HL Deb 20 February 1991 vol 526 cc622-46

8.10 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what provision is being made for school libraries and the school library service in the light of the need for proper resources for the national curriculum.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, most people, whether or not involved in education, would agree that a properly stocked library is central to the success of a school. By "properly stocked" I mean not only the number of books and other resources but their quality and relevance to the stage of development of the pupils. Therefore, it is understandable that there is widespread anxiety about the deterioration in the standard of school libraries. It is a worry exacerbated by the requirements of the national curriculum and the introduction of the local management of schools.

The two most recent HMI reports on secondary school libraries show the position in 1984–85 and in 1988–89. Those reports, the contents of which the Minister will be well aware, show a disturbing position. It is so disturbing that the Labour Party undertook a survey of 14 local education authorities, 12 of which were the subject of investigation in the HMI reports. In addition, it sought up to date information from half a dozen professional organisations concerned with school libraries.

In the light of the HMI reports alone, one would have thought that the Government would have followed them up. Perhaps they are reluctant to do so for the obvious reason that it would draw attention to what can only be described as an alarming situation. If the Government have responded to the HMI reports it should be published for everyone to see. Only in that way can constructive criticism be made. The least that can be done is for the Minister to deal with the reports tonight in his reply to the debate.

It is proper that there should be frequent reference to the HMI reports because the inspectors are the nearest agency to the Government. But concern and criticism comes from many organisations, not least from parents' associations. Most noble Lords can produce anecdotal evidence. As a former education officer for my local area, I keep in touch with schools, governors, teachers, parents and the local education authority. The problems in school libraries are frequently raised. I am sure that the DES receives its share of complaints and, therefore, I hope that we shall not hear any complacency when the Minister replies. However, more than anecdotal evidence is required. From discussions that I have had with colleagues in this House and in another place there is no doubt that their experience is similar to mine.

I turn therefore to the Library Association and the School Library Association. Their substantial evidence supports all the anxiety being expressed by other bodies. I am sure that the Minister is aware of their comments—I have them here in a hefty file—and I hope that he will refer to them later. There are two basic requirements for a good school library; money and expertise. No doubt the Minister will tell the House that the local management of schools will deal adequately with the financial aspect. In reply to that I say, as I have said many times in this House, that it depends on how much money is available to the school.

Already we are hearing disturbing stories from all over the country that some schools cannot meet all their requirements with the finance available to them. School libraries and other important aspects of a school's work will inevitably suffer; indeed, they are already suffering. The local management of schools brings pressure to meet revenue commitments, not least because of teaching staff costs which represent a substantial proportion of school budgets. Therefore, it is inevitable that areas of expenditure such as book purchasing, which can easily be cut or delayed, will be affected. I am sure that there will be a significant increase in the number of jumble sales to raise funds for school libraries.

Financial difficulty is also being caused by the problems facing the services that are provided for schools by the local education authority school libraries and information services. No fewer than 20 library authorities are being charge-capped in the current financial year. Even where charge-capping is not taking place cuts are having to be made. In the current financial year, 1990–91, 26 authorities are making cuts in their library services. Thirty-three authorities believe that cuts will need to be made in 1991–92. If the Minister can tell your Lordships tonight that those reductions will not affect the services to schools I shall be glad to have that on the record.

I cannot let the reference to the local education authority library service to schools pass without saying how important and valuable it is. It is manifestly impossible for all or even most school libraries to carry the full range of books and resources. In such circumstances the local authority contribution can be crucial. The importance of the LEA school library services is so great that I find it difficult to believe that the Secretary of State is proposing that they should be delegated to schools.

A few moments ago I said that it was impossible for many schools to carry the full range of books and resources. That is so blindingly obvious that I ask the Minister to deny that the Secretary of State has issued a draft circular proposing such delegation. If he has, I hope that he will withdraw it. The opposition that he will receive from the schools should leave him in no doubt that not only is it an unwise suggestion but that it is a ludicrous proposal.

Those services are provided by professional librarians and that speaks for itself. That brings me to ask the Minister another question—I am sure that he has noticed that I have many questions to ask him tonight. Does he have information on whether any schools have found or will find it necessary to dispense will full-time librarians? I am aware that full-time qualified librarians are usually employed only in larger schools, but professional librarians in such schools make a vital contribution to the service. Their absence simply lessens the value of the library to a considerable extent. We should consider an increase, not a reduction, in full-time librarians for schools. In practical terms, a professional librarian could serve more than one school.

All my remarks tonight are made against a background which did not exist two or three years ago. There is now the national curriculum and initiatives such as TVEI, CPVE and, of course, GCSE. All those encourage—and this is extremely important —student-centred, resource-based learning as opposed to teacher-oriented, classroom-based teaching. That emphasis requires the provision of adequate learning resources ranging from the traditional printed material to audio-visual and electronic media.

If the Government believe—and presumably they do—that that is the way to proceed, then more and not fewer resources are necessary for our children. It is reasonable to assume that when the Government introduced such a massive change as the national curriculum they were aware of the additional cost involved and that schools and LEAs would need to be provided with the additional resources required. So far it appears that they believe that a shuffling of money under the guise of LMS will meet the needs brought about by the innovation.

In May 1989 Her Majesty's inspectors issued a survey called Better Libraries: Good Practice in Schools. Among other references to the national curriculum it stated: The objectives of the national curriculum will be best supported in those schools which have a broad, balanced and up-to-date provision of library books and resource materials". With due respect to HMIs, that is a statement of the obvious. However, that is what was said and therefore I put it on record. I assume that that authority means something to the Government.

I have refrained from quoting numerous statistics although I have many of them. Perhaps I may look at one very important statistic—the cost of and allowances for books. The Library Association and Book Trust recommend a minimum of £8.53 per pupil per year. In 1985.FIMIs recommended that secondary school; should have a library containing 10 books per pupil and that 10 per cent. of the stock should be replaced each year. On the basis of my experience, I believe that most LEAs find those targets very difficult to achieve.

However, what is actually being spent is frightening. The 1989 HMI report stated that the average expenditure from six LEAs, chosen because of varying conditions, was £2.04 per head. A recent Labour Party investigation found these figures: for Knowsley, an average of 65p per pupil per year; for Warwickshire, just under £1; for Shropshire, £1.45; and for Dorset, £2.75. Those figures speak for themselves.

