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Mr. Forth: "We"?

Mr. Byers: As the Opposition, we have used one of our supply days.

We arranged the debate because it is our opinion that the policies being pursued by the Government have failed, and will continue to fail, the schoolchildren of our country.

We need only read the official reports from the Office of Standards in Education to realise--those reports show it clearly--that about one third of our schoolchildren are being failed by the system. They receive a substandard education. That is unacceptable. We need policies that will ensure that that 33 per cent. of schoolchildren receive the education they need and deserve.

The Government amendment talks about "giving parents more choice". I remind the Minister of the comments he made in Committee during the passage of the Education Act 1993, when he accepted, and said very clearly, that the Government were not offering choice to parents. Those were the Minister's words--that the Government could not offer choice to parents. All they could do was allow parents to express a preference. That is all the Government are doing--allowing a preference to be expressed. Parents cannot choose the school to which they will send their children--they can only express a preference. However, the Minister, the Government and the Conservative party, by talking about choice, have raised parental expectations. It should be no surprise that, in the past three years alone, the number of parents appealing against not obtaining a place at the school of their choice for their child has more than doubled. Those are the Government's own figures.

Spending is at the heart of the debate. The settlement for schools takes no account of the extra 116,000 pupils who will be in the school system from September 1995. It takes no account of the additional financial burdens of the introduction of the new code of practice for those children with special educational needs, and no account of the additional demands of the national curriculum. The Government introduce all those policies, but choose to ignore them when allocating resources.

The way in which the Government have dealt with this year's teachers' pay award has highlighted, not just for politicians but for parents and governors, the way in

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which the Government are treating the funding of our education system. The current Secretary of State for Education has failed to deliver for our children, their parents and school governors. The last time there was difficulty in funding a settlement for teachers, the then Secretary of State for Education and Science, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), rustled up an extra £67 million from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to help fund the teachers' pay settlement. He did what he could for the education service, as recently as three years ago. The present Secretary of State has failed.

What about the standard spending assessments? We heard from the hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) about the problems being caused to the education budget in Derbyshire. The hon. Gentleman should have found out what Derbyshire is spending on education this year and compared it with the standard spending assessment given next year for education in Derbyshire. If he had compared the two figures--as he is a Conservative Member, I can understand why he did not do so--he would have discovered that this year Derbyshire is spending £333 million on education, but next year it has a standard spending assessment for education of £303 million. There is a gap of £30 million.

There is a warning here. Conservative Members speak about a national funding system for education. If we had that, based on the criteria of the Government, £30 million would be cut from Derbyshire's education budget. Nationally, it would mean a cut of £486 million.

We are aware that standards are under attack throughout the system. In our primary schools, more than 1 million children--one in four--are in classes of more than 30. The Office of Standards in Education has been told that there must be a primary inspection every four years for every school, but, at the present rate of performance, it will take eight years, because the Government have not provided the resources to allow the job to be done properly, and indeed intend to cut the budget for future years.

We have a Department for Education that knows a great deal about waste. The failed national curriculum cost tens of millions of pounds. The Minister who sits there on the Treasury Bench has an office in a building the rent of which is £1 million--and for the information of those schools that worry about capital, not £1 million a year, but more than £1 million a month rent is being paid for the Department's offices in Sanctuary buildings. That is where the real waste exists.

What about the example of the proposed city technology college in Brighton? The Government paid £2.3 million for the site. Two years later, when there were no takers, it had to be sold for £1.5 million--money wasted.

We may have a new Secretary of State with warm words and sweet smiles, but we have a harsh settlement for local government. Our children will suffer school budget cuts this year so that taxes can be cut next year. Our children should not be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

8.59 pm

Mr. Sebastian Coe (Falmouth and Camborne): I am delighted to be able to contribute to the debate this evening, and I am equally delighted to be able to answer the question posed by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett). He asked where Conservative Members were educated, and what their hopes were for their children. He

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will know that I was educated in Sheffield in the state system from primary to tertiary level, and I hope that my children will enjoy the same benefits as I have gained from a state education.

