§ Mr. Spearing
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what studies have been made and what conclusions have been reached concerning the attainments and skills of school leavers, other than statistics related to public examinations; and, if no such studies exist, whether she will cause them to be made.
§ Mr. Raison
As the hon. Member knows, examination results provide a useful indication of attainment for the majority of school leavers and should not be excluded from consideration of this matter. In 1970–71 55.5 per cent. of school leavers had achieved qualifications in examinations for the GCE or CSE. The latter has made an important contribution to widening examination opportunities since its inception in 1965; the percentage of school leavers gaining one or more CSE grades 2–5 rose from 10.7 per cent. in 1965–66 to 21.2 per cent. in 1971–72.
A series of national representative surveys of reading standards of 11 and 15-year-old pupils has been conducted periodically since 1948. The last one covered the period 1970–71 and in 1972 my right hon. Friend established the Committee of Inquiry into Reading and the Use of English under the chairmanship of Sir Alan Bullock. This committee is including in its remit a study of arrangements for monitoring attainment.
The National Foundation for Educational Research, with the help of a grant from my Department, is currently investigating the feasibility of conducting a national survey of attainment in mathematics.
I have arranged with the National Children's Bureau to include tests of reading comprehension and mathematics, as part of its National Child Development Study, of a sample of children born in 181W 1958. These children who are now approaching school leaving age may be expected to represent all levels of ability.