However, there is now an additional complicating factor caused by the Government's incompetence in dealing with the economy. Of course, I refer to inflation. In his 1988–89 annual report the Senior Chief Inspector of Schools said: There are some indications that the shortcomings in the availability of books are now being influenced by the inflation in book prices outstripping rises in capitation allowances". As one who buys a fair number of books, I can testify to the large price increases which have taken place over the past two years.

If the Government accept the view of the inspectors —and I do not see how that can be refuted—I ask the Minister specifically whether this matter is being monitored in view of the fact that the Government are supporting expenditure on books for the national curriculum through the education support grant programme. Can the Minster say what assessment has been made of the additional costs for books in order to introduce the system? Those matters are of fundamental importance to the proper education of our children.

I concede readily that when all local education authorities and schools are looked at there is considerable variation as regards this type of expenditure. However, the purpose in raising this subject today is to draw attention to the highly unsatisfactory position in many schools and areas. I urge the Government to do something about that as a matter of urgency. The fact that the 1989 HMI report said that it found "encouraging signs of improvement" on the position contained in its 1985 report should give no cause for complacency, though we can all be pleased about the improvements which are mentioned. There is a great deal to be done, particularly because of what has been said about the working of LMS, the national curriculum and the other matters to which I have already referred.

I have not mentioned one aspect which some noble Lords may not regard as having the same importance as others. I believe that the room designated as a library should be attractive; a room to which pupils are eager to go. That helps to stimulate a love of learning. One of the joys of life for some of us—and I assume many in your Lordships' House—is browsing in libraries and bookshops. That ensures that learning is a never-ending process. I know that improving a library in a school means more capital costs but that should not deter us from aiming high.

I shall not pretend that I know much about the position in Scotland and Wales but since I tabled my Question, colleagues from those countries have expressed their disquiet to me. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, told me that had she not had another engagement this evening she would have taken part in the debate. She is honorary president of the Scottish Library Association and would have undoubtedly made a valuable contribution to our discussions.

From the information I have it is clear that the same problems exist in Scotland. The recent curricular developments have created significant demand for material and for professional staff to organise and exploit that material. In 1985 both the Library and Information Services Council for Scotland and the Scottish Library Association produced reports on the school library service which clearly stated the need for planned developments so that curricula changes could be adequately resourced. It is worrying that the Scottish education department has not taken into account any of its recommendations.

It is not surprising to learn, regrettably, that in Scotland there is the same anxiety about the school library service. The Secretary of State for Scotland should consider that matter. If that matter is being looked at, I should like more details. Perhaps the Minister can give that due consideration.

I turn briefly to Wales because it is obvious that the same problems exist there. They are contained in the recently published report prepared by the Library and Information Services Council for Wales which is the advisory body for the Secretary of State. Among the disturbing features and statistics is the fact that the annual average spending on books is £1 per pupil per year. Perhaps I had better leave such matters to be raised on another occasion by noble Lords from the Principality.

I have dealt with the situation in Scotland and Wales because it is of considerable significance that the same problems exist in all three countries. One point which arises from the references to Scotland and Wales is that there does not appear to be much co-ordination between the three Secretaries of State. In view of the momentous changes taking place in education there is surely a great need for co-operation to ensure that the same standards apply —and not only in the provision of good school libraries.

I conclude by again referring to the HMI report which states: Although advances have been made there are still many pupils who are paying the price of past neglect. It is still true to say, as in the 1985 HMI report, that the investment of money, staff and time in some libraries is so low that without changes of policy, perception and levels of provision it will be difficult for these pupils to receive their full library and information skills entitlement". That shows concern enough, but those words were written before the full implications of LMS and the national curriculum were known. Indeed, they are hardly yet fully realised some two years after the report was written. There is a great need for an up-to-date survey of the situation. Present day statistics and attitudes urgently need up-dating.

Schools, their staffs, the librarians and parents are eager to improve what is for many pupils nothing less than a critical situation. The onus for that improvement lies fairly and squarely on the Government.

8.31 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, for raising this subject. It is surely one that strikes at the very heart of the education system. When we are dealing with written knowledge we need books to study that knowledge. It is worth noting that it is not just books that are now stored in libraries. Such things as audio visual materials generally fall under the heading of library activities and play an increasing part in our day-to-day lives. They should be fully utilised in the many forms of educational activity that exist today.

The noble Lord did a great deal of the spadework in the debate by indicating the statistics behind the fact that insufficient money is being spent in the libraries of our schools and colleges. A great problem arises from the fact that we are vastly expanding the number of books—textbooks and general information books—required in schools due to the national curriculum. The national curriculum was aimed at helping more students to study more subjects to examination level, and one hopes that it is achieving that goal. That means that every pupil will need more textbooks and back-up books containing general information.

It is worth remembering that those are two very different demands placed on the library sections in schools. One is to provide the hard factual knowledge for the national curriculum and GCSE examination. Pupils will no longer be spoon-fed that information. Thankfully the days when a teacher overcame the problem of having insufficient books by dictating to the class are disappearing. That was one of the most appalling educational practices.

The noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, reminded me that I should refer to the subject of dyslexia. For anyone with reading or writing difficulties dictation was probably the worst of all teaching methods, for one simple reason. One wrote badly—and not everything—into a textbook or onto a piece of paper and could not read it back afterwards. It was a total waste of time. I would also point out that when a teacher was attempting to deliver information he often delivered it in a steady pattern. In my case that generally meant that I fell asleep after about 25 minutes. That happened also when I was at university and I blame my low attendance at lectures on that.

To take further the point that books should encourage interest in the acquisition of knowledge, that means that we must have up-to-date textbooks dealing with subjects in an up-to-date manner. They must be written in a manner to which students can relate. If one examines textbooks, one sees that over the past few years the style has changed very rapidly. The way in which textbooks are written has changed dramatically; they are no longer as dry or as stale as they were. That fact, and the fact that syllabuses have been changed mean that schools are under pressure to change textbooks. That is another reason for paying attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, said—that we are spending insufficient amounts on books. We are on a treadmill. Standards are improving and we shall need more books, perhaps not in greater numbers but they will need to be replaced faster.

The greater emphasis on technology and science in the national curriculum means that we need more textbooks on subjects that are rapidly advancing. For instance, basic introductory facts now were often examination subjects a few years ago. I remember, more years ago than I care to admit, finding that new areas in biology had opened up during the previous five years because an electronic microscope had been brought in. The study of cells meant that we no longer had simply a nucleus and some mush around the outside but one had a number of different components within that jelly because one could actually see them. There are many more examples in the electronic and technology fields. They are fast expanding and schools are under increasing pressure to keep people up to date with these subjects.

