The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
I beg to move, to leave out from “House” to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
“approves the educational and youth policies of Her Majesty's Government which are providing for increased resources for education as a whole, enlarged building programmes, expansion of further and higher education, improvement in the pupil-teacher ratio, and the raising of the school leaving age, thereby widening the opportunities for all children and young people to develop their abilities to the full for their own and the nation's benefit.”
One thing that strikes me very much from the whole tenor of the speech of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) is that he must have a pretty low opinion of his own stewardship at the Department, and also that of his right hon. Friends who held the office. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman reads the Press handouts of my speeches. If he does not want to receive them, I shall gladly withdraw the service, but I note that he not only reads them, but writes articles about them, usually three or four months after the speech has been delivered.
The right hon. Gentleman is right. I was extremely busy during the Easter Recess. I went to the National Union of Teachers' Conference at Scarborough. I opened the Centenary Mathematics [column 1204]Association Conference in London. I went to the National Association of School-masters' Conference at Torquay, to the Headmasters Conference at Cardiff, and to the conference on the Mentally Handicapped, which was held at Bristol. At every one I received an extremely warm welcome as a member of a Government who are doing a good deal for education.
One would not have thought, from parts of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that he and his Government had put up the price of school meals by a greater percentage than I did, and on two occasions.—[Interruption.]—The right hon. Gentleman put them up by 3d.—his Government put them up by rather more—but I shall deal with this issue when I deal with school milk and meals.
The right hon. Gentleman made some comments about the report on the Youth Services. He, or one of his predecessors—there were so many Secretaries of State that I am not sure which one—sat on the report without saying anything about it from July until the election in the following June. I at least reached some decisions about it, and did so in less time than the right hon. Gentleman had the report in his possession, but I shall come to that later.
In reply to some of the right hon. Gentleman's assertions, may I say at the outset that I totally reject his interpretation of our philosophy. I am at a loss to know how he deduces those conclusions from evidence which I shall attempt to advance.
First, the right hon. Gentleman was very critical about my top priority for the primary schools which, above all, has received a tremendous welcome from the country as a whole. I do not understand why the right hon. Gentleman should be so critical, because in his own Manifesto he said:
“In the next five years we shall put more resources, both teachers and building, into the primary schools and expand nursery schools provision both in, and outside educational priority areas.”
I should have thought that we were agreed on this, but I understand for the first time that we are not. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman would not have put such a high priority on the primary schools.
I agree that part of our primary school system is excellent, but no one can be [column 1205]more impressed than are those who go around these schools by the difference in results which the teachers are able to achieve in schools which are new and have good equipment, and in those which are in an appalling condition, and where the teachers often work in very bad conditions both in the classroom, and from the point of view of having few staffroom facilities. The difference between the work done in the very old schools and that done in the new schools is great indeed, and I think that it is worth making it one's top priority to replace and improve the very old primary schools.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about nursery schools, about raising the school leaving age, and so on. He wrote a lot about it in a document called “Where” . We are all anxious to try to do more for nursery schools and it does not require a new Act to do it. Both the right hon. Gentleman and I have retained Circular 8/60 which, in effect, precludes further development of nursery schools, the reason being that resources are not sufficient. However much one talks about education, or about changing the law, what matters ultimately is the amount of resources that one can make available.
There is nothing wrong with the provision in the law for nursery schools. The Circular stops as much development as we would like to see, but the underlying cause of the continuance in force of the Circular is a comparative shortage of resources, bearing in mind the many things that we all want to do.
We agree that nursery development should be concentrated under the urban programme in the deprived areas, and we are continuing the urban programme which the right hon. Gentleman's Government started. I have not seen the right hon. Gentleman's Press handout, but I understand that there has been no change in the urban programme, and that this slice is part of the programme of £60 million for the period 1968–76 allocated by the previous Government.
We, too, are keen on pre-school play groups, and believe that they are doing excellent work. Under the right hon. Gentleman's Government they were placed under the Seebohm Committee, and not under local education authorities. [column 1206]
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about a single date of entry to infant schools. In some areas this could be done with the existing supply of teachers, and the existing stock of school buildings, but in others it could not. One would like to do more, but it would mean an extensive requirement of new capital resources.
