HC Deb 23 January 1984 vol 52 cc620-1
7. Sir Raymond Gower

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many pupils were in secondary schools in Wales (a) in 1979 and (b) at the latest convenient date; and what were the respective pupil to teacher ratios on those dates.

Mr. John Stradling Thomas

In January 1979 there were 241,662 pupils in maintained secondary schools in Wales. The corresponding figure for January 1983 was 235,625. The pupil to teacher ratios were 16.8:1 and 16.5:1, respectively.

Sir Raymond Gower

Are not those figures somewhat at variance with the exaggerated dismay that has been expressed about educational trends, including secondary schools, in Wales?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

The pupil-teacher ratio figures are proving satisfactory, but they are only one of the yardsticks that are used to judge how well our education system is working.

Mr. Ron Davies

Does the Minister accept that Wales has lost more than 400 school teachers during the past 12 months? Is he aware that in Mid Glamorgan there are 364 classes with a pupil-teacher ratio in excess of 31:1? Will the Minister give serious consideration to making special funds available to Mid Glamorgan to tackle that appalling problem?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

I understand that the Mid Glamorgan county council is planning to reduce its teacher force in 1984–85 by about 180, of which 44 posts represent a response to anticipated falls in schools rolls. The pupil-teacher ratio in Mid Glamorgan secondary schools in September 1983 was 16.3: I compared with 17.5:1 a year earlier and 16.:1 in January 1979. It is for individual local authorities to decide how to allocate their resources, but there can be no question of relaxing the pressure to contain public expenditure.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Should not local authorities in Wales use the opportunity that is provided by falling rolls to diversify the curriculum and ensure that the so-called bottom 40 per cent. are provided for in schools in Wales rather than to reduce teacher numbers?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

As the House will be aware, the Government's objective—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science made an interesting speech recently on this topic—is to diversify and to improve standards and achievement generally. I am sure that my right hon. Friend's speech will be the subject of much consultation in future.