is important. Cuts must not be allowed to bear on that.

A few weeks ago we debated further education. The inspectors have said a few things about that. The draft report was only just available at that time. Although I do not wish to go into the subject matter that was raised then, I hope that it is still fresh in the Government's mind. Indeed, I hope that the comments that came from both sides of the House about the impact of cuts on further education have been recognised. Some telling comments were made from Government Back-Benchers as well as from the Opposition Benches about further education and its importance.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland with responsibility for education came to my constituency last weekend. He did not tell me that he would be coming. If he had told me, I would have arranged to show him some examples of further education in my constituency. However, he made a speech and said: It may seem strange at this time of high unemployment but I have been told repeatedly by senior people in industries such as energy and electronics that the only real impediment to the future development of these industries in Britain could be a shortage of skilled people at both graduate and technician level. The hon. Gentleman went on to describe the challenge that that represented to the education system. He stressed further education and said: In further education colleges and industrial training centres we have a great deal of under-used capacity, particularly in the evenings and weekends, and this could be utilised at a marginal cost. But it is on precisely these"marginal cost" items that local authorities are being forced to make savings: items such as the overtime of caretakers who keep colleges open in the evenings, the salaries and fees paid to casual staff who are brought in to teach at evening classes, and the discretionary grants to students in these colleges of further education.

The Under-Secretary developed his argument about the need to widen education in such economical ways. He said: Let nothing or no one stand in the way. The programme of cuts that local authorities have undertaken at the behest of Ministers stands in the way. Therefore, the Minister was unrealistic, although his aim was justifiable and was one with which I could agree. He sought to make the best use of existing resources, but he was unrealistic because he could not recognise that the ability to use those resources is being hindered by the desperate attempts of local authorities to meet the target for cuts.

Alongside these concerns lies the assisted places scheme. Earlier, the figure for the current level of expenditure on it was slightly misquoted. Nevertheless, millions of pounds are going into the scheme. I hope that the Secretary of State will recognise that the assisted places scheme is seen as a slight to State education. In addition, it removes resources that the State system desperately needs.

The regulations before the House illustrate that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is offering more generous provision for meals, travel and uniforms to those who enter the assisted places scheme. Those in the State sector, who have lower levels of income, receive less help. Given the concern expressed by the inspectors, we must decide which way to go. At the very least, I beg the Government to stop pretending that there is nothing the matter. The Secretary of State said that at least the fabric of education was not disintegrating. I do not know how he intended that remark to be taken. If the fabric of education was disintegrating, he should have resigned long ago.

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn

I said that only because that accusation had been made against me.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons)

That is not what the inspectors' report states. The report said that some serious things were going wrong in a minority of schools. It said that the situation could become more widespread and serious if positive action was not taken. The fabric of education is crumbling dangerously at the edges. I hope that the Secretary of State will recognise that, hurtful though it may be. The inspectorate specifically calls for a positive response. I wonder whether the Secretary of State wryly thinks back to another commitment in the Conservative Party manifesto, namely, that the inspectorate should be strengthened. The right hon. and learned Gentleman could best strengthen the inspectorate by giving effect to its recommendations.

I should like to make two recommendations, one of which I have already hinted at. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should abandon the assisted places scheme. He should bring the money spent on that scheme into the State sector. Secondly, he must begin to win some Cabinet battles. He must stop bleeding the education system. This is an essential investment. Unless we are careful, we shall perpetuate a cycle of decline.

The Secretary of State stressed the country's economic position and the limitations that that imposed on educational resources. However, industry keeps telling him that if the education system cannot provide people with the necessary skills, training, knowledge and adaptability to staff the prosperous industries of the future, we shall not get the prosperity that will provide the resources to improve the education system. Many key sectors of the education system, such as adult education, must receive investment if we are to recover. Industry has given the right hon. and learned Gentleman that message. He must recognise it. We cannot sacrifice education as if it were a temporary luxury which the country could afford to do without while it is in economic difficulties. This is not the time to argue against the right hon. and learned Gentleman's interpretation of how the country should react in the present economic crisis. Certainly, we do not share the Government's monetarist policy. Even given the Government's conception of what we should be doing, the ability to staff prosperous industries should be a priority. The education system cannot do that if the trends described in the report continue. Therefore, it is the right hon. and learned Gentleman's job to respond positively rather than in the complacent manner of the amendment.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North 7:06 pm, 5th March 1981

As a former schoolmaster, may I join the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) in saying how nice it is to see you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the Chair? As a member of the teaching profession, I am proud that half of the occupants of the Chair are former members of it.

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby

We shall not hold that against you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

One of the phenomena of the mid to late 1970s was the growth of private schooling in poor areas. Parents were determined to give their children the education that they believed in. That phenomenon continues. As a result of the Hereford-Worcester judgment, there will be more such institutions. Parents will want their children to be educated in the basic subjects and they will want them to receive education in those areas that have, for nearly 40 years, been supported by parental contribution. It is tragic that the law has been tested in this way. In future it will be difficult for parents to make such provision for extra subjects.

I am in and out of schools a great deal and I often talk with former colleagues and other teachers. All teachers welcome the report and the Government's courage in publishing it. It is notable that there were three HMI reports before this which were not published. That speaks for itself. Every head, deputy and assistant teacher I know holds the HMI in the highest esteem. Nearly all the inspectors are former teachers, lecturers of a high standard, heads of schools and so on. However, HMI has never been accepted by the teaching profession as the judge and jury in everything. The inspectors come into schools, give advice, and make comments, and, when teachers and head teachers have listened and done what they can in the light of suggestions made, they have gone along with them. They have not been the be-all and end-all of everything in education.

It was basically wrong of the Labour Government in 1968 to stop full inspections of schools by Her Majesty's Inspectorate. That is one of the fundamental problems with schools. They are no longer subject to sudden inspection by teams of inspectors. Inspectors went to the schools, not to pull them apart but to give advice and to see what was going on. It was a salutary pepper to have and it was a pity that it was stopped.

In talking to colleagues in schools, I wonder what is the precise source of the information in the HMI report. There are 414 HMIs and 34,000 schools. The report mentions L000 visits. One wonders how the visits were conducted. I have talked to head teachers who have had HMI inspections and I have had such visits myself for many years, including the past two years. Inspectors visit the schools to see the teachers teaching. They ask questions about the equipment teachers have in a particular department, how many children they handle, and so on. They probably glean a good deal of information. I am not sure that they always get the full picture. I may be a heretic but I would not be regarded as a heretic by the teaching profession for saying that. I am not saying that the inspectors are not shrewd and canny or that they are not of high quality, but I do not believe that they always have the fullest picture. I am highly critical of the way that they are now operating—just dropping into schools, perhaps getting answers to questions, and producing reports which are significant—because the HMIs have rightly been regarded as people of high quality. My uncle was an HMI for years and we have had HMIs in the family. However, I am not happy about the way that they operate and they may wish to investigate the system of operation themselves.

The Opposition's case is put by Labour spokesmen all over the country. They must face up to what other hon. Members have said in the debate—that just to pour money into the education system is not the answer. The way resources are used is crucial. The way capitation allowances are used is what matters, not always the amount involved. I am not saying that a small sum would necessarily be sufficient.

The present highest ever pupil-teacher ratio can be beneficial to schools only if it is properly used. There are teachers who can teach 1,000 children—I have done so myself—and there are some who cannot teach five. The way in which teachers are deployed is what matters. That is the significance of the pupil-teacher ratio and the favourable nature of it. It is up to schools to make good use of the additional teachers that they have, and I think most schools are doing that.

Changes have taken place in resource allocations. The Educational Publishers Association—what body could have a more deeply vested interest—tells us that there are fewer books in schools, but one never hears it say how much the whole technology of schools has changed. Teachers now produce work sheets. Most schools have a good photocopier which turns out the work sheets. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) may laugh, but that is a fact. I know that there are legal problems, but a work sheet is produced by a teacher. If there is any copyright involved, it belongs to the local authority, so I shall not go into deeper waters than that. Therefore, there will be fewer books. The advantage of work sheets is that the work children are doing is much more immediately related to the subject and the times in which we live than work taken out of textbooks. That, therefore, has been a valuable development.

A good deal of expensive modern technology has not helped. I taught French for years and I thought that the arrival of language laboratories was totally unhelpful to the teaching of the subject. They are very expensive and the fact that some schools do not have them is a matter for criticism throughout the country in education provision, but it is nonsense. I think that there are too many films in some schools. That is another modern development. It is mistaken to include films when there should be teaching. There are photography classes in many schools. It is often thought that a way of engaging children who are low achievers is to give them cameras and send them off to take photographs. That is very expensive, and I do not think it is an especially educational activity. I want to see the HMI ferreting after that sort of activity a little harder.

The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) mentioned in flowing and strong terms mixed-ability teaching. I was pleased to hear him pick up the inspectorate's condemnation of that. I presume that he was condemning mixed-ability teaching as a method of teaching. If that is so, I welcome his remarks. That leaves out of consideration the view that has been taken by many educationists, not only on the Left Wing, that mixed-ability teaching is an advanced form of integrating children both educationally and socially. I do not believe that that is so.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I speak on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). I understood him to be saying something different, namely, that from the Conservative Benches one hears criticisms of mixed-ability teaching. The inspectors' report noted how that was being done on age as well as ability. Given the concern of the Government about mixed-ability teaching, they should join with the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) in expressing concern about that aspect of the inspectorate's report.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

I am grateful for that clarification. Of course the hon. Member will know, as I mentioned in an intervention, that the concept of family groups of mixed age within two or three years of each other being taught together is an educational concept that has been pushed principally by what I might call, I hope not unfairly, Left-wing educationists. It is a failure in terms of its ability to deliver education to all people, in my opinion. Others take a contrary view. I note that the Opposition Front Bench would be opposed to it, and that they will say that throughout the country. It would strengthen their standing in educational circles, if I may say without wishing to appear patronising.

The supply of teachers in the right subjects has been crucial and has not been achieved for 20 years at least. Some areas have never been properly covered with teachers. Handicraft teachers have never been in sufficient supply. I see you smiling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I may be ringing a bell with you. There has never been an adequate supply of French teachers and other language teachers. There is nothing new about that.

Teachers have always taught subjects for which they are not qualified. But that is unacceptable only in religious education. It is totally wrong. It is wrong for somebody unqualified in religion to teach the subject unless he has belief. Belief is part of being qualified to teach that subject. It is most desirable that teachers should be qualified in the subject that they teach. If a man or woman has the ability to teach, he probably teaches subjects other than his own with considerable facility and ability. This has happened for many years, if not always.

Maths and science teachers are not available today because the supply of teachers has been in the wrong subjects. Colleges of education have put too many resources into the wrong subjects—particularly sociology. For many years there has been no problem in getting teachers qualified in sociology. It is clear that a large amount of resources has gone into the producing of such teachers, when those resources should have been diverted into producing mathematicians and scientists. That has been one of the misplacements of resources in recent years.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

The hon. Gentleman said that it was unnecessary for people to qualify in the subject that they were teaching. Does that mean that the recent pressure to have teachers of maths in primary schools shown to be qualified to a certain level is not acceptable to him?

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

I did not say that it was unnecessary for people to be qualified in the subjects that they are teaching. What I said was that for generations teachers have taught subjects that they are not qualified to teach. That is quite a different thing. What I say to the Government and to all those who are interested in education is that the schools should be given a proper supply of teachers in the right subjects. If they are, they will deliver as they have never delivered before.

The HMI report says that in many cases buildings are somewhat dilapidated, but buildings have always been out of date. In going about London one can see strong, durable buildings that were put up at the turn of the century by the London School Board. They are as good as any modern building and a good deal better than most buildings. Many teachers prefer to work in them rather than in some of the modern buildings. Yet such buildings are termed out of date simply because they are so old.

The NUT, the AMMA and many other unions have fought for years against having lavatories in playgrounds. Indeed, there has been a campaign against them for about 20 years; we are all against them.

I recall a story concerning the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science—my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson)—when he first came to teach in East London 20 years ago. One of his problems was that the pupils at the Robert Montefiore school were particularly addicted to gambling and smoking. One of their habits was to go into the lavatories, which he could see from his office. He would see great clouds of smoke coming up. One day he decided to do something about it. He said to his schoolkeeper"Lock the doors". I am telling the story in my hon. Friend's absence but he will know the story. The schoolkeeper locked the doors of the lavatories at either end, 999 was dialled and the fire brigade duly came. Strong hoses were put into the lavatories from either end for a good 20 minutes, after which the doors were opened. Spluttering pupils emerged, asking what was happening. My hon. Friend said"I saw a fire and I had to send for the fire brigade". That cured the problem. Indeed, it is a tribute to a former headmaster for the way in which he handled an awkward problem.

Schools need order before work can be done. This is an area which needs much more attention from all those who are interested in education. Many education authorities need to review their attitudes to discipline. Discipline ought to cost nothing. It is not unfair to say that Labour authorities in particular seem to believe that all behaviour and discipline in schools can be based on love and kindness. They take a somewhat unrealistic view of the position which they face.

Sanctions available to teachers, by which they can keep good order and discipline, which are fundamental to good learning and good behaviour, are being pared away—and not only by Labour authorities, although to a large extent it is being done by them. Nothing is put in the place of those sanctions. The teaching profession has greatly resented this policy, and teachers find it very difficult to handle pupils without those sanctions being available.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has the chicken and the egg in the right order? The important ILEA study on this question showed that, in schools where pupils believed that they were achieving, there were no discipline problems, or fewer problems. It was in those schools where there as a lack of achievement on the part of the pupils that there were discipline problems, hence the resort to the methods that I believe the hon. Gentleman is now going on to describe.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman anticipated I was about to say. However, I shall say what I was about to say. It has been a tragedy to replace a great many of the perfectly reasonable sanctions that have been available to teachers with the right of heads and school governors to suspend or even to expel pupils. At present, an inordinate number of children are suspended from their school, and that is a great tragedy. The system is not working well and it needs to be looked at.

