HC Deb 08 April 1986 vol 95 cc47-9W
Mr. Baldry

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will list all the education initiatives taken by his Department since 1979 and the cost to the Exchequer to date of each initiative.

Sir Keith Joseph

Our principal concern in education has been to raise standards at all ability levels and to obtain better value for money throughout the education system. We have put great emphasis on the need for a closer relationship between the education service and the outside world, particularly industry and commerce. These concerns have been reflected in a wide range of initiatives affecting all parts of the education service. Since 1979 the proportion of children commencing education before the age of five has increased and the numbers in education of all types beyond 16 have also increased. It is not practicable in the time available to identify the cost of the many measures undertaken but these are listed and have all been taken forward within the planned provision for public expenditure as announced.

In schools

The Government's principal achievements in respect to the schools are set out in the White Paper "Better Schools" (Cmnd. 9469) published on 26 March 1985. In particular, the definition with greater clarity of the objectives and content of the curriculum, financial support for a pilot initiative to promote technical and vocational education for 14 to 18-year-olds in schools and colleges; the support of a pilot programme for improving the education of lower attaining pupils; and the establishment of a scheme for in-service grants for teachers.

The assisted places scheme has been established, to provide a wider range of opportunity.

Decisions have been taken to introduce a new system of examinations at 16, the general certificate of secondary education, based on national criteria; to introduce the AS level examination to broaden A-level studies; and to introduce, and to develop, through specially financed pilot projects, records of achievement for all school leavers.

Legislation in this field has included: the Education Act 1979 which removed the compulsion on local education authorities to reorganise their secondary school provision along comprehensive lines; the Education Act 1980 which, among other matters, improved arrangements for meals, parental preference in admission to school including a right of appeal and provided for parent governors on all governing bodies; and the Education Act 1981 which introduced new arrangements for educating children with special needs.

The Education Bill, now before Parliament, will reform school government, giving more influence to parents. It will also provide for new financial arrangements to make in-service training of teachers more effective.

All initial training courses are being reviewed and strengthened where necessary.

Spending per pupil is now some 19 per cent. higher than in 1979, with a best ever overall pupil-teacher ratio of 17.8:1.

In other parts of the education system the Government have promoted improvements in performance by:

In Further Education

Setting out and implementing important decisions for vocational education in the White Paper "Training for Jobs";

The formation of the Business and Technician Education Council with an important role in the preparation of skilled manpower;

Introducing the new certificate of pre-vocational education (CPVE) as an additional option in the range of courses preparing young people for the world of work, and available in both schools and colleges;

The establishment of a scheme of in-service training grants for further education lecturers;

The operation of college-employer links project (CELP) aimed at increasing colleges' responsiveness to employers' needs and the awareness of the latter of college facilities;

Developing the work of the further education unit, giving it new status and developing the presentation of its reports.

In Adult and Continuing Education

Launching PICKUP to promote provision of updating and broadening the skills of those in mid-career; the programme is helping to secure an increase in updating education of about 10 per cent. a year, especially in the areas of technology and business studies:

Establishing over 100 local collaborative projects in which educational institutions and firms work in partnership to offer adult training and updating—a joint venture between PICKUP and the MSC within the Government's adult training campaign;

Initiating REPLAN for meeting more effectively the education needs of unemployed adults;

Promoting the establishment of a national unit for the development of continuing education.

In Higher Education

The number of home students in higher education has increased, including a general shift towards vocational courses and specifically a 30 per cent. increase in the numbers on science and engineering courses. This reflects a 15 per cent. growth in the proportion of 18 to 19-year-olds entering higher education and an increase of 12 per cent. in the number of mature entrants. At the same time measures to preserve and enhance quality and to increase the cost-effectiveness of the system and its responsiveness to the needs of the economy have been pursued;

as elements within the movement towards science and engineering, launching the information technology initiative in 1982 and the engineering and technology programme with industry itself contributing £24 million. Specific measures to link higher education and industry in collaborative projects include the appointment of more industrialists to educational bodies;

the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education has been set up to review and evaluate initial teacher training courses for which criteria have been set down;

establishing the educational counselling and credit transfer information service (ECCTIS); and supporting the development of a computer-aided careers guidance system for graduates;

establishing the National Advisory Body for public sector higher education;

providing resources for "new blood" in the universities; and for the enhancement of equipment in selected centres of high quality research in the universities;

reviewing academic validation procedures in the public sector of higher education a committee under Sir Norman Lindop reported in 1985, and the Government's position was set out in a statement on 17 March 1986;

providing support for programmes of efficiency studies in the universities and in public sector higher education.

Generally in Education

publishing reports of formal inspections by Her Majesty's inspectorate and introducing arrangements for more systematic follow up action, and publishing the annual HMI report on the observed effects of LEA expenditure policies;

introducing a scheme of education support grants covering up to £30 million of expenditure in 1985–86 on selected activities of national education importance, as provided for under the Education (Grants and Awards) Act 1984;

introducing new arrangements for decision-making and management within the Department, aimed at greater efficiency and value for money.

It is not practicable in the time available to identify the cost of each of these measures but all these initiatives have been undertaken within the provision for public expenditure which has been announced.