Motion made, That the Bill be now read the Third time. Amendment made : in clause 6, page 5, line 19, leave out "paragraph" and insert "sub- paragraph". [The Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Question, That the Bill, as amended, be now read the Third time, put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendment.
Read the Third time, and passed.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Michael Fallon) : In January 1979 there were 18.9 pupilper teacher in maintained nursery, primary and secondary schools in England. By January this year the ratio had fallen to 17.2 pupils per teacher.
Mr. Greenway : Will my hon. Friend accept the congratulations and thanks of parents, children, teachers and all concerned with education on the great improvement on the 1979 figures? Will he also confirm that overall teacher vacancies have improved by 30 per cent. in the past year? Will he consider conducting an inquiry into what the optimum pupil-teacher ratio should be for each age of children, because that ratio will differ? Some people could not teach five children very well, while others can teach 75 perfectly well.
Mr. Fallon : The situation today is a big improvement on the 1970s. What is most important is how classes are taught and how a school manages its teaching staff, rather than the actual number employed or the number of pupils per class.
Column 716has increased by 100,000? We now face the disgraceful situation of nearly 1 million children in primary schools being taught in classes of more than 30. Are those figures unacceptable even to the Government? Is it not true that Ministers would not accept such class sizes for their children in the private sector?
Mr. Fallon : Primary class sizes were much bigger in the 1970s under the last Labour Government. I cannot confirm the figures that the hon. Gentleman has given. I repeat that what is important is how a school deploys its teaching staff, not the number of people it happens to have on its books.
Mr. Anthony Coombs : I welcome the significant improvement in teacher-pupil ratios since the last Labour Government were in power. My hon. Friend should be aware how much we welcome his statement and that of the Secretary of State, which concentrate on how children are taught in schools rather than on the number of teachers employed. In that regard, does my hon. Friend agree that the commission that the Secretary of State has set up under Professor Alexander to look at the way in which primary school children are taught is particularly welcome? In that way we shall be able to improve standards of education in primary schools.
Mr. Fallon : The statement that my right hon. and learned Friend made about primary education has been warmly welcomed by parents right across the country who are increasingly concerned about the methods and organisation of delivering primary education in our schools.
The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Tim Eggar) : By the end of the colleges' last school year on 31 August, nearly £19 million had been contributed to city technology colleges by the private sector. More than £30 million has been committed in all.
Mr. Grocott : Can the Minister confirm that in the last financial year, 1990-91, no less than 88 per cent. of the capital costs of the CTC programme, including those of the Telford college in my constituency, were paid for by the taxpayer? Industrialists have been notably unwilling and unforthcoming in responding to the Government's requests. Can the Minister allay my suspicions about this by assuring me that as a result of a few industrialists having contributed to the programme we shall not find the names of certain chairmen and managing directors appearing in the new year honours list? Since we the taxpayers are having to pay for the programme, can the Minister at least listen to the taxpayers on this and spend these huge sums of money on all our children and not just a few?
Mr. Eggar : The hon. Gentleman should be doing the listening. He should be listening to parents in his constituency who have opted overwhelmingly for the CTC, with more than 500 applications for 248 places last year and with 660 applications for next year. Before he
Column 717makes wild aspersions about other people, he should visit the school in his constituency, where he will find excellent education going on.
Mr. Brandon-Bravo : Will the Minister pay tribute to the generosity of Mr. Harry Djanogly, who gave £1 million of his personal money to see that Nottingham has a CTC? Will he confirm that the capital cost of the school is no different from the cost of building a new school anywhere, that the funding per pupil is no different compared with any other state pupils and that the evil campaign by Nottingham county council would deny the most deprived children in our inner city a first-class education?
Mr. Eggar : I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Nottingham CTC is extremely attractive to parents and is very well supported. The attitude of Nottinghamshire local education authority has been quite disgraceful by any standards. Why should it be seeking to deprive children of a first- class education? I wish that Labour Members would make their position clear. Do they really want to deprive parents of the kind of choice that their policies would mean in Nottingham, Telford and elsewhere?
Mr. Flannery : Why does the Minister not talk reality about the city technology colleges? He knows as well as I do that, like the assisted places scheme, they are another step towards privatisation of the education system. The inspectorate is another example. The hon. Gentleman knows full well that the CTCs were intended to be paid for by private employers. That failed, so the Government are taking money from the taxpayer to the tune, with the assisted places scheme, of more than £500 million-- [Interruption.] That is what it is costing, based on the Government's own figures. That is why I ask the Minister to admit the reality of the situation, with that amount of money being removed from the state system of education.
