HC Deb 04 March 1981 vol 1000 cc131-3W
Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will publish in the Official Report the correspondence he has had from the Advisory Centre for Education concerning the recent report by Her Majesty's schools inspectorate and his reply.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

The Advisory Centre for Education wrote to me on 19 February and I replied on 24 February. The correspondence was as follows:

Rt. Hon. Mark Carlisle MP

Secretary of State for Education

Department of Education and Science

Elizabeth House

York Road

London SE1

19 February 1981

Dear Secretary of State

The draft report of her Majesty's Inspectorate on the effect on the education service of local authority expenditure policies has confirmed that many local education authorities are failing in their statutory duties under the Education Act, 1944: contrary to Section 8, they are not providing schools sufficient in character and equipment to provide education appropriate for students of different ages, abilities and aptitudes; and contrary to Section 61, fees are being charged in respect of the education provided in maintained schools.

It is essential, therefore, that you name these authorities who are, prima facie, breaking the law. Although we welcome the publication of the report as a tentative step towards greater official openness about conditions in schools and colleges, it is less than useful to parents and students if these LEAs are not identified. For the same reason, previous reports on expenditure policies should also be published.

In the light of HM Inspectorate's irrefutable evidence, we urge you to exercise your powers under Section 99 of the Act to declare these authorities in default in respect of the duties imposed upon them, and to direct them to fulfil their legal obligations.

The report also makes clear (paragraph 5) that you were aware more than a year ago of the probable effect of your government's policies on the education service; evidence of deteriorating standards, now officially documented, has been repeatedly brought to your attention by ACE and others. The policies that you have carried out over the period are wholly at odds with the duty imposed upon you by Section 1 of the 1944 Act to 'promote the education of the people of England and Wales and the progressive development of institutions devoted to that purpose, and to secure the effective execution by local authorities... of the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive education service in every area'.

As this devastating report was prepared before further demands for cuts and the announcement of the Rate Support Grant settlement which will undoubtedly accelerate the decline in standards, we, and all users of the education service, await decisive action on your part to make good, belatedly, the enormous damage that has already been inflicted on the country's schools and colleges.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Doyle

for the Advisory Centre for Education

This letter is being circulated to the Press.

Nick Doyle Esq.

Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) Ltd.

18 Victoria Park Square

Bethnal Green

London E2 9PB

24 February 1981

Dear Mr. Doyle,

Your letter relate to the Inspectorate's draft report. The final report is being published today and I enclose a copy.

The survey's purpose is to present me with an overall picture nationally. It is not a detailed report about every LEA. In every case the LEA concerned has been informed of the HMI findings on which the report is based. Much of the material on which the report is based was provided by the LEAs themselves, on the understanding that the report would not identify them.

In these circumstances it would be wrong for me to link any individual LEA publicly with the report and I do not intend to do so.

The evidence on which the report is based does not justify default action on my part under Section 99 of the Education Act 1944. I do not accept your assertion that LEAs are failing in their statutory duties under Sections 6 and 61 of the 1944 Act nor do I accept your view that the Rate Support Grant settlement prevents local authorities from executing effectively"the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive education service in ever)' area" in accordance with Section 0 of the Education Act 1944. Such a service continues to be provided: the resources devoted to it are limited by what the country can afford.

The HMI report reveals weaknesses only in certain institutions, and the report gives the local authorities concerned the opportunity to review their expenditure priorities to ensure that they continue to fulfil their statutory obligations.

I am releasing this letter to the Press since you so released yours.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Carlisle.