I am also delighted to take part in a debate in which there is so much underlying accord between the two parties. In the past few weeks, Opposition Members have made a mad scramble to nick our clothing on many key issues. It must have been with difficulty and a sense of embarrassment that the hon. Member for Brightside has been forced to make U-turns on the subject of league tables, opt-out schools, charitable status and a number of other very important issues. I hazard a guess that there are more U- turns to come--and not only in education.

I recognise that there have been fewer emotive debates in the House this year. However, in the county of Cornwall I have rarely witnessed a debate in which so much mischief and emotional blackmail has been peddled by so few to so many. I hazard a guess that, if the Liberal Democrat-controlled county council had a remit for health, it would have trooped out nurses rather than teachers in this ritual dance. The Liberal Democrats have cynically used education in the county in an attempt to derive some rather shabby political advantages. They circulated a bogus and misleading petition in that county; my hon. Friends the Members for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) and for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) and I have written to the leader of the Liberal Democrats asking him to withdraw it. The Liberal Democrats have made a tremendous amount of mischief in Cornwall, but not one Liberal Democrat representative from that county has set foot in the Chamber all afternoon. I think that that shows in true relief the crocodile tears that they have shed over the issue.

The bogus petition circulated in Cornwall simply said that children in that county were worth £100 less than children in any other part of the country. That is a shabby statistical sleight of hand. The Liberals did not take into account the area cost adjustment and other key components.

Will the Liberal Democrats in Cornwall tell the children on the Isles of Scilly, which is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives, that the benefits of extra considerations will be removed? I have not noticed a huge campaign being carried out in the constituencies of Bermondsey, Christchurch and Newbury in favour of the removal of the area cost adjustment. There is total silence about that issue.

Cornwall sits mid-table as far as expenditure is concerned. In the past 20 years, spending on secondary and primary education has risen, and it has increased most profoundly in the past 10 years. At the annual general meeting in his constituency a few weeks ago, my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives described the whole argument being pushed by Liberal Democrat councillors and Members of Parliament in that county as lies, damned lies and Liberal Democrat statistics. We must punch a hole in those statistics, because they do not hold water.

There is no doubt that this local government settlement is tight; it would be naive and coy of me to pretend otherwise. However, I ask the county to look very carefully at its reserves; at the amount of money that is held back centrally for administrative services and for surplus places. It should examine its unspent balances and look very carefully at reordering its priorities.

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If the county sacks teachers--which is what it is threatening to do--let us make it clear that that is the priority of a Liberal Democrat-controlled county. It is not the priority of the Conservative grouping, the Labour grouping or the independent grouping in that county.

The Liberal Democrats are finding life a little difficult. They promised the earth in the build-up to the county elections a year ago, and they are now finding that the reality of democratic control means that occasionally they must make difficult decisions. As I am told time and again by the council that reserves are sacrosanct and should not be touched, I will leave the House with an interesting observation about my previous political year.

In the parlance of "Match of the Day" pundits, it was a year of two halves. I spent the first half of my year fighting with county hall and imploring the council to dip into its reserves in order to reinstate two primary schools in my constituency--Trevithick school in Camborne and Stithians school in the village where I live--which had been cynically removed and placed down the list of the council's priorities for capital expenditure. When I approached county hall about the matter, I was told that under no circumstance could I push the council any further on the question of dipping into its reserves.

I spent the second half of my political year fighting county hall about the imposition of four new age traveller transit sites in my constituency. Anyone who is familiar with the constituency of Falmouth and Camborne will know that we need four new age traveller transit sites like we need a hole in the head.

County hall said that, if I could not support its bid to Government for funding--which was to be repealed three weeks later--it would dip into county reserves. Education priorities in the county of Cornwall were demonstrated by the refusal of Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament to oppose the establishment of those sites, and by the councillors who sat in the background and hoped that the whole issue would go away.

We ask a great deal of teachers in this country and in my constituency. They are committed, loyal and professional. I was educated in the state system. I attended Tapton school in Sheffield, Abbeydale Grange and Loughborough university. They were two very good schools, and I was delighted to attend them, but we are now asking more from our teachers than we have ever asked before in exactly the same way as we are asking more of our police service.

