HC Deb 22 February 1983 vol 37 cc796-7
20. Sir John Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will issue guidance to local education authorities as to appropriate teaching material relating to peace studies and defence.

Dr. Boyson

It is for schools themselves to decide exactly what they will teach, but what is offered should always be education and not indoctrination. Care should be taken not to overload the curriculum.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Is my hon. Friend aware that one-sided propaganda for one-sided disarmament is circulating in our schools? Will he ascertain to what extent local education authorities and head teachers are making use of the excellent material that is provided by Government Departments giving a balanced view of this great issue, so that it may be sensibly covered?

Dr. Boyson

If my hon. Friend has evidence of one-sided propaganda going into schools we shall be glad to receive it, as we receive material from others. The Foreign Office has material available and it sends it to schools that wish to receive it. We have made that public property.

Mr. Christopher Price

Is the Minister aware that the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) is right and that one-sided material from the Ministry of Defence is pouring into our schools, which has not been asked for by the schools? As previous Governments have taken action to prevent unsolicited mail arriving at private houses, will the hon. Gentleman consult his colleagues in the Ministry of Defence with a view to stopping this unsolicited flow of one-sided material into the schools?

Dr. Boyson

I am informed that material from the Ministry of Defence goes out only to schools that request it. Material from the Foreign Office—it was sent out originally at the suggestion of the National Union of Teachers—was distributed widely. As I have said, material from the MOD is sent only at the request of the schools. It is for the heads and staff of the schools to decide what use is made of whatever material appears in the schools.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that part of the teaching at schools is bound to be history? Does he accept that the 37 years of peace in Europe, which have been secured by successive Governments following the same policies, form part of the overall issue of peace and defence?

Dr. Boyson

I agree with my hon. Friend. The way in which peace is kept and freedom is maintained is part of history and teaching thereof. The fact that peace has been kept ever since the second world war through the strength of the West is something that should be covered in history.

Mr. Kinnock

In the interests of balance, will the Minister draw to the attention of schools the fact that we live in a country in which the Government increased their defence expenditure by 10.9 per cent. in the current year while cutting education expenditure in real terms by 0.5 per cent?

Dr. Boyson

It might be advisable for the hon. Gentleman to note that we have 1 million fewer children in our schools than seven years ago. There is no doubt that the mass of the British people are delighted that we are able to defend ourselves against any external threat.