HC Deb 13 March 1979 vol 964 cc249-51
4. Mr. Madden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, in the light of recent proposals by Calderdale local education authority to reduce expenditure on education, what steps she is taking to prevent a reduction in educational expenditure nationally.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Shirley Williams)

Each local authority determines its own pattern of expenditure. The rate support grant settlement for 1979–80 allows for a 3½ per cent. increase in real terms in expenditure on education nationally in 1979–80 compared with the level achieved in 1977–78.

Mr. Madden

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the huge cuts in education spending which are proposed by Calderdale, which are bound to hit hardest the poorest children in the most underprivileged areas? Is she also aware that these cuts, coupled with previous ones, are giving rise to concern whether Calderdale can make proper educational provision? Will she look into this matter, ask for a full report and warn the authority if she believes that its policies are endangering proper educational provision?

Mrs. Williams

My understanding is that the total loss to Calderdale, which the authority alleges is responsible for its proposed substantial cut in education, was £170,000, although it is proposing a cut of £900,000 in education alone. Among other things, that means that it will be cutting back sharply on repairs and maintenance of buildings and on some of the advisory teachers who are very important in improving standards of education. I have no power to order Calderdale to do something, but I hope that that authority will take careful note of what is said in this House this afternoon.

Mr. Raison

Will the Secretary of State tell us the scale of savings, if any, that she expects to arise from the reduction in the school population over the next few years?

Mrs. Williams

In respect of teacher employment and non-teaching costs we axe attempting to allow for a real increase of expenditure, taking account of the savings made as a result of the decline. The hon. Gentleman will know that there will be little overall saving from the decline in population over the next three years. The secondary school population and the population in further and higher education will increase, even though the primary school population is beginning to fall dramatically.

Mr. Torney

I wish to associate myself with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) about the inadequate education provision in Calderdale and to ask whether my right hon. Friend is aware that there is no provision in that area for teaching deaf and partially-hearing children? I have that information from people in the small part of my constituency in that area. That is scandalous. Can my right hon. Friend take steps to ensure that provision is made for these unfortuante children?

Mrs. Williams

There is provision for training teachers for special schools, and provision has been massively stepped up for the in-service training of teachers. We cannot compel a local authority to undertake that training. We make the finances available and send out advice on expenditure of the rate support grant, as we do every spring, but we cannot force the horse to drink as well as provide the water.