Good order is based upon good relationships in schools. It is not based upon a lot of fear. I have nothing like that to say. It is also based on very positive encouragement from teachers to children. Teachers need positive encouragement. So do heads, and so do local authorities. I want the HMI to produce a more positive report in the future.

The teacher has always been regarded as being in loco parentis in school, and the teacher has to have available to him the sort of sanction that the reasonable parent—not the wild, silly parent—has. It has been dangerous to remove sanctions of that sort.

We must build up dedication in schools. We need to have the dedication of teachers to their pupils and of pupils to the task for which they attend school. Parents must be involved even more than they are. I hope that HMI will continue to produce critical reports when they have to, but I hope that inspectors wll do all they can to encourage. A thimbleful of encouragement goes much farther than a bucketful of discouragement and critisims. Let them remember that.

Photo of Mr Stanley Thorne Mr Stanley Thorne , Preston South 7:27 pm, 5th March 1981

The Secretary of State chided my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) for ignoring the economic position in opening the debate. The Secretary of State then made two particular points. First, he said that we ought not to be spending what we have not got. Second, he said"We cannot afford it"—by which he meant some of the things to which my hon. Friend had been referring.

I challenge those two points made by the Secretary of State. The Government have used their majority in this House only this week to launch forth on a massive expenditure of £5,000 million-plus on Trident. I have had letters from constituents this week—I am sure that I am not alone in this respect—urging that the Government should be spending more on education rather than on nuclear weapons.

The Secretary of State should not say that we cannot spend what we have not got. He should be open and honest and say that the Government prefer that money should be spent on nuclear arms rather than on education for our children. The policy of the Government illustrates, in various ways, such an order of priorities. The rate support grant illustrates the need to cut public expenditure. There are to be reductions in health and education and a contraction of the fire service and other aspects of public expenditure. This policy, however, is not to apply to defence. It is false to argue, as the Secretary of State did, that we have not got the resources to spend on education and that we cannot afford the resources on education. What the right hon. and learned Gentleman should have said was that, in the Government's view, nuclear arms come before the education of our children.

We in Lancashire are, of course, not divorced from this situation. Cuts amounting to £10 million are already in the pipeline. There are to be major cuts in further education staffing with a consequent effect on youth unemployment. The decisions being taken by the Lancashire county education authority are contrary to the spirit of the Macfarlane report. Youth unemployment and further education provision are inseparable, especially in our present economic situation. I have received today a copy of the local paper that appears in the Preston area. A headline on the front page reads The dole killed my son". The report says: More dole queues with more dole deaths to come is the opinion of the father of a 17-year-old who jumped from a railway bridge on to a railway track because of his particular circumstances. What were the circumstances? The youth left school and obtained a job. He was happy in his work. He was made redundant at the age of 17—not 47—and considered immediately the prospect of re-training and returning to education to find opportunities to develop a different approach to life. He found extreme difficulty obtaining a course that should be provided in the educational services for lads with no real past academic success, in terms of O and A-levels, who are anxious to return to further education in acceptance of the changes that they have to make to find alternative forms of employment.

The Preston polytechnic should be going ahead with major educational development, particularly in computers and scientific technological areas. What, in fact, is it being asked to do? We can recall reports, some never mentioned in the House these days, about adult education which have not been carried into effect. The possibility that they will be carried into effect under this Government is almost nil. I know that the Secretary of State, giving evidence to the Select Committee recently, indicated that there was evidence of a fall in demand for further education. I challenged him then, and I still challenge him. Rather than a fall in demand for further education, there is an upturn in demand. The problem is that the local authorities an; unable to meet that upturn because of cuts. The figures from the DES therefore indicate a fall in the provision, not in demand. This is a question on which the Government Front Bench spokesman may have some comment to make in replying to the debate.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West

The hon. Gentleman has told the House that the Trident missile will cost £5,000 million. He has gone on to plead the case in his own constituency for further education. What we have not heard from any Opposition Member is the cost that would be involved in restoring these cuts and carrying out the sort of programme that a Labour Government might have implemented had they been elected. Will the hon. Gentleman perhaps indicate the cost, both in the short term and in the long term, in relation to Trident?

Photo of Mr Stanley Thorne Mr Stanley Thorne , Preston South

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has illustrated the divisions on the Conservative Benches in regard to this problem. The House heard earlier from the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Brinton) that it is not a question of improving resources in education. To the hon. Member for Gravesend, that is largely irrelevant. Now the House has heard from the hon. Member for Luton, West (Mr. Carlisle) that he is concerned about the provision of resources. The hon. Gentleman knows that I do not possess facilities that enable me to put figures on specific aspects of improvements in education provision. I am under no illusions about the propensity of my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) to produce something out of the hat to illustrate the areas where educational provision could be improved and at what cost. I have every faith and confidence in my hon. Friend's ability to reply to the hon. Gentleman's question.

I do not wish to enter upon an in-depth analysis of the situation in Lancashire. I recognise that other hon. Members wish to speak. Apart from the question of staffing in the polytechnic and in further education institutions, we have cuts in such absurd areas as caretaking hours and the cleaning of schools and other educational establishments, with the inevitable consequences for local unemployment. In contrast to that situation, it is reported that a new private independent school hopes to provide bright children with teaching in technical computing and scientific and technical subjects. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty will be able to pursue this matter at some future date.

I am sure that the Secretary of State's response would be that such a school sounds extremely valuable. However, people pay taxes and rates for the public sector to provide for the teaching of computer sciences and similar subjects in our schools and colleges of further education. What is the situation in those schools? Equipment provision has been cut. Computer teaching development is seriously hampered. Only one school and two sixth-form colleges in Preston have moneys this year to improve the situation in computer technology. There is no new money for equipment in the remainder of Preston's schools. That is a consequence of the cuts by the Lancashire county authority.

Reference was made by the Secretary of State, with some satisfaction, to the pupil-teacher ratio. The right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to be arguing that, contrary to the inspectors' report, the situation was much more favourable than would appear to be the case from the report. I have to inform him that, in Preston, the pupil-teacher ratio has changed from 17·5:1 to 18:1. In other words, the situation has worsened in the secondary schools in Preston as it has in Lancashire generally, with a consequent pro rata reduction in sixth-form staffing. Some courses may have to cease altogether and compulsory redundancies may ensue. The aim is to save £1½ million. Inevitably, there is a risk to the core curriculum. Standards in modern languages and metalwork in Lancashire institutions will suffer.

I shall be interested to know from the Under-Secretary of State whether the legal decision concerning music teaching of recent date applies also to swimming charges during the school day. It seems likely that someone will fasten on to that as being worthy of testing in law.

I do not want to deal in depth with some aspects of the report that have already been covered by those of my hon. Friends who are also members of the Select Committee. However, parents and the public generally in Lancashire, are entitled to know whether Lancashire is among the 15 per cent. of authorities that have been identified by the inspectorate as forming the group with the worst provision in terms of buildings, staffing, books and equipment. I hope that the Minister will clarify that.

I have already mentioned cuts in staffing and in various other aspects that are necessitated by the £10 million cutback. Schools with special needs—surely an area in which the Secretary of State is not anxious to see cutbacks—have had scrubbed those new developments based upon education needs. Staffing cuts in secondary schools have an effect on remedial teaching. Increased pressure falls on that department. That arises from cuts in other parts of the curriculum. It is a sorry story of reduced education provision at a time when major improvements should be taking place.

We are said to be facing another technological revolution. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty was right to argue that forcefully. Our young people are not and will not be adequately prepared for its consequences on the basis of the Government's education policies.

Photo of Mr William Van Straubenzee Mr William Van Straubenzee , Wokingham 7:43 pm, 5th March 1981

This is the most extraordinary debate. We were told at the beginning that the whole world was alight because of the inspectorate's report. It was claimed that the public were crowding at the doors to hear what we were going to say. We heard that there was an enormous amount of interest in the subject. At certain times there have been only three Labour Back Benchers in the Chamber.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

There are only five Labour Back Benchers in the Chamber now.

Photo of Mr William Van Straubenzee Mr William Van Straubenzee , Wokingham

That is so. I was referring to times when fairly weighty speeches were being made. This is one of the dampest parliamentary squibs that we have ever had. However, we have had some useful and relaxed discussion of some education problems and I shall inject one or two brief thoughts into the debate. As the Government are under attack and as Ministers are alleged to be so hopelessly incompetent, we are entitled to say that the Opposition, as an example of attack with vigour and spirit, are a broken reed. In those terms, the debate has been a useful occasion.

The circumstances that I have described are not unusual. I wonder whether other hon. Members will recall an earlier occasion which stirred in my memory and caused me to leave the Chamber to consult Hansard. Very much the same happened in 1974 when the then Conservative Government were still in office. I was not ministerially responsible on that occasion. Those who are interested will find that I refer to 28 January 1974. The speeches are astonishingly alike. In those days, we used to hear the confident voice of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) when debating these issues. We now hear more musical tones from the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock).

There was a Labour motion of censure on 28 January 1974 that deplored the Government's intention to reduce the planned increases in education expenditure. That was followed by a general election when a Labour election manifesto committed a future Labour Government to continued expenditure, including, for example, increased provision for nursery education. Four years later we were able to take a rain check. After the motion of censure and the promises that followed—it was exactly as tonight in that the then Labour Opposition were saying"Vote for us because we are the goodies and the Conservatives are the baddies, the Conservatives are everything that is bad in education terms and if you vote for us it will all come right"—total spending on education in the financial year 1977–78 was 1 per cent. less in real terms than in 1973–74, the last full year of the tenure of office of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as Secretary of State for Education and Science.

It is significant and central to the debate that the 1 per cent. reduction accompanied a rise in the school population of over half a million. By far the hardest-hit item in those days was capital expenditure, which, after the years of a Labour Government had decreased by more than one half.

I shall not waste time by looking back on those barren years. It is sheer hypocrisy for Labour Members to suggest that they have a splendid record that they could repeat. The truth is that economic factors bear very heavily on them. The record demonstrates that they made substantial cuts in education expenditure at a time of rising school rolls.

Have we a commitment? Did we hear a commitment today to make restoration? I recall the article written by the hon. Member for Bedwellty that appeared in autumn 1980 in Labour Weekly. I think that the hon. Gentleman ended up in some trouble subsequently. It included the following sentence: In the absence of firmly agreed Labour Party policy giving specific public expenditure priority to particular services removed by three or four years of Toryism,it would be mistaken and unconvincing to create the illusion that we will fully or quickly restore the cuts made by the Tories. That was an honest statement. I note that the hon. Gentleman nods assent. He must be invited to stick to it when he makes the criticisms that we have heard during the debate.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his characteristically generous remarks. Without being tiresome, I could remind the hon. Gentleman that I made much the same comments about restoration on six or seven occasions subsequently. That does not diminish my feelings about the evidence contained in the inspectorate's report. I sincerely hope that he will fully endorse what I have said and join us in the Division Lobby in demonstrating his anxiety about the effect of continual cuts in the fabric of education under Conservative and Labour Governments.

Photo of Mr William Van Straubenzee Mr William Van Straubenzee , Wokingham

I shall move on to the inspectorate's report. It is to the credit of the hon. Gentleman that in Opposition he is extremely careful not to commit his party. I note that he nods in agreement. Let that be clearly understood by us all. It is a fair position to adopt. However, it weakens the cutting edge of criticism if the hon. Gentleman accepts basically the economic conditions—he is right to do so—in which a Government have to work.

The truth is that these are very long-term matters. I have described the situation before, in what I hope was a friendly way. I hope that the hon. Member for Bedwelty never discovers it for himself, but if he does, he will find that going into any form of ministerial office—and I have never done so at a senior level—is very much like taking over the control panel of a very large liner. One may imagine that one has wonderful controls to pull so that everything happens at once, but it does not. In fact, a shift in direction for a large liner is comparatively slow. Indeed, I think that that is one of our problems in this country.

Many of the factors in the HMI report are therefore of far longer lineage than things which have happened in the last year or so. Any hon. Member seeking confirmation of that need only read paragraph 6 of the report. I shall not quote it in extenso, but that paragraph concentrates on the schools which give the inspectorate the most concern—and I am sure that this is shared by the whole House. The inspectorate makes the comment that it is not possible in such schools to disentangle the results of financial policies and inflation from the effects of falling rolls. I do not think that even now we have all grasped some of the problems caused by falling rolls.

Secondly, the inspectorate makes the express point that it is not, broadly speaking, making comparisons between one year and another. It is concerned solely with whether the standard of provision is good enough. That is what the inspectorate is after, rather than making these very much more immediate comparisons. Incidentally, while we are talking about the inspectorate, I think that sufficient time has gone by to remind ourselves that the inspectorate took a very severe knock as a result of the first report of a Select Committee upon which I served. I shall refer in a moment to Select Committees. I am hoping that the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) will return to his place. I should like to make reference to him as he has demonstrated himself in action during the debate. I should like to wait, however, in the hope that I shall not have to make that comment in his absence.

It is a fact of history that the inspectorate was considerably affected by that Select Committee report. I believe that when history is written it will be said that one of the major contributions of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when she was Secretary of State was to rebuild and to restore the confidence of that remarkable body of men and women. They have maintained their independence. They are Her Majesty's inspectors, not the Secretary of State's inspectors. Yet they work alongside officials and thus advise Ministers. In that way, they ensure that Ministers are informed in a remarkable way. That is done, of course, by means of a series of pieces of advice. The fifth report is therefore just one report in a constant monitoring process.

I wish to make two points at this stage. First, we are talking about cash. I believe that both sides of the House must recognise that there is a limit to the burden that the ratepayer will bear. We who are interested in the subject and, by inference, are pressing in a reasonable way for increased resources as the economy picks up must remember that in many cases the rate burden is overwhelming. We are now seeing some very interesting examples of civic leaders responding to electoral opinion. Labour councillors in Camden have abstained. Even in the London borough of Lambeth, in which I am a double ratepayer and therefore feel very strongly on the subject of supplementary rates, Mr. Knight—

Photo of Mr William Van Straubenzee Mr William Van Straubenzee , Wokingham

I am told that he is called Red Ted. Unlike my hon. Friend, I am not fortunate enough to have his personal acquaintance. Even Mr. Knight is reported in this morning's papers to be responding very much more to the pressures of the electorate's reaction.

