HC Deb 15 March 1977 vol 928 cc196-7
5. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she intends to set up a committee to advise her on child literacy.

Miss Margaret Jackson

No, Sir. I am not convinced that such a committee would serve any useful purpose. The findings and recommendations of the Bullock Report "A Language for Life" remain highly relevant. In addition, we are looking closely at the question of basic skills, including that of literacy, during the present debate on education.

Mr. Goodhart

Is the hon. Lady aware that between 1973 and 1976 real expenditure on books in primary schools fell by 10 per cent. and that this year some major authorities are planning to cut back their expenditure on books in primary schools by as much as 15 per cent? How will that help literacy?

Miss Jackson

Like the hon. Gentleman, I regret that some local authorities are being forced to take these steps as part of their response to restraints on public expenditure. I should be glad if in welcoming public expenditure cuts, as they do, Opposition Members would also welcome their consequences, of which this is one.

Mr. Watkinson

When she is considering the question of child literacy, will my hon. Friend bear in mind the problems of the dyslexic child, and also bear in mind that such children benefit from specialised teaching? Will she do all she can to encourage specialised teaching methods and training for people in this field?

Miss Jackson

This is a subject in which I have taken a degree of interest. I am not sure whether any particularly specialised method is appropriate but certainly a degree of attention is needed for dyslexic children, as for children with other reading difficulties, specific or otherwise. To that extent, I recognise my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Mr. Rathbone

Will the hon. Lady please reconsider her last answer? Does she appreciate that very special methods are needed for dyslexic children and that very often those children are incapable of obtaining full benefit from the education system, because those special methods are not made available to them owing to lack of grants from local education authorities?

Miss Jackson

I have discussed the matter at some length with people who are experienced and expert in the field and have had particular success with children with such problems. It is my understanding that there is no particular method. As with every other kind of teaching of reading to children with problems, there is a variety of methods, some of which are suitable for one child but not for another with, in theory, precisely the same problem. I do not accept that there is a simple problem with a simple set of solutions. I am certainly aware of the difficulties.