I now come to the question of raising the school leaving age, which I thought the right hon. Gentleman glossed over very quickly. If there is one thing which really helps the regions, and the teenagers in the regions, it is raising the school leaving age. The children who have suffered most under the compulsory school leaving age of 15 have been those whose parents have insisted that they left school at the earliest possible opportunity to go out and earn for themselves. It is these children who have suffered, and I entirely agree that the proportions of children in some of the regions, in the Northern region and elsewhere, who have left school early have been far higher than in other areas. So the effect of the programme to raise the school leaving age is directly to benefit the regions, to reduce inequalities, and to provide greater opportunity for those who would not otherwise have it.
I must take the right hon. Gentleman to task on this matter. I believe that he wanted to raise the school leaving age as much as I did, but he knows very well what happened to this great educational advance under the Labour Government. I think that he is ashamed of it. But, when the programme for raising the school leaving age was delayed in 1968, not one Minister resigned. They all quietly acquiesced. All of them said things, of course, but not one resigned in protest, although that step really did deprive young people of educational opportunities, particularly in the North, the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside.
Many of those children left with no school leaving certificate, either O level or C.S.E. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Worsley) asked a Question which threw up some extra-ordinary figures about the 15-year-olds who left school in 1968 and 1969: 91 per cent. of those who left school at the age of 15 had not attempted either C.S.E. or G.C.E. examination, whereas of the 16-year-olds the proportion was only 7 per cent. [column 1207]
I agree that everything should not hinge upon examinations, but it undoubtedly does help young people, when they go to an employer or when they want to go to further education afterwards, having not fully appreciated the opportunities available earlier, if they have a good foundation on which to start and they have at least some certificates which act as a base from which to continue their studies and which they can show both to educational institutions and to employers. We are anxious that all children should have this good basic education before they leave school so that they may later pursue such other courses as they wish.
True, the right hon. Gentleman made plans, but we are implementing them. He had a word to say about the school building programme, and I shall have words to say about that later. But the money for the whole of the school building programme for the raising of the school leaving age is being found by this Government, and the implementation is taking place under this Government. On the latest cost limits, the figures are these: for 1970–71, £31 million allocated to school building for the raising of the school leaving age; for 1971–72, £43.5 million; and for 1972–73, £53.5 million.
Those are extra resources found for giving quite high priority to this project of raising the school leaving age, which will do a great deal to give further opportunity where opportunities are less than we should wish.
Mr. Edward Short
It was my programme.
Yes, the last Government had programmes, but they did not implement them.
I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman, but I noticed that he skilfully avoided giving way on many occasions.
This programme of £125 million—the whole of it—was allocated by me, and it started before the present Government came into office. Of course, the present Government are finding the resources—we lost the election—but the programme was announced by me.
The programme was announced by the right hon. Gentleman [column 1208]just as the 1968 programme was cancelled by his predecessor. It is one thing to say that one will find the money, but, if one has a record of having cancelled what one has said one will do, one's words do not necessarily carry so much veracity as they might otherwise. Hon. Members do not like the knowledge that the raising of the school leaving age to 16, after many years, will take place under this Government.
There is not only the question of capital cost. In the years when this programme begins to take effect, there will be an expected 220,000 pupils staying on at school who would otherwise have left. The annual cost will be about £40 million.
I am happy to pay the right hon. Gentleman a compliment and say that he made provision, particularly, for the supply of teachers for this great occasion. When I was on the Opposition Front Bench, I used to be worried that he did not pay as many compliments as I thought he should to one of his predecessors, the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, who also did a great deal in the expansion of the colleges of education. I do not want to fall into that trap, so I gladly pay tribute to what the right hon. Gentleman did for the supply of teachers and the expansion of teacher training colleges.
The right hon. Gentleman said, that, with the raising of the school leaving age, he would like all children to leave at the end of the summer term and not have two dates, as now, at Easter and the summer. I do not agree with that. It would mean that some children stayed on until they were nearly 16 years 11 months old. I think it better that we should still have the two leaving dates. For one thing—as I heard one hon. Member say sotto voce a moment or two ago—it does help with the getting of jobs.
I totally disagree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says, in response to some of my speeches, that one should go on to attempt as a matter of policy to raise the school leaving age to 17 or 18. I could not accept that for a moment.
A number of hon. Members on both sides are a little worried about the future of the work experience schemes. I know that there are people who are fearful of the difficulty of coping with some young people who, in their own minds, are being compelled to stay on at school an extra [column 1209]year. I am most anxious that work experience schemes, that is, schemes under which children go out to do a few days in various different jobs and occupations while they are at school—under that umbrella, as it were—should continue. But the position is as follows.