Secondly, the report comments that reduction in the teacher force through early retirement is considerably more prevalent than it was. I wish to ask in a careful way whether that is actually a criticism. Is it actually a bad thing? I believe that amateurs such as myself tend to overlook the very demanding nature of teaching and the fact that it is very easy to"burn out". Therefore, so long as it is on honourable terms, I do not regard a certain increase in early retirement as a disadvantage.

This leads me to ask whether we could not move in terms of standards into fixed-term contracts, particularly for head teachers. I say this with care, as I recently had the pleasure of contact with the National Association of Head Teachers and I have learnt that it had the impression that I was pleading for a fixed term of five years only. To the best of my knowledge, I have never attached my argument to any particular term of years. Suffice it to say that I would regard five years as too short a period. I am not concerned at this stage with the details, but I believe that it would make a geat change if we could move—on honourable terms, by which, of course, I mean financially protective terms—to a fixed period, initially renewable, for those taking up these enormously responsible posts.

I must say that I had expected that we should be honoured today with a comment on education policy by the new Social Democrats. I was watching for this, as I saw the hon. Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth), whom the whole House likes greatly, come in with a very heavy bundle of papers. Indeed, I do not think that I mislead the House in saying that I think that the great bunch of papers on the Bench opposite belongs to him. We were told that the new party would unfold its policies as debate succeeded debate. I should like to know whether Mrs. Shirley Williams is the dominant figure in the new party. Will there be the total hostility that she has always displayed towards independent education? Will she seek to influence that party to return to a centralised system of enforcing comprehensive reorganisation on everybody? We should like to have known all those things from the Social Democrats, had their representative who came in earlier taken the opportunity to speak. I am very clear about what they are against, but I am much less clear as to what they support.

I must now make the reference that I delayed making, as the House will acknowledge, to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West, who took part in the debate very much as Chairman of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts. I wish simply to say this. I have always regarded the new Select Committees as important. But I have also always imagined that their respective Chairmen would step back a little, although perhaps not totally, from the party conflict, particularly on the subjects with which their Select Committees are concerned. I myself have been a Chairman of a Select Committee, although not on this subject. I think I can say that I was exceedingly careful not to say anything in public while that Committee was dealing with the particular subject in question, or if I did, it was certainly with the greatest care. We saw the hon. Member for Lewisham, West in action today. We saw him in careful cahoots with the Opposition Front Bench. We heard him question the Secretary of State. We saw him assume a certain official position on behalf of the Select Committee—which I do not think he was entitled to do. I cannot ask whether he was entitled to do so because no members of the Select Committee are present.

Photo of Mr John Osborn Mr John Osborn , Sheffield, Hallam

One hon. Member of the Select Committee has already spoken in the debate.

Photo of Mr William Van Straubenzee Mr William Van Straubenzee , Wokingham

That was not a criticism of members of the Committee. I hope that my hon. Friend understands that. I have not been able to ask whether the chairman was speaking with the authority of the Committee members when he intervened. He gave the appearance that he was doing so on behalf of the Select Committee. That is a constitutional point.

We heard a useful announcement yesterday about overseas students, which I warmly welcome. When my hon. Friend the Minister replies he may wish to comment briefly on it. I share with many hon. Members a concern about the problem of overseas students. I have always accepted that, once differential fees were instituted by the Opposition, it would lead inevitably, under one Government or another, to full cost fees. I fully understand that the number of overseas students is 2,000 higher than the figure allowed for in the expenditure plans of the Labour Government.

Nevertheless, I am sure that I express the view of many hon. Members who seek to be responsible—of course in economic terms—by saying that we feel a sense of anxiety about our provision for overseas students. Therefore, I welcome yesterday's announcement by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, about the allocation of sufficient funds to the training programmes for 1981–82 to restore the number of new awards to developing countries under Government-to-Government programmes and the Commonwealth scholarship and fellowship plan to about the levels that existed in 1978 and 1979.

I am delighted to know that the Government have extended the fee support scheme and plan to make up to 300 awards available to selected privately financed postgraduates from developing countries who are suffering hardship as a result of the increases. That displays a remarkable way forward. It opens the way increasingly to finance that enormous effort—not from the Department of Education and Science, but from the Overseas Development Administration. It is proof of the way in which the Government are responsive to representations in that area, and shows that they are anxious to maintain their initiative.

I end where I began. If this is a motion of censure, it is the lamest duck that I have known for years. It shows that much of the criticism is based on misunderstanding and hot air.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas , Merioneth 8:03 pm, 5th March 1981

I do not want to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) other than on one point. I do not need to defend the Chairman of the Select Committee, but if the hon. Gentleman was referring to his question to the Secretary of State about information on specific local authorities I advise him that the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) was one of the Members who pleaded strongly in Committee for the information to be made public.

Yet again we have heard the Secretary of State's argument that he is working within the constraints of what we can afford. I want to put a point to him in similar terms to the point put to him by my colleague in Committee, the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Thome). Within the logic of his position, he is undermining the basis of the education service as viewed from a"capitalist perspective". If he believes that the economy consists of the unstable equation of capital and labour leading to production, he must surely understand that the training of skilled labour or the investment in human capital is an essential part of that productive equation. He is undermining the basis of a future labour force.

Part of the contrariness of the argument is that the Government—and before the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) becomes too supportive of me my point applies also to the Labour Government—have reduced education expenditure and then found themselves having to increase the educational aspects of other short-term training programmes. We must face that contradiction when considering the way in which education cuts affect the economy as a whole.

My concern is both with the existing report for England and with the not yet existing report for Wales. I shall say more about that later. The report on expenditure by local authorities in England begins, as the report itself says, from an inherited baseline. We are looking at the study of provision undertaken by the inspectorate in 1980. It is based, apparently, on studies that have been made since the Labour Government began reducing public expenditure. I want to emphasise that the overall statistics used conceal the disparities and the widening gaps between individual schools and specific areas. When I intervened in the Secretary of State's speech in relation to pupil-teacher ratios, the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not take my point. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will take it up when he replies. Paragraph 4 of the report says that on the basis of the inherited baseline, the gaps seem to be widening.

On the question of secondary schools, paragraph 51 states: the differences between schools and areas are getting more marked. In the first year of the exercise from the 1980 baseline a wider gap has been opened. The areas that are already not as effective in their provision are those which are having their provision reduced—for example, the inner city areas and the areas under stress.

The baseline is a difficult concept. Perhaps the Minister will address himself to that point when he replies. I hope that the inspectorate will look again at the way in which it functions. The chief inspector for secondary education, Miss Marshall, told the Select Committee that the baseline consisted of a look at curricular provision and also a look at whether the resources which support that provision are of a kind which could reasonably be expected to provide the children with what they need. There is an element of an objective judgment on the actual spending of authorities. There is also the professional subjective judgment of the inspectorate itself. That should be related to the educational needs of areas.

I raised that point in Committee in relation to the cultural needs of ethnic minorities, especially in the present context of deepening racial tension in Britain and the educational provision for the black minority. I asked whether the baseline took into account the real needs of a specific authority. In answer to that, Miss Browne said: If you are saying, 'Could one take an authority and take elements that are made up of the baseline and postulate what would happen, for example, if the staffing ratio were better?'—then one could look at that and arrive at a different notional assessment of need for that authority. That is absolutely crucial. When I stressed the example of provision for ethnic authorities, Miss Browne said: That would figure in that element of this baseline assessment which is efficacy of provision. I quote that because it is essential that we base our line on the needs of authorities, not only on the historic spending pattern. If we base it simply on the historic spending pattern, we achieve a continuing pattern of inequality because authorities that had had a lower level of spending in the past, not sufficient to meet the needs within the authority—especially the needs of ethnic minorities—achieve a relative provision that becomes worse.

The other point which must be made, and which has already been made, is that those returns ante-date the announcement of the RSG cuts. Therefore, there is not a real projection of the position as it already affects authorities, as they are having to make further cuts for next financial year.

With regard to primary school provisions, I am concerned about the loose way in which the concept of falling rolls is being used. We have not had enough careful discussion on the diseconomies of falling rolls. The simplistic analysis which the Secretary of State has tended to use fails to understand that falling rolls are more expensive at the top end of the primary school and that, in terms of the pattern of spending, falling rolls have an effect of diseconomy. One of the effects of falling rolls on primary schools is that, as the number of children falls, more schools are losing part time members of staff, many of whom concentrate on children who are finding it difficult to learn to read. The paragraph states that in paragraph 46. It continues: This is a particular example of the way in which schools tend to fall back on making common provision for children as resources become tighter. The possibility of dealing with children with any form of learning difficulty or of offering special work for the gifted is reduced. Secondary schools cannot easily make up for this at a later date". The effects of the cuts in primary education and the over-simplistic understanding of the effects of falling rolls will make it more difficult for our secondary schools when they come to cope with the diseconomies of falling rolls and with the needs of children who have not been adequately educated, even to the existing standards of what I would describe as not under-achieving pupils but underachieving schools.

The report makes those points clearly and succinctly in paragraph 58: Most of the above comments relate to the effects in terms of the maintenance of school provision as it now exists. They need to be considered also in relation to the likely capacity of teaching staff and advisers to engage in that reappraisal of the curriculum, development of an improved system of assessment and of appropriate public examinations, and response to changing educational needs which are widely recognised as desirable. The legislation following the Warnock Report and the Government's White Paper on 'Special Needs in Education' is an immediate claimant. A few authorities are particularly well disposed to plan ahead to meet current difficulties and new needs and it is disturbing that recent adjustments of financial policy, by their timing and scale, risk undermining these intentions. It has also to be recognised that planning has implications for administrative costs and staffing in both authorities and their institutions. I have quoted that because it relates to a brief cross-examination in Select Committee on in-service training. If the Government are to burden the education system with a statement or curriculum change, which is possibly due later this month, how will it be possible to have any curriculum adjustment which does not include in-service training? That is the area where authorities are reducing substantially, as the report states. Paragraph 21 says that reductions in in-service training have occurred in three ways: secondments are down, financial assistance with expenses for teachers are down, and the result of that has been that the in-service programme has been reduced by nearly one-fifth. How is it possible in a situation of curriculum change to have that sort of change without in-service training? Miss Browne confirmed that in exchanges which we had in Committee.

I have concentrated on the issues which affect school education. I shall also mention the reduction in adult education. I shall not deal at length with that issue, because other hon. Members have mentioned it, including my hon. Friend, the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne). I should like to deal with the question of descretionary grants. In paragraph 85 the report states: under half of the authorities are showing a decrease in expenditure on discretionary grants. That is happening in a number of ways. We are told that 22 authorities are recorded as operating selection processes on the criteria that some disciplines are"acceptable" and that some are"unacceptable". That is extremely distressing, because there will be a tendency to discriminate against cerain courses and subject areas. As always in discretionary grants, there is discrimination against the part-time student and the resulting fall-back in access by women students', part-time students and working class students into adult and continuing education.

Paragraph 73 raises the issues of youth and community services. We are told that 27 authorities have reduced the allocations to the youth and community services. That again is a contradiction of the policies resulting from the Government's public expenditure cuts. There is massive youth unemployment. For example, one in three young persons in Powis in Mid-Wales is unemployed. The figure for the black population is higher in the inner cities. At the same time as we have massive youth unemployment there are temporary programmes funded by the MSC and a reduction in the provision of youth services. That is illogical. One would have thought that at a time of increasingly massive youth unemployment the alienation which the supporters of capital on the Government Benches are creating in their economic system would be enough of a symptom for them to try to respond to it by an expansion of the youth service. However, that service must be sacrificed. They will suffer the results of their contradictions as the tension and alienation among young people, particularly among young members of minority groups, will increase and show much more resistance than we have seen so far.

My final point concerns the non-existent Welsh report and the great saga about it. In the Western Mail, which is always a reliable newspaper, we were told on 24 February that there were no plans for a study for Wales similar to the one which was discussed for England. The Welsh Office spokesperson said that that was not considered necessary because of the difference in scale. He said: In England a formal study may have been the only way to tackle this … but in Wales, because of its small size with only eight counties HMIs spend considerably more time in contact with schools and local education authorities.They are therefore more able to keep abreast of the situation without looking specifically at this issue. However, marvellously and miraculously, by Welsh questions last Monday, the Under-Secretary of State for the Welsh Office had been able to find a report. He told me in answer to an oral question that he expected to have a report from the inspectorate and that he would make it available as soon as was practicable. Undaunted, the Welsh Office spokesman said that the two statements were not contradictory. He said: The point of our original statement was that we have not embarked on the full-scale survey involving questionnaires and extensive tables, as in England. I understand that the survey is to be published at the end of next week. No doubt the survey for Wales will be worse than that for England. The national average in education in Wales is worse than in England. It is a myth that the education service in Wales is fantastic and that we are a highly educated people.

A recent study showed that 27 per cent. of school leavers in Wales have neither O-level or CSE passes. The figure for England is only 14·2 per cent. The system in Wales is already producing a lower level of achievement than in England. Despite that, we are experiencing massive cuts. In Mid-Glamorgan, there is a cut of 250 jobs and a cutback in library services and in-service training. In West Glamorgan, there is a 25 per cent. reduction in cleaning jobs, with 750 jobs threatened. Britain's meanest council is the education authority of Gwent, as I am sure the hon. Member for Bedwellty will confirm. It is bottom of the league table in primary school spending on equipment, at only £9 per head, compared with the United Kingdom average of £15. The ILEA figure is nearly three times as much.

In Clwyd, part of which county I represent, there is a 50 per cent. drop in the take-up of free school meals. A survey has been carried out by the parents concerning cuts in education, which no doubt will be confirmed by the inspectorate. I shall not quote all the figures because of the time. However, 79 per cent. of the schools suffer from difficulty in acquiring necessary building and repair, and 50 per cent. were in poor repair or inadequately housed. About 93 per cent. of head teachers have difficulty with requests for furniture and fitments. About 55 per cent. are cutting back on swimming lessons.

