HC Deb 07 July 1987 vol 119 cc180-1
5. Mr. Baldry

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the total amount of extra funding that has been provided for the GCSE to date.

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

The Government have provided for expenditure on GCSE non-teaching costs and in-service training of over £145 million in the financial years 1986–87 and 1987–88. Of this, some £55 million is supported by earmarked grants for books, equipment and in-service training. In addition, continuing improvement in the planned pupil-teacher ratio is allowing more teacher time for the GCSE.

Mr. Baldry

Is it correct that more new money from the Government has been made available for the GCSE than perhaps for any other like initiative, and that the schools and teachers who have been working hard on the GCSE are now starting to produce good and exciting results? Does my hon. Friend agree that much of the bad press about the GCSE has been peddled by some teachers and some teachers' unions which are never prepared to accept that anything good can happen in our state schools?

Mrs. Rumbold

My hon. Friend is correct to say that the GCSE is the most generously funded examination ever to be produced. In addition to the £100 million planned expenditure for non-teaching costs, an additional £15 million has been earmarked this year for in-service training. That is on top of the £10 million that was earmarked last year for in-service training. As it was the teaching profession that urged and argued most vehemently for the introduction of the GCSE—the urging and arguing continued for about 10 years—it seems a pity that some of the teachers' unions are carping slightly about it now. This important examination has been wlecomed by teachers, pupils, potential employers and parents, and I hope that it gets off to a good start.

Mr. Flannery

Does the Minister accept that although the entire education world agreed with the Government and wanted the GCSE examination, a vast section of it is deeply worried that it came about a year too soon? The National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations has engaged in research and has recently stated that only 3 per cent. of schools which welcomed the examination have received the necessary equipment to conduct it properly.

Mrs. Rumbold

The hon. Gentleman will know that local authorities have received the moneys for which they asked in this year's planned expenditure. The hon. Gentleman says that a part of the education world considers that the GCSE was introduced a year too soon, but I suspect that it would have been a year too soon whenever it was introduced.

Mr. Rathbone

I welcome the Government's support for the GCSE and the vast amounts of money that have been made available for the examination. Does my hon. Friend accept, however, that there are ways in which the funding can go astray on its route from the Department to the schools and that individual schools are facing considerable administrative difficulties, even after cutting and paring, to meet the added cost of the introduction of the new syllabus?

Mrs. Rumbold

It is true that there has been some delay in some authorities. That is due partly to schools being uncertain about the amount of money that they require. It is not entirely the fault of authorities. We shall be conducting a survey of how GCSE moneys are reaching the schools, and we hope to publish the results by the beginning of next year.

Mr. Steinberg

Is the Minister aware that, despite what she says, many parents are having to purchase equipment and books out of their own pockets because of the lack of funding for the GCSE?

Mrs. Rumbold

The examination has been extremely well funded in terms of equipment and books. It is still possible to use much of the equipment and books for the examination that were in the schools previously. For example, 1066 remains the same date and Shakespeare remains the author of the Shakespearean plays.

Mr. Rowe

Does my hon. Friend accept that the examination has not only been welcomed but welcomed with a considerable degree of excitement within the education system? Will she give an assurance that employers, who are frequently extremely confused by the meaning of various examinations, are actually prepared to evaluate what the examination result tells them about potential employees?

Mrs. Rumbold

I hope that my hon. Friend will be greatly reassured by the fact that we are carrying out a number of regional conferences which are specifically designed to reassure employers and to explain to them the content of the GCSE and how it works. I trust that that will allay many of their fears.