HC Deb 25 July 1989 vol 157 cc585-6W
Mr. Devlin

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about ethnically based statistics on school pupils.

Mrs. Rumbold

The Department is today issuing a circular to local education authorities and others, instituting from September 1990 a national scheme for the collection of ethnically based statistics on school pupils. I shall be placing copies of the circular in the Library.

The scheme's objective is to assist schools, parents, LEAs, the Department and others in ensuring that education meets the needs of all pupils, thereby helping to secure equality of opportunity. The great majority of those who commented on an earlier consultative circular welcomed the principle of collection of ethnically based data. The national scheme has been designed in the light of experience of pilot schemes in four LEAs.

LEA maintained and grant-maintained schools will be expected to collect ethnically based information on pupils entering either the primary or secondary phase of schooling in September 1990, and thereafter. Parents will be asked to provide, on a voluntary basis, information on their children's ethnic origin, religion and the language spoken in their home. The circular emphasises the need for care and sensitivity in the collection and handling of this information. Information supplied to the DES will be aggregated and will not permit the identification of individual pupils.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about ethnically based statistics on students in further and higher education.

Mr. Jackson

The Department and the Welsh Office issued a consultation document raising the issues and options involved in the collection of ethnically based statistics for students in further and higher education last March. Comments were received from 100 bodies. There was general support for the proposal that the national data collection on ethnicity for each and every student/enrolment should be obtained via the incorporation of a question in the further education statistical record. Accordingly, we have agreed that a question to elicit this information using the agreed OPCS classification of ethnic groups will be included in the November 1990 FESR return.

With regard to the collection of data on applications for higher education, both the University Central Council on Admissions and the Polytechnic Central Admissions Systems have agreed to include an ethnicity question in their admission material for full-time first degree courses relating to the academic year 1990–91 and subsequently. UCCA data will then be transferred to the university statistical record in respect of those students enrolled at university.

The collection of these data will provide a valuable measure to inform forward planning and provision and alert decision-makers to issues and areas requiring further investigation.