HC Deb 25 May 1988 vol 134 cc322-3
15. Mr. Knox

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

Mr. Michael Forsyth

In 1986–87, net current expenditure per pupil in secondary schools in Scotland at outturn prices was £1,764. This is 26 per cent. more in real terms than the comparable figure in 1978–79, which at 1986–87 prices was £1,403.

Mr. Knox

How do those figures square with claims that there have been cuts in secondary education expenditure under this Government?

Mr. Forsyth

Such claims, which have been made by Opposition Members, are untrue. Expenditure has increased substantially in real terms. In the current year expenditure provision for education will increase by some 9 per cent., which is a real increase well above the rate of inflation.

Mr. McAllion

Does the Minister agree that his figure for expenditure per pupil reflects declining school rolls rather than increased Government expenditure? The reality in Scottish schools continues to be chronic under-funding. If there has been the British economic miracle about which Conservative Members keep talking why is it not reflected in expenditure on Scottish schools?

Mr. Forsyth

Expenditure in Scottish schools is considerably higher than in England. One of the reasons for that is that a substantial part of the resources is spent on property costs, including the additional burden of rates, and on the lower pupil-teacher ratio because there are proportionately more staff. Labour-controlled local authorities in Scotland have made little progress in rationalising school places. In England, since 1979, the number of secondary schools has been reduced by 10 per cent. The comparable figure for Scotland is only 1 per cent.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Will my hon. Friend give the latest pupil-teacher ratio in Scottish schools and compare it with the figure for 1978–79, when we had a Labour Government? Will he then draw the attention of the House, and that of Scotland and the rest of the nation, to the substantial improvement that has been made since then?

Mr. Forsyth

I shall he happy to provide that information in the Official Report. The pupil-teacher ratio in secondary schools in Scotland is 13.2:1 as against 15.6:1 in England.

Mr. Norman Hogg

Why is the Minister so reluctant to address himself to the problem of falling school rolls in Scotland, particularly the fall in secondary education? Why does he not accept that such improvement as has been achieved in funding has been achieved by Labour-controlled authorities despite cuts in rate support grant made by the Government? Why does the Minister not admit to these things? Why does he not improve education at the point of use, rather than engage in this useless debate about figures that are utterly meaningless in real terms?

Mr. Forsyth

If the hon. Gentleman is asking me to endorse local authorities' action in rationalising school places, I should be happy to do so. It is a pity, however, that education authorities such as Strathclyde perceive rationalisation as closing full schools rather than empty ones. As for the hon. Gentleman's question about resources, he should ask Strathclyde why it cannot guarantee that any savings that it makes from rationalisation will be used to add to education provision.

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