Those people with special educational needs—to refer back to one of my earlier points—need a great variety of books that are specifically written for them. They must hold the person's interest and the person must be able to understand them. Fortunately there has been a move towards people providing what are called easy reader books. They are simplified versions of books such as the literary classics of the 19th century which can be read by a 12 year-old without his necessarily being able to ascertain the plot. Bringing those books up to date places another strain on the library system. With those types of books being introduced and with more people appreciating that that type of stimulus is needed for education, the pressure also increases. As we understand more about certain subjects and learning difficulties, libraries are placed under increasing strain.

I do not wish to say much more at this point, as the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, said everything so well. However, if we are to encourage people to educate themselves and stop teachers spoon-feeding knowledge into pupils, we must make that knowledge available in a form which the pupils can acquire by themselves once they have been shown where to find it. That means that libraries have an important role to play; it is an increasing and expanding role. Libraries suggest that if no professional librarian is available, any teacher who finds himself having to look after a library should be trained in how to do so.

8.38 p.m.

Baroness David

My Lords, for all who enjoy reading and want our children to enjoy reading and to learn how to use books and other learning materials, this is an important debate. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Dormand asked this Question in regard to school libraries and the school library service.

I do not know whether it is necessary for me to declare an interest; it is certainly not a financial one. I am chairman of the National Book Committee, which has among its members representatives of all groups interested in books. They include authors, agents and publishers. I am glad that the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, is to speak this evening; he is a publisher representative on that committee. The members also include book sellers, both antiquarian and ordinary, librarians and the Book Trust, which is the successor of the National Book League, which represents the general reader.

I am also a vice-president of the Library Association. What the National Book Committee does is promote the book. For instance, it put up a very good fight against VAT on books, and that was a battle which was won. The committee regularly produces surveys of school book, university and polytechnic and public library spending. It publicises these, sending them to local authorities, both officials and chairmen of committees, and to very many MPs and Peers who are involved in the world of education and the arts.

The figures produced in these surveys over the past 10 years have not been encouraging. One has to make the caveat that some local authorities are very much better than others. Inevitably, the figures that I have are a little out-of-date because our surveys come out a year or two late. I shall quote very few because statistics are boring. My noble friend has quoted some. It is important to get the picture. Book spending per pupil for all books, text and library, in 1987–88 for primary schools was £9.06 and in 1988–89 it was £8.93. That is a reduction in real terms of 7 per cent. or so. Of that sum the estimated expenditure on library books was £1.56 for primary schools and £2.49 for secondary schools, whereas the national standard recommended as not good but reasonable was £4.64 for primary schools and £7.56 for secondary schools.

Therefore, one sees how far below the recommended standard expenditure already is. Expenditure on the school library service for all costs and not just books also went down by about 7 per cent. in a year. It was just over £3. That amount of money hardly buys a paperback. It is no wonder that the report of the HMI on libraries for 1988–89 found that 70 per cent. of the stock was obsolete. A survey carried out recently by Mark Fisher and Derek Fatchett for the Labour Party into school libraries revealed numbers of out-of-date and quite astonishing books. From that survey they culled these gems: Pygmies are fierce little creatures, but all are loyal subjects of King George V". That was taken from a history book of 1930. Another example is: If man lands on the moon, he will need radio communication". That was from Science Today of 1954. Spending on books for school libraries fell from almost one-third of schoolbook expenditure to one-sixth over the past 10 years. That explains how the stock has become increasingly out-of-date. Therefore, the injection of more books from the school library service becomes more rather than less important.

The weeding out of old stock is very good practice, but it can reveal the paucity of provision. One school was left with just four shelves of books. But now we have LMS. In this debate we are facing today exactly what we faced last Wednesday when we debated the teaching of instrumental music and the future of theatre in education. What used to be provided and overseen by the local authority will be provided or not at the whim of the governing body. The overall view which could ensure some fairness for all pupils in an area will be gone. The school library service may well be at risk when the governing body decides what it will or will not buy in.

Much will depend on local authority management and how it organises its services. Some have the library and education services separate; others amalgamate them under one committee. Where there is integration the service can be very good, as in Hertfordshire; but I hear that Oxfordshire is cutting its expenditure on the school library service by 25 per cent. in 1991–92 and by a further 25 per cent. in 1992–93. There is a crisis situation in many areas, whether because of the poll tax, charge capping or whatever.

The DES Circular 7/88 on LMS advised that the Secretary of State will allow the school library service to be a discretionary item. That means that it will not have to delegate expenditure on the school library service provided that the costs can be held, along with other discretionary items, to within 10 per cent. of the general schools' budget. At the present time most LEAs are likely to have retained central management. I should like to know whether, when he comes to reply, the Minister has any information on this matter. But by April 1993 LEAs will be able to hold back only 7 per cent. At this point it is all too probable that it will be left to the school to decide whether or not to buy in the school library service.

Non-statutory advice from the DES states that the DES would not expect a school to have to commit itself for a period of more than three years to continue what remains of the school library service. Are Ministers really happy that the school library service is likely to be broken up by LMS? The HMI survey to which my noble friend referred; namely, Better Libraries; Good Practice in Schools states: A good Schools Library Service offers invaluable advice and support for those within schools concerned with libraries. The wide range of professional help which many School Library Services provide includes lending up-to-date reading matter of quality, reviewing stock items in terms of suitability … ". I hope that the Minister will respond to my question as to what the DES intends to do.

The amount of the school library service budget when delegated to individual schools will in any case be small in terms of book purchasing power when compared to the benefits reaped from retaining a centralised service. One LEA, which is not a big one, quotes its situation where each school has potential access by exchange to over 60,000 volumes and 7,000 audio-visual items. That is the situation at the moment. What will happen in two or three years' time?

As my noble friend said, all that is particularly important with the introduction of the national curriculum and of the GCSE, too. They will make very much greater demands on library resources of all kinds. Children have to learn to learn. The Cox Report, making recommendations on the English curriculum, says: Schools must provide a dynamic reading environment which requires a wide-ranging collection of material available at all times". The report also stresses the need for information-handling skills to be learned at primary age. For that a trained and competent librarian is necessary. School library services for the schools they serve are not an extra provision—the icing on the cake for an already ample book stock. For many schools, and small primary schools in particular, they provide the essential books for topic-based work. The basis of a book stock presents reading as an attractive adventure for children. School library services provide not only the most up-to-date stock but also the expertise of a professional librarian staff who advise and support teachers both in choosing stock wisely and in running libraries. In most cases teachers have no professional training for that task. The schools which have chartered librarians on their staff are all too few. I am told that Scotland does very much better in that respect than England and Wales.

