HC Deb 06 March 1984 vol 55 cc725-6
10. Mr. Sedgemore

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science which local authorities are providing conversion courses for women and girls in science and engineering which will allow them to follow courses later in higher education in these subjects.

Sir Keith Joseph

Information about such courses is not held centrally, but I welcome those that are in operation—as I do any action which serves to improve the access of girls and women to science and engineering courses in higher education.

Mr. Sedgemore

Can the Secretary of State say how many Nobel prize winners in nuclear physics have been girls educated in British schools? How does he expect the figure to increase when his proposals for cutting expenditure by the Inner London education authority are calculated to damage the feminist and equal opportunities education programme of that authority?

Sir Keith Joseph

I thought that the hon. Member and I might agree; perhaps we do. We are both in favour of girls and women, for their own sake, realising more of their potential in science, engineering and mathematics, but I cannot reconcile that with the second part of his question.

Ms. Richardson

May I remind the Secretary of State that the Equal Opportunities Commission has designated 1984 as women in science and engineering year? Therefore, should the Government not behave more positively and less passively by encouraging girls and women, as the Secretary of State says he wants to do, by giving education authorities more funds? That is what they need to enable them to provide the courses.

Sir Keith Joseph

I think that the hon. Lady is wrong on this. First, the number of girls and women taking science courses at school is rising. Secondly, the Government are supporting the year to which she referred; I have sent an enthusiastic message. Thirdly, I do not believe that money is the real problem; it is the attitudes of parents and of girls themselves.