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Education Expenditure

4.8 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement on the impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review on education and employment which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. The Statement is as follows:

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    "The announcement made yesterday by the Chancellor heralds a new beginning for our schools, colleges and universities. This is a new contract for education--an investment on an unprecedented scale to deliver a step change in education standards nationwide. Every pound of new funding has been linked to demanding targets, including firm targets for maths and English, to drive up standards across the board. This settlement demonstrates the Government's commitment to fulfilling our pledges, investing in the future of our children and the employability and lifelong learning of our people. It allows us to modernise and renew our commitment to taking on the challenge of a new century.

    "It is our intention in the years ahead to create the classroom of the future. Smaller classes and the expansion of modern technology to support learning will be matched by better motivated and more highly skilled teachers. The best will be rewarded, building on the new grade of advanced skill teacher, and we will seek to recruit, retain and reward our teachers to match the task ahead. The settlement will allow us to employ more classroom assistants to back up our teachers. We intend to improve dramatically the adult-to-pupil ratio in primary classrooms to ensure children have the attention which they need to succeed.

    "Since May last year we have announced an extra £2.5 billion for education and £3.5 billion for the new deal programme for unemployed men and women. We are building on the progress made this year. From September there will be lower class sizes for 100,000 pupils in infant classes; a new literacy framework; and an early years place for every four year-old whose parents wish it.

    "We have made a good beginning. But today I can inform the House that in the next three years we will do even better. A flying start in life is crucial to success. That is why I am announcing a new initiative to link support for families and nursery education in providing a sure start for all our children. 'Sure start' will be a cross-department initiative involving my colleagues in the Department of Health and others with the DfEE to provide comprehensive support for those pre-school children who face the greatest disadvantage. It will include childcare and play; primary health care; early education; and family support. We are spending £540 million on 'Sure start' over the three years. This is in addition to our childcare initiative.

    "Nursery education is the foundation of later educational success. I am pleased therefore to be able to announce to the House that by the year 2002 there will be an extra 190,000 nursery places for three year-olds in England, doubling to two-thirds the number of three year-olds who currently have access to a free nursery place. This is the first step towards ensuring universal provision for all three year-olds whose parents want it.

    "We promised the voters that by 2002 there would be no five, six or seven year-old in classes of over 30. This is an essential pledge and a key component

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    in raising standards. I am keen to make even faster progress. I am pleased to be able to tell the House that the money announced by my right honourable friend yesterday will enable us to achieve that pledge earlier. No five, six or seven year-old will be in a class of more than 30 by September 2001. I can go further. The resources available will enable those local education authorities who wish to do so to fulfil that aim by September 2000--18 months earlier than our promise to the electorate. There will be an extra £160 million available to adapt or build some 2,000 extra classrooms, ensuring that we can underpin parental preference as well as delivering smaller class sizes. There will be an extra 6,000 teachers employed to ensure that youngsters learn the basics. In total, we will be spending an additional £620 million between now and 2002 to deliver our pledge.

    "But it is not just our schools who will gain. Our universities and colleges are winners too. We have taken tough but fair decisions on funding for further and higher education. We did so to end the years of neglect--a 30 per cent. drop in funding per higher education student over the last seven Conservative budgets. I can tell the House today that we will carry through our promise to spend the money raised by our new student support arrangements on improving access to, and investment in, further and higher education. In 1999-2000 alone, there will be an extra £280 million for our universities. This is a 5.7 per cent. cash increase for higher education and includes £50 million for research. This will be in addition to the substantial sums announced by my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade for research and science expenditure.

    "I am particularly pleased to announce today an additional £255 million for our further education and sixth form colleges, a cash increase next year alone of 8.2 per cent. This will enable us to improve skill levels and increase staying on rates at 16.

    "The real terms increase in spending on education across the United Kingdom over the next three years will be almost 16 per cent.--an average of more than 5 per cent. a year--and in cash terms an increase of 25 per cent.

    "Our school system was failed by the party opposite during the 18 years it was in power. It managed an average real terms increase of just 1.4 per cent. per year. In the three years to 1997, it reduced the amount allocated in real terms to education year on year. Inevitably class sizes rose year on year. Today marks the end of that sorry decline. By contrast we have allocated almost £10 billion in 2001.

    "We will double spending on capital investment over the Parliament: money for repair and modernisation; money for classrooms fit to learn in. The Tory government in its final death throes cut spending by £110 per pupil. Our spending proposals mean an increase of £300 per pupil next year, over and above what the party opposite would have spent had it won the last election.

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    "In the months and years ahead the change will be clear for all to see--in the fabric of our schools, in the professionalism and morale of our teachers, and in the results achieved by our pupils.

    "This is a historic day for education. It is the largest and the best settlement in any three-year period since the war. It will give every pupil and every teacher, every parent and every governor, the confidence they need to deliver higher standards--essential for all of us in the new millennium.

