HC Deb 10 March 1981 vol 1000 cc741-2
4. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he is satisfied with the volume of resources available for education at primary and secondary level in the light of the recent report of Her Majesty's inspectors.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

In 1980–81, the year to which the report relates, we had planned to spend more on our schools than in 1978–79, even though pupil numbers were expected to fall by nearly 5 per cent. Planned expenditure on schools in the immediate future years is again necessarily limited by what the country can afford but continues to allow for a higher cost per pupil in school than in 1978–79.

Mr. Miller

As so many parents are concerned about the pupil-teacher ratio and as such a high proportion of resources goes into the payment of teachers, can my right hon. and learned Friend give us any good news about the pupil-teacher ratio in this year and the following year?

Mr. Carlisle

As I said in Thursday's debate, the pupil-teacher ratio in 1979–80 was the best ever at 18.7:1. The figures for this year will be better still at 18.6:1, which will be the lowest ever pupil-teacher ratio in this country.

Mr. Flannery

Is it not a fact that the cuts in education are revealed clearly in the inspectorate's report which we debated last Thursday? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that the cuts bear most heavily on the most needy section of the community, and that equipment, books and all the other items that education needs are sinking lower and lower in the list of provisions? Is not that disgraceful when compared with the assisted places scheme, on which more money will go to provide education, when the majority of children will be made to suffer while a select minority benefit?

Mr. Carlisle

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving the House a repeat of the speech that he made on Thursday. I am bound to say that it sounds no better the second time. I do not accept what he says. I have always accepted that reducing expenditure on education is bound to have some effect on the standard of provision, but I do not accept that we are unduly penalising one section of society.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that, whenever his inspectors visit a school, a report of their visit is supplied to the governors.

Mr. Carlisle

Whenever the inspectors report on anything that they find in a school the report is made available to the head teacher, the staff and, I think, to the governors.

Mr. Allen McKay

Will not the Government's plan to close 1,000 primary schools in the implementation of public spending cuts have an adverse effect on the pupil-teacher ratio?

Mr. Carlisle

In January the pupil-teacher ratio was at its lowest ever at 18.6:1 compared with 18.9:1 when the previous Labour Government left office. We must make some reductions in the number of schools because of the enormous fall in the number of pupils of primary school age. If we can achieve that rationalisation, it will have a helpful effect on class sizes.