HC Deb 10 February 1981 vol 998 cc723-4
1. Mr. Jim Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what estimate he has made of the number of teachers and ancillary workers in education who will lose their jobs in the next year as a consequence of the Government's policy towards education.

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

This will depend upon decisions taken by individual local education authorities. It is not possible to estimate the numbers for England as a whole.

Mr. Marshall

Does the Minister accept that that is a totally unsatisfactory answer? Is he aware that it is a means by which the Government are evading responsibility for maintaining teaching standards in the State sector? Is he aware that large numbers of teachers and ancillary workers will be leaving the education service and that will inevitably lead to a decline in education standards? When will he wake up to the fact that local authorities are taking such decisions because of financial pressure from the Government?

Mr. Macfarlane

I shall deal with the two or three points that develop from the hon. Gentleman's question. We accept fully that the savings through the reductions in the school meals service have been necessitated by the desire to preserve the core of education standards in our schools. But the hon. Gentleman, and other Labour Members, must understand that pupil numbers will fall by 25 percent, between 1977 and 1989. The current reduction in teacher numbers, like reductions elsewhere in the education service, is as much a response to that as to expenditure cuts.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind hon. Members that long questions and long answers merely reduce the number of hon. Members who can be called.

Mr. Latham

Is my hon. Friend aware that if local authorities such as Leicestershire did not make economies in the education service, as elsewhere, the burdens on private ratepayers would be impossible and there would be a sharp reduction in the amount of employment by private business?

Mr. Macfarlane

I accept the point that my hon. Friend has forcefully made. He understands the Leicestershire situation fully. I acknowledge that the reduction in the number of ancillary workers employed in the schools is inevitable as pupil numbers fall. I want to make that clear. Natural wastage will play a major part in the rundown of numbers and we believe that large-scale redundancy is unlikely.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

What is the Minister doing to monitor the situation? What steps will he take if he finds that a particular local authority is dismissing far more teachers than he thinks is reasonable?

Mr. Macfarlane

I do not think that the hon. Member has presented any statistics to my Department. So far we have not heard from him on that point. In the current financial year there have been 1,264 teacher redundancies and a further 4,483 teachers have accepted premature retirement. The figures for 1979–80 were, respectively, 1,334 and 2,271. The Department maintains a watch on the statistics and until hon. Gentlemen are prepared to provide evidence we shall have to wait and watch the position.

Mr. Flannery

Does the Minister realise that the massive education cuts, far beyond what one might expect due to falling rolls, have resulted in the sacking of large numbers of peripatetic music teachers? Is he aware that the musical life of a school is vital and is not a frill? What will he do to ensure that the musical life in the State sector will be carried on properly, as no doubt it is in the private sector?

Mr. Macfarlane

I do not accept the first point that the hon. Member made about massive reductions in expenditure on our education services. Therefore, the second part does not apply. It is a matter for local education authorities.