    "We said we would put education as our top priority. We said we would spend more of our national income than our predecessors on education. Today we are fulfilling our promises. Tomorrow we will start to deliver the education service which Britain deserves."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.16 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement. I congratulate the Secretary of State and the noble Baroness on their ingenuity in constructing large figures for future spending by counting absolutely everything on top of the cash figures for this year as an increase in spending--future inflation, three years' worth of raids on the contingency reserve, definitional changes, all thrown together in a great hotch-potch.

The noble Baroness did not mention the figure of £19 billion. It would be helpful if that figure can be confirmed. It seems extraordinary that this is an expenditure Statement and the total has not been referred to.

Will the noble Baroness also confirm that, using exactly the government methodology--working from the first year's cash amount and counting everything else as an increase--the Conservative Government presided over increases in education spending cumulatively totalling £250 billion since 1979 and £26 billion since 1992?

The figures have been calculated at 1998-99 prices. It is interesting that over the entire lifetime of the last Parliament the average increase in expenditure was 5.1 per cent. under a Tory government. Taking into account everything announced yesterday, and referred to today by the noble Baroness, the average increase in the education budget over the lifetime of this coming Parliament will be 4.8 per cent.

Will the noble Baroness also confirm that, despite the pledge to increase the proportion of our national output on education, it will take at least four years simply to get back to the position that was inherited? The Government will have to run hard in order to stand still on this one. Why has the proportion of GDP which we devoted to education been reduced from 4.9 per cent. to 4.7 per cent.?

Much play is made of finally getting to the figure of 5 per cent. of GDP in the fifth year in office. Will the

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noble Baroness confirm that for 12 out of 18 years in office we devoted at least that proportion of national income to education?

Increased expenditure on education was to be financed by savings on payments to unemployed people. Again, will the noble Baroness confirm that today's figures show a second consecutive increase, albeit small, and that, as admitted by Government, the trend is upwards?

The Secretary of State offers a familiar list of areas on which money will be spent. Boasts were made that we will achieve the target for class sizes by the year 2000 rather than 2001. Will the Government confirm that the money saved from assisted places will not go anywhere near funding all the revenue costs? We know--because the Government have admitted it--that it will not fund the capital costs. Will the Minister tell us what resources will be made available for the 1998-99 financial year to meet that pledge? By the end of the 1998-1999 financial year we will be a mere 20 weeks from delivering the whole of that pledge. It would be helpful to know what resources will be applied to it in the coming financial year.

The Secretary of State talks about extending provision in school for three and four year-olds. Is the Minister aware that many independent voluntary nursery schools for four year-olds are closing as a direct result of the so-called expansion of education for four year-olds, which has meant public sector expansion at the expense of others? Much has been made of the voucher scheme having had that effect, but the present proposals, and those outlined in the Statement, are having a much greater effect on private provision. At least the vouchers helped to keep that provision alive. Will the Minister tell us what proportion will sustain the private sector which is now moving down the age range from four year-olds and three year-olds and will move from three year-olds to two year-olds and end up being a baby-minding service rather than a pre-school play service?

Will the Minister say what proportion of the money will address the difficulty of the differential pupil and adult teacher ratios of private provision as opposed to state provision? The Statement is specific about capital expenditure but it is vague about pay. It is no good having nice, shiny brick-built classrooms if one cannot recruit and keep good teachers to teach in them. Does the Minister accept that we are now facing a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention? The Statement almost studiously avoids any reference to pay and conditions; in other words, it seems that the Government are not taking a grip of that problem.

Will the Minister confirm that today's figures rest on the assumption that local authorities spend above SSA on education? It would helpful to know how SSAs will be affected and just how much money will be made available to go from Government to local government and then into the classroom. But is not spending above SSA what the Deputy Prime Minister penalises local authorities for? For example, my authority is spending

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well above its SSA on education. It is being pilloried by the local Member of Parliament for not passing on to the schools the money that was put into the budget last year. It is spending well in advance of the money that was made available to those schools, so much so that if it spends any more it will be accused of over-spending, and will then be penalised by the right honourable gentleman, Mr. Prescott.

We want to hear more from the Minister about the education maintenance grants for 16 to 18 year-olds. There has been no mention of whether child benefit will be removed from 16 to 18 year-olds, again, a factor that will affect young people in education and those contemplating going into further and higher education.

We have heard again the oft-repeated pledge of 500,000 extra places in higher education and further education. But the Secretary of State has been repeating that for over a year now. Everyone in the world of higher education and further education now needs information about what that means in practice. For example, what progress has been made to date? Will the Minister tell us the progress made on numbers into further education and higher education to date? How many of those places will be in further education, and how many in higher education? Will the Minister confirm that many of those are part-time places? If they are part-time places, what is the whole-time equivalent of 500,000, or is the 500,000 a full-time equivalent figure?

Everyone involved in education will welcome the extra money made available from any government, but they will not support interference in every nook and cranny of their schools, colleges and universities. We have seen the Teaching and Higher Education Bill and the School Standards and Framework Bill pass through this House recently. The legislation smacks of a great deal of interference and intervention and second-guessing as to what schools and LEAs are doing.

