HC Deb 08 June 1976 vol 912 cc1182-4
7. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will pay an official visit to Lancaster University.

Mr. Gerry Fowler

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to visit the university.

Mr. Lane

Hearkening to the earlier words of his hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell), will the Minister of State take very seriously the research work by Lancaster University, pointing to the value of more formal rather than less formal methods of teaching? Does he accept that the Government should have no higher priority in education than the raising of academic standards in the schools?

Mr. Fowler

I happily accept the hon. Gentleman's last point, just as I happily accept many of the points that he has made over the years, as a distinguished educationist himself. I respect the serious research which led to the Lancaster findings, but it would be rash to draw sweeping conclusions from one survey in a single region, where only 17 per cent. of the sample of teachers used what were described as informal methods and where there are other clear weaknesses in the survey material.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

If the Minister decides to change his mind and come to Lancaster University, will he allow me the pleasure of showing him round some of the schools that are the subject of the outstanding report to which there has been reference—schools that have been castigated by the trendy Lefties in my area as being 20 years behind the times but which provide outstandingly good education and produce children who can actually read and write when they go on to the next stage of education? Does he accept that the informal teacher described earlier as turning out excellent results had a particularly high incentive, in that her own child was in the form she taught and she was trying to cram her for a scholarship to a public school?

Mr. Fowler

As a former member of the staff of Lancaster University, I must turn down—though I express my gratitude to her—the hon. Lady's offer to act as my guide. If the trendy Lefties in the university regard the schools as 20 years out of date, I can only speculate upon their view of the hon. Lady.

Mr. MacFarquhar

In view of the justified emphasis that my hon. Friend has just put on the particularity of the Lancaster University investigation, does not that underline the fact that his Department, instead of reacting to and perhaps rejecting particular research, should be doing its own much more broad-based research throughout the country, which it is uniquely able to do?

Mr. Fowler

We have a substantial research programme, both of our own and through other organisations. I referred earlier to one of our research projects, which is being undertaken through the medium of the University of Hull. We seek all the time to monitor educational standards in schools and to find out what teaching methods produce the best results.

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