I return to the primary schools. I had a letter from Mrs. Shirley Singleton, a parent of two children at Thorneyholme Roman Catholic School, Dunsop Bridge, Clitheroe. She is also a governor of another small school. She had somehow heard of this debate. She wrote to express her concern about the possible changes to the school library services. She fears the detrimental effect on the school which is 12 miles from the nearest public library. That means that it is not at all easy for children to visit it. I have no doubt that there are many other anxious parents who care about their children's reading and the opportunities that may be lost.

We have the Secretary of State moaning about reading standards. Does he really think that if there are not enough books and books of the right kind, whether in the classroom, in the school library or provided by the school library service, children will be encouraged to read and to get to understand that it is a satisfactory and satisfying way of spending one's time?

I hope this debate will have alerted the department to the seriousness of the situation now and how it could deteriorate further, if, as we fear, LMS will mean a real reduction of the school library service and of the experienced librarians who run it—particularly in the light of the increased needs arising from the introduction of the national curriculum. I am glad that the Select Committee on Education, Science and the Arts in another place is about to undertake a quick study of reading standards in schools and is likely to consider the role of the public and school libraries in reading standards.

Finally I have some questions for the Minister. First, is the department paying attention to the very great anxieties in the schools among parents and LEAs? Secondly, has the department plans for monitoring the effect of devolving funds to the schools and governing bodies, the effect on the school libraries and on the school library service?

8.51 p.m.

The Earl of Stockton

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, for the opportunity he has afforded the House to discuss the provision of books in school libraries throughout the country. I must of course declare an interest. My family has been in the publishing business for five generations, two more than our interest in politics. Over the past 145 years the libraries of Britain, and especially the school libraries in the world, have been among our most valued and, I am happy to say, consistent customers. Furthermore, I have the honour to be an honorary vice-president of the Library Association in addition to belonging to the august bodies that the noble Baroness, Lady David, mentioned. As a vice-president of the Library Association, I must endorse the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, about resources as set out in the recently produced Library Association report.

School librarians and library committees would love to buy more books. Two things are stopping them; provision for library purchases and, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, the price of books. There are many among your Lordships who would say that the price of books is too high, and broadly I would say that I agree with that. The publishing industry in this country suffers from overproduction. There are just too many titles being published each year, and increasingly, in both the retail and library markets, books are facing competition from items which did not even exist 30 years ago. In the retail book trade the book pound is the leisure pound. We compete with videos, holidays, evenings out, theatres, cinema and beer. In the institutional market we compete with databases, journals, magazines, compact discs, and electronic systems of all kinds, not least the very systems by which librarians and libraries run their affairs.

In real terms the price of books has not gone up more than the competition. Indeed, in most cases it has gone up less. In 1951 the hardback price of a serious biography, or a literary novel, was 15 shillings and sixpence. For the same sum one could buy two tickets in the stalls of a West End theatre or dinner for two at a respectable restaurant. The equivalent book is now £14.99, whereas two stalls tickets will cost more than £30 and a comparable dinner about £40.

No, the price of books in this country is still too high compared to our European partners or even the United States; and it is too high for one reason above all others. This is the discounts and terms demanded and received by the retail trade in this country and especially the major chains, and in particular W.H. Smith. As a firm we operate in the major markets of the world and have academic, educational, hardback trade and mass-market paperback operations in this country, the United States and another 24 countries around the world.

The range of margins from publishers to the book trade in America is from 41 per cent. discount for the smallest bookseller to 45 per cent. discount for the large multiples such as Baker and Taylor. In Britain the small country bookshop can get as little as 39 per cent. discount, but W.H. Smith and some of the other large multiples ask and get a 51 per cent. discount. In the United States terms of settlement vary, but never for more than 60 days. In Britain W.H. Smith has unilaterally imposed terms of 90 days on its suppliers.

One asks how this can be. It is very simple. W.H. Smith controls through itself and its associate companies—they include Waterstone's, Sherratt and Hughes and a number of others—between 35 and 37 per cent. of most trade publishers' UK business. In the case of my own firm, we are 0.7 per cent. of theirs. The result is that the price of books in Britain, including children's books, reference books, classics, and novels, even allowing for larger American print runs, is between 15 and 20 per cent. higher than in the United States. If prices were comparable the erosion of book library provision would have been fully matched.

I shall not detain the House at this late hour with detailed figures of the German and French markets, but experience has shown that the price of books in those markets is of the same order of relative cheapness. It is thus that the prices are higher, not only for the customers in the shops but also for the libraries which in general purchase through library suppliers or through educational buying institutions. We are not referring to text books, which are priced entirely differently.

This brings me to my final point. The library supplier packages the book for the library. He puts on it a plastic case to improve the book's longevity; he marks the book with the cataloguing system of the relevant authority; he affixes the holder for the card and marks the card with the appropriate coding or in some cases the sticker with the appropriate machine-readable code. This is a painstaking and fiddly business, but it is made infinitely more complex by the fact that almost none of the 40 or more library authorities uses the same system, or the same sized card, in the same place on the same bit of the book. There is a sort of scarcely controlled anarchy in the specifications that library authorities insist upon. No doubt there are good historical reasons why so many systems, grew up and no doubt the librarians each consider that their own authority's system is sans pared. Can noble Lords imagine just how much this plethora of different ideas adds to the cost of preparing books both for county and school libraries? In many cases the school libraries in a given area have a different specification from the public libraries in the same area.

This debate does not touch on the provision of textbooks for schools—that is another and even broader question—but if the objectives of the national curriculum are to be met then school libraries must be furnished with a wider range of books. Of course I hope that my noble kinsman the Minister will undertake to present to the Secretary of State in another place the concerns which have been expressed in the debate. If the price of books were less, that would make such additional provision as I hope the Government will make go so much further: and the solution to that lies in the major part in the hands of the retail and wholesale trade of the British book business.

8.58 p.m.

Viscount Eccles

My Lords, I shall keep the House for only a few moments. I cannot add to the commercial information which my noble friend, with his great interest in the selling of books, has given. Listening to what goes on in the book trade made me think that competition is not at all a bad thing.

When I first went to the Ministry of Education in 1954 the state of school libraries was distressing. I invented the list showing the amount or money spent per pupil on books every year. The lowest amount was a shilling or two and the highest was about 20 times that figure. There was a huge spread. The National Book League and others have done a great deal to try to remedy the position. I want to look at this issue from the point of view of the pupil. The pupil wants to have the information necessary for the courses which he or she is taking. As my noble friend has just said, the methods by which one can get information today have greatly increased in number. Books are not the only method. In regard to school libraries, the Secretary of State must now take into consideration all the methods by which information can be given, and, resources being limited, they must be carefully distributed.

