§ Mr. Pawsey
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the principal achievements of his Department since June 1987.
§ Mr. Eggar
We have made rapid progress in implementing the important changes introduced by Parliament in 1988 to improve standards and choice.
The Education Reform Act (ERA) includes measures to provide a national curriculum for pupils of compulsory school age, comprising a range of subjects for which targets, programmes of study and testing are being established; to widen the choice available to parents; to ensure that schools can admit pupils up to the limit of their capacity; to require all local education authorities to develop schemes for the local management of their schools, with budgets largely determined by reference to pupil numbers; to offer all schools the opportunity to opt out of local authority control and have grant-maintained status; to establish a number of city technology colleges; to establish polytechnics and other major colleges as independent institutions; to reform the government and management of further education colleges; and to reform the finance and management of the university system.
In addition, the Government continue to seek to improve teaching quality. They are continuing to provide substantial funds through direct grant to support in-service training. The criteria to which courses of initial teacher training must conform have been improved. Regulations are being prepared under which the performance of all teachers in maintained schools will be appraised on a two-year cycle. A range of initiatives has been taken on the supply and recruitment of teachers, and new arrangements for teachers' pay have been brought forward.
The Government have reformed the examination system for 16-year-olds, through the introduction of the GCSE based on national criteria, resulting in a significant increase in attainment: the proportion of school leavers in England with five or more grades A to C at GCSE—O-level—CSE rose from 26.4 per cent. in 1987 to 31.9 per cent. in 1989 and the proportion of 18-year-olds in England achieving two or more A-levels rose from 15. 7 per cent. in 1987 to 17.4 per cent. in 1989. The proportion of 16-year-olds participating in full-time education in England rose from 48.4 per cent. in 1987–88 to 55.4 per cent. in 1989–90.
Participation in higher education has increased, with the proportion of 18 to 19-year-olds in Great Britain entering higher education rising from 14.6 per cent. in 1987–88 to nearly 19 per cent. in 1990–91, with every prospect of increasing still further. A student loans scheme, unique in the world in combining universal entitlement with a substantial interest subsidy, has been successfully introduced.