HC Deb 17 March 1987 vol 112 cc805-6
8. Mr. Livsey

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what number and proportion of unpublished reports of recent school inspections by Her Majesty's inspectors contain adverse comment about the state of school buildings; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Dunn

My right hon. Friend publishes all formal reports to him by Her Majesty's inspectors following their inspections of schools in England. All the reports refer to the state of school buildings and accommodation. I cannot comment on reports which are still in preparation.

Mr. Livsey

Does the Minister accept that in the unpublished reports there are descriptions of school buildings that are in an unsatisfactory state and that the education of 1 million children is affected by this? Is it not a disgrace that 168 of these reports have not yet been published?

Mr. Dunn

I find it difficult to comment on reports that have not yet come before us following their publication. I should like to have the hon. Gentleman's source of information.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

Is my hon. Friend aware that too many head teachers have to spend too much time telephoning various departments of their county hall when dealing with school repairs? Would it not be a good idea if head teachers had more authority in dealing with these matters and local authorities had less?

Mr. Dunn

That is precisely what our plans will bring about.

Mr. Litherland

Is the Minister aware that the district auditor in Manchester has drawn attention to the insufficient funding of preventive maintenance and has concluded that that will lead to irreparable decay and higher maintenance costs. Does the Minister not believe that he is following a short-sighted policy?

Mr. Dunn

I do not, and the facts speak for themselves. Our plans for local authority current expenditure in 1987–88 provide for a 14 per cent. increase, in real terms, in spending on the repair and maintenance of school buildings compared with what local authorities spent in 1984–85.

Dr. Hampson

Does my hon. Friend agree that some of the accusations about school buildings are not what they seem? Did my hon. Friend notice that last week the Daily Mirror devoted its front page to the story of the demolition of a school in Leeds, Brownhill school? That report was grossly misleading because that Victorian school—a fine school—was demolished by the Labour council only because it was suffering as a result of mining subsidence. Far from there being a shortage of money, that school is being replaced by two new schools.

Mr. Dunn

I understand precisely the point that my hon. Friend is making. I believe that we would have a far better debate in the House and in the country on the future school stock if Opposition Members accepted their share of the responsibility for the state of some of our schools.