HC Deb 22 January 1985 vol 71 cc852-3
10. Dr. McDonald

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he is satisfied with the standards of primary and secondary education in Essex.

Sir Keith Joseph

The objective of Government policy is to bring about higher standards in all schools. I welcome Essex's efforts—as I do those of other authorities—in this regard.

Dr. McDonald

Is the Secretary of State aware that Essex spends less per pupil, particularly in the primary section of schooling, than the average non-metropolitan county? Is he also aware that Essex spends less on books and equipment — and that this spending is at a particularly low level — than the average non-metropolitan county? Before the Secretary of State tells me that spending has nothing to do with achievement, will he note from the statistics available that the O and A-level passes in Essex are below those that might be expected, given the social structure in Essex? If he is that concerned about the standards of education in Essex, will he encourage it to spend more on each child and on books and equipment?

Sir Keith Joseph

If the local authorities controlled by some of the hon. Lady's friends did not overspend so much, the Government would have been able to be slightly less stringent with some of those authorities, such as Essex, which have been prudent in their management.

Mr. Haslehurst

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there may be grounds for concern about whether effective use is being made of computers in rural primary schools and that this problem may also have arisen elsewhere?

Sir Keith Joseph

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. That is why the Government are providing some money through education support grants for the reinforcement of education in rural primary schools.

Mr. Radice

Is the Secretary of State aware that many parents in Essex, as in other local authority areas, are now paying for essential items such as books, materials and equipment? Does he agree that that is entirely contrary to the spirit of the 1944 Act? Will he also rebut reports that in Chester he suggested that when parents were making such payments the local authority should reduce the capitation allowance accordingly?

Sir Keith Joseph

I should be very concerned if any such parental contributions were other than strictly voluntary.