HC Deb 26 April 1995 vol 258 cc849-51
12. Sir David 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 figure in 1978–79, at constant prices. [19580]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Current expenditure per secondary pupil in 1992–93 was £2,914. That is 46 per cent. higher in real terms than in 1979. Detailed figures showing budgeted running costs per pupil by school for 1994–95 were published last December and a copy has been placed in the Library.

Sir David Knox

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that that impressive increase in expenditure on education has been reflected in an improvement in the quality of secondary education in Scotland?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Yes, I believe so. One substantial improvement has been in pupil-teacher ratios in Scotland. In secondary schools in 1979, there was one teacher for every 14.4 pupils. In 1993–94, there was one teacher for every 12.8 pupils. We have been moving in the right direction which benefits Scotland's children and our future.

Dr. Moonie

Would the Minister like to congratulate the Scottish electorate on ensuring that the high standards of education continue by failing to elect a single Tory council?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman should not crow too soon over his victory. We want our education system in Scotland to be second to none. Expenditure is being increased by 1.72 per cent. in the local government settlement for this year. We believe that, although this has been a tight round, sufficient funds should be made readily available for those at the sharp end of education.

Mr. Beggs

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the valuable links and exchange visits which have been developed between Northern Ireland schools and Scottish schools, no doubt acknowledging the equal excellence of education provision in Northern Ireland? Will he continue to encourage the development of these valuable links between schools, recognising that the expenditure incurred represents good value for money?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

We are very much in favour of education exchanges. It is one of the great strengths of Scottish education that Scottish educationists have gone not just to Northern Ireland but to many countries throughout the world. That is a theme that we wish to continue and strengthen.

Mrs. Fyfe

Can the Under-Secretary explain why the share of gross domestic product devoted to education has fallen from 6.2 per cent., when the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) was Prime Minister, to 4.7 per cent. today? How can he justify the way in which that contrasts with the never-ceasing rise in spending on the assisted places scheme? More than £10 million of public money was spent on the scheme in 1993 alone, of which 96 per cent. went on paying school fees, with an average cost of more than £3,000 per pupil. All this has happened when Lothian has had to cut its spending per pupil from £63 to £59.50. Why is Highland region having to consider halving the level of support staff in schools? Why is Orkney having to cut the number of teachers—

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady appears to be making a statement rather than asking a direct question. She has raised many questions and they are coming out as a statement.

Mrs. Fyfe

I beg your pardon, Madam Speaker. Why is it a case of £10 million for just 55 schools, but tight financial settlements for the hundreds of local authority schools? Will the hon. Gentleman explain to the House today in clear terms why he supports such gross inequalities and giving such favourable treatment to the few?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I shall answer as many of the hon. Lady's questions as possible. We have had a greatly expanding economy and a falling pupil roll. Expenditure per pupil has increased by almost half in real terms since 1979. That must have a bearing on the achievements and performance of schools. I mentioned that Government-supported expenditure this year has increased by 1.72 per cent. Provided that pay increases are fully funded by efficiency savings, as is being done in the rest of the public sector, there should be no need for any cuts in front-line services, such as education.

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