HC Deb 08 July 1986 vol 101 cc150-1
1. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is his estimate of the amount which will be spent in the current financial year upon books in schools; how much this represents per pupil; and if he will take action to assist local authorities to increase this provision.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Chris Patten)

Local education authorities and schools decide how much is spent on books. The plans which we published in January were consistent with an expenditure on books of £70 million or £10 per pupil. On 10 June my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced a further £20 million for books and equipment for GCSE courses.

Mr. Hardy

Is the Minister aware that the total shortfall now amounts to more than £5 million a year, that most schools lack sufficient hooks and that books in use are often out of date? Is he further aware that the older geography books show nothing of the industrial transformation and devastation that has completely altered many local economies, and that pupils are not only hurt by the Government's lack of vision and provision but are demonstrably ill-informed?

Mr. Patten

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. [HON. MEMBERS: "HMI report".] As Opposition Members are shouting about the HMI report, I should remind them that it noted that the inadequate identification by teachers of pupils' educational needs and poor management of resources were more telling factors than the level of capitation.

Mr. Dorrell

Does my hon. Friend agree that recent developments in school management in Cambridgeshire, which offer greater discretion to school heads and governors in the use of resources, represent an interesting way forward? Could not other local education authorities usefully allow their schools more discretion and give heads more ability to decide the priorities that should be attached to the provision of textbooks and other school resources?

Mr. Patten

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I am only sorry that he is not serving on the Education Bill Committee. But, as has been said, it is never too late. If he was serving on it, he would know that clause 25 helps to promote those very activities.

Mr. Freud

Is the Minister aware that yesterday the Minister for the Arts gave a commitment that the library service would remain free? Does the hon. Gentleman accept that it would be very damaging to the public service and to education if parents had to make an input into the provision of books? Will he give an undertaking that that will not occur and that books for education will remain his Department's responsibility?

Mr. Patten

There is no such obligation on parents. I think that there is a question on the library service later on the Order Paper.

Mr. Adley

Does the Department have any policy of ensuring, as far as possible, that school books are published by British publishers? Will my hon. Friend do what he can to ensure that pirated editions of British publishers' books are not allowed into our schools?

Mr. Patten

I will certainly look into what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Radice

Does the Minister accept that the relevant facts are that there has been a reduction in book spending per pupil in primary and secondary schools in each of the past three years? That information was provided by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State to my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett). In May HMI warned the Secretary of State about the inadequacy of books provision. In case the Minister has forgotten, that appeared in paragraph 12 of the report. Why does he not simply tell the House this afternoon that the Government will provide extra resources for books in 1987–88?

Mr. Patten

As the hon. Gentleman will know, most schools are given a capitation allowance which covers books and equipment, and they make the choice between spending on books and equipment. The spending per pupil on books and equipment fell by 6 per cent. in primary schools and by 8 per cent. in secondary schools in real terms between 1975 and 1979. Under this Government, spending on books and equipment has increased by 8 per cent. for primary schools and by 5 per cent. for secondary schools. No decision has been taken on local authority spending for 1987–88, but I am sure that the report by HMI will be taken into account.