Up to £3,000 has been raised by PTAs but the report states: It was again strongly emphasised that fund-raising is very difficult in areas where the parental unemployment is high, a situation which will be exacerbated by the closure of Shotton steel works. There has also been a loss of technician services and resource assistants in about 30 per cent. of the schools. The informal survey from the parents point to what is likely to emerge from the formal survey.

In Gwynedd we have had what appears to have been the most cruel cuts in services for dyslectic pupils. Later tonight we are to have an Adjournment debate on that subject. A referral service was designed in collaboration with the University College of North Wales, Bangor, which, before the 1979 cuts, involved a contribution of £14,000 from the local authority. It was halved to £7,000. In that period, it cost approximately £200 per child per year. Because of the cut by the local education authority, the number of pupils able to take advantage of the specialist university service in Gwynedd dropped from 75 in 1977 to 60 in 1978. In 1979 it was only 22. I condemned the local education authority for the reduction, and I understand that it intends partly to restore it.

It is typically the pupils most in need of education provision who are being hit by the Government's policies. We can not and will not forgive them for that.

Photo of Mr Anthony Speller Mr Anthony Speller , North Devon 8:22 pm, 5th March 1981

I wish to speak principally to the amendment where it refers to the need to restrain public expenditure and expresses confidence in the ability of the education service … to secure maximum educational value from the extensive resources that are still being applied.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) spoke as a schoolmaster. He took umbrage at sociologists. Coming from a family of schoolteachers and being a sociologist, I found it necessary to become chairman of a local education authority to exert any influence.

It is sad that while we talk through the report—and a valuable and interesting report it is—no one as yet, except for my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Brinton), has dealt with what will happen to our young people in the coming years. I come from a part of the world—and I follow my hon. Friend in being somewhat parochial—where the number of young people is falling dramatically. At the end of this decade, in Devonshire we shall have 2.5 per cent. fewer young people at school, but we shall have at least 25 per cent. more elderly people. Resources must be spread where the need is greatest. Resources are vital for education, but other people and other services need to be catered for.

I share the regret of my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) at the fact that there are no Liberals or Social Democrats in the Chamber today or at any time. In the county of Devon there has been a well-orchestrated campaign of denigration of the education service, based entirely on the cuts, cuts, cuts campaign. Yet that is not so, and I suspect that it is not so in many counties, bearing in mind the number of children that have to be educated.

For what it is worth, Professor Clegg made a mistake of 4 per cent. which costs the county of Devon £2 million. As an example of salary increases, which I do not begrudge for a moment, the headmaster of a middle school, teaching 800 to 850 young people, will now get £15,000 a year, as opposed to £10,000 two years ago. I do not say that these payments are not justified, but they have to be paid from limited resources. One should look at how good authorities manage to survive, and not fall in love with league tables.

Everyone talks about league tables as though pupil-teacher ratios are the only things that matter. People talk about the amounts spent per head as though they are the only things that matter. They may be important as a base line, but I suspect that they have little more importance than that.

I apologise for being parochial, but in the county of Devon we have not sacked one teacher. We have not closed any village schools for economic reasons. We are keeping village schools open. Yet our resources are limited. This year, 10 per cent. was saved on education administration costs, and more will be saved in the coming year.

When I was chairman of a local education authority, we had the annual plateau. We all knew the plateau. When it came to estimates time, we took last year's plateau, added X per cent. for inflation and X per cent. for growth. No one ever queried whether it was a solid plateau or whether it was honeycombed with waste space which could have been used for more important matters.

To my pleasure—and somewhat to my surprise—throughout the country rate rises in the shires are far less than might have been expected. The same is true for rate rises in district councils. I suspect that the reason lies very largely in the economies that are being made in all services, including education.

I am sure that we have a major problem with cutbacks. If pupil rolls are falling, there are fewer people on whom to spend the money.

I finish on my parochial note. Of all the counties. Devon is one from the top in the A-level, O-level and CSE grade I passes. But that was a poor position in the league table. Perhaps the league table for examination passes is more important to the parents than the league table for expenditure. We are a leading authority in getting young school leavers into work experience. We are leading in nursery experience and in nursery activities.

My thought in reading the original motion was that we have a problem, but we have to accept the cuts with bitterness and sorrow and look forward to better times. I believe that the education service has taken the cuts and is making good use of the opportunity to be more economical than in the past. I do not believe for one moment that the education service in toto will suffer. However, I speak parochially, knowing that we have a good education service that is attacked irrationally and wrongly and, frankly, with more interest in theatrical effect than in verity by folk who have not bothered to attend this debate, despite their long and strong attacks on all Conservative education authorities.

I support the amendment. It makes good and sound sense, and I believe that it will work.

Photo of Mr Daniel Jones Mr Daniel Jones , Burnley 8:29 pm, 5th March 1981

I have some poignant remarks to make and, because I know myself so well, I have written them down because I am aware that other Members wish to speak and I want to be precise.

The Minister began his speech by saying that we can spend only what we can afford. As one who, in his early days, was bred in poverty, I accept that philsophy. As a consequence, I cannot understand how the Minister can say that when, at this moment, we are spending £11,000 million on defence, £9,000 million on unemployed people and £5,000 million agreed to on Monday last. That is the first point.

There are those better informed than myself who believe that we can spend twice that sum of money and not preserve peace while we spend on arms. I make that point very genuinely.

Over the years, from my reading of men much more eminent than myself, I have calculated that this will represent a situation that will never result in peace, that, sooner or later, undoubtedly it will mean that we are in a position in which there will be no victim, nor a vanquished, but a strong possibility of the vanquishing of the human race.

If the Under-Secretary wishes to take it on board, I recommend to him the wisdom of a military mind infinitely greater than mine will ever be. Let him read what General Sir John Hackett has stated about civil defence. This man has been a particularly successful soldier in international war. His statement is this: There will be no victor. There will be no vanquished. But in the years to come, unless we stop, there will be a vanquished. I always ask myself—who are the greatest sufferers? I believe that the greatest sufferers will undoubtedly be the most innocent of the human race—our children. I do not have children now. They have grown up. They have been to university. But they have brought children into the world—and I love them. These innocent people could be the victims of the expenditure which could otherwise be used to develop education to a greater level.

I make a simple but very sincere recommendation to the Minister. If the present Government really want to establish a basis for peace, they should take the advice of Sir Derek Rayner, who has been their economic adviser, on the economy; and let them take Sir John Hackett's advice on peace and war. I have a perfect moral right to say that to the Minister. I do not know—and I do not want to know—what advice Sir Derek has given the Cabinet, but it has not been successful. Indeed, if Sir John Hackett were to advise the Cabinet, I am prepared to swear that his advice would be infinitely more valuable and certainly infinitely more correct and for the benefit of humanity.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton West 8:33 pm, 5th March 1981

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Jones), who always speaks with such passion and who was, I remember, so kind to me when I made my maiden speech, albeit that his subject matter was not entirely akin to what we are now discussing.

Any governing party should welcome discussion of a report such as this, however it came to be presented to the House. Conservative Members are not ashamed of what we have done in education terms. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller), I shall be a little parochial in what I say, because I, too, am very proud of what my county, Bedfordshire, has done over the last 12 rather difficult months that the country, and certainly my county, has suffered.

This is a debate about the enhancement of education standards. Lyrical though the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) was, I thought that he fell into the terrible trap of describing the report as alarming, malicious and possibly even disastrous. I suggest that his own contribution fell into that category. The scaremongering that he and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) indulged in will be received with a certain amount of shame by those who have been listening to the debate.

Many of us might well say that we would not have started from here. Many hon. Members on this side regret very much the demise of grammar schools and the grammar school system. There are several who long again for streaming and for the ability and all the different assets of individual pupils to be recognised by a system that has failed the nation's pupils. It is not for us to look back but forward. I am practical enough, and so is my county, to realise that we cannot change the system.

I also must lament that teaching standards have dropped since the introduction of comprehensive education. I do not entirely blame the teachers. I tend to blame the system. We talk about mixed-ability classes. Teachers have had to cope, although this may be beyond the training that they have been given. I wonder if the spectrum has become too wide and so standards have been lowered.

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State—the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson)—said not so long ago, if one looks back in terms of examination results at what has happened over the last 10 years, all those involved in education should feel some shame that the proportion of passes in O levels and A levels has not inproved, despite the fact that the pupil-teacher ratio is better by some 20 per cent. than it was 10 years ago, despite the fact that schools have much better facilities and despite the fact that the leaving age has been raised. Schools have had many new buildings and facilities such as language laboratories, yet we have not progressed over the last 10 years.

We have not heard yet from those on the long, green empty benches opposite what their plans for education would cost if they came back into government, which God forbid. I hope that we shall be given some idea in the wind-up speech on behalf of the Opposition. As the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thome) said, we should be given a figure so that the people of the country will have an idea of what the cost would be.

No one can deny that sacrifices are being made. Those sacrifices are not perhaps for the generation of pupils who are now going through the system but for the many generations which will follow them. It would be folly and a disgrace if we did not take that into account. As the Secretary of State said, we must live within our means. It is very easy to increase expenditure; we know how those in local government on the other side can do that. But it is difficult and often unpopular to reduce expenditure. I give credit to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and his team for courageously putting forward the cuts which are absolutely necessary. They have to take into account the balance of interest.

Only yesterday there were 5,000 pensioners here with legitimate claims for a greater share of the national cake. The widows are coming later this month. It is the International Year of Disabled People. There are single-parent families to be considered. Everybody wants something extra and all think that they have a legitimate claim. Everyone is entitled to put his case. If we spend more than we have been earning, as we have done in this country, then it is future generations who will suffer. This is what this debate should be about.

Nobody should deny that economies can be made in any form of education service. It would be hard to find any authority which could not make further economies, even after the present cuts, whatever implications they might have.

Predictably, the hon. Member for Bedwellty pulls a face. He must accept that there is a responsibility on every hon. Member. We are in a world recession, which means that the implications must cut across the whole spectrum of Government spending. I see no shame in our constantly reviewing the way in which we spend our money. Private sector businesses have been forced to do that since the world recession became apparent, and they will have to continue to do so. It is right that we should look at our books in the same way.

Every household in the country has a budget to which it must keep. The Opposition have been totally irresponsible in the way in which they have conducted the debate. It has been done on the basis that the money will be found from somewhere. There is no shame in living within our means. That is the only way in which we can guarantee our future.

The National Union of Teachers has been among the loudest voices which have objected to the cuts. The NUT is doing an extreme disservice to many of its members who are rather fed up with the path which their leadership is following.

Indeed, the pupil-teacher ratio has not changed. In Bedfordshire, it has slightly improved, despite the cuts that have been made. The Opposition argue that falling rolls are some sort of bonus. If so, it is right that we should use it. I cannot see the point in appointing more teachers if class numbers are falling. That way lies folly.

As the report points out, there have been no forced redundancies. Certainly, there were no forced redundancies in my own county, where natural wastage has reduced the numbers. In effect, the private business sector has been forced to discipline itself in exactly the same way that we are now being forced to do with regard to teaching.

Let no one suggest that the recent teacher's pay settlement, which has received some praise from both sides of the House, is anything like 7½ per cent. Thanks to Professor Clegg and his mistake, the real rise is something over 10 per cent. Many of my constituents are on a one-day week or on short time or have lost their jobs. They do not take kindly to those in the teachers' unions who say that the 7½ per cent. rise is totally inadequate for their needs.

Cuts have inevitably affected equipment. I certainly welcome that. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough is a former headmaster. It is an occupation which some Conservative Members hope he will resume after the next election. A headmaster in my county complained to the leader of the authority that he was being bled dry, yet that very week a £½ million expansion remodelling scheme commenced in his school. I wonder what sort of world he lives in.

As the report points out, in per capita terms nine-tenths of schools were satisfactory. Indeed, my own county has maintained its per capita spending.

A lot has also been said about books. I suppose that that is understandable. That is a sacred cow in the eyes of the hon. Member for Bedwellty, but we all know the sort of mistakes that he made some time ago with regard to that subject. What is wrong with using second-hand books? The private sector has used second-hand books for years. They are old books that have been passed down from one generation to another. I do not see any amusement in that. Labour Members think that equipment must always be new, whatever the cost. That is the way in which they are acting. I would suggest that possibly there has been an embarrassment of riches in some schools, that they have been carpeted and curtained completely beyond their means and in no way in keeping with the sort of education we are trying to revive.

I want to say a few words about parental contribution, which has been talked about tonight, and particularly about paragraphs 37 and 38. There is, I would suggest, enormous scope here for a great deal more parental contribution. I was certainly very sad to read the judgment, which could of course have far-reaching effects, about the music lessons and the contribution which parents can make and in some cases are very willing to make to assist in the education of the child. I wonder if we are not now in a position in which those who wish to learn to play a musical instrument of a particular sort should not make some sort of contribution, when other children are not seeking that service. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) said, quite rightly, that we are now running the risk that, because of lack of money, these lessons will not be available whether or not the parents are willing to pay. This particular judgment will have very far-reaching effects and I am certainly heartened that the Secretary of State is going to look at the whole matter again.

Parents are extremely anxious to help. Village schools have been kept open and my hon. Friend the Member for Eye (Mr. Gumrner) recently had great success in keeping a village school open because of the co-operation of the parents. In this connection there is enormous scope for parents to make their own contribution towards keeping schools open, and I think they are proud to do so and are sick and tired of some of the trade union blusterings about this.

I was also heartened by the action of my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Neale), who brought in a Ten-minute Bill last July on this very subject. Parents are helping in my own county on the basis that the county will provide the materials and the parents will help with the building. I see nothing at all wrong with self-help and I think this is an area in which we could develop in quite a big way.

I want to make one short comment in connection with my own constituency—and I see that the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) has just left the Chamber—as far as the immigrant and ethnic population is concerned. He is quite right to say that in certain areas there are certain needs. 1 have schools in my constituency where 90 per cent. of the intake are of ethnic origin and probably about half of them cannot speak English. Even there some contribution can be made, and indeed is willingly made, by the ethnic communities themselves in the provision of an extra teacher.