Teachers in my constituency, and the length and breadth of the country, are dealing with children with fewer social skills than ever. I meet head teachers regularly at my parliamentary education forum, and they say exactly the same. There was a time when that was at least compensated for to some extent by children's television. The waterfall of rubbish that passes for children's television is a sadness, and on Saturday mornings is little more than an orgy of commercial interests pushing videos and CDs-- and it is not helping. We have to kill the myth that what happened in the 1980s was a continual starvation of education funding in Britain. In 1980, we were spending 20.4 per cent. of our national income on welfare, including education. By 1990, we were spending 21.4 per cent. of a significantly larger national income.

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In the county of Cornwall, and on national indices, there is no getting away from the fact that education has been well funded by the Government. Teachers' pay has risen by 55 or 60 per cent. in real terms, and there have been increases of 35 per cent. on school equipment and books, and more than 50 per cent. in real terms on gross expenditure in education.

It is nonsense to pretend that those are the statistics of starvation and deprivation. They are not. We have a great duty to skill properly and make sure that--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Time is up.

9.9 pm

Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone): I am also delighted to take part in the debate, as I took part in the earlier one when the local government settlement was first announced. I offer the House my apologies for not being present when the debate began, but I was in a Select Committee until about 6.30 pm.

In the debate on the local government settlement, I drew the Minister's attention to the spending pressures that have been imposed upon my local authority, Barnsley. In the past four years, Barnsley has had to absorb enormous pressures. For example, between 1990 and 1994, the number of children on free school meals has increased to 9, 591. That represents a 58 per cent. increase. The number of children receiving a grant for clothing has increased by 54 per cent. and there has been an enormous increase in the number of children requiring special needs education. The figure has increased from 1.3 to 3.1 per cent. of pupils in Barnsley. That has meant that the authority has had to find about another £6 million to meet those increased pressures.

When we discussed those issues in the last debate, the Minister looked askance when I drew attention to the facts about Barnsley and when I intervened on his speech, he said that I was trying to square the circle. The circle is that Barnsley has not been able to use the resources available for its children because of the cuts and their impact.

The schools maintenance programme is now estimated to be more than £12 million. That is what is required to bring schools up to standard. Some schools have bucket monitors. When it rains, children are sent out with buckets to catch the water because the buildings are in a such a bad state. The impact of the cuts will be enormous. According to the report of the education department in Barnsley, another £3.7 million will be required this year to meet the 1994-95 standards. The Minister will be aware that our SSA has been considerably lower, but the authority is spending its full SSA on education.

If the Minister will pay attention, I shall point out the real impact of the cuts on Barnsley. The report prepared by the education department draws attention to the increased class sizes in our secondary schools. It points out that the class sizes for science and technology are likely to be in excess of 28. When one bears in mind the real need to increase the skills in that age group, particularly in terms of GNVQs, it is clear that larger class sizes will not be able to provide that little extra to enable pupils to reach the required standard. That will impact on opportunities in further education.

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There will be an increase in the number of classes that will be taught by non-specialist teachers and that again will mean a lowering of standards. If non-specialist teachers are used in Barnsley, the standards there will be lower than those in areas that can afford qualified teachers. There will be large reductions in capitation. It is estimated, for instance, that in some secondary schools the capitation fee will be as low as £10 per pupil. The money restriction will mean a restriction on examination entries as well: children will be denied the opportunity to extend their education by taking examinations.

There will be no provision for pupils with additional needs. Non- statemented pupils will not receive the essential support that they require. I am pleased to see that the Secretary of State is present: she probably is not aware of the impact that the cuts will have in Barnsley. Class sizes will increase in secondary schools, particularly in science and technology. As I have said, that will have a huge impact on general national vocational qualifications. Children need to specialise if they are to use their skills in jobs. Class sizes will also increase in primary schools. The Secretary of State may not know that it is estimated that some class sizes in Barnsley may reach more than 40. Primary education is particularly important to children in their formative years, but many children in Barnsley will not have the opportunities that are available to children in other areas.

