HC Deb 25 June 1974 vol 875 cc1181-2
3. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will now collect information from local education authorities about the arrangements they make for the teaching of adult illiterates.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Gerry Fowler)

My right hon. Friend will consider this as part of the review of adult education statistics at present being undertaken in the light of the comments in the Russell Report.

Mr. Price

Is my hon. Friend aware, however, that although some local education authorities are doing a great deal in this regard already, others are doing absolutely nothing? As was evident from my hon. Friend's last reply on this matter, his Department does not have a clue which authorities are doing well and which are not. Now that there is this interest in the problem, will he consider sending out a circular immediately to all local education authorities pointing out the good practice in this regard and how they can get on with the job straight away within their present resources?

Mr. Fowler

It would be exceedingly difficult to send out a circular immediately because there are acute problems of definition in this matter. If statistics are to be collected, they must be meaningful. However, I undertake to examine the possibility of a circular in this area. We shall be discussing the matter with the main interests concerned, including local authorities.

Mr. Redmond

Since prevention is better than cure, and since the existing large number of illiterates indicates failure in the education system, would it not be better for the Government to concentrate more on increasing the quality of education instead of messing around trying to put everyone in the same mould of comprehensive schools?

Mr. Fowler

The genius of Conservative Members in dragging ther prejudices across the Floor of the House whatever the subject under discussion is quite remarkable. Of course we hope that the successes of the education service in the future will be greater than they were in the past. We hope for a continuous improvement of standards. That does not mean that we must disregard those who lost their chance through no fault of their own in the past.

19. Mr. Bryan Davies

asked the Secretary for Education and Science if he will promote Government legislation to provide for an adult literacy fund to promote adult literacy teaching in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Gerry Fowler

My right hon. Friend will consider the possibility of such a fund as part of his study of the recommendations of the Russell Report on Adult Education, including those on the needs of the disadvantaged.

Mr. Davies

I thank my hon. Friend for that somewhat encouraging reply. Is he aware that large numbers of people are prepared to give voluntary support to schemes of literacy teaching but need the essential back-up of local authority support in basic, rudimentary facilities? Should not we attempt to achieve this as early as possible?

Mr. Fowler

Yes, Sir. I agree with my hon. Friend.