When I first came into the business of looking after the maintained schools, nothing struck me with greater force than the appalling number—perhaps 80 to 85 per cent.—of children passing through those schools who, on leaving, had no more education. That was wrong and it was wrong for many reasons. It is wrong nowadays because knowledge is being accumulated so quickly. I considered whether I could use the provision of books in schools to promote a continuing interest in knowledge for those boys and girls who had given up education. The answer was to persuade the local authority public libraries to have a children's department and to encourage the teachers to send the children to the public library. There they could become accustomed to using it and then they might go on using it after they had left school. Very few authorities took up that idea but a few did and it was very successful. If it was worth doing 36 years ago it is worth doing now.

It is now much more obvious that education goes on throughout life. The habit of consulting the means of acquiring knowledge ought to be ingrained in boys and girls and they ought to go on doing it. This cannot be done very easily in rural areas but it can be done in towns. It would be a great mistake if the ordinary public library service was not built up at the same time as we do more for the libraries in schools.

Anyone who is concerned with a major educational reform—I was Minister off and on for eight years so I had some chance —knows that one cannot see the fruit of one's labours. One cannot make a big reform in education and get the results in a period of less than 10 to 15 years. Here we are at the beginning of an enormous reform. It is quite likely that certain parts of the machinery required to put the national curriculum into effect are neglected compared with others. If the libraries were neglected compared with other areas I would be the strongest supporter of the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, and those who, like him, think that more resources should be devoted to them. However, an extraordinarily expensive and long-term effort is required to bring a big change into the schools in this country.

9.3 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am sure that we can all agree on one point in this debate: books are the most vital ingredient in any child's or young person's capacity to learn. Without a really good supply of informative, interesting and well-written books, a young inquiring mind will be starved and the huge potential of every child to learn—every child has a huge potential to learn—will be wasted.

The habit of reading is best acquired early in life. Those who fail to make it a habit in childhood are unlikely to do so later. Good books which are appropriate to the level of maturity a child has reached should be easily accessible to all our children. This can happen only if their schools have good libraries. I regret to say that many children come from homes where there are few books and where the public library is considered to be an alien place.

I was delighted that the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, and the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, decided to speak in the debate. I was somewhat disappointed to see the paucity of speakers from the Government Benches on this important subject. It made me wonder whether they agreed that it was important. The noble Earl, the noble Viscount and other speakers have drawn attention to the importance of libraries and to the inadequate nature of many of our school libraries at present. They have signalled concern that the problem could get worse. It certainly could get worse as a result of the introduction of local financial management in our schools. I hope that when the noble Lord replies for the Government he will be able to give some indication of the safeguards that the Government will introduce to ensure that the school library service is preserved and that schools budget adequately for their own libraries.

The disparities between schools are already far too great. It would be most unsatisfactory if as a result of local financial management they became worse. I was interested in what the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, with all his experience of the education system, had to say about the existence of these disparities over a very long period of time. We might have hoped that they would have been lessened and that the gap between the best schools and the worst would now be less than it was in the 1950s. That clearly is not so. What I am particularly worried about is that the disparities will become worse still.

We shall be very disappointed if all we hear from the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, is a defensive account of why things are really not all that bad. We know that they are just not good enough. The new national curriculum requires new resources in the form of new library provision, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, has said. The subject working parties of the national curriculum have without exception stressed this point. It is regrettable that at present it is hard to see from where these resources will come.

New approaches to teaching at the secondary stage nearly all emphasise what in education jargon is described as resource-based learning with a student centred approach. Gone are the days when a teacher stood at the front of the class with a piece of chalk, a blackboard and possibly a single textbook. It is now recognised that project-based teaching, where pupils are required to go off on their own and research subjects themselves, produces much better results. It encourages initiative, it rewards imagination and creativity, as well as the assiduous searching out of information, and promotes care in presenting the findings of the research. The TVEI, GCSE and the CPV, as well as the national curriculum, encourage these approaches to teaching and learning. But if they are to be effective, the source material and good advice on how to use it must be made available. Above all, young people must acquire information gathering and information handling skills, and the skills will be of great benefit to them after they have left school, whatever they go on to do. Of course teachers can play their part in developing these skills, but the specialist expertise of professional librarians is also needed, backed up with high quality school libraries.

That makes the case for a well stocked and well equipped library in suitable accommodation, with a professional librarian, to be in every secondary school. Most primary schools will not be able to employ a professional librarian, but they too should have a good library which encourages children to go into it, to select books for themselves and to read outside the set times for doing so.

In both primary and secondary schools their libraries need to be supplemented by the school library service, organised centrally by the local education authority. That is especially important for small schools and rural schools where access to the public library is difficult. The very latest HMI report that came out last week emphasises the reliance of primary schools on the school library service. It also notes that, while schools have quite sufficient reading schemes and textbooks, they are, less well provided with good quality fiction, poetry and reference books". At the secondary stage HMI's verdict was pretty damning. Most school libraries, are judged to be poorly stocked through a combination of past neglect, low funding and book price inflation". The inspectorate mentions that libraries are at least being used more than they were, but there is not much point in their being used a great deal more if they are totally inadequate. Perhaps the Minister would care to comment on this most recent judgment of the Government's own advisers.

HMI's latest comments serve only to reinforce the findings of the recent Labour Party survey, to which my noble friends have already referred, as well as reinforcing an earlier HMI report on school libraries, which has also been referred to in this debate. Let me give one or two examples which the Labour Party has recently discovered in regard to staffing. In Lincolnshire, which has 59 secondary schools, there is only one school librarian. In Dorset, with 44 secondary schools, there is again only one school librarian. In Kent, with as many as 138 secondary schools, there are three part-time librarians. My noble friend Lord Dormand asked whether any schools have dispensed with professional librarians. I am sure there must be a number of examples where that has happened with figures like that before us.

Let me give a few examples with respect to funding. My noble friend Lord Dormand has already given some examples of spending per pupil per annum and I shall not repeat them. However, most of the authorities he has quoted were spending less than £1.50 per head per annum. How can that possibly be adequate to provide the kind of library provision that we need in the modern age? My noble friend Lady David reinforced those findings with further figures. Against those miserable sums, the Library Association recommends that we spend a minimum of between £8 and £9 a year.

