HC Deb 28 October 1986 vol 103 cc152-3
4. Mr. Proctor

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he is satisfied with progress towards the introduction of the general certificate of secondary education; and if he will make a statement.

19. Mr. Waller

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on progress in introducing the general certificate of secondary education.

Mrs. Rumbold

In the past few weeks some 600,000 pupils have started courses leading to the GCSE. The measures that my right hon. Friend anounced on 10 June have allowed all local authorities to increase expenditure on books and equipment for the GCSE. In addition, further training for the GCSE will be supported by a programme of £15 million in the financial year 1987–88 under the new in-service training arrangements from 1 April 1987.

Mr. Proctor

How much of the funding has gone to the county of Essex?

Mrs. Rumbold

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that this year the county of Essex has Government-supported expenditure of £620,000. For 1987 and 1988 it will receive Government support of £664,000.

Mr. Waller

Is my hon. Friend aware that some pupils are having to be sent home from classes because of the failure of local education authorities and examining boards to reach agreement about payments for cover for teachers who take time off for training? That includes training for examiners and moderators for the GCSE. Will my hon. Friend encourage local education authorities arid boards to reach an agreement that will prevent this happening in future?

Mrs. Rumbold

As my hon. Friend may be aware, the recent Scott judgment in the courts made it clear that covering for absent colleagues is a professional obligation on teachers. For that reason, it is disheartening to know that teachers are refusing to fulfil that obligation. That is probably further proof that we need clearly defined and properly enforceable contracts for teachers.

Mr. Freud

What advice will the Minister give to an hon. Member who receives a letter from a schoolmaster saying that the examining board has not sent the syllabus and thus cannot teach pupils for the GCSE?

Mrs. Rumbold

If the hon. Gentleman will let me have details, I shall be happy to take the matter up.

Mr. Pawsey

I acknowledge that the GCSE is the best prepared examination ever and that some £80 million has been made available for its inception, but will my hon. Friend none the less accept that concern is being expressed by teachers about the staffing implications of the new examination? Will she assure the House that she is keeping this aspect under review?

Mrs. Rumbold

We are of course monitoring the introduction of the GCSE examination very carefully, but I remind my hon. Friend that this new examination has been widely welcomed and that it was important that we should get it off to a good start. Most teachers have been extremely co-operative and very anxious to ensure that the examination becomes a success.