Attainment Levels

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th February 1984.

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Photo of Mr Jack Dormand Mr Jack Dormand , Easington 12:00 am, 7th February 1984

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on his proposals to increase the level of attainment in schools.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I outlined the Government's programme to improve standards in our schools in the debate on education held in the House on 20 January. I am now discussing, with the Government's partners in the education service, how our objectives may best be achieved.

Photo of Mr Jack Dormand Mr Jack Dormand , Easington

Is the Secretary of State aware that few people in education believe his recent statements and that teachers and parents find it difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile those statements with the right hon. Gentleman's support for the most massive cuts ever in education? What is to be gained from such a deplorable confidence trick? Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that higher attainment levels cannot be achieved without adequate resources for schools and higher education?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I should not have expected such rhetoric from the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand). He is far above that. My impression was that there was general approbation for the purposes which the Government outlined. The hon. Gentleman should recognise that, despite all the difficulties, more money from taxpayers and ratepayers is being spent per child in real terms this year than ever before. The hon. Gentleman must do better than that.

Photo of Mr John Powley Mr John Powley , Norwich South

Does my right hon. Friend agree that commerce and industry have a vital interest in the educational attainment levels of our children? Will he try to ensure that the needs of commerce and industry are taken more fully into account in determining education standards in schools?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I agree with my hon. Friend, who has been chairman of a local education authority. He will be comforted to know that a group of Ministers are about to embark, in conjunction with many groups of employers, on a more systematic attempt to identify what employers really seek from the school process. We hope to be able to clarify the picture for schools and for parents as a result of learning from employers.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

The Secretary of State's objective of failing fewer children in secondary school examinations is entirely welcome, but will he give an assurance that it is no part of his plan to develop technical education for the so-called less able and to preserve academic education for the more able, but that the objective is an integrated education for the benefit of all children?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I should correct the hon. Lady a little before agreeing with the general thrust of her question. It is our objective to have fewer children failing examinations, but at the same time to raise examination standards. We intend to encourage the spread of technical education for schoolchildren of all abilities.

Photo of Stephen Dorrell Stephen Dorrell , Loughborough

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the change in emphasis in the Department's utterances away from organisation and towards standards in education is entirely welcome? When does he expect to announce the conclusions of his review of proposals for the 16-plus examination?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I hope that his comments about standards are common ground to both sides. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I have said that we hope to announce a decision on the 16-plus examination by the middle of this year.

Photo of Mr Giles Radice Mr Giles Radice Shadow Secretary of State for Education

Is it not ironic that the Secretary of State is putting forward plans to raise standards at the very time when local education authorities throughout the country, including my county of Durham and the Under-Secretary of State's county of Kent, are being forced by the system of targets and penalties to cut spending on teachers, books and equipment? Does he not realise that he is trying to construct another high-rise block, when the foundations are crumbling away?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

The hon. Gentleman would be more effective if, like me, he accepted the truth that many—although not all—local education authorities have scope to redeploy.