The HMI survey of school libraries found that a quartet of all secondary schools were spending less than £1 per pupil per annum. It also showed that over one-fifth of secondary schools had fewer than eight books per pupil in their libraries. Much of the stock was out of date and had not been properly weeded. It claimed that in some schools 70 per cent. of the stock was obsolete. As my noble friend Lady David has indicated, the Labour Party survey also found that many schools in the authorities it had investigated had out-of-date stock. She gave your Lordships one or two illustrations. I can give one or two more. A 1962 publication, still in use in one of our schools, claims that Britain imports all its oil. A 1923 volume on England and Wales tells our pupils: you may now stand in our office in London and speak to someone in Liverpool or even in New York, part of this last service being carried out by a wireless link". Well, I never!

My final example comes from a book published in 1958 which had in it a chapter on the "frizzy-haired cannibals" of New Guinea. These examples may give us some amusement, but we cannot be confident that we can deliver the national curriculum if children are surviving on books full of misleading and in some cases even offensive material like this.

Noble Lords have made clear that it is the view of HMI that 10 per cent. of books per pupil in secondary schools is the absolute minimum. All the evidence suggests that we are not achieving that minimum figure. Unless action is taken urgently there will be a crisis in school library provision brought about by past failures and by the latest developments in funding. Meanwhile, book prices are soaring.

I liked the comparison of the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, with theatre seats and a dinner for two in a restaurant. The problem is that many parents cannot afford either of those things. I was interested to hear his comparisons with the United States and Europe. I should like to add that since 1981 school book prices have increased by 59 per cent. above the retail prices index. As one local authority librarian recently stated in slightly Churchillian tones, never have school library services been so necessary and yet never have they been in so much danger.

A movement towards local management of schools will have two effects. First, it will leave inadequate funds for LEAs to provide a good school library service because of the 10 per cent. limit to which my noble friend Lady David referred. Secondly, many schools will have difficulty in providing the staff and stocks for their own libraries because of the squeeze on their budgets.

According to the Labour Party survey, over 90 per cent. of schools depend upon the school library service. It appears that most LEAs have retained central management of the school library service rather than delegating it elsewhere. Perhaps the Minister could indicate more precisely what the present position is.

The concern that is now being expressed in a number of quarters by the Library Association and local authority associations relates to what will happen after 1st April 1993 when LEAs will be faced with a further reduction in the proportion of the general school budget that is available for expenditure on discretionary items like the school library service. That reduction will bring the figure down from 10 per cent. to 7 per cent. In those circumstances there is a danger that the LEAs will delegate expenditure on the school library service to schools and that some schools will then decide that they cannot buy in services. That, in turn, will lead to its collapse.

In the light of HMI's strong praise of the school library service and its comments on the invaluable professional support that it provides to schools, perhaps the Minister could say what, if anything, the Government intend to do to ensure that it does not collapse. I repeat the question posed by my noble friend: can the Minister say whether LEAs will be advised to retain the service as a discretionary item or whether it might be earmarked by the DES to remain as such?

Turning to schools, the question is whether under LMS a good school library will be considered the essential high priority item of expenditure that it ought to be. Will it be considered as something that adds to the attractiveness of the school? It probably will be, but the question is whether schools will be able to afford to maintain good libraries. In the present resource climate of charge capping and limits on expenditure, I suspect that they will not.

According to the Educational Publishers Council, schools bought 2 million fewer books in 1989 than in previous years. Pity the poor head teacher trying to deliver the national curriculum and raise standards in reading and other areas with inadequate funding. At present the Government are providing some support for expenditure on books through the ESG programme. Perhaps the noble Lord can say whether the additional costs of books that are needed to support the national curriculum have been properly assessed and whether ESGs will be increased to cover the full costs associated with the introduction of the national curriculum.

According to the English national curriculum, attainment target 2, reading, requires that, Pupils should encounter an environment in which they are surrounded by books and other reading material presented in an attractive and inviting way". What arrangements are the Government making to ensure that HMI monitors progress of that requirement? As my noble friends have suggested, surely HMI should monitor the operation of school libraries on a regular basis, including monitoring the quality and range of their book stock.

The national curriculum provides us with a golden opportunity to turn our school libraries into a wonderful resource, supporting its programmes. It would be a substantial achievement if all of today's pupils were able in later years to look back on their school library as a treasure house which gave them a love of books for the rest of their lives. Sadly, it appears that we are very far from achieving high quality school libraries. Instead, we are letting children and young people down by failing to provide them with one of the most important tools of learning and understanding.

9.20 p.m.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, there can be no doubt that children need books. They need text books, reference books and books for general reading. Schools have the task of ensuring that their pupils have the books they need to support the delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum as the Education Reform Act requires.

Exactly how schools go about making that provision is a matter for local decision, not for central government. At the moment many schools make extensive use of the schools library service. They may well choose to continue to do so, or they may choose alternative approaches. That is up to them. The Government do not require LEAs and schools to adopt any one method of providing books for pupils.

The noble Lord, Lord Dormand, asks what provision is being made in the light of the need for proper resources for the national curriculum. The national curriculum does not require wholesale replacement of books. It is based on the best of existing practice. But of course it is requiring many schools to offer a broader curriculum to all age groups than they have done before. It is providing an incentive for all schools to review their book stocks to see how well they match up to the new curriculum —a curriculum that not only offers breadth and balance but also places increasing emphasis on pupils being more active learners.

As a result of reviewing their book stocks in the light of the national curriculum, some schools are finding that there is room for considerable improvement. Indeed, in some cases it looks as though overhauling the stock is more than a little overdue.

Much has been made of the Labour Party's recent survey of 14 LEAs and the finding of reference books dating back to the 1950s or even the 1920s. At the time, that made a good story for the newspapers. I have had a chance to study the matter. It comes under cover of a press release from Walworth Road, complete with some pithy observations from, among others, the Shadow Arts Minister, Mr. Mark Fisher, who is an old friend of mine from my Eton days and, not unexpectedly, it is not entirely free from political bias. I regret the fact that noble Lords opposite managed to carry out the research. I say that because I also wanted to draw attention to the pygmy stories. I shall not question how it happened that this material escaped the reforming zeal of various Labour administrations—and there have been Labour administrations since the reign of George V. Instead, I shall make the much more important point that such obsolete material escaped the notice of all administrations until this Government produced the national curriculum and introduced their reforms. That is the nub of the matter.

