HC Deb 20 July 1982 vol 28 cc206-7
Q1. Mr. Andrews F. Bennett

asked the Prime Minister to what extent Her Majesty's Government assess the numbers of schoolteachers expected to be made redundant in the next three years.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

Our expenditure plans make provision for teachers expected to retire early, including those who do so on grounds of redundancy, as well as for some redundancies among teachers under the age of 50.

Mr. Bennett

Has the Prime Minister had an opportunity to read the recent HMI report on schools and on the falling standards in education? If so, what plans do the Government have to reverse that trend and, in particular, to employ more teachers instead of pushing so many of them into joining the increasing ranks of the unemployed?

The Prime Minister

I do not agree that standards are falling all over. Indeed, in some areas standards are rising. In addition, I would not equate standards in schools with the numbers of teachers, but rather with their calibre. The hon. Gentleman's point cannot be equated with numbers, because the overall pupil-teacher ratio improved from 18.9 in January 1979 to 18.5 in January 1982.

Mr. Dover

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if a reduction of only 10,000 in the number of teachers is required next year, the natural wastage of 2½ per cent. is not unreasonable, compared with private sector wastage?

The Prime Minister

Obviously we prefer as many redundancies as possible to be the result of natural wastage, but that is not always possible, because one must look at curriculum distribution as well as at numbers.

Mr. Flannery

Is it not a fact that Tory Members realise the advantage to be gained from small classes, because they send their children to schools that have a much lower pupil-teacher ratio than that found in the ordinary schools to which our children go? Is it not also a fact that the education cuts are now so horrific that teachers in every staff room in our ordinary schools are fearful that they will be made redundant, and that the cuts are so deep that our children's education—[Interruption.] The truth of my point is evidenced by the desire on the part of Tory Members to shut me up. Is it not the case that the cuts are so deep that our children's education and the whole fabric of State education is now in severe danger, as is shown by the HMI report?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there will be a fall of approximately 1 million in pupil numbers and, therefore, there must be a similar and proportionate fall in the number of teachers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] In many ways, I wish that more children stayed at school voluntarily beyond the age of 16. It would be infinitely preferable if they did so. There are many places available for them and it would be far better for them, rather than leaving school at 16. The hon. Gentleman has just heard me say that the overall pupil-teacher ratio has improved since the Labour Government, and the amount spent in real terms per pupil is approximately the same.

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