HC Deb 28 February 1986 vol 92 cc697-8W
Mr. Soames

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the objectives of his Department's policies for the rest of this Parliament.

Sir Keith Joseph

My Department's principal objectives for Education are to improve standards throughout the education service and to use more effectively the substantial resources available. In schools the aim is to pursue the objectives set out in the White Paper "Better Schools" (Cmnd. 9469). In particular I shall continue, in consultation with those concerned in the education service and outside it, to seek greater clarity about the objectives and content of the curriculum with a view to promoting understanding and skills as well as knowledge, strengthening the practical and technical elements of the curriculum, and fostering the application of what is learnt to real problems and situations; to reform the examinations system and improve assessment in particular through the introduction of the GCSE; to improve the quality of teaching, with more rigorous and applied teacher training (including in-service training) and through the appraisal of teacher performance, more effective selection of teachers, and the reform of the teachers' pay structure and conditions of service; and to reform the management of schools to give parents more responsibility and influence. After the enactment of the Education Bill now before Parliament, I intend to make a start with the implementation of its provisions for school government and in-service training of teachers.

In the youth service field the objective is to develop policies for meeting the widely varying needs of young people through the work of the recently established National Advisory Council for the youth service and in other ways. In non-advanced further education, the aim remains to increase the responsiveness of the service to the needs of employers while providing a sound education for young people and encouraging improved use of resources. In the short term key objectives will be to assess and take appropriate action on the current review of vocational qualifications and to complete a joint study with the local authority associations on efficiency.

We are aiming to raise quality and standards in higher education and, while preserving the full breadth of higher education provision, to make it more responsive to the needs of the economy. We intend to maintain the availability of opportunity to study in higher education for those able to benefit, and to pursue value for money, including a more selective approach to the funding of research.

In science, the Department's aim is to maintain and enhance the strength and quality of the science base in higher education and the research councils. Consonant with this, the objectives are: to encourage greater concentration and selectivity of research activities; closer and better working with industry and commerce; more funding from private sector sources; better management yielding greater value for money; increased flexibility enabling faster response to new scientific opportunities; to keep under review the balance between international and national scientific endeavours; and thereby to strengthen the knowledge and skills of the United Kingdom in science and technology, and improve the efficiency, competitiveness and innovative capacity of the United Kingdom economy.