Mr. Eggar : The Labour party will simply never understand the position. Parents want choice. Whether they live in the inner cities or elsewhere, they want choice to send their children to independent schools with the benefit of an assisted place, choice to send their children to grammar schools and choice under the new technology schools initiative. Choice is hated by the Labour party because it cannot control what parents and children want if choice is offered. That is the old-fashioned type of socialism that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) has always pursued, and unfortunately the occupants of the Labour Front Bench have taken a lead from him rather than from more sensible parents.
The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) : The school teachers' review body has been asked to make recommendations on the pay and conditions of school teachers in 1992-93. It will report to the Prime Minister in the new year.
Column 718particularly concerned that there might just be a slight possibility of a Labour Government next year, with a resultant cut in teachers' real pay, as happened when Labour was last in office. Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that under Conservative rule there has been a 30 per cent. increase in real terms in teachers' pay and that there was an increase of only 6 per cent. during the last Labour Government?
Mr. Clarke : My hon. Friend is correct. There has been a substantial advance in real-terms pay under our Administration, and this year the pay award that has been made for the current year is increasing the teachers' pay bill overall by 11.3 per cent. I agree with my hon. Friend that raising standards requires having a good quality teaching force, properly rewarded and encouraged. The public welcome the way we are treating teachers as a professional body by taking the advice of the independent review body, and we look forward to Graham Day and his colleagues producing the kind of advice that we require about how our teachers should be rewarded. The fact that Labour Members voted against the review body approach to teachers' pay should provide the warning that my hon. Friend described.
Mr. Skinner : Why should teachers have to submit to an incomes policy when the bosses made a 22.7 per cent. average increase last year? What is good enough for the bosses should be good enough for the teachers.
Mr. Clarke : The hon. Gentleman has just been reminded of the shabby teachers' pay record of the Labour Government whom he supported some years ago-- [Interruption.] It was his Government then, although their successors may not be represented on the Front Bench in quite the way that the hon. Gentleman would wish.
We have set up a review body to advise the Government on the proper remuneration for teachers. It is a status that we give to very few public servants, but we are giving teachers a special status because we realise that their professionalism and commitment are essential to a good teaching service.
Mr. Butterfill : Can my right hon. and learned Friend confirm reports in The Guardian earlier this year that the 12 local authorities with the worst record in English, mathematics and modern language results were all controlled by the Liberal Democrats or the Labour party?
Mr. Clarke : I am not sure whether I can confirm that off the cuff, but The Guardian sometimes gets it right. The figures that I have before me certainly show that the highest spending authorities comprise almost entirely Labour and the occasional Liberal authority and that those have some of the worst results. There is an enormous gap between inner London boroughs, which spent £2,745
Column 719per pupil in 1989-90, under the old Inner London education authority, and Kent, which spent £1,570 per pupil in a comparable year and achieved much better results.
Mr. O'Hara : Will the Secretary of State confirm that local authorities that perform badly in the league tables, which cover a very narrow spectrum of examination results, often spend more on pupils with special educational needs? A local authority that spends less on special educational needs does so either because it has less incidence of such needs or because it is in dereliction of its duties to pupils with those needs. If it has less incidence of such needs, does it not follow that it should score highly in the narrow spectrum of examination results for the most able pupils?
Mr. Clarke : I am aware of no evidence that pupils with special educational needs are distributed unevenly across the country. Special educational needs include pupils with physical disabilities or particular difficulties in learning. It is simply not true that those needs correlate with high spending local authorities. There are great discrepancies in the amount spent by one authority compared with another, and in the amount that local authorities spend on central administration, but there is little correlation with the results. When we produce the seven-year-olds' test results local authority by local authority, good results will be shown for some authorities serving comparatively deprived urban areas, while shockingly poor results will be shown for others serving similar areas. The quality of education rather than the amount spent is what counts.
Mrs. Maureen Hicks : Is it fair for young pupils in an area controlled by a Labour council to have their prospects of good examination results considerably reduced? Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, year after year, the examination results of Wolverhampton education authority--a high-spending council--are in the bottom half of the national league? Is it any wonder that I now plead with my right hon. and learned Friend to intervene on behalf of pupils and parents who wish to move their children over the border to Staffordshire because they are fed up with their own high-spending council and they want that council to take responsibility?
Mr. Straw : Is the Secretary of State aware of the serious threat to standards in schools caused by his spending decision in the Prime Minister's county of Cambridgeshire, where the Cambridge branch of the Secondary Heads Association has said that impending cuts will cause
"larger classes fewer books, less equipment, reduced sixth form provision and serious difficulty in providing the national curriculum" ?