The basic contention of this report, and certainly of the education in my own county, is that we have retained, and I believe will continue to retain, the basic core curriculum of our system. I think the very exercise of cutting expenditure has been healthy. It has been healthy in my own county, and indeed the vice-chairman of the education committee said to me only yesterday that now the system is very much better and fitter than it was. We are more cost conscious and it is quite right that there are responsible people on this side of the House and in the Government who have the reins of education in their hands. I believe that, because of this exercise, the future looks rather brighter for education. We should not be afraid of braving what is and will probably continue to be a fairly cold wind of recession because the sunshine that will come for those future generations, which is what we should be talking about tonight, will be well earned.

Photo of Mr Tom Pendry Mr Tom Pendry , Stalybridge and Hyde 8:49 pm, 5th March 1981

I had not intended to speak in this debate until I heard the Minister reply to the opening speech, which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). He did this so unconvincingly and sounded so thin that I thought I should intervene and place on record one very narrow but very important point, or possibly two such points. Before I do so, however, I must declare an interest. I am a sponsored member of the National Union of Public Employees, a union which has been very badly hit as a result of the policies of this Government, not least in education. I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not in his place, because I intend to level a very serious charge at him.

Throughout the passage of the Education Bill last year the Secretary of State said on many occasions that there was no reason to believe that the school meals service would be abolished. He asked his critics, like my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark), if they did not have any faith in the local authorities and whether they were not alarmist in not giving the local authorities the confidence they deserved that they would maintain the school meals service. We can look at the record and see what has happened in a short time.

Eight hundred jobs have been lost in the school meals service of Dorset county council. About 25,000 school kids under the age of 12 have been deprived of their school meals. Bromley—another Conservative-controlled authority—has done away with 20,000 hot meals for kids. Many jobs have also been lost. Instead, children are offered meals consisting of filled rolls and yogurt. Incidentally, those meals are sold at exorbitant prices. People then wonder why the take-up is so low.

Earlier, Conservative Members did not seem to understand the price mechanism. Where prices have increased, the take-up has fallen. Conservative Members seemed to think that that was very strange. It is their philosophy and in one sense, it is working. In Lincolnshire, 1,300 jobs have been lost. Thousands and thousands of school meals are not being taken up. Only last week, a deputation from Lincolnshire went to No. 10 Downing Street with a mammoth petition, which demonstrated the concern of parents, teachers and children in that county.

Gloucestershire was about to take the same action, but, as a result of pressure from parents and teachers, the authority has decided to think again. Let us hope that it will think and act wisely, and that it will not take such action. I understand that Norfolk is on the brink of taking such a decision. Perhaps it too will think again, because enormous pressure is building up.

The county council elections are coming up. As a result of these policies, there are bound to be some great changes in the shires. We must not be too surprised to hear that all the authorities that I have mentioned are Conservative controlled. Up and down the country Conservative-controlled authorities have raised the price of school meals. As a result, fewer and fewer children are taking them.

There is one other important point. Most of those who have lost their jobs in the schools meals service will not appear on any register. Those thousands and thousands of women who work in the school meals service will not appear on the unemployment register. They are the hidden unemployed. They are not full-time workers in the accepted sense. However, they do a vital job often in low-wage areas. They need the money as much as other wage earners.

Many thought that these women earned only pin money. More and more women are in desperate straits as a result of this action. Indeed, this action has been undertaken by a party that went to the country as the party of the family. In the light of such action, that is nonsense. When the Minister replies I hope that he will address himself to those points. In addition, I hope that he will bear in mind that when the incoming Government arrived at Whitehall, the Association of County Councils had a shopping list for them. The first item was school meals. The second item was school transport. We all know what happened about that. In addition, the shopping list included the raising of the school entrance age to 6 and the reduction of the school leaving age to 15. Will the Minister tell us whether the lesson has been learnt the hard way?

I wish to nail for all time the myth that this is not central Government action. It is. It is no good hiding behind the fact that local authorities have taken the decisions. Northern Ireland is a case in point. Direct central Government action has demolished the school meals service in Northern Ireland. It is no good saying that it is somebody else's fault and that the decisions belong to somebody else. It is no good saying that it is somebody else's fault or somebody else's decisions. Central Government are destroying the schools meals service and it is about time that the Secretary of State admitted that he has reneged on his earlier promises to those who said last year that that was what they were doing.

On a personal note, I am happy to say that Tameside, which has had a lot of stick from the Under-Secretary and others, has the best record in the country with no fall in the take-up of school meals.

When the school meals service began in the nineteenth century, one contributor to the debate said that the school meals service was vital. I know that my hon. Friend and others have said that there have been very important cuts but they have been no more important than this. The school meals service is vital now, for the reason given by that contributor in the nineteenth century, that it is no good expecting children to attain their best level of educational capability on an empty stomach. That is as true now as it was then. That is why we are so incensed on the Labour Benches.

I do not know whether the Secretary of State has read the report on nursery schools that was published two weeks ago. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will address himself briefly—if only briefly—to this matter. If he has read the report, he must conclude that he must reconsider his policies for the provision of facilities for the under-flves and reverse them. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will address himself to that, but for the reasons I have stated I shall have no hesitation in joining my colleagues in the appropriate Lobby.

Photo of Mr William Shelton Mr William Shelton , Lambeth Streatham 8:57 pm, 5th March 1981

How pleased I am to see my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) here, with whose speech I very much agreed, especially his remarks about the easing out of unsatisfactory head teachers. It has always seemed to me that if one could conclude some arrangement which was satisfactory, that would do more for education than a 1 per cent. increase in the education budget throughout the country.

I agreed with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State when he said that this country has a proud record in education. In the last 30 to 40 years, we have increased the share of national wealth devoted to education so that now it is about 5½ per cent. to 6 per cent. Today the pupil-teacher ratio is better than it ever was. The spending per pupil will rise, admittedly because of falling rolls. I guess that the previous HMI reports were similar. I do not know the protocol, but if the Opposition wished they could arrange to have them published, so that the House could view them and decide between them.

I accept that there is a correlation between expenditure and provision. But how close a correlation is there between expenditure and standards? The House might wish to turn its thoughts to the Inner London Education Authority which has by far the highest spending per capita in the country. In a previous HMI report on the Inner London Education Authority, some of the criticisms were far harsher than any of the criticisms in the present report.

The Inner London Education Authority—the largest education authority in the country, or possibly in the world, as far as I know—has no shortage of funds. Next year, it will spend £600 million. Now that it remains, by decision of the Government, a unitary authority, I suggest that it is time to look at an improvement in the ILEA which has nothing to do with funds. I repeat that I am not convinced of the strict correlation between expenditure and standards.

My concern about ILEA is that it is so large and remote. It is out of touch with many parents' wishes and it still continues some poor education practices. I do not have time to relate them, but hon. Members can read about them in the previous HMI report.

We might well look at a greater degree of local democratic control within certain areas of inner London. I suggest the creation in each inner London borough of some sort of education board, whatever one might want to call it—rather like the old school boards, but without the power to precept—appointed by the boroughs, within the boroughs, and also within the divisional areas, which more or less correspond to the boroughs.

It would be rather like the old exempted area scheme which has been discussed in the past. The divisions would report to the school boards in certain minor areas. It would increase the local contact of education with the people who live in the borough. The cost would be very little. It might even save money, because one could reduce to some extent some of the bureaucracy in the Inner London Education Authority in County Hall.

What responsibilities might such school boards take over from ILEA? They could take over, for example, decisions on corporal punishment. The House may know that the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers has just declared an industrial dispute with ILEA because of the latter's decision abruptly to terminate corporal punishment in all its schools.

I should not like to take sides in that argument—it must be a value judgment—but I would say that it should be left to the board of governors and the teachers of the individual school to decide, and should not be so decided by ILEA. The school board that I have suggested might have that power. It might have power over curriculum, over attitude to parental contributions, over the appointment of headmasters, and over the appointment of governors, rather than having those things decided by ILEA, a remote body in County Hall.

The criticism that ILEA is too large, too remote, and not responsive enough to local wishes, could be met by this modest suggestion, which would in no way damage the structure of ILEA, and would allow it to remain the unitary authority that so many parents clearly wished it to be. It would be an addition to local democracy in education in inner London. It would help to improve standards, although not perhaps as much as the suggestion, which I heartily support, that headmasters should be on renewable contracts.

I criticise the Opposition for having shown once again an exclusive concern over funds, without accepling—as I believe one must—that there is much more to good education than the amount that is spent on it. That is why I support the amendment.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough 9:03 pm, 5th March 1981

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for not being here at the beginning of the debate. I am a member of two minority groups in this House—I am a woman and I am also a mother. It is because I am a mother—and also because of my concern with my child's education—that I missed the beginning of the debate.

In the short time that is available to me, I must try to nail one or two of the preposterous statements made by Conservative Members this evening. There was reference to the evidence given to the Select Committee concerning O-level and A-level results, the standard of which, we were told, was falling in comprehensive schools. The position, of course, is exactly the opposite: they have been rising. I do not make the point as evidence of a tremendously high measure of success in education, but one must contradict the statement made from the Conservative Benches that in comprehensive schools the standard of O-level and A-level successes has been falling.

A good deal has been said about the provision of books, in-service training, the number of teachers, and so forth. Conservative Members seem to be unable to grasp the point that if the position in half the ILEA schools is satisfactory, it means that the position in the other half is not satisfactory—in, for example, the provision of books. Whether one can make statements about standards of education, and about the provision and resources in areas being satisfactory, depends a very great deal on which areas one is talking about.

There has been no examination of different areas and different requirements in certain areas. Hon. Members have made great play with the pupil-teacher ratio. I accept that the ratio is not getting worse and that, in some areas, it has improved. It depends upon the area with which one is dealing. It depends also on the size of class. Anyone who has taught in a school will say that there is a great difference between the pupil-teacher ratio and the size of class that may face a teacher at any one time.

The pupil-teacher ratio in both the comprehensive schools that my children attend is a great deal better than the size of class that confronts the teacher every morning. This point never seems to be accepted by people who make this claim about the pupil-teacher ratio. I recall the time when the right hon. Lady, now in the Council for Social Democracy, or whatever it calls itself, was Secretary of State for Education and the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), who is to wind up the debate, and his right on Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), who is now no longer a member of the Front Bench, were going around the country talking about falling standards in education. I remember the onslaught that the hon. Gentleman made on the Labour Government about falling standards and how he and I crossed swords in debate and argument. Yet, in less than two years, the Government now try to tell us that things have improved so dramatically that we can engage in all these cuts. After talking about falling standards and their effect in undermining the confidence of many teachers, things, according to some Conservative Members, are now apparently so good—some said that things were bad—that we can engage in drastic cuts in education. I would have thought most parents believed that there would be a greater injection of money into education, following the great debate on education that took place all over the country, not that money would be taken away from it.

The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) whose speech surprised me, because he knows something about education, may say that my party cut education. It is true that it cut education. That is why I resigned from the Government. I am, therefore, in a strong position to say that when Governments involve themselves in cuts in education they are cutting back on the future needs of the country which will, at the end of the day, cost them much more. I do not defend the Labour Government. They were wrong. That is why I resigned. I have perhaps displayed a little more honesty in my attitude to what my Government did than is shown by many Conservative Members who disagree with what their Government are doing but stand up and defend them or have not the courage to resign.

The Prime Minister was the architect of a White Paper on pre-school education and nursery education. We were given to believe that, under a Tory Government, there would be an expansion of nursery education. I have looked at what the report says about nursery education. The difference between the number of children going into nursery classes and the number of children going into primary schools before the age of 5 roughly balances out. There has been a slight increase. We were led to believe, however, that we were to get an expansion in nursery school education provision for the under-fives. That has not happened. People were misled.

The idea that parents should be called upon to make a contribution to education has been defended. It is argued that this will make parents interested in education and that we should no longer expect our children to be educated by right in the State system. I am sure that some Conservative Members who spoke about the State system do not have their children in the State system as I have. I have no objection to helping in raffles and making a contribution. I object, however, to being told that the basic provision in education promised in every Education Act and every change in education since 1944 should now be financed by parents.

We have 2½ million unemployed—a figure, that, according to the economists, will rise to 3 million. If we are to involve ourselves in the principle of parental contribution, the balance of resources and the balance of input into education will rest on those areas of the country where there is more employment than in other areas. Once again, the children who will be denied education opportunities are those in the poorest areas, in areas where parents can no longer afford to make a contribution.

It costs £8,500 to train a teacher. That is an input of public expenditure. We are paying hundreds of teachers not to teach. When Conservative Members say that we cannot afford to invest in education, they are wasting the investment that has been made by the taxpayer in training teachers and subsequently paying them to be unemployed and not to contribute to education.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North 9:10 pm, 5th March 1981

It is a great pleasure to be able to take up the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor). She reminds us all that the process of cut and come again did not begin in May 1979 and that the arguments of principle about that approach developed from 1976 onwards. My hon. Friend was one of those who sacrificed her position in the then Government precisely on the issue of education.

As my hon. Friend has said, I wish that some Conservative Members would see their role as guardians of education first and not as participants in the great debate between the guardians of public expenditure on the one hand and the advocates of investment in youth and the future on the other.

During the latter part of this interesting debate we have seen rather too much of the more carnivorous face of Toryism. The hon. Member for Luton, West (Mr. Carlisle) declaimed at great length about the needless waste that he thinks still exists in the education system. Those of his constituents who are now working a one-day week as a result of the Government's policies will not be happy to be told that they must contribute on a parental basis to the education of their children.

There have been high passions engendered on both sides of the Chamber in this debate and there is a clear division of principle between us. It separates those who say that everything save defence and law and order should be subject to rigorous and continuing public expenditure cuts and those who say that there comes a stage when the quality of education and education standards generally are seriously and perhaps permanently damaged.

