HC Deb 17 December 1974 vol 883 cc1335-6
7. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects the Bullock Report on reading ability to be published.

Mr. Prentice

We have said that the report would be published as soon as practicable. I hope that this will be before the end of January.

Mr. Whitehead

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that many local authorities cannot and in some cases will not identify the areas of specific reading difficulty, predominantly dyslexia, in pupils at primary and secondary schools? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the full resources of the Department should be thrown behind the campaign to combat this condition and that the Bullock Report is likely to give an indication of the scale of the problem, but that we do not need it to confirm that the problem exists?

Mr. Prentice

I do not want to anticipate the content of the Bullock Report, but I think that it will prove most valuable, and I hope that it will be widely read and discussed. I agree that all the resources of local authorities, the Government and the teaching profession must be involved in trying to cope with the difficult problem of dyslexia and related matters.

Mr. Freud

What action does the right hon. Gentleman propose to take on the Tizard Report, which has already had two years of life without anything having been done about it?

Mr. Prentice

That goes a little wide of the Question. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put down a separate Question or write to me about that matter.

Mr. Flannery

As one who gave evidence to the Bullock Committee, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend agrees that one of the prime prerequisites for maintaining and making reading standards better than they have ever been is to have v. much greater number of teachers in order that the one-to-one relationship between the pupil and the teacher, which is necessary in the teaching of reading, can be advanced a great deal further, with much smaller remedial classes, so that children who have difficulty may have more access to individual teachers?

Mr. Prentice

There are Questions on the Order Paper about projections of future teacher supply. I assure my hon. Friend that whatever plans we announce in a few weeks' time about those matters will take account of the need to improve the pupil-teacher ratio.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In view of the two recent reports which have been published, one by the Schools Council, showing that the number of books read by children has dropped by 50 per cent. since 1938 and that in certain deprived areas one in five in junior schools cannot read English, should not the Secretary of State be considering urgent action? Would not the energies of his Department be better employed in securing that every child is proficient in the three Rs than in pursuing this doctrinaire campaign against direct-grant and grammar schools?

Mr. Prentice

The energies of the Department and of the whole of the education world must be directed to improving the standards of teaching English, and reading in particular. I believe that the Bullock Report will be a valuable contribution to our understanding of these matters. However, we can do that at the same time as we try to improve our secondary education by making progress towards the comprehensive system.