HC Deb 08 April 1986 vol 95 c5
3. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the level of expenditure on text books in primary and secondary schools.

Mr. Chris Patten

Since 1979 spending per pupil on books has fallen in real terms, as measured by the GDP deflator, while spending per pupil on books and equipment overall has increased substantially. It is for local education authorities and schools to decide on the balance of spending on these items, bearing in mind local priorities.

Mr. Fisher

Is the Minister of State aware that the Prime Minister, in a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) yesterday, confirmed the judgment of Her Majesty's Inspectorate that one third of local education authorities have an inadequate supply of textbooks? Is it not an appalling condemnation of seven years of Tory mismanagement of education that children have to share textbooks and so cannot take them home and, in many subjects, are working from textbooks that are out of date? What will he do about it?

Mr. Patten

Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I obviously have the advantage of reading the whole of the letter from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice), rather than just part of it. My right hon. Friend pointed out that Her Majesty's Inspectorate had found that the proportion of books and equipment was satisfactory in over two thirds of the local education authorities, and in only one tenth of schools was inadequate capitation judged to be the cause of shortage.

Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

Does the Minister recognise that if there is a chronic shortage of textbooks throughout the education system we are in danger of creating the "yob society" about which he talked, which is already in evidence at the Federation of Conservative Students?

Mr. Patten

That would have been a more impressive supplementary question if the hon. Gentleman had listened to my earlier answer. In its report the HMI noted that provision for books in schools has improved each year since 1981. It also noted that inadequate identification of needs and poor departmental management were a more common cause of shortage of books and equipment than low capitation.