I wonder how many hon. Members read a document entitled"Manifesto for Change" that was published in The Times Educational Supplement of 30 January. It was signed by some distinguished people, including the father of the 1944 Act, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden and the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), who participated in the debate. The hon. Gentleman may have forgotten that he signed the document. The manifesto stated: Saving money by reducing teaching personnel to a point when schools can no longer be effective as civilised and civilising communities is self-defeating.The schools, if structured and staffed to develop the personal powers and resources of the young, could make a tremendous contribution to raising the quality of society, saving thereby not only hosts of human beings from inept, futile lives, but huge sums of wasted money. That goes to the heart of the matter. We are talking not about moneys that can be saved and moneys that should be expended but whether expenditure on education and the national investment involved is not in the end saving money for British industry, which needs a trained work force, as the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) and others have said, and improving our quality of life.

When I read the HMI report, which is the principal subject of the debate, I do not see a picture of wholesale, total and catastrophic decline. The Secretary of State for Education and Science did my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) a disservice when he tried to suggest that he had launched that sort of attack.

The Opposition have said that the report contains conclusive evidence that in certain areas and sectors there are already unmistakable signs of education being provided on the cheap. We have said that these are merely warning signs of the position that will develop over the next few years. Many of the authorities concerned, which have been scrutinised by the inspectorate, are subject not merely to the exhortations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his Department but to the rigours and iron grip of the rate support grant as calculated by the Secretary of State for the Environment. In a negative sense, it is he who is running education in this country today—or perhaps I should say running it down. I shall return to that point in a moment.

I echo hon. Members on both sides who have paid tribute to the inspectorate. Long may the independence of the inspectorate—not merely from the Secretary of State and his successors of any party, but from any other outside agency—be preserved. Long may we have an inspectorate that can produce such forthright answers to the Select Committee as the present one did the other day. It is not correct to say, as some have said, that Sheila Browne could give no evidence that schools were breaking the law. She said, in effect—my hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—that we should not ask her who was breaking the law. We would have to ask the Secretary of State.

One of the problems in the debate has been that all of us have asked the Secretary of State a great many questions, but the Secretary of State, in effect, has said that instead of asking him those questions we should be saying what a fantastic hero he is for having published the report in the first place. We have given due credit to him for that, and I hope that Governments will do the same in the future. I personally have no objection to the previous reports being published, including those relating to the period of the Labour Government. We could then form a balanced judgment on these matters as time evolves. But it is quite wrong to say that that is more important than the consideration of the precise reports on the state of primary and secondary schools and advanced and further education in this country.

It is also wrong to say that the Opposition made a great deal of fuss about the pupil-teacher ratio. As it happened, we did not. We broadly accept that it is now much as it was last year and that it may well be much the same next year. This debate is about standards. The Under-Secretary of State who is to reply said in an Adjournment debate on 29 January that the pupil-teacher ratio bore no relationship to the testing of standards in our schools. I think that that is broadly correct. Schools with good pupil-teacher ratios may have other things wrong with them, and vice versa. I accept that. I hope that the Secretary of State will therefore not feel that we were trying to single out the pupil-teacher ratio in the report.

We have tried to single out in the report the areas that have suffered most as a result of the policies of the last few years. I do not draw the line entirely at May 1979, but I certainly believe that those policies have been intensified and that there has been a sea change in recent years, even though not entirely brought about by the Secretary of State and his Department.

What has suffered most? First, the curriculum has suffered. Secondly, all forms of special teaching have suffered. Thirdly, the provision of books and equipment has suffered, and because of that, any attempt to initiate new forms of teaching as well as to maintain those forms of teaching that we already have in our primary and secondary schools has also suffered. Fourthly, the fabric of the institutions themselves has been shown in many cases to be damaged, sometimes almost beyond repair. Beyond all that, however, and subsumed in it, as Sheila Browne said when she came before the Select Committee, is the strain upon teachers themselves. She singled that out as the major factor, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) and many others have pointed to it as one of the major problems affecting the service and revealed in the report.

I listened to the whole of the Secretary of State's speech to see when he would address himself to the precise paragraphs to which my hon. Friend had drawn attention. We wanted to know what the Secretary of State felt about the problems caused by withdrawal of remedial teachers. We wanted to know what he felt about the references in the report to the great problems now faced equally by children with learning difficulties and by gifted children, because they cannot be withdrawn from classes and given special alternative teaching. Their education can therefore be shown to be suffering. That is the conclusion of the report. When I intervened to ask about that, the Secretary of State said that he could not deal with everything. He said that it was regrettable and then moved on. He then gave some more global figures from which, if one takes the right base line, one can always argue any case in any way.

We are saying that schools are showing such a deterioration in standards—I challenge the Secretary of State not to accept that—that not only is the matter one of urgency in the House, but it is increasingly becoming a matter that parents are taking into their own hands. That is the missing element in the debate so far, namely, the reaction of citizen power to what is taking place in the State school system.

Hon. Members have been deluged with letters from teachers' associations, parent-teacher associations, and various pressure groups up and down the country about the background flushed out by the report. The Cheshire Federation of PTAs has written to say about the report: we are amazed how accurately it describes many of the problems either now being or soon to be experienced in our Cheshire schools. The Warwickshire PTA wrote to say: Remedial work has largely disappeared from a number of schools both junior and secondary … Much less help is given in the 3Rs. Those are the cherished three Rs at the heart of the curriculum advocated by the Secretary of State and his party.

We heard from another parent-teacher association at St. Albans. It said: The worst single effect of staffing economies has been on remedial teaching. Nine of the 29 primary schools reported that they have already lost hours for part-time teachers. Since these teachers usually take small groups for remedial work, pupils most in need of individual help are getting less of it. I am sorry to rub the Secretary of State's nose in it, but that is the heart of the report. When I talk of nine schools out of 29 in St. Albans—or whatever the figures are in the many other letters that I can quote—I do not want to hear the Secretary of State say"What about the other 20? Is it not fantastic that they are still providing remedial teaching?"I say, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty when he opened the debate, that anyone who has a child needing remedial care in one of the nine schools would not think it satisfactory to be fobbed off in that way.

The same is true in relation to paragraphs 28 and 29 of the report on per capita funding—the amount of money spent on books. For some years there has been a chronic fall in the number of books purchased for our schools. The hon. Member for Luton, West said that it was terrific to use second-hand books. He said the older the books the better. That is an antiquarian theory of education. Textbooks that show large parts of the world still painted in red and geography books that show the North Sea not with oil wells but as a prime source of European fisheries, teach the children rather badly. I put it as mildly as that. I ask the hon. Gentleman, in all innocence, to consider that he may be mistaken in his enthusiasm for the second-hand book trade.

Paragraph 33 of the report deals with the fabric of the buildings. The inspectors say: Observations on the state of premises were received on 980 schools. Of these, nearly 300 were described as poor. They included schools in both urban and rural areas, proportionately fewer in the London boroughs but about equally divided between Shire counties and the Metropolitan districts. In a newspaper article the Secretary of State is quoted as saying not only about that, but about the report in general and the difficulties caused by the reduction in expenditure: this does not mean that the fabric of education is disintegrating or is about to disintegrate …in many places the quality of service continues to be satisactory. Supposing there is a school that is as unsatisfactory as those mentioned, but not named, in the report. Is it good enough to say that the fabric is not disintegrating? In the most literal and physical sense, it is. What would one think of a building inspector who looked at a building and said that it had large external cracks held together by bolts and shafts here and there but that one or two rooms could still be used? He could say that until the very day that the building fell down. It would be a rash inspector who passed that building. The HMI does not make that mistake. It says that the fabric of the buildings in many cases is not satisfactory. Those of us who have taught and who are parents with children in the State system can bear witness to the fact that that is an increasing problem in schools today. I wish that the Secretary of State would occasionally acknowledge the extent of the problem as it is now developing.

The main point which Opposition Members have tried to urge today is that it is fundamentally wrong in principle to make parents anywhere into unpaid, forced tax collectors for the present Prime Minister. I play as large a part as I can for my family—I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members do the same in their local PTAs. I want to see an enormous enthusiasm for the schools to sustain them. However, I do not believe that basic equipment should be provided by parents, that charges should be levied and that anything should prevent the right of access to education carefully written into the 1944 Act by those who drafted it, and for whom it has endured so long. We face that great danger now. We have had one or two examples of precisely that difficulty.

The Northamptonshire association of parents has written to the Secretary of State saying that the children's education is being irreparably damaged and asking him to intervene within his power, to provide efficient education. He may have had the report from East Sussex, saying that it has run out of polyfilla and that the cracks are showing. About 40 per cent. of the schools replying to the survey by the East Sussex branch of CASE had had to use their PTAs for the first time, to provide library books and textbooks, maths and science equipment and arts and crafts materials. When one reaches the point when an organisation says that only with increasing financial help from parents can it get by, one is led to the conclusion which it draws in its letter, which is that the gaps between rich and poorer schools in resources and ultimately in education opportunities is inevitably getting wider. If he looks through the report, the Secretary of State will see that sentence—a little reformulated perhaps—in the HMI's conclusion also. That is the worst of the charging principle. It will widen the gap between the schools which can provide this sort of service and back up because a large number of wealthy parents are prepared to give the back up, and those schools in areas which are disadvantaged, where that back up will not be possible and the gap will widen further.

It is stated in a report referring to the Ellis School in Leicester that: Parents pay £25 for essentials at cash-starved 'free' schools. Individual parental contributions are now working out at £34 a head in one school in Warwickshire, while in another school nearby they are only £1·50. This is an example of that widening distinction.

Worst of all, in Kent, that notorious education establishment, there is now the beginning of the attempt to charge for examinations, although it is only a deposit at the moment. The school is saying that a tenner must be put down by the parent, or else the pupil will not be able to take the examination. If that becomes more widespread in the wake of the pressures of the rate support grant under which local authorities are now struggling, what will happen if the parent challenges that and sends his child to school regardless, and submits him for the examination? Will the Secretary of State say in ringing tones that that is right and that every child has a right of access to any public examination without payment of any fee, deposit or whatever? He must do that if he is to stand by public sector education.

I was curious about the way that the Secretary of State replied to the intervention from his hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer), who raised the question of the Pershore schoolteacher and the Hereford and Worcestershire case. I was not clear exactly what he is implying. Is he saying that he will intervene in a case like that to change the 1944 Act so that it shall become legal, as it has now been shown in the courts not to be, to charge for music lessons, or is he saying, as he ought to, that he should intervene in such cases to make sure that the provisions clearly written into the 1944 Act are held to give that right of access to the children in those schools? It is the Secretary of State ultimately who is the guardian. He has a positive power and not merely a negative power under the 1944 Act. If he does not use that power, no one else can.

When Sheila Browne was before the Select Committee and was asked about LEAs that might be breaking the law, her answer was"Go back and ask the Secretary of State". We are asking the Secretary of State tonight to give us an indication of what he will do when the matter is tested once more in the courts, as I believe that it will be, not just once but many times. I say that because of the inflamed citizen opinion that is beginning to intervene in the decline of our educational system.

When I look at the number of cases that have so far come up of parents being asked to pay for at least a part of their children's education and who are seeing this increasingly treated not as a nominally voluntary contribution but as a levy, I believe that those parents, if they have any sense, will not stand for that nonsense. They know what their rights were intended to be under the 1944 Act, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) said. Nor will they stand—and I warn the Secretary of State of this—for any nonsense about the attempt to reform the 1944 Act in such a way as to allow LEAs in the future to make charges. The fact is, as I said a moment ago, that local education authorities today are forced to make many cuts that they would not wish to make because of the way in which grant-related expenditure, with its thresholds and penalties, is being imposed on them as a kind of procrustean assessment.

Everyone knows that there is not a flat average by which one can make grant-related expenditure right across the country in that way. When a local education authority has to bear that burden, we should not say that we do not understand the reason why sometimes it turns upon precisely the areas of education that should be expanded. As those hon. Members have said who have dealt with the question of adult education, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Preston. South (Mr. Thome) said in a very moving speech, it is exactly that area, in the teeth of the recesion, that we should be expanding. It is precisely that area where the LEA is not enabled to give assistance. In fact, quite the reverse, as we have seen with many of the cuts that have been made because of the pressures of the Secretary of State for the Environment.

If cuts are to be made that will in some cases force local authorities to keep their expenditure 5·6 per cent, or more below the 1978 or 1979 levels, we would expect that the effect on some areas of education, and particularly further and adult education, will be cuts and more cuts. By the time that this Government have ran their miserable course, there will hardly be any adult and further education left outside of the area—

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

The hon. Gentleman should listen to the remainder of my sentence. There will hardly be any advanced and non-advanced further education left outside of the area that is to be brought under the control, if he has his way, of the Secretary of State's new body—the new public sector higher education funding body, which is to make 98 institutions of higher education responsible directly to the Department of Education and Science, which is to take away control from local education authorities, because they cannot be trusted to cut enough, and which is to impose for the first time, under a party that has always advocated local freedom, the diktat of the Secretary of State and his Department. That is not good enough for the educational system of this country, when we face the cuts that are now being imposed on us. I do not have time to go into the other matters mentioned by other hon. Members that are devastating education today.

The Secretary of State said in one of his speeches that human ingenuity is such that we should not think only of the bricks and mortar, of the fact that we never have the resources, but of how to deploy our education expenditure. But in conjunction with the Government of whom he is a member, he is imposing cuts by rigour, by attrition and by denial. One is reminded of the attitude of another educationist, the notorious Wackford Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby, who said when he had three slices of bread to feed five boys, and was putting them on the stage coach, Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you have conquered human nature. This is the way we inculcate strength of mind, Mr. Nickleby". I do not believe that the appetite for education will be subdued. I do not believe that the solemn forecasts, like that by Peter Wilsher in The Sunday Times just a week ago, of a mass walk-out from State education, if we have the progressive cuts, as over the past few years, will take place. The matter is poised and uncertain of resolution. I do not believe that parents will bolt from the system. They will make the case that the Secretary of State has failed to make. They will take the 1944 Act to the courts and insist on their due portion if they have to.

I do not want this country to move towards the Polyfilla Society—a society where education is a matter of make-do-and-mend. The Secretary of State should speak out for education as effectively as his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House spoke out for defence. He rebelled in Cabinet on defence and got away with it. I have never seen the present Secretary of State do that. He should do his job. We mean him no ill-will, but if he does not do it, the parents of this country and the law will do it for him.