When will the Secretary of State accept responsibility for the crisis in education provision in Cambridgeshire, or does he believe that it is just another scare got up by pupils, parents, teachers and Conservative county councillors in that county?
Column 720announced by Cambridgeshire a short time ago. Cambridgeshire is planning substantially to increase spending on education, but has chosen, for some reason best known to itself, to make more money available by imposing sharp reductions in its secondary school budgets. I am prepared to criticise that action when taken by a Conservative council. The hon. Gentleman supports high spending and progressive teaching methods but seems indifferent to the results, which he does not want to give the public in any comprehensible form. He should not intervene in little local difficulties in Cambridgeshire which, sooner or later, will be sorted out when the authority spends its additional resources sensibly by devoting them to raising the quality of education.
5. Rev. Martin Smyth : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will review the operation of the present system of discretionary awards for those undertaking courses for second degrees.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Alan Howarth) : Detailed arrangements for postgraduate student support are kept under review, but we have no present plans for major changes.
Rev. Martin Smyth : Does the Minister expect that while the award system is kept under review and resources are scarce, some consideration should be given to students who come from poor backgrounds and achieve high marks but are turned down because of a shortage of places? Does he accept in particular that there is a problem involving students from Northern Ireland who have attended English universities and been recommended for further degrees and second awards, but are turned down because they are from Northern Ireland?
Mr. Howarth : The hon. Gentleman raises two points. He recently raised two cases on behalf of his constituents. I appreciate his concern that the practical operation of the system for conferring postgraduate awards on Northern Ireland residents can be confusing and may create difficulties. I am grateful to him for drawing my attention to that. The practicalities are being considered by the research councils in the Department of Education in Northern Ireland. I hope that arrangements will be introduced which will be more convenient for Northern Ireland residents. As for the criteria for granting postgraduate awards, postgraduate study and research are academically demanding and candidates should be selected by competition to ensure that the resources available are used as effectively as possible.
Sir John Farr : Will my hon. Friend look at the issue again? In England there are cases where degree holders cannot get jobs and are therefore forced to attend further education courses to try to improve their qualifications. Will my hon. Friend look at the matter in light of the present strained position in the jobs market?
Mr. Howarth : The overall number of postgraduate awards has considerably increased over the years. Between 1979-80 and 1990-91, the total of new studentships awarded by research councils rose by almost 28 per cent. We must consider priorities for public expenditure on education, as elsewhere. It is questionable whether it
Column 721would be a topmost priority for us in the context of present economic circumstances to urge a substantial increase in the overall funding of postgraduate study.
6. Mr. Menzies Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will discuss with the chairman of the Sports Council when next they meet the long-term funding of sport in the United Kingdom.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Robert Atkins) : The funding of sport in the United Kingdom is one of many issues that I discuss regularly with the chairman of the Sports Council.
Mr. Menzies Campbell : The Minister will know that the Sports Council is funded on a year-by-year basis whereas, by contrast, the Arts Council receives its funding on a three-year rolling programme. Does the Minister agree that three-year funding for the Sports Council would allow it to plan better for development and expansion? Will he undertake to achieve a three-year funding programme for the Sports Council?
Mr. Atkins : That is an interesting point. There are differing views about whether three years or a single year period would be better or worse. Three years provide some degree of continuity, but they also build in a degree of inflexibility, making it difficult to react to change. I have no hard and fast views on the matter and I undertake to consider it, but there are no immediate plans to do as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests.
Ms. Hoey : Has the Minister seen the Sports Council report on projected capital investment by local authorities? Does he realise that it shows huge decreases for the next five years, especially in London, with up to 95 per cent. cuts in inner London and 85 per cent. cuts in outer London? Does he share my view and that of the Sports Council that, with local authorities providing nearly 90 per cent. of all participatory sports facilities, unless we get more capital for our local authorities they will be able to spend money only on basic repairs?
Mr. Atkins : The most up-to-date figures that we have on these matters show a continuing increase in capital provision, but I recognise that there has been some indication of a downturn in the most recent, as yet uncompleted, year. Our view is that we should let local authorities make their own decisions about their priorities. We shall have to watch and see whether that will mean a cut in sports provision. I have my eye on the subject ; the hon. Lady's point is well taken and, in so far as I have control over these matters, I shall make certain that local authorities concentrate as much of their resources on local sport and recreation provision as they should.
