HC Deb 21 July 1986 vol 102 cc1-3
1. Mr. Rowlands

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what additional resources are being made available to local education authorities specifically to reduce the size of classes taking the new general certificate of secondary education syllabus.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

It is for local education authorities to manage the resources available for education. Funding secondary schools for the GCSE is clearly a high priority, and I am pleased to see that some authorities have already made additional resources available for this purpose. So indeed has the Welsh Office, which has made available over £3 million for purposes specifically related to the introduction of the GCSE.

Mr. Rowlands

Is the Minister aware that no teachers or headmasters, and only a very few parents, believe that we can introduce this syllabus, with classes of 30-plus for mainstream subjects, although that is what the majority of our children will face when the new system is introduced? Will he therefore look again at the pupil-teacher ratios for the introduction of the scheme, because they are vital to the success of the introduction of a new syllabus and examination system?

Mr. Roberts

I wholly disagree with the hon. Gentleman. I believe that teachers are showing the will and commitment that is needed to introduce the new examination. As for the pupil-teacher ratio, in the hon. Gentleman's own county, Mid Glamorgan, the pupil-teacher ratio is 16.7.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

My hon. Friend will be aware of the parental concern, even cynicism. Is he satisfied that local councils will deploy these additional resources at the chalk face?

Mr. Roberts

I have already said that two local authorities have announced their plans, and I have exhorted local authorities to do so. There has been some concern about books and materials. The Government are making available this year £5,000, on average, per secondary school in Wales. A similar sum will be available over the next two years. That is in addition to the capitation allowances that are to be provided by the local authorities.

Mr. Rogers

Is the Minister aware that the extra £5,000 that is to be given to each secondary school is quite pathetic? The general certificate of secondary education is a new philosophy which will depend upon project work, more laboratory work and continual assessment. The resources that are being given to it are quite inadequate. When will the Government properly fund this particular examination?

Mr. Roberts

We are funding it properly. I have already announced what extra finance is available from the Welsh Office specifically for this examination. I remind the House that in Wales about £659.5 million is available to local authorities for education in the current year.

Mr. Raffan

Will my right hon. Friend seriously consider allocating further resources over the next three years to ensure that teachers can develop the new range of skills that are required to supervise and evaluate GCSE course work, bearing in mind that to release a teacher for one day costs a local education authority at least £50?

Mr. Roberts

In the amount that I have announced as being available from the Welsh Office, there is a grant scheme for in-service training, teacher training seminars and syllabus-specific training. We have sought to meet practically every reasonable requirement for additional finance for this examination.

Mr. Barry Jones

Would not the biggest boost for this important examination be more teachers? Is not the crucial mechanism for the funding of the school system the rate support grant? We demand a generous rate support grant settlement. Would not a means of helping education authorities in Wales be a switch of cash from private schools to the budgets of the local education authorities? Would that not give the new examination a better start, because the Minister is throwing more cash at the private schools than he is giving extra case to the new examination?

Mr. Roberts

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's last remark. The amount given to private schools is over £1 million, but I have just added it up, and the total that we have given to the new examinaton is £3 million. That is additional to the support given through the rate support grant, which, under this Government, has increased from £601.8 million in 1979–80 to £628.5 million in 1984–85, at a time of falling pupil numbers. Therefore, expenditure per pupil has increased over that period by £100 in real terms.

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