HC Deb 05 March 1997 vol 291 cc899-901
13. 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. [17325]

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson

Current expenditure per secondary pupil in 1994–95 was £2,874. That is 37 per cent. higher in real terms than in 1979.

Sir David Knox

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that that impressive increase in expenditure per secondary school pupil in Scotland has been reflected in improvements in the quality of education provided to them?

Mr. Robertson

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are putting more money in and our standards are rising. As we made clear in our White Paper "Raising the Standard", which we published a month ago, in the next Parliament we will continue that work.

Mr. Salmond

Did not the Education Minister effectively instigate the teachers' strike in Glasgow today through a financial settlement which aims a dagger at the heart of Scottish education? The Minister spent £250,000 on a study that basically told us that expenditure on secondary education in Scotland is higher because the provision is higher. Is it Tory policy to reduce provision in Scotland to the level that pertains south of the border? If so, the chances of the Education Minister getting his old job back in teaching after the election will be extremely limited.

Mr. Robertson

Every teacher marching in Glasgow will want to know what Glasgow city council has been doing with the additional £3.5 million, compared with last year, for education that it has received for next year. They will want to know why that city council is saying that it must cut front-line education services while it has managed to find money to send councillors to a symposium on cultural policies at St. Petersburg, an international rose trials exhibition at Rome, a meeting of the International Badminton Federation in Hong Kong; and to Rostov's city days event at Rostov-on-Don. That is what Glasgow teachers should be asking of Glasgow city council.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend share my astonishment that, given a substantial increase in real expenditure per pupil, nationalist councillors are saying that services in schools will have to be cut and certain subjects, such as music, will be charged for excessively—despite the fact that expenditure has increased?

Mr. Robertson

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. His local authority has received almost £2 million more than last year to spend on education next year. The Scottish National party-controlled council in the constituency of the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) will have £250,000 more to spend next year in comparison with last year. Teachers, parents and pupils should ask those councils what they are doing with that extra money.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce

In the light of the comments that the Minister and his colleagues have made about narrowing the gap between expenditure per head in England and in Scotland, and given that the secondary school pupil-teacher ratio is 16 in England compared with 12 in Scotland, what would that ratio be if he and his colleagues were in power for a further five years? When can I tell my constituents that they will get a new academy at Garioch, Oldmeldrum—for which a site has been acquired, but for which capital consent is inadequate—given that the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch), can get a school at Laurencekirk and the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) can get a new school at Banff? The current settlement is already inadequate, so how can it possibly be cut further?

Mr. Robertson

The hon. Gentleman talks about teacher-pupil ratios, but he seems to forget that, during the lifetime of these four Conservative Governments, pupil-teacher ratios at primary and secondary schools have consistently fallen. I assure him that, during the lifetime of the next four Conservative Governments, they will continue to fall.