Work experience schemes may be organised only for pupils who are over the upper compulsory school age limit. Therefore, only voluntary stayers-on can participate in them. After the raising of the school leaving age, unless the law is changed, the minimum age at which pupils will be able to take part in work experience schemes will automatically be raised by one year. In other words, pupils must be over 16.
It has been suggested on a number of occasions that it would be desirable that these schemes should continue to be available for the same age group as at present, namely, the 15–16s, and that the law on employment should be amended so as to make this possible. I am favourably disposed to work experience, provided that each scheme is properly thought out and managed, and we are consulting the C.B.I. and the T.U.C. about a possible change of law on employment to enable work experience schemes to continue for the same age range as now.
The right hon. Gentleman had a few acid words to say about the independent schools. I understood him to say that there was no element of merit in the entry but only an element of income. Neither is totally true. As he knows, there is a common entrance to many independent schools. He knows, also, that the Royal Commission on Independent Schools and on the Direct Grant Schools referred to this and was quite critical that some of the public schools had a selective entry. So in the sense that merit is measured by an ability intake, one certainly cannot go to such a school without passing the common entrance examination if it be a common entrance school.
I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that he is rather anxious to abolish independent schools, or to license them. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.” ] This did not come out before the election, of course, but it seems that he has some support on his own benches. I [column 1210]greatly doubt that he would find massive support for it. He certainly could not find it from the Donnison Report, which, referring to independent day schools, said in paragraph 319:
“Our recommendations about the policies which the Government should adopt towards these schools are derived from principles upon which we are unanimous. The rights of voluntary bodies to provide, and of parents to pay for, private education that is recognised by the State as efficient should not be abridged by law.”
I am anxious to keep a fairly thriving independent sector. I never want to be a Secretary of State for Education when there is a monopoly of education in the public sector. As, I hope, a good Secretary of State for Education, I am not afraid of competition from another sector. I always think it remarkable that although people are allowed to spend on alcohol, tobacco, cars, better houses, better clothes and better holidays, some people would wish to preclude them from spending on education for their children. I join Donnison in totally rejecting that philosophy.
I will leave direct grant schools for the time being. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I am also anxious to encourage these. If questions are raised about them, I shall try to answer them.
The right hon. Gentleman then went back to dwell on Circulars. We do not get equality of opportunity or increased opportunity from Circulars, whether 10/65 or 10/70. We get increased opportunity from increased resources. Both those Circulars and the action taken under them have led to some confusion in the mind of the public about the status of plans submitted under either of them. I noticed that when I answered Questions the other day and told an hon. Member opposite that a plan has no statutory basis, and that approval of it has no statutory basis, he looked at me rather blankly. May I therefore again take the opportunity of stating what the position is.
A plan for secondary reorganisation for an area, whether under 10/65 or 10/70, has no statutory basis. It is merely an indication of the way in which the local education authority is thinking of altering its secondary school provision. Therefore, approval of such a plan has no [column 1211]statutory effect. There is usually a sentence at the end of the Ministry document signifying the Secretary of State's views on the plan giving a warning to the effect that the approval was without prejudice to Section 13 of the 1944 Act. That Section contains the statutory provisions on changing the character of schools. It was amended after the Enfield case.
It is not a formality but one which requires positive action by the local authority with regard to: the kind of proposal which has to be submitted; the procedure which must be followed, namely, that notice must be given to the public and that a period of at least two months must be allowed for those who object to the proposal to send their objections to the Department of Education and Science to be considered. After all these factors, including the objections and the local education authority's reply to the objections, have been taken into account, it is the Secretary of State of the day who has the task of either approving that change or withholding approval.
The right hon. Gentleman knows this, because he attempted to introduce a Bill to alter the balance between central and local government with regard to compelling local authorities to put forward plans, but at no stage in that Bill did he attempt to alter the provisions of Section 13. Therefore, may we have it quite clear that approval of a plan under a Circular is not to be taken as meaning that there will necessarily be a change in the character of the schools to which that plan refers. There then must be action through all the statutory procedure and the decision ultimately lies with the Secretary of State of the day.
Mr. J. D. Dormand (Easington)
The right hon. Lady is making a very important point. In view of what she says, how much value does she place on the submission of plans? She knows, as the House knows, that this is a very important part of the machinery of reorganisation. Does she say that local education authorities should not submit plans?