There will also be an increase in mixed-age groups. Many schools will have three age groups in one class, and there will be cross-phasing: for instance, key stages 1 and 2 will be in the same class. There will be no provision for pupils with additional needs, in both primary and secondary schools.

9.17 pm

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon): All that we know about the world before us tells us that our investment in education will be crucial for the personal development of our children, for the quality of our democracy and society--if we fail to educate children adequately, the public expenditure bill will ineluctably come back on the social security and police budgets--and for our capacity to compete in an ever-more demanding global economy in which knowledge-based activities and intellectual skills are increasingly at a premium.

I note with satisfaction that the Government have indeed invested in education. They have increased spending in real terms by 50 per cent. per pupil. I note the enormous increase in the numbers who stay at school after the age of 16, the exciting developments in further education and the huge rise in participation in higher education. I share the Government's pride in that. Now, however, my right hon. and hon. Friends seem to be withdrawing from that commitment. They are reducing their planned expenditure on education, and just at a time when the fiscal imperative for public expenditure restraint has abated. In the coming year, the public sector borrowing requirement will be 3 per cent. of gross domestic product; it is heading towards 0.75 per cent. of GDP in 1997-98. We can afford to invest properly in education; indeed, we cannot afford not to.

Of course it is not easy to balance growth in investment with tight cost control, but that is the task of responsible central Government and local authorities. My right hon.

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and hon. Friends argue that it will be possible, by dint of increased efficiency, to maintain education provision within budgets that increase below inflation. The scope for efficiency gains varies markedly from authority to authority. Every LEA, like every large organisation, is capable of some efficiency improvements. At one time, I was sharply critical of Warwickshire, considering that there was scope for savings on marginal expenditure and improved efficiency. Then, for two years in succession, my county was capped, and in the three subsequent years the Government permitted the county to increase expenditure only below inflation.

The squeeze on Warwickshire has been tight and its administrative expenditure is below the county average. Any economies that remain within Warwickshire's power would not be commensurate with the savings that the Government require. The effect on the county of capping has been the more severe because Warwickshire's SSA is plainly wrong. The theory is that SSAs underpinned by central Government grant provide for parity of provision throughout the country. As it is, Warwickshire is spending 9 per cent. above the SSA and 3.6 per cent. per head below the counties average, yet one third of its primary schools have classes of more than 30 pupils and one tenth have classes of more than 35. The county effectively has no discretionary awards and its youth service has been cut by half. The conclusion must be that the Government have miscalculated Warwickshire's SSA. The Treasury and the Department of the Environment should acknowledge that, whatever the theory, in practice SSAs throw up anomalies and they should act to correct the system's deficiencies and injustices.

For five years, Members of Parliament representing Warwickshire constituencies and representatives of all parties on the county council have been waiting on Ministers to explain the deficiencies of our SSAs and to seek help. Always we are told that the matter will be looked at for next year and that Warwickshire should sort things out within the Association of County Councils. When next year comes, there is no significant relief and we know that other counties in the ACC will not come to Warwickshire's rescue because that would be to their detriment.

The Government's present requirements are impossible for Warwickshire to meet without significantly damaging education provision. The 1.2 per cent. increase in the SSA is academic because, under the cap, the county is permitted to increase spending by only half of 1 per cent.--yet the Government require teachers' pay to be increased by 2.7 per cent. We can square that circle only by reducing the number of teaching posts and increasing class sizes.

Of course it is right to improve teachers' pay. On 24 November 1990--a pregnant period in the history of the Conservative party--my right hon. Friend who became Prime Minister was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying:

"We need to give teachers back the status they once had and that will mean more money for the right teachers delivering the right service."

Teachers want to deliver the right service.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State knows the difficulties in Warwickshire because we have had a series of meetings with her. She knows that our concern is shared across the political parties. In her internal letter, leaked in The Times Educational Supplement , she warned of the damage and of what could happen to the

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atmosphere in the education service that my right hon. Friend, through her commitment to the nation's children and to teachers, has done so much to improve.