It is clear from HMI reports—I am somewhat worried about this because I believe that we are reading different HMI reports, or perhaps they have different dates—that poor provision is often the result of schools' purchasing policies and priorities rather than a shortage of funds. The Government have recognised the fact that many schools will need to make some improvements to their book stock to meet the needs of the national curriculum. The sum of £15 million from the specific grants programme for 1991–92 has been earmarked for the purchase of books related to the national curriculum. I believe that I am right in saying that that would work out at about £1.87 per child. That is my own calculation, but I believe that it is about right. As some of the figures put forward suggested an overall spending on books of less than that per child, one wonders how management is arranged in some schools.

LEAs have submitted bids for all the money available from that fund, and practically every school in the country can be expected to benefit from the grants The Government hope to be able to make the same level of funding available for at least two further years.

That additional support needs to be seen against the general background of local authority spending, because that has to cover the normal, routine replacement of books that should take place all the time. The local authority grant settlement for 1991–92 allows for education authorities in England to spend almost £17.5 billion on education—a 16 per cent. increase on the 1990–91 settlement which considerably exceeds inflation. Given good management of resources overall, that should allow LEAs scope to target additional expenditure where it is most needed. I believe that it is probably needed for books.

Spending on books and equipment has risen from £20 per pupil in 1979–80 to £49 per pupil in 1988–89, the latest year for which complete figures are available. That is a real terms increase of 28 per cent.

Many schools have found that their budget will not go as far as they wish because the price of books has risen much faster than inflation. That was mentioned by various noble Lords. I believe that we are entitled to ask the publishers why that is the case when other parts of the industry have managed to bring down real costs by increased efficiency. I did ask. I shall not go into the replies. They have largely been given to the House by my noble kinsman, although I take issue slightly with him.

Baroness David

My Lords, perhaps I may make a comment. I believe that the reason why the price of books has increased so much is that it was kept down over a number of years. Perhaps the noble Earl agrees with me; indeed, he nods.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that comment. It was suggested to me that that was the case but my findings rather refuted it. I am not sure that I have the whole answer to the problem. Against the figures of my noble kinsman, it is suggested that an increasing number of schools go direct to the publishers. That also leaves the problem unanswered.

Whatever the reason, I hope that publishers will realise that the national curriculum works to their advantage by providing a clear framework for teaching and learning. It is to be hoped that with a more clearly defined market they will be able to find ways of trimming their costs.

However, money is not the only need in order to provide a good service for pupils. We need good management as well: sensible purchasing policies, a careful matching of books to the curriculum, and close liaison between library staff and classroom teachers. One of the points that Her Majesty's Inspectorate has made again and again in reports on the implementation of the national curriculum is that as a result of its introduction schools are making enormous strides in planning and managing their curricular provision. HMI makes a similar point in many of its reports on libraries. Good libraries are found where there is good management.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, does the Minister agree that since a large number of secondary schools apparently have no professional librarian it is difficult for teachers to liaise with the non-existent librarian? This is a matter of expenditure; it has nothing to do with good management. If the funds are not there to provide professional librarians in schools, we shall not have them.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, this is a matter for the LEAs. They may employ whom they wish. Why do they not employ librarians? Like other noble Lords, I have been in local government. Only last weekend, in the light of this debate, I was talking to a former Labour county councillor who was excited by the management overhaul that the authority was carrying out. If one bureaucrat leaves an authority a saving is made in whatever service it is which amounts to £30,000. That money will buy a great many books.

On management, I can give two examples. One publisher told me—and he was backed up by the chairman of a county council library authority—that in 48 library authorities there were 48 different formats for lending; for example, different forms of reinforcement of the books and different tags to put in them. That is not a matter for the Government to decide; it is for the LEAs to overhaul their management.

Again, on good management, I hear that the Croydon library service is an extremely good example. There is no school library service but different people provide the service in different ways. The Croydon library service distributes more books than any authority in London. Per member of staff, the library sees twice as many members of the public as its nearest rival in London. Thus it is a management problem.

Where schools have not developed a clear idea of how they should use the library for teaching and learning and where communication between library and other teaching staff is poor, libraries become neglected and fail to contribute to effective teaching and learning.

In spite of the headline-grabbing stories about dated stocks, HMI has reported marked improvements in the general management of secondary school libraries since 1985. It has found a positive shift in attitudes over recent years and many LEAs have taken special initiatives on libraries. As the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, mentioned, in 1989 HMI published Better Libraries. Although some of the contents of that document may be obvious, it has been broadly welcomed and is being used by a great number of schools. Its recommendations are being put into practice.

Schools also, of course, have increasing control over the management of their own budgets under the local management of schools initiative. Schools now have the opportunity to match resources to needs more precisely than before. We usually find that those best placed to take decisions are those who will be implementing them in practice, and this is what LMS will achieve.

There appears to be a fundamental difference of opinion among us. If I understood the noble Baroness, Lady David, correctly, she mentioned the whim of governors. I cannot think of anyone who is better qualified to run a school than school governors, especially under the reforms that have been introduced. I believe it is a little patronising to suggest that people do not know how to run their schools, especially as parents are appearing on governing bodies in increasing numbers. I believe that LEAs and governors in schools can take the responsibilities we are discussing.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I do not believe we disagree too much with his comments, although there are some areas of disagreement. In my speech I said that we are not concerned with shuffling moneys about. Rather we are concerned with the total amount of money available. The basis of the speeches made in the House tonight is that there should be an increase in the money available, whether that money is made available to the LEAs, to the governors or to anybody else. The Minister has not dealt with that point.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, I, like other noble Lords, have served on a local education authority. I served on an LEA for some six years. I fought very hard for an increase in our standard spending assessment. If the noble Lord does not believe that enormous savings can still be made in local government, we shall have to disagree. I have mentioned a 16 per cent. increase in the standard spending assessment for education. I believe the evidence shows that the reforms, together with the pump priming money, are having an effect and we are seeing improvements.

I know that some people are concerned about the effect of LMS on books. They believe that schools will spend the money on other priorities. But the pilot schemes for LMS demonstrated that schools could save money through good management, and that they were prepared to spend the money they saved on books. This means that on top of the extra support we are providing specifically for the purchase of books, savings in individual schools could further increase the money available. More importantly, however, LMS demonstrates that the Government are ready to trust heads and governors with the responsibility of deciding their own priorities for their school.

