HC Deb 01 December 1987 vol 123 cc749-50
6. Mr. Anthony Coombes

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much money is being spent per pupil in 1987 in primary and secondary schools, as compared with the sum spent in January 1979.

Mr. Dunn

Based on a provisional distribution by sector of estimated total current spending by local authorities, an average of £1,115 was spent on each primary and secondary pupil in England in 1986–87, which is 30 per cent, more in real terms than in 1978–79.

Mr. Coombes

I warmly welcome those figures. However, will my hon. Friend confirm that international experience, recent independent research, Her Majesty's inspectors' reports and the experience in some parts of ILEA have all confirmed the falsehood of the assertion that there is an automatic relationship between spending more money and achieving higher educational standards? Will he also confirm that what is really important is a national curriculum, with unequivocal benchmarks, which are sensitively assessed, which give parents the confidence that they need in the educational system and make that system more responsive?

Mr. Dunn

I answer yes on all counts. For too long the debate on the future of education in this country has been focused solely on what goes into a school. Our proposals in the Education Reform Bill will focus on what comes out of a school. Therefore, quality control will be an important vehicle in measuring delivery.

Mr. Win Griffiths

Would the Minister care to comment on certain figures that I obtained from the Library? During 1979–80, using 1986 prices, over £9 billion was spent. It was not until 1986–87 that more money was spent. In 1978–79 the average amount spent per pupil was over £1,100. It was not until 1986–87 that the figure went up to £1,300. That per pupil increase can be accounted for by falling rolls. There was no real increase in education spending until 1986–87.

Mr. Dunn

I completely reject what the hon. Gentleman has said. Conservative and Labour authorities are spending more. We must establish whether expenditure is gaining results and reflects value for money.

Mr. John Townend

How much money per pupil is spent by ILEA on secondary education? How does it compare with what is spent by shire counties? Does my hon. Friend consider that the quality of education in London justifies the differential?

Mr. Dunn

No, I do not. I note that an article in today's Daily Mailstates: It costs more to educate a teenager at an inner London comprehensive school than the fees at some of the city's private schools. That statement challenges the Opposition to do something about spending in inner London.

Mr. Straw

The Prime Minister herself has boasted of an increase in spending per pupil between 1979 and 1986. How does the Under-Secretary of State square that boast with the fact that, in real terms, the Government have cut their Exchequer contribution to the nation's education by 20 per cent, over those eight years?

Mr. Dunn

The financing of local government through the rate support grant settlement is designed to make local authorities more accountable for their spending on services generally. It ill-behoves Opposition Members to condemn what we have done when we have achieved so much more in education in the past few years.

Mr. John Marshall

Will my hon. Friend confirm that Barnet has the best A-level results of any authority in the country and that ILEA, which spends much more than Barnet, has among the worst results?

Mr. Dunn

I confirm what my hon. Friend said. By comparison, Barnet makes other authorities seem so much worse.