I leave one last thought, on a campaign button from the United States, for the Under-Secretary of State who is winding up—"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance".

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North 9:37 pm, 5th March 1981

I was wondering what button 1 should wear—"If you think education is important, spend the money wisely". That is probably the best.

Today is an Opposition Supply Day. Yet up to about three minutes ago there were fewer than 10 Labour Back Benchers present for the Labour wind-up. My attention was drawn by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) earlier when only one Back Bencher was present, presumably waiting to speak. They say that there is massive feeling in the Labour Party about this, but there was no indication that that feeling was present here.

I am glad my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham mentioned the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's new scheme to raise from £34 million to £42 million the backing for Commonwealth scholars. It means that 5,000 students will be coming here. I am sure that both sides of the House will be delighted about that.

Reference has been made to Her Majesty's inspectors' report. I do not need to go through the figures—90 per cent, material satisfactory, 80 per cent, staffing satisfactory, 70 per cent, books. But that is not something that has happened over the past two years. It has been a long-term process. There has always been a shortage of staff in certain subjects. When it is said that staffing is not satisfactory, it often means that staff are teaching subjects they are not qualified to teach.

For years there has been a shortage of staff in maths, physics, chemistry, design and technology. What is even more strange is that many competent staff spend a lifetime teaching subjects for which they are not qualified. Almost every subject in this country could be fully covered if everyone went back to teaching the subject for which he was trained.

The question of falling numbers is new. Certainly it is aggravating matters and local authorities and schools have to do something about it. The small comprehensive school was mentioned by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) and by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State. It is true that the big comprehensive school has disciplinary problems but the small school has a spread of subject problems. But undoubtedly, small comprehensive schools doing a full spread of subjects have robbed many other schools of their teachers in the minority subjects. Also, at a time of falling rolls, it means that they have major staffing problems if they are to have a full spread of subjects.

As regards book supply, going back to Her Majesty's inspectors' national secondary school survey, which covered the years 1975-78, one finds that it pointed to the shortages of school textbooks even in mathematics and science. It is worth remembering that in the finances this year we have put in 2 per cent, more, in real terms, for books. We have recognised that books are the tools of the educational process.

The problems of education have not arisen over the last 22 months. They have been long-term problems. Why, otherwise, did the previous Prime Minister inaugurate a long debate in 1976? That was only because parents, employers and people voting in constituencies were concerned then about educational standards. This is a long-term fact.

Mention has been made of resources, and resources matter. One has first to have the resources, and then one has to spend them sensibly. This is a dual process.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State mentioned, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton), that the percentage of gross national product spent on education has been doubled, from 2·7 per cent, to 5.5 per cent., over the last 30 years—twice the amount of money.

The teacher-pupil ratio is not everything. I go along with the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) on that matter. [Interruption.] Yes, that was my statement. The hon. Member is approaching salvation. He may not have arrived at it yet, but he is reading the right texts and reading scriptures along the way.

In 1960, in our primary schools, there were 29·4 pupils per teacher. In 1970 that figure had dropped to 27·5. Last January it was 22·7. That is seven fewer pupils per teacher than the figure in 1960. At secondary level, there were 4·1 fewer pupils per teacher in 1980 than there were in 1960.

It is up to each school how it organises itself. People talk of classes of 30 and 40. On those pupil-teacher ratios, there then must be other classes of four, five and six, to balance it up. We do not do the timetables in Elizabeth House. Some people may like us to do them. Thank God that we do not do them. I have done many timetables in my time. One of the benefits of being a Minister and not a headmaster is that I do not do timetables. I have to reply to debates, but at least I do not have to do timetables through the night.

It is up to schools to use the staff that they have been given in the right sort of way, and it is up to local authorities to distribute the staff throughout their authorities.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Brinton) referred particularly to the right use of the pupil-teacher ratio, because that is one of the most expensive things in the educational process. The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) referred to classes in that respect. The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) also referred to this matter. She is now reading, I trust, the pupil-teacher ratio.

On the question of class sizes, in 1974 18·5 per cent, of classes had 31 or more pupils. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), whose company I always enjoy, is depriving me of his company this evening, but as he referred to this matter I shall put it on record for him to read tomorrow and underline it for him when I pass it to him. The number of classes with 31 pupils and upwards in 1974 in secondary schools had dropped by 1980 to 10·2 per cent., and in primary schools it had dropped from 36·5 per cent, to 24·7 per cent. Similarly, between 1977 and 1980, not only has there been a lower pupil-teacher ratio, but there is at least some decline in the size of classes.

My right hon. and learned Friend made another point about resources. This we must repeat, because we expect results from the expenditure of money. In the 20 years from 1960 to 1980, the amount of resources per pupil in primary schools, in real terms of money, increased by 64 per cent, per pupil. At secondary level it improved by 44 per cent. With that amount of money going in, with possibly a 1 per cent, or 2 per cent, cut here, I fail to understand how the whole fabric could be collapsing, since otherwise it was not even built 20 years ago, on the money that was going in before we increased the figures at the time.

Again, between 1977–78 and 1980–81—this present year of grace—increased expenditure per pupil, in those three years, in real terms, in resources in our schools, rose by 7 per cent.

That is the money being spent now—7 per cent, more in real terms per pupil. To talk about that as an attack upon the fabric of education is totally unfair.

My right hon. and learned Friend made reference to comparisons of expenditure on education with other countries as a share of gross national product. I shall give the comparative figures which come from Europe and were not prepared in Elizabeth House by either my right hon. and learned Friend or myself. In 1975 in the United Kingdom we spent about 6·4 per cent on education in European terms. France spent 5·6 per cent of its gross national product on education and Germany spent 5·2 per cent. A similar comparison with the United States of America shows that it spent 6·2 per cent., so we are certainly putting our share into education.

Whatever the reason that Britain has not taken off over the last 15–20 years, it is not because of the share of the gross national product that is being spent on education. There are obviously other reasons. I will send the figures to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) tomorrow; they will fascinate him. In the 1965 figures there were even bigger discrepancies.

To talk about what one has achieved, I have given figures on O and A-levels from time to time and my right hon. and learned Friend gave some this afternoon. If one takes the 10 years from 1968 to 1978 there was no improvement. If one takes 15 years, as the Secretary of State did this afternoon, there is a minor improvement of 1 to 2 per cent, in successes in O and A-levels. When one thinks of the resources that have been put in, certainly there has not been the proportionate increase that one might have expected. There has been a slight improvement, but with the raising of the school leaving age, with 3 million new school places having been built in the 1970s—probably the biggest school building programme we have ever had—with the reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio and the increased resources per pupil, one would have looked for an even bigger increase. It is a question of assessing whether we are spending the money the right way. Have we the right priorities?

One thing that worries me is that, on the figures available, the percentage intake to university of the children of blue collar workers has been dropping for the last 10 years. That should worry both sides of the Chamber. It means that we have become somehow a more divisive society.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I share very deeply the hon. Gentleman's concern over this matter. Does he think that the situation can be improved in any way, no matter how judicious the expenditure is, by providing for less expenditure? If he thinks we are spending more, why did Her Majesty's inspectorate publish its report?

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

Let me correct the hon. Member. The HMI did not publish the report; the Secretary of State published it. I am grateful for the intervention which allowed me to put that on the record.

At any point of time a Government decide how much to put into the various pockets of expenditure. Since we are spending £8·2 billion on education this year, it is important to make these points. The hon. Member for Berwick upon Tweed (Mr. Beith) made reference to what we can do. I should like to deal with this. There is no automatic relationship between expenditure and standards.—[Interruption.]—The hon. Member may not have done, in which case we agree.—[HON. MEMBERS:"Answer the question."]—I have answered the question. I am going on. I cannot spend all the time answering hypothetical questions.

If one were to draw up a league of the areas that had the highest academic standards, there would be little relationship to how much per pupil they had put in. The hon. Member for Bedwellty has forced me to say that inner London spends more per pupil than anywhere else and half as many pupils are getting O levels.

The question is: what do we do to raise standards? The first thing is teacher quality. Up to four or five years ago, nearly 40 per cent, of those being taken into colleges of education for teacher training at the age of 18 had not got O-level mathematics, and 5 per cent, had not got O-level English. Do hon. Members want those teachers to teach their children and grandchildren English and arithmetic in the primary schools?

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons)

They are still in the system.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

They are in the system but there are no more coming in. I am glad to give the hon. Member that good news. He should not run out yet; he should listen to the rest because there may be good news to come. From last September, anyone attending a college of education will have gone in with two A-levels and English and mathematics at O-level. That will do more for educational standards than 1,500 Royal Commissions.

Reference was also made to teacher unemployment. In October, only 14 per cent, of all those qualified who came out of colleges of education or university last year, and who intended to teach, were unemployed and still seeking teaching posts. We agree that that is too many. But that compares with 22 per cent, in 1977, and which Government were in office then? Was an HMI report published at that time?

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn

There was a report, but it was not published.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

My right hon. and learned Friend reminds me that there was a report but that it was not published. Of those taking B.Ed Honours, only 13 per cent, were unemployed last year compared with 18 per cent, in 1977.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

We shall have to wait and see. I am not a prophet. I know that the hon. Lady has great faith in me, but I must bring her down to earth. However, I very much appreciate her vote of confidence.

My right hon. and learned Friend, in referring to shortage subjects, said that 45 percent, more graduates are undertaking the postgraduate certificate of education this year than last year. The figures will be at least the same next year. Within a year, they will be teaching within our schools.

We intend to issue another statement about the curriculum. What matters is what is taught in schools. Let us have a look at some of the other HMI reports. I have with me an HMI report on primary education in England published in 1978. That refers time and again to schools without any work schemes in English, mathematics and other subjects. Perhaps the hon. Member for Bedwellty would like a debate on that. That report refers to the need to teach basic curricula inside the schools. That is why we are issuing another statement. It will offer advice on the sort of curriculum which should be taught in our schools.

On examinations, we have stabilised the 18-plus. We are considering an intermediate level to back up A-levels. We are considering a 16-plus examination. We are retaining the standards of the GCE. The GCE boards will be responsible for the three top grades and the CSE board will be responsible for the other four. There will be overlap of syllabuses along the way, which I believe is important.

Parental choice and support is also important. We gave more choice to parents in last year's Education Act. Under that they could state their preference and go to appeal if they were not allocated the schools of their choice. At a time of falling rolls, there are vacancies in schools, and that is the very time when we can give more choice in that way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) and others raised the question of fees for instrumental music lessons.—[HON. MEMBERS:"Ah Yes."] I trust that there will be silence on both sides of the House. At present, we cannot discuss the full implications of this judgment.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I am reading in order to make sure that it is right. The right hon. Gentleman is extremely observant. I am pleased that I have a good audience tonight. [HON. MEMBERS:"Sing it."] Hope deferred, makes the heart sad.

We cannot discuss the full implications of this judgment until the full transcript is available and there has been time to study it. But I wish to make it clear now that the judgment—that the Hereford and Worcester education authority was, by reason of section 61(1) of the Education Act 1944, not entitled to charge for the individual instrumental tuition provided for the two daughters of a local teacher—is one that obviously we shall look at.

The lessons involved took place on the school premises and within school hours. They were given by peripatetic teachers employed by the LEA. It may be helpful if I make it clear that religious education is the only item which the Education Acts require to be part of the school curriculum. The High Court has not ruled that instrumental music tuition should be part of the curriculum. It has ruled that if it is provided as part of the curriculum it must be provided free. I recognise that many authorities will be concerned about the implications of this judgment for their own practice.

My right hon. and learned Friend attaches importance to instrumental music tuition and certainly would not wish to see it brought to an end in the maintained sector. But until he has considered the full judgment and its implications I am not in a position to say anything about future policy. We must be clear, however, about two things. First, many authorities have made a charge for instrumental music tuition for a long time. References have been made by various speakers as if charges came in only with the 1944 Act. When I went to a grammar school in the late 1930s I was charged for woodwork; I had to pay for the wood with which I made the egg stand that my father could not recognise when I took it home. He said"What the hell is it?" Woodwork was never my great specialty but I still had to pay for the wood even if it was nailed together instead of having dovetail joints. So this is something that has gone on for a long time.

The second point is that authorities now provide instrumental tuition in a number of ways. Some hold classes in school time, some after 4 o'clock and some at dinner time; some make instrumental work part of their normal music lessons and some provide it through music clubs or the school orchestra. The High Court did not rule that any charge in any circumstances was illegal. It said that one local authority was not entitled to charge in the particular circumstances before the court. How far those circumstances are replicated in other authorities we shall obviously have to examine.

There is one further point I should make at this stage. There is nothing in the High Court judgment to stop schools accepting voluntary contributions from parents or others in support of their musical activities, as for any other aspect of their work. These are not charges. There is no question of a child being excluded from lessons because its parents cannot or will not pay. Most schools make use of contributions of this kind, and we welcome that.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

In a sentence, is music, in the view of the DES, part of the curriculum where it is already in the curriculum, or is it not?

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

We consider that it is important that music is taught in schools and I shall be interested to see what we say in the statement we shall shortly be putting out.

I must now return, after our little musical interlude, to the main theme, which is that at any point in any Government, including the last Labour Government, there will be a certain amount of money that can be spent on education, and it is important that we get the priorities right in deciding where that money is spent. Indeed, if we look at schools with the same money and the same staffing we find that the results are often different. If we look at the Rutter report,"Fifteen Thousand Hours", which I will not read because it is too long, we see that 12 schools in London with the same intake, the same staffing and the same spread of ability were looked at and the results were totally different, and all credit to Inner London for allowing that investigation to take place.

In school 1 there was five times as much chance of any pupil getting an O-level as there was in school 12. School 12 had two-and-a-half times as many absent in the fifth year as school 1.

The important thing is what is done with the money, and what we feel on this side of the House and what we are concerned about—and what the Secretary of State and myself are concerned about—is, first of all, that the pupil-teacher ratio, despite what is said, is now the lowest it has ever been in Britain and will be at least as low, if not lower this year. So the material is there. Secondly, we are improving the quality of teachers coming into the schools so that the quality of teaching can go up. Thirdly, we are also stressing that teaching should be done in ability groups and not in mixed ability groups. Every one of these HMI reports has stressed that. Also, we firmly believe in the involvement of parents.

