HC Deb 19 November 1970 vol 806 cc1416-7
24. Mr. John Hall

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is her policy regarding a target for the size of classes in primary and secondary schools; and over what period it is intended to achieve this target.

Mrs. Thatcher

I believe that pupil/teacher ratios provide a better index of staffing standards than class sizes. I expect that the number of pupils per qualified teacher will fall from about 23.2 in 1969–70 to about 21 in 1974–75.

Mr. Hall

That is a very welcome development. Would my right hon. Friend not agree that the primary essential in education is small classes and first-class teachers? Should that not be the first demand on educational expenditure? Would she direct her attention to that end?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree that it is our task to provide as many teachers of high quality as we possibly can, and it is our policy to try to do that.

Mr. William Price

Would the right hon. Lady not agree that this will cost a great deal of money? Would she now answer the question that I have already put twice this afternoon? Can she forecast the percentage increase in the money spent on education generally over the next five years over what we have had in the last five years?

Mrs. Thatcher

I shall be happy, at the end of that time, for my record to be judged in relation to the record of the last Minister.

Mr. Alan Williams

I am sure that the right hon. Lady will appreciate that her answer could cause a certain amount of concern, since it could be interpreted as her dropping the objective of stopping all classes over the size of 30—setting a limit of 30 on class size? She has changed the emphasis in her initial answer. Would she now say categorically that she stands by our decision that class size limits should be 30 in all schools?

Mrs. Thatcher

As I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would know, how a headmaster disposes of the teachers in his school around the classes is a matter for him and not for a Minister.