asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much was spent per pupil in secondary schools (a) in England as a whole and (b) in Staffordshire in the most recent year for which figures are available; and what were the comparable figures in 1978–79, at constant prices.
In 1984–85 prices, local education authorities in England spent an average of £945 per secondary pupil in 1978–79 and £1,085 in 1984–85. The comparable figures for Staffordshire are £945 and £1,025.
Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures show an impressive increase in expenditure per pupil at secondary schools in Staffordshire and in the country as a whole since the Government came to office? How does he think the Labour party can justify claims that there have been cuts in education budgets since this Government came to office?
The direct answer to that question is that the Labour party cannot justify such claims. All principal measures show steady improvements in education provision since the Government came to office. Not only is spending per pupil at record levels, but the overall pupil teacher-ratio is at its best level ever and class sizes are smaller than in 1979.
Does the Minister accept that the Government have placed a substantial additional burden on secondary schools, not least in respect of the new GCSE? Is he aware that there are real unresolved needs with respect to the GCSE, that provision is grossly inadequate and that there is extreme anxiety in our schools about that provision? What good news, if any, can he give to schools about immediate decisions on that matter?
The hon. Gentleman must accept that our expenditure plans for the forthcoming year show an increase in cash terms of 18·8 per cent. That will enable substantial improvements to continue, and we have, of course, provided extra money for the funding of GCSE and its introduction.
Will my hon. Friend say whether it is still the case in England—as we were told it was last summer—that for every five teachers and lecturers there are more than three non-teachers employed full time in the education system? Does he feel that there may be scope for further streamlining of administrative structures to ensure that a higher proportion of spending comes through to schools and education?
The responsibility for that rests with local education authorities. However, I am bound to say that my hon. Friend is quite right. In many authorities that claim a high expenditure per pupil a high ratio seems to follow once examination is made of the non-teaching staff. Many local authorities can do more to take out unnecessary non-teaching staff from their payrolls.[Interruption.]