HC Deb 13 July 1972 vol 840 cc1827-9
14. Mr. Marks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will circularise all local education authorities requesting them not to worsen the pupil-teacher ratio in their schools in September.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. It is for local education authorities to determine their own staffing standards, having regard to the improving supply of teachers.

Mr. Marks

At what stage does the Secretary of State use her powers of control and direction in the case, for instance, of Berkshire, where the council has overturned its own education committee's recommendations and will probably make the ratio worse next summer?

Mrs. Thatcher

The case of Berkshire is the subject of a later Question on the Order Paper. I make it quite clear that I hope there will be no cutting back of staffing standards.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

Did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State make any overall estimate throughout the country of the likely trend in the pupil-teacher ratio as a result of the raising of the school leaving age in September?

Mrs. Thatcher

We do not expect the ratio to change because there should be sufficient additional teachers coming into the schools to preserve the present ratio for one year, after which there should be a further improvement.

Mr. Edward Short

The right hon. Lady will be aware that thanks to the Labour Government 20,000 additional teachers will be coming into the schools this year. Can she assure the House that they will all get jobs?

Mrs. Thatcher

I expect they will all get jobs, especially in view of the raising of the school leaving age. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, this is one of the purposes of having a quota.

15. Dr. Glyn

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what requests she has received from the Berk shire Education Authority to enable it to improve the pupil-teacher ratio at Royal Free (Infants) Church of England, Windsor, Clewer Green (Infants and Junior Mixed) Windsor, Furze Platt Maidenhead (Infants) including supply teachers, King's Court (Infants and Junior Mixed), Old Windsor, and St. Peter's Church of England (Infants) Old Windsor schools, where children are being taught in classes of between 38 and 42 pupils; and what reply she has sent.

Mrs. Thatcher

None, Sir.

Dr. Glyn

I hope my right hon. Friend will not be surprised to know that I had anticipated that answer. Does she agree that classes of this size are quite unacceptable to parents and teachers in primary schools and that in spite of the pupil-teacher ratio we could not possibly continue with a system in which there are 40 children in a class? Will she use her good offices to persuade Berkshire County Council to change its policy when it meets this Saturday because the cost of doing so represents a small proportion of the total educational precept for the county.

Mrs. Thatcher

We are always very concerned when we hear of classes of 40 pupils or more and I share the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend. I know from comments and letters we have received just how much anxiety the original proposals caused. I understand that modifications have been made since then but I will certainly draw Berkshire's attention to the views expressed by my hon. Friend today.