HC Deb 25 November 1980 vol 994 cc315-6
11. Mr. Thornton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether the average class size in the maintained schools has fallen over the past 10 years in proportion to the reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio over the same period.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

Between January 1970 and 1980 pupil-teacher ratios and average class sizes both fell by about 17 per cent. in maintained primary schools and by about 6 per cent. in maintained secondary schools.

Mr. Thornton

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that too much importance is placed on pupil-teacher ratios and that, within reason, the numbers of children in classes are not the sole determining factor in the quality of their education?

Mr. Carlisle

I share my hon. Friend's view that the quality of education depends on matters other than the pupil-teacher ratio and the amount of financial provision.

Mr. Newens

Does not the minimum size for sixth form classes mean that where the numbers of pupils fall below that level the classes can no longer be taken because teachers cannot be provided for them? Thus, when secondary languages and other subjects are cut out of sixth form curricula, are we not seeing a reduction in the quality of education?

Mr. Carlisle

If sixth forms get too small we have to look at ways of combining classes. We have always accepted that.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying that quality of education is not determined by the numbers of pupils in classes or by the use of resources in the education system, how does he propose to improve the quality of education?

Mr. Carlisle

I said that it was not solely dependent on those matters. I remind the hon. Lady that the pupil-teacher ratio at January 1980 was the lowest that it has ever been in this country. All the indications are that the figures for January 1981 will be much the same. That also applies to average class sizes. The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) talks of a great campaign to restore the provision to the 1978–79 level. Will be also remind the country that the pupil-teacher ratio in 1978 was worse than it is today?