Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st May 1985.

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Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Staffordshire Moorlands 12:00 am, 21st May 1985

As the school population has fallen by about 1 million, and as total expenditure on education has risen in real terms since 1978–79, does my hon. Friend agree that these figures show clearly the high priority that the Government are placing on school education? By how much has expenditure per pupil at school risen in real terms since the Government came into office?

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

My hon. Friend is right in his interpretation. Expenditure per pupil in real terms has risen steadily since 1979 and is now at its best ever level. Expenditure per primary pupil increased by 17 per cent. and per secondary pupil by 12 per cent. between 1978–79 and 1983–84.

Photo of Mr James Lamond Mr James Lamond , Oldham Central and Royton

How does that compare with expenditure per pupil at Harrow and Eton and such schools?

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

I am not in a position to say.

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley , South West Surrey

Does my hon. Friend agree that expenditure per pupil does not tell the whole story? Why does the Inner London education authority spend more on its secondary school pupils than any other education authority when only one in seven get five or more O-levels—only six of the 96 education authorities do worse than that— whereas Surrey, spending about average for shire counties per secondary school pupil, has one in three pupils leaving with five or more O-levels? Does my hon. Friend further agree that parents arid pupils want efficient and effective education, not a mindless demand for more resources?

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the nature, robustness and thrust of her supplementary question. As she rightly says, there is no simple relationship between expenditure and the quality of education. Were that the case, ILEA would be top of the league in all respects.

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

Is the Secretary of State not planning for cuts in real terms over the next three years, and for cuts in expenditure per pupil? Should the Minister not tell the House that?

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

As the hon. Member knows, our plans for current expenditure by local authorities this year are consistent with our commitment to a continuing improvement in educational standards. The plans for education spending by authorities in later years, set out in the 1985 public expenditure White Paper, are provisional. They will be revised later this year after consultation with the local authorities and in the light of circumstances and the prospects then prevailing.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport East

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about the progress of the teachers' pay talks.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Sir Keith Joseph): The Burnham committee met on 15 May, when constructive informal exchanges took place between the leaders of the two sides. The independent chairman noted that neither side had committed itself to a particular line or figure. Discussion is to be resumed on 23 May.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the present negotiating machinery does not work adequately? Will he therefore institute urgent reform of the Remuneration of Teachers Act 1965 to ensure that new machinery is devised which will include appraisal of teachers' performance and a restructuring of their salary levels?

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

I am ready to be convinced, but I have not yet been, that a structural change is necessary. What my hon. Friend wishes for exists to a large extent in Scotland without achieving the purpose he has in mind.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

The Secretary of State is aware that the Conservative party lost control of a large number of shire counties about 10 days ago and that more and more of the local education authorities are now saying that the teachers deserve a decent rate of pay. Will he therefore say that if a better offer should be made, rate capping and other financial restraints will be lifted to enable more money to be found to give a decent rate of pay to the teachers?

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

As I have said several times before, the answer to that question is no.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South

As the Burnham negotiations are continuing to break down, does the Secretary of State not think that it is about time that he personally became involved and took over the negotiations with the teachers? I draw to his attention early-day motion 681. I hope that he will use it as a formula for a settlement of the dispute.

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

I have seen early-day motion 681, but we must wait and see what happens in Burnham, which meets again on Thursday next.

Photo of Francis Maude Francis Maude , North Warwickshire

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if our schools are to provide the kind of education that our children need it is vital that there should be a drastic restructuring of the teaching profession? Is he also aware that it is important to make it clear that should such a restructuring be agreed, money will be made available to finance it?

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

My hon. Friend knows that I have urged the employers and the teachers to negotiate such a restructuring and that I have said that if the result appears to me to be educationally desirable and financially affordable I shall take it to my colleagues.

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

In view of my right hon. Friend's disappointing reply, will he say what hope he has for the pupils and teachers at the Endeavour school in Middlesbrough, a school for those with special handicaps, a third tranche of whom will have to suffer inconvenience after the Whitsun holiday unless there is a resolution of the dispute?

