HC Deb 20 July 1982 vol 28 cc123-5W
Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on the results of his Department in achieving the Government's policy programme since his predecessor's reply to the hon. Member for Melton on 30 June 1981, Official Report, c. 370], and his subsequent letter on 9 July.

Sir Keith Joseph

The Department has continued to make good progress in implementing the Government's education policies. Main developments since July 1981 include the followingLast September we launched a two-year pilot scheme of teacher training scholarships linked to guaranteed teaching jobs in England and Wales. The scheme provides £500 tax-free scholarships to encourage able graduates in mathematics, physics and chemistry to take up teaching. The scheme begins this autumn. In November an extra £49.5 million was allocated to English LEAs for 1982–83 to enable more young people to stay on at school or college after 16. Our plans provide for additional expenditure of £74 million in 1983–84. A new National Advisory Body for Local Authority Higher Education was established in February. This will advise on academic provision in polytechnics and other local authority institutions of higher education. The NAB has initiated a number of studies that will progressively inform the distribution of academic provision and the allocation of resources in future years. The Government have announced plans for a new national qualification for young people of 17-plus with modest examination success at 16-plus. It is designed for those in full-time education in school or college, to improve their job prospects. The Government are continuing to play their part in the reform of examinations at 16-plus. The joint council of GCE and CSE boards is preparing draft national criteria. The Government announced in March that a decision whether to move to a single system of examinations at 16-plus or to continue with an improved dual system would be taken when the preparatory work on criteria had been completed and appraised. The Cockcroft committee report on the teaching of mathematics has been published. Few subjects in the school curriculum are as important to the future of the nation as mathematics and this report offers constructive and original proposals for change. A Government-funded development programme has been announced which is designed to introduce a more effective education with a practical slant for those pupils for whom public examinations at 16-plus are not designed. As a first step seven or eight local education authorities will be invited to run development projects beginning in September 1983. We hope that the Education Act 1981 will be fully operational by January 1983. This Act updates the law for the education of children with special educational needs and gives new rights to their parents. Circular 4/82, "Statutory Proposals for Secondary Schools and Falling Rolls", issued on 8 June, sets out certain policies, which I take into account when considering proposals for secondary schools made under sections 12 and 13 of the Education Act 1980. These include the view that I take of proposals affecting schools which have already proved their worth under the existing arrangements they make for sixth form education and in my judgment can continue to do so. Following the Education Act 1980, recent months have seen in operation for the first time the new procedures for parents to have a wider and better informed choice of school for their children together with a new local appeals procedure. Another part of the Government's commitment to giving parents a wider choice in the education of their children is the assisted places scheme. The first assisted pupils are just completing their first year and recruitment for a larger second intake is now nearing completion. More parent and teacher governors of schools are being appointed. Good progress is being made on the Government's microelectronics in education programme. A network of 14 regional information centres has been established with the support of all the local education authorities in England and Wales, and of the education and library boards in Northern Ireland. The same regional groups of local education authorities are mounting pilot schemes of in-service training for teachers, with the guidance and support of NEP. Software and curriculum materials are being published or disseminated in other ways. Last month over 400 Members of Parliament, educationalists, employers and others attended an exhibition in London to see what had been achieved. We have announced a positive programme of action in vocational continuing education called PICKUP. This initiative will help educational institutions meet the need for updating and broadening the skills of those in mid-career through industry, commerce and the professions. More Government money has been earmarked for the further education Unit to help reinforce the quality and responsiveness of the further education system and help it expand its activities in training. Our expenditure plans make provision for a budget of £850,000 in the financial year 1982–83, up to £1.5 million in 1983–84 and up to £2 million in 1984–85. The Government have made generous compensation arrangements for academic and related staff who will become redundant or retire early from posts in universities. More high calibre students were awarded engineering scholarships in 1981 than in any of the previous three years. The scheme is jointly sponsored by the Government and industry and an appeal has been launched recently seeking financial support from industrialists to ensure the future success of the scheme. The Department has issued circular 6/81, which formally draws the attention of local education authorities to the guidance given in the paper "The School Curriculum", published last year, and requests them to develop their policies for the curriculum. The DES and the Welsh Office have in addition issued a consultative paper on science teaching in schools, as part of the follow-up to "The School Curriculum". The Government have continued to plan for provision for science to be held at the 1981–82 level. Lord Rothschild reported the findings of his review of the Social Science Research Council—a review which I had commissioned at the end of last year. The consultation period on this report has just ended. I have decided to discontinue the funding of the Schools Council after consideration of the review carried out by Mrs. Nancy Trenaman. I propose to set up two smaller bodies—one concerned with examinations at 16-plus and 18-plus and a school curriculum development council—in place of the Schools Council.