To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much was spent per pupil in primary 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.
Local education authorities in England spent an average of £690 per primary pupil in 1978–79 and £815 per primary pupil in 1985–86. The comparable figures for Staffordshire are £695 and £815.
Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures show an impressive increase in expenditure per pupil in primary schools in Staffordshire and the whole of England since the Government came to office? How can the Labour party justify claims of cuts in education under this Government, either in Staffordshire or in the rest of the country?
Will the Under-Secretary acknowledge that it is a Labour authority that has provided those good educational standards despite restraints on spending by central Government?
I acknowledge that it is a Labour authority — I wish it were not. I remind the House that Government plans for local authorities current expenditure in 1988–89 represent an increase in cash of nearly 8 per cent. over the plans for the current year. I am extremely proud of that.
Is my hon. Friend aware that that Labour-controlled authority is reorganising primary education in Burntwood in my constituency? Before my hon. Friend approves any of those proposals, will he ensure that he is satisfied that the complaints of the parents that the accommodation proposed by Staffordshire county council is inadequate will be taken into account?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has a legal duty to examine the proposals for closure and the arguments for and against. I am grateful for the fact that in the past my hon. Friend has brought deputations to see me. Their views, as well as those of the authority, will be carefully taken into account before my right hon. Friend makes a decision.
Why do the Minister and his colleagues continue to deceive us? Is it not a fact that since 1979 central Government spending has been cut by 20 per cent. in real terms, and that in that time it is the much maligned local authorities that have increased their spending by 8 per cent.? It is those authorities, not the Secretary of State and the Government, that have protected our schools.
That question was much laboured, if I might use that word. The Government's strong record is supported, not only in cash terms, but by other objective standards. For example, the overall pupil-teacher ratio on January 1987 was 17·3:1 compared to 18·9:1 in January 1979. Average class sizes have been improving in primary and secondary schools and there are now far fewer classes with more than 30 pupils.