Mr. Cormack : On the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), does my hon. Friend agree that funding both for sport and the arts could be far higher and much more in line with
Column 722demand if we had a national lottery? Will he undertake to support the Bill to be introduced by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence)?
Mr. Atkins : My hon. Friend knows full well that there are differing views on that subject. My own are well known. If my hon. Friend wants to hear them, I shall be more than happy to tell him afterwards.
Mr. Gregory : Will my hon. Friend agree, when considering the long- term funding for the Sports Council, to look sympathetically on its application for relocation expenses for its planned move from London to the city of York?
Mr. Atkins : My hon. Friend represents his city with as much assiduity as my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon- Bravo) represents his, and both are keen on a move by the Sports Council to one of those two great cities. There are no plans at present for such a move. Any request for costs would have to go to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Mr. Denis Howell : When the Minister met the nine regional chairmen last week they regarded his statement that he sought to achieve no more funding for sport in this country--Wales received 8.5 per cent., Scotland 15 per cent. and the Arts Council 14 per cent., but the Minister went for only 4 per cent.--as a craven surrender to the Treasury. Is it not time the hon. Gentleman did the job he is paid for and stood up for British sport?
Mr. Atkins : The right hon. Gentleman is as wrong about that as he was in his assertion during the recent debate that I had refused to meet the regional Sports Council chairmen, which he knows to be untrue. In my discussions with the regional councils for sport and recreation-- [Interruption.] There is a football hooligan shouting from the Opposition Benches--
The right hon. Gentleman's contention is quite wrong. We went for the rate of inflation, and that is what the Sports Council got. Adding to that all the other money that the Government have provided for sport, sport can reckon that it has had a pretty fair deal from the Government.
Mr. Dickens : Would my hon. Friend, the excellent Minister for Sport, agree that those who play and train for sport are the least likely to get involved in offences? Does he agree that sport is one of the most character-building of activities? Will he pursue sports within our schools?
Column 723and small take-up of student loans showed that there was no widespread poverty and hardship among students since all the evidence of citizens advice bureaux, Members' mail and so on shows clearly that, because of the reducing value of student grants and the attack on student benefits, there is real and widespread hardship and poverty among the British student population?
Mr. Howarth : The rate of applications for student loans this year is almost double what it was a year ago, recruitment to higher education is soaring and student numbers have increased by 10 per cent. this autumn for the third year running. We are giving more public support to more students than ever before. During the 1980s the participation of 18-year-olds in higher education doubled from one in eight of the population to one in four. That is a widening of personal opportunity, a lifting of the nation's educational attainments and a sharpening of our competitive skills which will stand us in good stead for the future.
Mr. Batiste : Does my hon. Friend agree that the real problem facing students, particularly those from areas such as my own in Leeds, is that the local education authorities have been extraordinarily late in supplying their mandatory grants? For example, some eight weeks after the term began students in Leeds still had not had their grants. How long will it be before the Student Loans Company will be able to administer mandatory grants as well as cut out the middle man?
Mr. Howarth : My hon. Friend rightly draws attention to a deplorable state of affairs that applies in a limited number of authorities--about seven--of which his own in Leeds is a conspicuous example. We have a system of student support as generous as any in the world, but, under long- established arrangements, local education authorities administer the award system and students depend on their playing their part. I am concerned at the failure of Leeds in that regard. We wrote to the Leeds authority at the end of October but no one replied. We sent a reminder letter but received no reply. I am told that the authority is not answering the telephone and that is not good enough.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : The Minister will nevertheless be aware of the real hardship this summer and of the queues at the soup kitchens on the campuses. Does he believe that the loans plus grants system covers the full year or does it cover only the terms after the Christmas and Easter vacations and, if so, what does he recommend to students who cannot find work during the summer in the present employment conditions and who had to resort last summer to the soup kitchens?
Mr. Howarth : We introduced the new system of student support last year. We uprated the grant and introduced a top-up loan, the effect of which was that publicly provided support for students rose by 25 per cent. Most students became ineligible for social security benefits, but the loan that was made available was well above the average benefit claimed. To ensure that individual students were not losers under the system, access funds were distributed to higher education institutions for them to use at their discretion to help students in particular need. That is a soundly based principle. More students than ever before are entering higher education. It is important that colleges and universities use the access funds sensitively and target them
Column 724on those who need them. If students do not take up the publicly provided loans that are available for them, they are neglecting an important element of the student support system.
8. Mr. Shersby : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many secondary schools in the London borough of Hillingdon have now been approved for grant-maintained status and how many applications are still outstanding.
