HC Deb 03 June 1986 vol 98 cc475-8W
Mr. Lawrence

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will list the initiatives taken in education since June 1983 by his Department.

Mr. Chris Patten

The Government's 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. The following initiatives have been taken:

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.

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.

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 increased by 18 per cent. between 1979–80 and 1984–85, with a best ever overall pupil-teacher ratio of 17.8:1 in January 1985.

In Adult and Continuing Education

Implementing 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

Since 1979 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.

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.

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

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 which covered just over £39 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.