Having studied Warwickshire's school budgets, I know how well founded were my right hon. Friend's warnings. The budget for Stratford high school for the forthcoming year is down £310,000. That secondary school will have classes of more than 30 pupils, in classrooms that were never designed for such numbers. Eight teachers will lose their jobs and the school has averted the loss of another eight posts only by using reserves accumulated to improve the computer network to meet the requirements of the national curriculum. The school is even more deeply worried about the consequences of the following year, because it cannot use those one-off reserves twice. In Brailes junior and infant school, the number of full-time teachers will be reduced from five to four and classes will increase to 34 pupils. Shipston junior and infant school loses £43,000 from its budget, and Bidford junior and infant school loses £35,000. Bidford and Studley junior schools will have their special educational needs provision cut. The Minister of State has done a marvellous job improving the policy framework for special needs, but we shall not realise his aspirations if we do not have the requisite resources.

Warwickshire school governors are public-spirited people, and we have done much to increase their responsibilities. They are now faced with a cruel dilemma. Twenty Warwickshire school governing bodies have decided to return the responsibility for drawing up school budgets to the local education authority. I cannot criticise them for doing so.

At Shottery junior and infant school, there are plans to raise money on appeal, to the tune of £50 per family. Those families have paid their taxes. They would be happy to pay more to ensure adequate education provision. They would be happy to pay an extra 23p a week on their council tax. That would raise £2 million, which would be enough to save the jobs of 100 teachers in the county--but the Government have imposed a cap on the county that prevents them from doing so.

If these limitations on education spending are designed to clear the way for tax cuts later this year, I repudiate that policy. It would be entirely wrong to cut taxes on the affluent while the needs of our public services are not properly met. We are not highly taxed in this country. Historically, people have voted Conservative because they have seen the Conservative party as the party of relatively low taxation. That remains true. A Labour Government would always intervene more and spend more; taxes will always be lower under a Conservative Government than under a Labour Government.

More importantly, people have voted Conservative because they have seen us as more competent to manage the economy and they have accepted our genuine commitment to public services. My right hon. Friends have done much to retrieve the Conservative party's reputation for good economic management. Evidence of that is all around us in the economic recovery. By that same token, we can afford to improve public services. We shall not be forgiven if we neglect the trust that people have placed in us to provide properly for the public services.

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Unless my hon. Friend can offer me some immediate relief for Warwickshire schools this evening, I would be failing my constituents if I were to support the Government in the Division Lobby. 9.26 pm

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton): I welcome the comments of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), but I begin mine by complimenting my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) on his exposition of the educational failings of the Government-- ably supported as he was by many Opposition Members. It is pity that we did not hear the same reasoned intellectual defence of the Government's position by Conservative Members. Instead they trotted out the same old myths--and "Trot" will be a word to which I will return when I deal with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) about Stalinism in Kent.

The Government amendment

"welcomes the substantial increase in the real level of education spending since 1979; notes that in a tough settlement overall local authorities will still be able to spend more next year than in 1994-95".

Parents, governors, teachers and councillors throughout the land know that that claim is nonsense. The Government's capping limits restrict most LEAs to a cash increase of 0.5 per cent., out of which they must pay for the teachers' pay rise of 2.7 per cent.--not to mention adult education, nursery education, increasing pupil numbers and special educational needs.

In real terms LEAs are having to cut an enormous £390 million from their education budgets, with the English shires bearing the brunt. There appears to be a consensus among all interested

parties--including many Tory Ministers, Back Benchers and local councillors --that the current system of education funding does not work. There is widespread agreement that the funding awarded by the DFE for the 1995-96 financial year is inadequate and reveals a stark lack of understanding of the limitations under which schools are already struggling to function. Many simply will not be able to provide the amount and standard of service that is necessary without dramatic changes to schools' make-up. There are countless nationwide illustrations of that.