It would be helpful to know more about pay and conditions for teachers, and some confirmation of the figures I have given the Minister. On student loans, what have the Government gained from selling the student loans book to the private sector, and what will they gain from the abolition of student loans and the charging of student fees? The figure mentioned in the Statement is £280 million extra going into higher education, but the cost to students and the saving to government is £600 million on the abolition of maintenance and £250 million on the raising of tuition fees.

Those increases are at the expense of the students, and even then they are not getting the whole increase. Will the Minister guarantee now that moneys raised from the abolition of higher education maintenance grants and the introduction of tuition fees for students in higher education will benefit pound-for-pound higher education spending? So far what has been announced does not equate with what will come from the students.

The spending plans rely upon predicted levels of unemployment and inflation and the degree of growth in the economy. Will the Government guarantee that the level of expenditure announced yesterday and repeated

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here today--whatever the outcome of those economic factors--will be met? If those economic factors are not as predicted by the Government what will be the source of this expenditure?

4.26 p.m.

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I do not intend to go into great detail as to whether the figures are right and whether they add up. Suffice to say that whoever are in government will always put the best spin on their spending proposals. There is some doubt as to whether everyone agrees on the figures.

We on these Benches come from a party which put education as its top priority not just at the last general election, but the one before, and continues to do so in local authorities. So it would be churlish not to welcome the Government's aims in putting forward the spending proposals and the extra money that is to go into education. We welcome especially the fact that it will cover all sectors of education.

As has been said, we must remember that there is a great deal of damage to be repaired resulting from the past 18 years. Indeed, the damage continued with this Government because they stuck to the previous government's spending targets. Although it sounds good when we talk about how much more money will be spent per pupil, spending per pupil is not the same around the country. When I was in another place I represented a constituency that did especially badly under the present regime. There was a difference of £100 per capita being spent on pupils who lived within five miles of one another.

We welcome the plans for reducing class sizes, but as was demonstrated during the passage of the School Standards and Framework Bill we would like to have seen that reduction in class sizes for all primary children. That is the feeling of teachers, as expressed this morning on the radio when teachers were asked their views about these spending plans.

We welcome also the emphasis on pre-school provision but, as I have said previously in this House, we are disappointed that the Bill on school standards, with which we finished dealing this week, did not do much to sort out the real problem of the different types of provision for young children.

We welcome the plans to double spending on buildings. However, I have two areas of concern. First, the last government reduced the space standards in schools; and this Government still have to reverse that decision. There has been much emphasis on the state of school buildings. While the Minister did not state this today, I understand that yesterday it was emphasised that money would be spent on the pre-1914 buildings. Many of us involved in teaching will know that some of those buildings are not satisfactory, in particular if they have outside toilets. But it is the 1960s buildings which have given so many problems in education. I hope, therefore, that those buildings will be part of the Government's plans.

I am in agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, as regards how we shall attract the teachers we need. We have all agreed in this House in recent

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weeks that if we are to reduce class sizes we need more teachers. If we are to raise standards, we need the best teachers. But we heard little either today or yesterday about how the money will be spent to attract and train teachers; and how it will be used to motivate and keep them. Without doubt, raising standards is in the hands of good teachers.

In The Times today, David Hart commented that we had one of the worst crises in terms of attracting sufficient teachers. In this House I highlighted the plight of the school my children attended--it was brought to my attention by their past headmaster--in attracting enough teachers to apply for posts. In the past two weeks there have been serious difficulties in recruiting people to train as mathematics teachers. As increasing numeracy is part of the Government's plans, that is a serious difficulty. The Government have said that there will be 6,000 extra teachers, but we have had little detail about where those teachers will come from and how the Government will reach those numbers.

At the beginning of the Statement the Government state that every pound of new funding has been linked to demanding targets, including firm targets for maths and English to drive up standards across the board. I hope that next year we shall hear from the Government precisely how their performance stands up against the targets that they have set themselves. That is what is important in the end. That will be the measure of success of any bold statements made in this House today.

4.32 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, does not seem able to welcome the additional expenditure that the Government are making available for education. I am a little sorry about that. She asks whether I can confirm the £19 billion that will be spent over the next few years; indeed I can. I can give her the sub-division over the three years. Over and above the 1998-99 figures rounded up the sums are as follows: in 1999-2000, £3 billion; in 2000-2001, £6 billion; and in 2001-2002, £10 billion. I think that we can pass even the most elementary numeracy test; it adds up to £19 billion.

The noble Baroness asked about the Conservative Government's record on spending on education. I believe that she confused real terms with cash terms in the claims she made. Perhaps I can let her have the figures. Over the last Parliament, the average real term increase was 1.4 per cent. per year. However, over the next three years the average real term increase as a result of the Statement will be 5.1 per cent. That is a considerable difference.

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