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

I would rather speak in general about the behaviour of those teachers who are disrupting or who are on strike and say that I think they are letting down their profession, seriously damaging the interests of the children and doing great harm to the households of many parents.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport East

Has the Secretary of State fully considered the fact that the morale of teachers is at an all-time low? Does he not appreciate the detrimental effect that this can have upon the long-term future of our children? Why does he not provide extra money in order to try to reach an amicable settlement?

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

I have also borne in mind that in several cases the union leaders have been systematically, in my view, misleading the members of their unions. The teachers' unions have refused to negotiate, to arbitrate or even to discuss the restructuring which the employers have asked them to talk about.

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Warrington South

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as from today, the National Union of Teachers has called out the teachers in four schools in my constituency, three of them primary schools, and that this has been put forward publicly on the basis that these schools are in the constituency of a former Secretary of State for Education and Science? Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that one can have no possible shred of respect for the leadership of a union which attempts to justify' its behaviour upon such a spurious ground? Will he sadly confirm my view that as a body the NUT is becoming the gravest danger to the professional standing of teachers?

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

I sympathise with the parents and children in my right hon. and learned Friend's constituency, but the behaviour of any union and teacher who damages the children's education is unforgiveable.

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

Is it not a fact that inflation is running at 6· per cent. and rising, that teachers have been offered 4 per cent., that they have lost 30 per cent. and yet they are the most moderate group of people and are struggling for a living wage? Will the Minister make it clear that he has 15 votes on the Burnham committee and that he has used them twice recently to stop a negotiated settlement? Does he accept that that is the reality and that the struggle will go almost indefinitely unless more money is placed on the table to give the teachers a living wage?

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

Let me agree with one point made by the hon. Gentleman—most teachers are moderate and hardworking and take their job seriously. Let me also tell the House that the votes to officials of the Department were provided during the time of or in the Remuneration of Teachers Act 1965, which was passed by a Labour Government.

Photo of Mr David Madel Mr David Madel , South West Bedfordshire

Should not classroom disruption stop at once and both sides make a real effort to get a three-year pay deal which should have within it the beginnings of great rewards for effective teachers?

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

I very much agree with the general gist of my hon. Friend's question. I wish that the teachers would go back to negotiations, and let us hope that on Thursday they start to do so.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , North East Cambridgeshire

If the Secretary of State wishes the teachers to negotiate, will he at least press his Cabinet colleagues to allow those authorities which overspend their targets not to be penalised?

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

No, Mr. Speaker, that would be providing further public money, and I have already told those concerned that that is not what the Government intend to do.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Saffron Walden

In this present difficult situation, does it not need constant re-emphasis that there is a prospect of more money if only the teachers and employers can reach agreement on the lines suggested by my right hon. Friend?

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

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding the House of that. The answer is definitely yes.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

Is the Secretary of State not more than pleased that the NUT has exempted certain authorities from industrial action?

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

I am glad that any school that would otherwise be disrupted is not disrupted, but I cannot in any way respect the NUT's decision to exempt some authorities and not others. The children are in the charge of teachers who are failing in their responsibilities.

Photo of Mr Anthony Favell Mr Anthony Favell , Stockport

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the metropolitan borough of Stockport today no members of the NUT are on strike in the constituency of Demon and Reddish, but that they are on strike in the constituencies of Stockport and Hazel Grove merely because the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) has given wholehearted support to the NUT's action whereas I and my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Arnold) refused to do so? Are the pupils not being used as political footballs, and has my right hon. Friend a word to describe that kind of pressure being brought on hon. Members?

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

I repeat only that I deplore the thoroughly unprofessional behaviour of those teachers' union leaders who are conducting that policy and those teachers who co-operate with them.

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

Will the Secretary of State veto any Burnham settlement above 4 per cent?

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

The hon. Gentleman knows that the veto, which came in at about 1965 when a Labour Government were in office, is not a matter about which I am prepared, or any holder of my office has ever been prepared, to make predictions.