Schools are often obliged to fund part or all of the teachers' pay increase by adding tens of thousands of pounds to their payrolls. They are having to reduce numbers of teaching and support staff by means of pushing experienced teachers towards early retirement, voluntary redundancy, non- renewal of temporary contracts, or of taking on newly qualified, inexperienced teachers, rather than the more mature pedagogues who cost more on the salary scale. They are having to make further cuts in spending on books, equipment and maintenance. Faced with the possibility of staff cuts, schools are having to increase class sizes, resulting in less quality time teaching and more mixed-age and ability groups.

The Government show either culpable ignorance or malicious contempt for education, with their failure to address the reality of education in the country today. As the Secondary Heads Association--a body that includes the headmasters conference among its members--put it, there are systematic problems. First, future spending is largely determined by historical levels of spending, and that leads to all sorts of anomalies. Secondly, there is no

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direct linkage between funding decisions and decisions regarding the type and amount of education provision that should be available. Thirdly, the data used to calculate budgets are far too removed from the actual costs.

If I may, I shall quote directly from the Conservative-dominated Education Select Committee, which warned two years ago:

"The decision that whilst schools would be funded largely by reference to pupil numbers, the actual costs (including actual, rather than average salaries) which they incurred would be charged to their budgets. Whilst this is, on the surface, relatively simple and fair, schools which in the past had a relatively high proportion of experienced teachers at the top of the salary scale (and therefore higher costs) have lost money as a result of a switch to a system of resource allocation which assumes that all teachers cost the same amount. Many of those `losing' schools will have lost relatively small amounts, but anecdotal evidence has suggested that a significant minority of schools have sustained losses which can only be absorbed within a relatively small and inflexible budget by parting with senior teachers and replacing them with inexperienced teachers, or not replacing them at all."

What does that tell us about standards in ourschools?

The hon. Member for Dartford made heavy going of his claim of increased or better standards from the Government. Let me give him a yardstick with which to test the standards that the Government have achieved over the past 16 years, noting that, within the age group 16 to 24, the education of a huge number of people has been determined by 16 years of Tory Government. In that age group, 750,000 young people are out of education, out of training, out of jobs, out of benefit and out of Government statistics. I am afraid that it is a distortion to look only towards one end of the scale in terms of the end product of the education system.

That has now come to pass with a vengeance. The examples of the losses to schools are many. I shall give the House just a few. The Secretary of State's own authority--Norfolk--has suffered. Its education SSA for next year is £234.8 million. Last year, it spent £252.5 million. It has had a cut of £3.276 million. What that really means, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) said, is that cuts were made to discretionary awards, community education, adult education and school meals. Nottinghamshire, which houses the Chancellor's constituency-- we heard from the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Alexander) earlier--spent £378 million last year. But the pay increase will cost the authority nearly £6 million and there will be a shortfall of £2.5 million. If that does not mean cuts, I do not know what does.

Oxfordshire, where the previous Secretary of State for Education, the right hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten) has his seat, is an excellent example of the duplicity of the Government's amendment. The frustration and anger of middle England has manifested itself there, as in Warwickshire, Shropshire and other shires not noted for their revolutionary tendencies. In Oxfordshire, one can quote Wesley Green middle school, on the now infamous Blackbird Leys estate, which is now £64,000 down on what it was spending three years ago, and it anticipates losing a further £40, 000. Or Mr. Betteridge, a parent governor at Burford school, who said that schools now had to decide which law to break: whether to exceed their budgets or fail to deliver the national curriculum. A teacher at the

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same school suggested that it would lose six posts. Judith Bennett, who chairs the governing body of Chalgrove primary school, said: "We are going to concentrate nine classes into eight. At the moment, they are low to mid-20s and this will now go to over 30." The cuts to local authorities were so great that it moved a Tory councillor to prepare a confidential briefing paper to Oxfordshire's Conservative Members of Parliament. He wrote:

"It is clear that 1995-96 contains real problems and is going to be the most difficult budget the county has had to set",

with only two services, education and social services, costing enough to

"bear the brunt of the necessary reductions . . . It seems certain that there will be reductions in school budgets, possibly of 3 to 4 per cent."