We have also heard a good deal about the effects of LMS on the future of the schools library service. These local services are of course funded by individual LEAs, and not by central government. So their future is a matter for local decision. LEAs can choose to hold funds centrally to support these services if they wish. The Government have made it clear—this answers a number of points noble Lords have raised—however that they believe that decisions on all matters related to the curriculum are best made at school level. If funds to support school library services are delegated to schools rather than held by LEAs, it will be up to the schools library service to convince schools that it is worth their while to subscribe to the service.

I shall of course draw the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, to the attention of my right honourable friend. However, I do not expect him to withdraw his circular on this matter. I heard only today that Lincolnshire has decided to delegate its schools library service. It is proposed that 85 per cent. of the resources be disaggregated to schools through the formula, with 15 per cent. being retained centrally as a discretionary exception to organise and manage the service. The practical effect of this is that, apart from receiving an increased budget share, schools will have to consider for themselves whether or not they wish to take advantage of these services from within their enlarged budget shares. Schools can no longer of course look to receiving these services free of charge.

I recognise that for Lincolnshire the economy of scale of providing books and other resources through the schools library service encourages governors to make full use of it. In that case delegation has taken place because Lincolnshire believes schools are where decisions are made, but it has set itself a challenge in that it wishes the schools library service to continue and Lincolnshire wishes to control it. If it had not felt that that was a challenge which was workable, presumably it would not have taken that course.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, will the Minister give way just once more? Is he, representing the Government, concerned about the possibility of the collapse of the schools library service in some local authorities where delegation has taken place, or would he regard that as totally unimportant and of no significance?

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, I want the service to continue. I believe that it will, and I believe also that this is the best way of going forward. It is a form of internal market.

There is HMI evidence to show that the national curriculum is increasing the demand for loans from the schools library service, especially in relation to science. If that demand exists it is difficult to see why there should be any concern as to whether or not the schools want the service.

I have covered some points made by noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Dormand, highlighted two aspects of provision of the service—money and expertise. Of course they are important, but he did not mention management. That is the key. The noble Lord mentioned charge capping and the difficulties facing local authorities. I touched on that subject. I spoke to the chief officer in charge of libraries in my home county of Cumbria. He said unexpectedly—and it struck me as a change in culture—"Our motto throughout this authority is to do more for less". That is what it is doing.

I am afraid that I am not in a position to answer the question as to whether any schools have disposed of their libraries. I shall inquire whether the figures are available and let the noble Lord know.

On the question of whether we shall respond to HMI reports, of course we shall monitor them, but it is for the LEAs to respond to HMI reports.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, that is an astonishing remark. HMI reports to the Government. LEAs read, note, and wherever possible implement, the contents of HMI reports, but that is an astonishing thing to say. The Government must take note of the reports. I referred to HMI in my speech as an agent. The relationship is a peculiar one and agent may not be the right term. However, is the Minister saying—because that is the impression that he has given—that LEAs respond to HMI reports and not to the Government?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, perhaps I may confirm what my noble friend Lord Dormand has said. The senior chief inspector's report is to the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, I am sorry. I have probably put that incorrectly. I am trying to say that neither the noble Baroness nor I is delivering education. A framework exists and we monitor the position.

It was suggested by the noble Lords, Lord Dormand and Lord Addington, and others that there was general under-funding of schools. The Government are not introducing the national curriculum without resources. I have already given the figures, which show that there has been a 16 per cent. increase in funding for education. Support of £270 million for Education Reform Act reforms is being provided through specific grants in 1991–92. As I have said again and again, resources will need to be managed. The Government have been, and remain, committed to improving the management of education because we believe that that is the best way to support effective teaching and learning.

The noble Lord, Lord Dormand, and other noble Lords commented on the general state of school libraries. I acknowledge that there are many school libraries which could be better and that some are definitely poor. However, the overall trend is one of continuous improvement. HMI repeatedly pointed out that there is no simple relationship between resources and quality. However, there is certainly a relationship between good management, organisation, leadership and quality.

At the end of the day one looks at results. In HMI's recent report Teaching and Learning of Reading in Primary Schools of Autumn 1990 it is stated: In 80% of the schools standards of reading were satisfactory … or better and in about 30% of those the standards of reading were high". That must be a reflection of the overall situation. Where the standards were found to be low, the report had this to say: Such factors as socio-economic background of pupils, teacher I turnover and resources did not hinder progress with anything like the same force as weaknesses in management and organisation of reading within the class and within the school as a whole". On resources the same report said: Books, materials and equipment for the teaching of reading were in satisfactory supply or better in 85 per cent. of cases". The noble Lord, Lord Addington, spoke about audio-visual aids. I have touched on that matter in the overall provision of the special grants. When I saw his name on the list of speakers I thought that perhaps he would be bringing up the issue of dyslexia. I have a long and complex note which I shall forward to the noble Lord rather than deal with the matter now.

With regard to choice of books, that is a matter for the teaching profession. The noble Baroness, Lady David, declared an impressive list of her interests. I have already complained that in my view—and here we disagree—she seems to underestimate the abilities of governing bodies to run their schools. She asked what the DES will do. We believe that we have established a framework and provided the funds. We shall monitor the results. The noble Baroness also mentioned the Book Trust. The figures that we have from LEAs are for books and equipment. They show LEA expenditure at £49 per pupil, which is a rise of 28 per cent. since 1979–80.

I have been speaking for longer than I expected. If there are any further questions I shall write to noble Lords. However, I should like to mention how grateful I was that my noble friend Lord Eccles, with his great experience, took part in this debate. He said that his experience was that the fruits of a great reform would take 10 years to come to maturity. I hope that that is not so. I hope that this particular reform is showing the beginnings of improvements which I believe will continue.

In conclusion, the Government are taking action in three ways to ensure that there are resources to support the national curriculum. They are giving schools greater freedom to make their own choices about how they use their resources; providing additional support through specific grants; and increasing the overall funding for education. Most important, we believe, is the positive influence exerted by the national curriculum itself on the way in which schools plan and manage effective teaching and learning.

Viscount Eccles

My Lords, perhaps I may say to my noble friend that if he wants me to go home happy he has to tell me that the Government accept overall responsibility for providing the equipment to carry out the national curriculum. My right honourable friend Kenneth Baker was extremely interested in the libraries. He always gave me the assurance that when the national curriculum—which after all is imposed on the local authorities—was put into practice, the Secretary of State would ensure that the provision of library equipment in its broadest sense matched the needs of the new curriculum. Is that so?

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, I am not sure whether I can send my noble friend home happy on the basis that the Government do not run the budget for buying books. They calculate, provide and monitor. They believe that they have the framework whereby education will be properly equipped for these reforms.

House adjourned at seventeen minutes before ten o'clock.