HC Deb 23 March 1987 vol 113 cc3-4
3. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how much was spent per pupil in primary schools in Wales in the most recent year for which figures are available; and what was the comparable figure for 1978–79, at constant prices.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

In 1985–86 the amount spent per pupil in primary schools in Wales was £825. The equivalent figure for 1978–79 was £724.

Mr. Knox

Do those figures not make nonsense of allegations that primary schools in Wales are short of cash?

Mr. Roberts

My hon. Friend is right, in that total expenditure has remained broadly constant in real terms. At the same time, pupil numbers have been falling. We now have the best pupil-teacher ratio, but I must admit that there are about 56,000 surplus places in primary schools. If we were able to eliminate the surplus places we would have more resources for primary schools.

Mr. Coleman

Is the Minister aware of the lobby of Parliament tomorrow by parent-teacher associations to complain about education in Wales, and in particular about primary education? In view of the experience of parents and teachers, who are much closer to what is going on in our schools than we here are, how can the Minister justify the answer that he has just given?

Mr. Roberts

I am aware of the intended lobby, but I understand that the parents are more than likely to complain about the disgraceful disruption in our schools. I hope that they will condemn Mr. Smithies, the general secretary of the NAS/UWT who says that the half-day strikes will continue until the election. That is a clear sign that he is trying to turn our schools into political battle grounds.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Minister confirm that since the hon. Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Mr. Knox) last asked this question — which is becoming a little tedious — the position in our schools has worsened considerably in terms of the reality for pupils, in terms of the text books and materials that they need and in terms of the maintenance of the buildings that they attend? Is it not high time that adequate resources were allocated to ensure that the schools are worthy of the pupils?

Mr. Roberts

It is clear from my answer that we are spending more per pupil in Wales. On materials we have made additional funds available, particularly for secondary school pupils involved in the general certificate of secondary education. However, it is up to the local education authorities to concentrate resources into capitation fees.

Mr. Barry Jones

That was an evasive reply. Why is it that many schools in Wales, in spite of careful spending of capitation cash, have to apply it to basic items such as text books and stationery? Does the Minister agree that parents want smaller classes, more teachers, more nurseries and more books and equipment? Is it not shameful that our schools go begging while the Budget can assist, say, the Duke of Westminster's estate by about £600 million in inheritence tax?

Mr. Roberts

Not only are there 56,000 surplus places in primary schools, but, taken overall, there are about 150,000 of them in primary and secondary schools in Wales. That means wasted expenditure of about £18 million per annum. That money could be spent on more worthy causes within education. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made available extra money for education in the coming year.

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