HC Deb 09 November 1982 vol 31 cc409-10
1. Miss Joan Lestor

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he is satisfied that equal curriculum opportunity is genuinely available to girls and boys.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. William Shelton)

We have made it clear that equal curricular opportunities should be available to boys and girls. I accept that there is still some way to go. I urge local education authorities and schools always to give boys and girls a genuine choice in deciding what they are going to study.

Miss Lestor

I thank the Minister for that reply and agree with the sentiments expressed within it. Does he agree that the Schools Council has done a great deal of work in promoting the idea through the sex roles differentiation project? Does he recognise that the threatened closure of the council means that the project may be discontinued? May we have an assurance that he will give consideration to ensuring that its work continues?

Mr. Shelton

We take every opportunity to preach the message in the hon. Lady's question. I am aware of her interest in the matter. I assure her that we are doing everything that we can and taking every opportunity available to us to ensure that boys and girls are treated equally. I draw her attention to the Department's publication entitled "Science in Schools", which was published in June 1982. If she wishes, I shall send her a copy. I think that she will find it encouraging.

Mr. Dobson

Does the Minister agree that if equality of opportunity is to be given to boys and girls it will be necessary to initiate a considerable expansion of classes and opportunities in schools? Equality cannot be achieved without that expansion. How does he reconcile this with the existing cuts and the statement of his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday that local education authorities are already overspending by £700 million?

Mr. Shelton

I think that the hon. Gentleman has taken hold of the wrong end of the stick. I do not think that an expansion of classes is necessary. The classes are available. It is really a matter of attitudes. No one can be happy when 50 per cent. of boys but only 15 per cent. of girls take 0-level or CSE physics. That has nothing to do with the number of classes available; it has to do with the attitudes in the schools and in the home.