HC Deb 25 June 1991 vol 193 cc850-1
7. Mr. Speller

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is his estimate of literacy and numeracy levels at 16 years of age (a) nationally and (b) in the south-west; and what were the comparable rates 30, 20 and 10 years ago.

Mr. Eggar

Information is not available in the form or over the period requested. However, GCSE results in English and mathematics indicate a welcome improvement in pupil performance since the examination was introduced in 1988.

Mr. Speller

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is disappointing that we do not have the figures to work on? What is he doing to improve standards of literacy and numeracy, which are perceived by the general public to be lower rather than higher as the years go by?

Mr. Eggar

I understand my hon. Friend's point, which is why we introduced the national curriculum and insist on rigorous external tests for those aged seven, 11, 14 and 16. That is why my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State announced that he was looking into how the teaching of reading is taught to teachers on training courses. That, and a number of other measures are designed to improve standards of numeracy and literacy, and the way reading, writing and arithmetic are taught in schools.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell

Does my hon. Friend accept that, although the statistics are not readily available at present, his recent decision to oblige schools to publish, in common form, their public examination results will produce that information, which will be widely welcomed by parents, many teachers and many schools?

Mr. Eggar

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend and congratulate him on his ten-minute Bill, which added a spur to our efforts to ensure that the measures I announced a few days ago would be introduced.