HC Deb 06 May 1980 vol 984 cc9-10
6. Mr. Montgomery

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what effect reductions in local authority manpower will have on teacher numbers.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Neil Macfarlane)

This is for individual authorities to decide. The Government's expenditure plans assume a reduction of nearly 40,000 teachers in England and Wales between 1979–80 and 1982–83.

Mr. Montgomery

Has my hon. Friend some idea of the size of the drop in school rolls during the whole of that period? What effect will that have on the pupil-teacher ratio?

Mr. Macfarlane

Pupil numbers in England and Wales are predicted to fall by approximately 800,000 during that period. We expect that the pupil-teacher ratio will fall from 18.9:1 in 1979, to 18.5:1 in 1983.

Mr. Foster

Does the Minister admit that the number of teaching staff assumed in the public expenditure White Paper will prove completely inadequate if curriculum and education standards are to be protected?

Mr. Macfarlane

No line can be drawn from the hon. Gentleman's observation. As regards expenditure over the next four years, my right hon. and learned Friend has made clear that we are determined to preserve the curriculum and our educational standards. We shall certainly do that.

Mr. Dover

Is the Minister satisfied that everything possible is being done to encourage the early retirement of teachers, and thus avoid any necessity for redundancies?

Mr. Macfarlane

That is a matter for local education authorities to decide, in consultation with teaching unions. My right hon. and learned Friend will not direct that policy.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that, given falling rolls, this is the right time to make drastic improvements in pupil-teacher ratios? Does not he accept that if the Labour Party had remained in office it would have concentrated on moving in that direction, and would have provided more teachers in the areas of greatest educational need?

Mr. Macfarlane

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would not engage in inaccuracies. In the hon. Gentleman's interest, and that of his constituents, I must tell him that the pupil-teacher ratio has never been better. Future redeployment has been discussed with local authorities, and will be discussed in the course of consultations during the next few months. We recognise that there is a need to transfer more teachers into certain educational areas. That issue is being discussed with some urgency.