HC Deb 25 January 1983 vol 35 cc769-70
1. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will meet the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission to discuss the curriculum offered in local authority schools and colleges.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Sir Keith Joseph)

I am in regular contact with the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission about matters of common interest. Officials of this Department and Her Majesty's inspectors are also in constant contact with commission officials about the content of the education and training within the commission's own schemes, and the relationship of that to school and college curricula.

Mr. Hooley

Does the Secretary of State agree that while it is perfectly proper for the MSC to commission courses and training in colleges of further education, it is not its business to interfere in the curriculum nor to give those colleges directives on how and what they should teach?

Sir Keith Joseph

The MSC fully understands its role, and when the steering committee establishes the criteria it will negotiate with some of the many authorities that have bid to participate.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the Secretary of State prepared to guarantee that the criteria set by the steering group will be observed by the MSC, that the scheme of technical and vocational education will apply to the whole ability range, that everything will lead to nationally recognised qualifications, and that local education authorities will be responsible for admission to the scheme? If he is prepared to guarantee that, will he tell us why the Government are bypassing the education service in providing 10,000 places for the 4.5 million children in the generation of 14 to 18-year-olds and not giving resources to those many comprehensives in Britain that are already undertaking the City and Guilds Foundation Course, the Technician's Education Certificate and the Business Education Certificate, which are good vocational schemes?

Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Gentleman will find that all the factors that he listed are in the original MSC policy announcement and will be considered by the national steering group. The MSC took this initiative at the Prime Minister's request because many local education authorities are already providing a technical element in comprehensive education and the Government judge it advantageous for Britain that that should be accelerated and enlarged.

Mr. Greenway

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is always room for stimulation in the discussion of what is required in the curriculum? Within the apparatus that we have for running schools through local authorities, is it not clear that a useful initiative has been taken?

Sir Keith Joseph

Certainly. It is in order to encourage an activity within the curriculum which many local education authorities are already practising and would like to enlarge.