HC Deb 17 April 1991 vol 189 cc407-8
6. Mr. Knox

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much was spent per pupil in primary 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

Current expenditure per pupil in 1989–90 has increased by 50 per cent. over and above the rate of inflation since 1979 in primary schools. The latest figure is £1,385 before taking account of the costs of local authority administration, school meals and transport, which are substantial.

Mr. Knox

Can my hon. Friend say how those figures square with claims that there have been cuts in primary education in Scotland during the past 12 years or even claims that there has been underfunding of primary school education?

Mr. Forsyth

The Opposition make those claims from time to time. The figures show that expenditure per pupil has increased by one half over and above price rises. Any talk of cuts is simply nonsense. The effects of that expenditure can be seen in the improved performance in our schools.

Dr. Reid

Will the Minister make similar comparisons of the expenditure per pupil in primary schools in 1978–79 and now on party political propaganda, such as that used to support the school boards and now to promote national testing? Nothing was squandered from the education budget on such propaganda 10 or II years ago, but now hundreds of thousands of pounds are spent ramming down the throats of pupils and parents in Scotland propaganda to support a system for which they have no sympathy—national testing. Would not it better to spend that money on much-needed learning support so that pupils benefit, rather than the Conservative party?

Mr. Forsyth

We have already made a commitment to find a way of channelling further resources into learning support. The hon. Gentleman mentioned school boards and party political propaganda. Strathclyde region spent more to promote school boards than the Government campaign overall. This aspect ceased to be a matter of difference between the parties only when the Labour party changed its position on school boards.

The Opposition should get their act together. Only a few months ago they criticised the Government for not having provided enough information to parents about national testing. We did not embark on our programme of leaflets and advertising until we had been requested by parents, organisations and the Opposition to do so.