I recommend that my right hon. and hon. Friends vote for the very sound amendment that we have tabled this evening.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 233, Noes 299.

Division No.96][10.00 pm
AYES
Abse, LeoDalyell, Tam
Adams, AllenDavidson, Arthur
Allaun, FrankDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Alton,DavidDavies, Ifor (Gower)
Anderson, DonaldDavis, Clinton (HackneyC)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterDavis,T. (B'ham,Stechf'd)
Ashley, Rt Hon JackDeakins, Eric
Atkinson,N.(H'gey,)Dempsey, James
Bagier, GordonA.T. Dewar, Donald
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Dixon, Donald
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)Dobson, Frank
Beith, A. J. Dormand, Jack
Benn, RtHon A.WedgwoodDouglas.Dick
Bennett,Andrew (St'kp'tN)Douglas-Mann,Bruce
Bidwell, SydneyDubs, Alfred
Booth, RtHonAlbertDuffy, A. E. P.
Bottomley, RtHonA. (M'b'ro)Dunn, James A.
Bradley,TomDunnett, Jack
Braine, SirBernardDunwoody, Hon MrsG.
Bray,Dr JeremyEadie, Alex
Brown,Hugh D. (Provan)Eastham.Ken
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)
Brown, Ron (E'burgh,Leith)Ellis, R. (NED'bysh're)
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'yS)English,Michael
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n&P)Evans, loan (Aberdare)
Campbell,IanEvans, John (Newton)
Campbell-Savours,DaleEwing,Harry
Canavan, DennisFitch, Alan
Cant, R. B. Fitt, Gerard
Carmichael, NeilFlannery, Martin
Carter-Jones, LewisFletcher,Raymond (llkeston)
Cartwright, JohnFletcher,Ted (Darlington)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stolS)Ford,Ben
Cohen,StanleyForrester.John
Coleman,DonaldFoster, Derek
Concannon, Rt HonJ.D. Fraser, J. (Lamb'th,N'w'd)
Conlan,BernardFreeson, RtHon Reginald
Cook, Robin F. Garrett, John (NorwichS)
Cowans, HarryGeorge,Bruce
Cox,T.(W'dsw'th,Toot'g) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Craigen.J. M. Ginsburg, David
Crowther, J.S. Golding, John
Cryer, BobGourlay, Harry
Cunliffe, LawrenceGraham, Ted
Cunningham, G. (lslingtonS)Grant, George (Morpeth)
Grant, John (IslingtonC)Park, George
Hamilton, James(Bothwell)Parker, John
Hamilton, W. W. (C'tralFife)Pavitt, Laurie
Hardy, PeterPendry, Tom
Harrison, RtHon WalterPenhaligon, David
Hart, Rt Hon Dame JudithPowell, Raymond(Ogmore)
Haynes, FranKPrescott, John
Healey, Rt Hon DenisPrice, C. (Lewisham W)
Heffer, EricS. Race, Reg
Hogg.N.(EDunb't'nshire)Radice, Giles
Holland,S.(Lb'th.Vauxh'll)Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
HomeRobertson, JohnRichardson, Jo
Homewood, WilliamRoberts, Allan(Bootle)
Hooley, FrankRoberts, Ernest (HackneyN)
Howell, Rt Hon D. Roberts, Gwilym(Cannock)
Huckfield, LesRobertson, George
Hudson Davies, EdmyfedRobinson, G. (CoventryNW)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Rodgers, RtHonWilliam
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Rooker, J.W.
Janner, HonGrevilleRoper, John
Jay, Rt Hon DouglasRoss, Ernest (Dundee West)
John, BrynmorRowlands, Ted
Johnson, James (Hull West)Ryman, John
Johnston, Russell (inverness)Sandelson, Neville
Jones, Barry (EastFlint)Sever, John
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Sheerman,Barry
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldSheldon, Rt Hon R.
Kerr, RussellShore, Rt Hon Peter
Kilroy-Silk, RobertShort, MrsRen¹e
Kinnock, NeilSilkin, RtHonJ.(Deptford)
Lambie, DavidSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Lamond, JamesSilverman, Julius
Leighton, RonaldSkinner, Dennis
Lestor, MissJoanSmith, RtHon J. (N Lanark)
Lewis, Arthur (N'hamNW)Snape, Peter
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Soley, Clive
Litherland, RobertSpearing, Nigel
Lofthouse, GeoffreyStallard, A. W.
Lyon, Alexander (York)Steel, Rt Hon David
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'dW)Stoddart, David
McCartney, HughStott, Roger
McDonald, DrOonaghStraw,Jack
McElhone, FrankSummer skill, Hon Dr Shirley
McKay, Allen(Penistone)Taylor, MrsAnn (Bolton W)
McKelvey, WilliamThomas, Dafydd(merioneth)
MacKenzie, Rt Hon GregorThomas, Jeffrey(Abertillery)
Maclennan, RobertThorne, Stan (PrestonSouth)
McNally, ThomasTilley, John
McNamara, KevinTinn, James
McTaggart, RobertUrwin, RtHon Tom
McWilliam, JohnVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Magee, BryanWainwright, E. (DearneV)
Marks, KennethWalker, RtHon H.(D' caster)
Marshall, D(G'gowS'ton)Watkins, David
Marshall,DrEdmund(Goole)Weetch, Ken
Marshall, Jim (LeicesterS)Wellbeloved, James
Martin, M(G'gowS'burn)Welsh, Michael
Maxton, JohnWhitehead, Phillip
Maynard, MissJoanWhitlock, William
Meacher, MichaelWigley, Dafydd
Mellish, RtHonRobertWilley, RtHon Frederick
Mikardo, lanWilliams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Millan, RtHon BruceWilliams, SirT.(W'ton,)
Miller, Dr M. S. (EKilbride)Wilson, Rt HonSirH.(H'ton)
Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)Wilson, William (C'trySE)
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)Woodall, Alec
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Woolmer, Kenneth
Moyle, RtHon RolandWrigglesworth, lan
Newens, StanleyYoung, David (BoltonE) Ogden, Eric
O'Halloran, Michael
Tellers for the Ayes: O'Neill, MartinMr. Joseph Dean and
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyMr. George Morton.
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
NOES
Adley, RobertAncram, Michael
Aitken, JonathanAspinwall, Jack
Alexander, RichardAtkins, Robert(PrestonN)
Amery, RtHon JulianAtkinson, David(B'm'th,E)
Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone)Fox, Marcus
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Fraser, RtHon Sir Hugh
Banks, RobertFraser, Peter (South Angus)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyFry, Peter
Bell, SirRonaldGalbraith, Hon T. G. D.
Bendall, VivianGardiner, George(Reigate)
Bennett, SirFrederic (T'bay)Gardner, Edward (SFylde)
Benyon,Thomas(A'don)Garel-Jones,Tristan
Benyon, W.(Buckingham)Glyn, Dr Alan
Best, KeithGoodlad, Alastair
Bevan, DavidGilroyGorst, John
Biffen, RtHon JohnGower, Sir Raymond
Biggs-Davison, JohnGrant, Anthony (HarrowC)
Blackburn, JohnGray, Hamish
Bonsor, SirNicholasGreenway, Harry
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Grieve, Percy
Bowden, AndrewGriffiths, E.(B'ySt.Edm'ds)
Boyson, Dr RhodesGriffiths, PeterPortsm'thN)
Braine, SirBernardGrist, Ian
Bright, GrahamGrylls, Michael
Brinton, TimGummer, JohnSelwyn
Brittan, LeonHamilton, HonA.
Brooke Hon PeterHamilton, Michael(Salisbury)
Brotherton, MichaelHampson, DrKeith
Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n)Hannam, John
Browne, John(Winchester)Haselhurst, Alan
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnHastings, Stephen
Bryan, SirPaulHavers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Buchanan-Smith, AlickHawksley, Warren
Buck, AntonyHayhoe, Barney
Budgen, NickHeddle, John
Bulmer EsmondHenderson, Barry
Burden, SirFrederickHeseltine, RtHonMichael
Butcher, JohnHicks, Robert
Carlisle, John(Lutonwest)Higgins, RtHon Terence L.
Carlisle, Kenneth(Lincoln)Hogg, HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)Holland, Philip(Carlton)
Chaiker, Mrs. LyndaHooson, Tom
Channon, Rt. Hon, PaulHordern, Peter
Chapman, SydneyHowe, RtHon Sir Geoffrey
Churchill, W.S. Howell, Rt Hon D.(G'ldf'd)
Clark, HonA. (Plym'th,S'n)Howell, Ralph (NNorfolk)
Clark, Sir W. (CroydonS)Hunt, David (Wirral)
Clarke, Kenneth(Rushcliffe)Hunt, John(Ravensbourne)
Cockeram, EricHurd, Hon Douglas
Colvin, MichaelIrving, Charles(Cheltenham)
Cope, JohnJenkin, RtHon Patrick
Cormack, PatrickJohnson Smith, Geoffrey
Corrie, JohnJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Costain, SirAlbertJoseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Cranborne, ViscountKaberry, SirDonald
Critchley, JulianKellett-Bowman, MrsElaine
Crouch, DavidKershaw, Anthony
Dean, Paul (NorthSomerset)Kimball, Marcus
Dickens, GeoffreyKing, Rt Hon Tom
Dorrell, StephenKitson, Sir Timothy
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Knight, MrsJill
Dover, DenshoreKnox, David
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLamont, Norman
Dunn,Robert(Dartford)Lang, Ian
Durant, TonyLangford-Holt, SirJohn
Dykes, HughLatham, Michael
Eden, RtHon Sir JohnLawrence, Ivan
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Eggar, TimLee, John
Elliott, SirWilliamLennox-Boyd, HonMark
Emery, PeterLewis,Kenneth(Rutland)
Eyre, ReginaldLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Fairgrieve, RussellLoveridge, John
Faith, MrsSheilaLuce, Richard
Farr, JohnMcCrindle, Robert
Fell, AnthonyMacfarlane, Neil
Fenner, Mrs PeggyMacGregor, John
Finsberg, GeoffreyMacKay, John (Argyll)
Fisher, Sir NigelMacmillan, Rt Hon M.
Fletcher,A.(Ed'nb'ghN)McNair-Wilson, M(N,'bury)
Fietcher-Cooke, SirCharlesMcNair-Wilson, P. (NewF'st)
Fookes, Miss JanetMcQuarrie, Albert
Forman, NigelMadel, David
Fowler, RtHon NormanMajor, John
Marland, PaulSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Marlow, TonySt. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
MarshalI Michael(Arundel)Scott, Nicholas
Mates, MichaelShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Mather, CarolShaw, Michael(Scarborough)
Maude, Rt Hon Sir AngusShelton, William(Streatham)
Mawby, RayShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Mawhinney, DrBrianShepherd, Richard
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinSilvester, Fred
Mayhew, PatrickSims, Roger
Mellor, DavidSkeet, T. H. H.
Meyer, SirAnthonySmith, Dudley
Miller,Hal(B'grove)Speed, Keith
Mills, lain(Meriden)Speller, Tony
Mills, Peter (West Devon)Spence, John
Mitchell,David(Basingstoke)Spicer, Jim (WestDorset)
Moate, RogerSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Monro, HectorSproat, lain
Montgomery, FergusSquire, Robin
Moore, JohnStanbrook, lvor
Morgan, GeraintStanley, John
Morris, M. (N'hamptonS)Steen, Anthony
Morrison, HonC. (Devizes)Stevens, Martin
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Mudd, DavidStewart,A(ERenfrewshire)
Murphy, ChristopherStokes, John
Neale, GerrardStradling Thomas,J.
Needham, RichardTapsell, Peter
Nelson, AnthonyTaylor, Robert (CroydonNW)
Neubert, MichaelTaylor, Teddy (S'endE)
Newton, TonyTebbit, Norman
Nott, Rt Hon JohnThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Onslow, CranleyThompson, Donald
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Thornton, Malcolm
Osborn, JohnTownend, John (Bridington)
Page, John (Harrow, West)Townsend, Cyril D,(B'heath)
Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)Trippier, David
Page, Richard (SWHerts)Trotter, Neville
Parkinson, Cecilvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Parris, MatthewVaughan, DrGerard
Patten, Christopher(Bath)Viggers, Peter
Pattie, GeoffreyWaddington, David
Pawsey, JamesWaldegrave, HonWilliam
Percival, SirlanWalker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Peyton, Rt Hon JohnWalker, B. (Perth)
Pink,R.BonnerWalker-Smith, RtHonSirD.
Pollock, AlexanderWall, Patrick
Prentice, Rt Hon RegWaller, Gary
Price, SirDavid(Eastleigh)Walters, Dennis
Prior, Rt Hon JamesWard, John
Proctor, K.HarveyWarren, Kenneth
Pym, Rt Hon FrancisWatson, John
Raison, TimothyWells,John(Maidstone)
Rathbone, TimWells, Bowen
Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)Wheeler, John
Rees-Davies, W. R. Whitelaw, RtHonWilliam
Renton, TimWhitney, Raymond
RhodesJames, RobertWickenden, Keith
Rhys Williams, SirBrandonWiggin, Jerry
Ridley, Hon NicholasWilliams, D.(Montgomery)
Ridsdale, JulianWinterton, Nicholas
Rifkind, MalcolmWolfson, Mark
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)Young,SirGeorge(Acton)
Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Rossi, HughTellers for the Noes:
Rost, PeterMr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Royle, SirAnthonyMr. Anthony Berry.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 32 (Questions on amendments) and agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House notes the report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate on"The Effects on the Educational Service in England of Local Authority Expenditure Policies—Financial Year 1980–81", and whilst recognising the need to restrain public expenditure expresses confidence in the ability of the education service in England, through the co-operation of all its partners, to secure maximum educational value from the extensive resources which continue to be available to it.

It being after Ten o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded to put forthwith the Questions which he was directed by paragraphs (7) and (11) of Standing Order No. 18 (Business of Supply) to put at that hour.