HC Deb 10 March 1981 vol 1000 cc746-7
11. Mr. John Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he is satisfied with the progress that has been made in improving education standards since he took office.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

Although expenditure on education is necessarily restricted to what the country can afford, the Government remain committed to the objective of maintaining and improving the quality of education.

Mr. Evans

Has the Secretary of State been made aware of the growing feeling of hundreds of thousands of parents to the effect that, far from their children's education standards improving under the Tory Government, they are being savagely attacked?

Mr. Carlisle

I do not accept that. I accept what I said last Thursday, that clearly there is evidence that, whereas overall the situation is satisfactory, in certain areas there is evidence of weakness in school provision. I repeat what I said to the hon. Gentleman on that occasion, that it does not benefit the case to exaggerate.

Mr. William Shelton

Will my right hon. and learned Friend cast his mind back to the recent Her Majesty's Inspectorate report on the Inner London Education Authority and the criticism in it? Does not he agree that there is far more to education standards than just the money involved?

Mr. Carlisle

I certainly agree. As my hon. Friend says, the Her Majesty's Inspectorate report on ILEA highlighted that matter clearly.

Mr. Kinnock

The Secretary of State remains somewhat self-satisfied. Does he accept that the inspectorate's report was not exaggerating and that it specified adverse curriculum effects in science and maths as well as in the minority subjects? Does he think that the Government's commitment to maintaining and improving the standard of education can be taken seriously when that report says that in large areas of provision, the provision is unsatisfactory and that, even where it is satisfactory, further cuts are depressing standards of opportunity and provision, afflicting our children as a result?

Mr. Carlisle

I have never suggested that the inspectorate's report was in any way exaggerated. I have always suggested that it was an objective report, and I published it on that basis. I remind the hon. Gentleman that it is right. It pointed out certain areas where there were shortages in certain institutions, against the background of a generally satisfactory situation in the vast majority of institutions. The real difference between the hon. Gentleman and myself, as he said in the debate last Thursday, is that he objected to my saying that we should only spend on education what we can afford as a country. To object to that is a recipe for higher rates, higher taxes, higher inflation and higher unemployment.

Mrs. Knight

Has my right hon. and learned Friend noted recent reports that certain ethnic groups in schools where an overwhelming majority of pupils is from another ethnic group are suffering as a result of falling standards'? Will he consider that matter and try to do something about it?

Mr. Carlisle

I have seen those reports. The matter relates to the Schools Council report which was published yesterday. I shall study its implications. I have also received the interim report by the Rampton committee on the education of West Indian children. I shall also study that report.