Mr. Eggar : Eight schools in Hillingdon have now been approved for grant-maintained status. There are no outstanding applications. That number, which is almost half of Hillingdon's secondary schools, is both a testament to the support shown by Hillingdon to GM status and a rebuke to those local education authorities that remain hostile to the policy.
Mr. Shersby : Is my hon. Friend aware that Hillingdon is leading the country in recognising parents' wishes? Does he agree that grant-maintained status plays a significant role in raising the morale of the teaching profession, raising education standards and improving the fabric of buildings?
Mr. Eggar : I agree completely with my hon. Friend. The move to grant-maintained status has been overwhelmingly supported by the parents of pupils at the Hillingdon schools that opted to go grant-maintained. When I visited Bishopshalt school with my hon. Friend, I saw for myself the superb improvement in equipment and facilities that it has managed to achieve only shortly after attaining grant-maintained status.
10. Mr. Latham : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on his replies to representations which he has received regarding the future financing of adult education.
Mr. Eggar : In reply to representations on that matter, my right hon. and learned Friend and I have made it clear that funding will continue to be available from central Government for all types of further education for adults. There is no question of courses being discontinued, or of fees rising, as a result of the Government's reforms.
Mr. Latham : Is my hon. Friend aware that, despite his welcome answer, deep concern is still felt by Leicestershire community colleges-- which have a proud and long-standing record of providing adult education-- that they will be squeezed out by the new proposals? Will he reconsider the matter in the interests of the widespread rural provision of that essential and popular service?
Mr. Eggar : I am aware of the concern felt by community colleges in Leicestershire, Devon and Cambridgeshire. My right hon. and learned Friend and I met several delegations and held discussions with a number of our right hon. and hon. Friends. We believe that the Further and Higher Education Bill's provisions meet the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) and by others, and we can categorically reassure those colleges that they have nothing to fear.
Column 725Mr. James Lamond : Is the Minister aware of the deep concern felt also by those who attend non-vocational classes in the evenings and at other times who, I am sorry to say, do not believe a word that the Minister says about continuing those classes? They have read earlier statements by the Minister and by the Secretary of State, which convey a completely different point of view.
Mr. Eggar : Before making such statements, the hon. Gentleman should take the time and trouble to read the Further and Higher Education Bill that is going through another place. If he does, he will find that, among other things, it makes no division between vocational and non-vocational adult education. The hon. Gentleman should do his homework.
Mr. Haselhurst : Does my hon. Friend accept that the fears raised in some people's mind by the White Paper have not been entirely quelled by the reassurances that he and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State have given? There is anxiety that there will be rationalisation and that some colleges and available classes in rural areas will cease to exist. Can my hon. Friend the Minister give any reassurances in that respect?
Mr. Eggar : I can reassure my hon. Friend that nothing in the Bill will make that sort of rationalisation necessary. Furthermore, both I and my right hon. and learned Friend have made it clear that we want more education provided locally for adults than is currently available. We believe that the Bill will make that possible.
Mr. Andrew Smith : Why does the Minister think that--as the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) said--those having a close knowledge of adult education, including the voluntary sector, women's institutes and members of the Conservative party, are so deeply unconvinced by the Minister's replies that there were half a million signatures to a petition opposing the Government's proposals? Is it not the case that the decision to split adult education between a further education funding council and local education authorities is a recipe for disaster for an important sector of education, which has already been cut to the bone as a consequence of the Government's failed policies?
Mr. Eggar : In the context of the Bill, we will ensure that more adult education is available locally, and that it is of better quality. That is increasingly being recognised by many interested parties. I wish that the political posturing promoted by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and by Mr. Stephen Byers in particular would cease.
Mr. Patrick Thompson : Is my hon. Friend aware that, despite what has been said, there is continuing concern in Norfolk--as represented by those involved in Wensum Lodge in Norwich? Will my hon. Friend do all that he can to persuade local authorities to play their full part in ensuring the continuation of adult education?
Mr. Eggar : Undoubtedly, some local education authorities are now spending less on adult education than we think that they should be spending. It is important for those who are rightly keen to ensure the provision of plenty of adult education of an appropriate standard to address their concerns to the education authorities. They should make certain that the authorities are spending a suitable amount on adult education, and that it is available locally as well as centrally.
Mr. Atkins : I met representatives of the National Association of Youth and Community Education Officers yesterday. I shall be meeting the representatives of the Standing Conference of Principal Youth and Community Officers for the London and south-east Region on 17 December, and I am meeting representatives of the British Youth Council and the Scout Association in the near future.