HC Deb 28 October 1986 vol 103 cc147-8
1. Mr. Lofthouse

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received on the report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate with regard to the provision of books in schools.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold)

My right hon. Friend has received no representations arising directly from HMI's report. However, since taking office he has discussed the supply of books for schools with the local authority associations.

Mr. Lofthouse

The Minister will be aware that the recent HMI report indicated that half the primary school lessons have been affected by the shortage of books. Is that not extremely serious, and what action has she taken since the publication of the report to rectify the matter?

Mrs. Rumbold

The Government need no convincing that spending on books is a priority, and we hope that our proposals for local authority spending in 1987–88 —which imply an increase of some 14 per cent. in planned expenditure on education—will resolve this matter.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

Does my hon. Friend agree, however, that the provision of books is not necessarily the key necessity for effective education, otherwise one would have difficulty explaining the paltry results of the profligate ILEA? A perhaps more important part of the HMI report was the inadequacy with which children's educational needs were shown to be identified, together with the lack of management of resources.

Mrs. Rumbold

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is certainly true that inadequate capitation allowances were not considered to be the main factor contributing to poor provision. It was thought much more significant that poor management of resources and inadequate identification of pupils' needs by teachers were the main elements.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels

Does my hon. Friend accept that many parents are extremely concerned about the kind of books currently available in some schools? I refer in particular to sex education books such as "Jenny lives with Eric and Martin", "Taught not Caught" and "Make it Happy". Will my hon. Friend bring to the attention of the inspectorate the concern felt by parents throughout the country that some extremely unfortunate books that may corrupt our young children are now available in schools and libraries?

Mrs. Rumbold

Of course we condemn the use of irresponsible books and unsuitable literature in our schools. My hon. Friend will be aware that my right hon. Friend is taking action in respect of one of the authorities by sending in the inspectorate to see exactly what is happening.

Mr. Litherland

Is the Minister aware that the printing of short runs of books is wholly uneconomical as the bulk of capital expenditure takes place at the initial stage of the printing process? I suggest that she goes back to school and gets her sums right before depriving our children of essential facilities.

Mrs. Rumbold

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that the local authorities have capitation allowances and sort out different allocations for individual schools. They look at both books and equipment, and it is their responsibility to look into that at the beginning of each financial year.