HC Deb 25 October 1983 vol 47 cc134-6
14. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has now studied Her Majesty's inspectorates' report on standards in schools.

15. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received following the publication of Her Majesty's inspectorates' annual report on education expenditure for 1982.

Sir Keith Joseph

I have studied carefully Her Majesty's Inspectorate's report on the effects of local authority expenditure policies on the education service in 1982 and have received a small number of representations specifically about it.

Mr. Hardy

Does the Secretary of State accept that the public, having a proper and substantial interest in education, are entitled not only to be fully informed about this important report, but to be assured that the matter will be considered properly? Will the right hon. Gentleman do his best to make sure that there is a debate on the matter so that the Government and, perhaps, Conservative education authorities can respond to the charge that they are a pernicious influence on our young people and the state sector of education?

Sir Keith Joseph

I agree that the public should be informed, but it was my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Carlisle), who was my predecessor—not any member of the Opposition— who decided to publish the report. I have followed his example. The Opposition have plenty of opportunities to choose that subject for a debate if they wish.

Mr. Haselhurst

I acknowledge that the overall figures on expenditure per pupil and pupil-teacher ratios are good, but what action does my right hon. Friend hope will be taken to remedy some of the specific deficiencies identified by Her Majesty's inspectors?

Sir Keith Joseph

In general, the remedying of individual deficiencies identified in the report is for the local education authorities.

Mr. Alton

Given the Secretary of State's belief in parental choice and that Her Majesty's inspectors found no appreciable difference between the standards of education in co-educational schools and single sex schools, what is the Secretary of State's view on local education authorities which propose to remove totally the single sex option?

Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Gentleman tempts me, but as I have a quasi-judicial function in relation to proposals by local education authorities, and as I suspect that his question conceals a local dilemma, I must reserve my position.

Mr. McQuarrie

Is my right hon. Friend aware that before Her Majesty's inspectors report on standards in schools is sent to him, a draft is prepared by the headmasters and directors of education for the schools concerned? [Interruption.] Therefore, does he believe that the report submitted to him is unbiased?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Before the Secretary of State replies, may I ask for silence? This is an important Question Time and there is much noise.

Sir Keith Joseph

No doubt Her Majesty's inspectors ask for factual information before they visit schools, but there is no question of bias.

Mrs. Beckett

Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to dissociate himself from the moves to reintroduce the process of selection, which has already failed the nation once? Does he agree that that selection process has a great deal more to do with saving money by not educating the nation's children properly than it ever had to do with educational standards?

Sir Keith Joseph

I am not sure how that issue arises on this question, but I shall certainly not dissociate myself from any initiative or proposal that a duly elected local education authority decides, in its own wisdom, to propose to me. I have to take account of the arguments for and the objections to any such proposal or initiative. I shall continue to do that and judge on the merits of the case as it affects children.

Forward to