He said that primary schools would "probably cope" by reducing numbers of learning support staff and that the

"secondary schools may have to reduce teaching numbers with an impact on non-contact time or slight increases in class size". If Conservative Members are ignorant, it is culpable ignorance. There may be method in the Government's madness because in The Guardian of 7 February another Tory councillor stated:

"The silver lining for the Tories is a possible resuscitation of the opt- out policy. Only one Oxfordshire school has gone grant-maintained. It is to be hoped that budget pressures will force more of them to realise they can kick away the crutches of the LEA and stand quite adequately on their own two feet".

A Berkshire head said:

"If things get worse we would look at going for CTC status and opting out. It sends a shiver down my spine to be forced down this route."

The Prime Minister would deny that the cuts are real or politically motivated. He would certainly find it hard to convince Mr. Brian Brown, a head teacher in a primary school in the Prime Minister's constituency, who in his anger at the £20,000 worth of cuts that he has been forced to make, told The Daily Telegraph , which is not exactly a radical newspaper:

"Mr. Major is not doing his job representing the interests of the people here."

Most of us do not think that he is doing the job of representing the interests of the country, and certainly not in terms of education. The House should note this in the light of his ignorant comment last week when he said that if any local authority was thinking of cutting teachers in the classroom, he would like to ask it what saving it had made in non-teaching aspects of education. Clearly, he has no understanding of how the school community functions on a day-to-day basis, nor of the increasing bureaucracy involved in running a school, much of which is due to Government changes.

I am sure that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State will again tell local education authorities to set sensible priorities. On 21 March the Prime Minister said that there were two administrators for every three teachers. That is utter nonsense and the right hon. Gentleman's assumption vanishes immediately under examination. [Interruption.] That is a credit to the education system that operated when I was at school. Left- wing educationists taught us to prepare adequately, a function in which the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) does not appear to be adequate.

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About 65,000 non-manual staff are employed by local education authorities. Many of them are important front-line personnel on whom key services depend. They are educational psychologists, education welfare officers, inspectors and advisers, and youth and community workers. Only the residue can fairly be labelled as administrative staff, and they certainly form less than 5 per cent. of the total education complement.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Brightside said, staff watch figures for local authority employment show that there are 404,000 teachers and 337,000 staff in England and Wales. The "others" category includes 162,000 manual workers such as cleaners, caretakers and ground maintenance workers. The Department for Education's evidence, which is quoted in the 1995 review body report, is that, of the balance, 109,000 are employed in schools in England on education support and administrative and clerical work.

Does the Prime Minister seriously suggest that school secretaries, dinner ladies, caretakers, psychologists, education welfare officers, advisers and youth workers should be sacked? The sensible citizen would hope not. The Secretary of State reinforced the cynical image of this tired, discredited Government when she wrote to Conservative Members urging them to question local authority spending on nursery education as schools face budget cuts. Margaret Lally, chair of the National Campaign for Nursery Education, said:

"We have always doubted the Government's real commitment to increasing state nursery education. This just shows how little they have".

The National Governors Council agrees, given the Prime Minister's pledge to his party conference, to provide nursery education within the lifetime of this Parliament. [Interruption.]

I shall now deal with some of the earlier comments. I could not believe them and had to consider them at great length. The right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) made a big play about the assisted places scheme. I remind him of the review that he wrote about state and private education, and the value of the assisted places scheme. I am sure that he will take kindly to my quoting him directly:

"Certainly ministers, including myself, have claimed in the annual debate on the scheme in Parliament that the sons and daughters of bus and lorry drivers, miners, butchers, recent immigrants and one-parent families, for example, have through the scheme received a first-class education . . . Even more significantly, 68 per cent of mothers and 51 per cent of fathers of such pupils attended either private or selective education.

I suspect, however, that the aspirant assisted-place parents with their educational backgrounds would not have sent their children to inner-city sink comprehensives . . . Thus if there is any damage it must be to the better . . . comprehensive schools."

I cannot think of anything that is more invidious and more designed to undermine the education provision of the vast majority of children.

Sir Rhodes Boyson rose --

Mr. Kilfoyle: I am conscious of the time. I have given way many times.

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