No, I have not said that. We are interested to receive plans, and like to know the way in which local education authorities are thinking about the reorganisation in their area. That [column 1212]is why we go on receiving plans. In the past few weeks we have slightly changed our policy on how we acknowledge them. Because of the confusion to which I have referred, we no longer issue approval of plans but say that we have taken note of them. I hope that by this means the full Section 13 procedure, which is the statutory procedure laid down by Parliament, will be restored to its full significance in the public view. But we go on receiving plans and are very interested to receive them.
There are 163 local education authorities in England and Wales. Of these, 131 have plans for the whole or part of their area which have been approved in principle. About 40 of these 131 have completed reorganisation of their county secondary provision by the Section 13 procedure. The majority of the 131 have still to submit many Section 13 statutory proposals if they wish to pursue their plans. No Minister, as the law stands, can compel a local education authority to submit a proposal under Section 13. I understand that the initiative lies with the local authority. Some of the local authorities have not yet reached a stage of submitting any Section 13 notices. Indeed, 38 have submitted no Section 13 proposals to change the character of their schools.
In January, 1970, of 5,385 maintained secondary schools, including voluntary, both denominational and non-denominational, 1,145 were comprehensive, leaving 4,240 which were not. In pupil terms, 31 per cent. of the secondary school population are in comprehensive or non-selective schools. There are 133 Section 13 proposals relating to secondary schools before the Department. I hope that hon. Members will now understand why they may take a little time. It is because we must give each of them very careful consideration.
There is, therefore, and will continue to be, a mixed system of schools in the secondary system. As we continually pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman before last June, he never provided money to translate his ideas into reality, quite apart from the legal problem. The main provision to do this has come from the additional building programmes for the raising of the school leaving age, which was one of the first casualties of his Government.[column 1213]
Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)
When considering the plight of the voluntary schools, which are considering reorganisation as much as the schools she is talking about, is the right hon. Lady fully aware of their growing financial responsibilities? Very often they are very short of cash for educational provision, as is the case in Liverpool, which means that they are rather slow in coming to decisions. Can the right hon. Lady say something about this?
We are all aware of the problem, because most of us have such schools in our constituencies. I cannot say anything about altering the cash position, because I have no such proposals. As the hon. Gentleman knows—we were on the same Committee—many such schools are far too small anyway to be able to change their character. I believe that there is a place for small schools, quite apart from their being denominational, because many parents would like to have the choice of small schools to which to send their children.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke a great deal about school meals, and referred me to the Government's White Paper. The price of the school meal is going up from 9p to 12p this month. This increase of 33⅓ per cent. is, as a proportion of the previous price, less than the 50 per cent. imposed by the right hon. Gentleman's Government in 1968. That was following a period of wage freeze, severe restraint and a ceiling of 3½ per cent. on pay increases.
Whatever hon. Members opposite may think about the position now, they cannot say that it is a position either of wage freeze, restraint or a 3½ per cent. ceiling. Even at the new price there will still be a subsidy on each meal amounting to nearly 30 per cent. of the cost, or an additional 5p. So a meal which will cost 12p this month to the child will in fact, to the local education authority, on average cost 17p—an additional 5p.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned various factors in the price of the meal. If I recollect correctly, the cost of the food in the meal is about one-third of the total cost, so obviously other components have a considerable influence in fixing the price of the meal. In accordance with our policy of more selective help, the Government have taken steps to ensure that no parent who cannot [column 1214]genuinely afford to pay the new charge will be called upon to do so. The right hon. Gentleman knows that new and generous remission scales will take effect this month. When he was very critical of how the Government are handling the fortunes, if I may put it that way, of the other people not so well off in our society, he might have remembered that, for the first time, we have a family income supplement to try to help those who are just above the income level and that the supplement may be up to £4 per week. [Hon. Members: “Peanuts!” ] The peanuts are more than they ever were under the last Government.
In spite of their boasts, the last Government were not able to do anything in the way of a kind of wage supplement that starts to help these people. It is my view that the Opposition do not like the fact that we have done it and have helped people whom they did not help. Moreover, those with the supplement have an automatic passport to free school meals. So those who are worse off in our society are catered for in the sense that there is provision for free schools meals. We expect that, under the new remission scales in the new provisions, nearly one million children will be eligible for free school meals and that the take-up will be about 80 per cent.
Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)
Does the right hon. Lady intend to give the same publicity to the availability of these free school meals and the income basis as was done by the Labour Government? Does she intend to send a letter to all parents to let them know that they can claim this provision?
I cannot say that we shall send a letter to every parent, but as I came out of my Department the other day a great publicity conference was going on. We shall do all in our power to see that the take-up of free school meals is as much as it should be. That will not surprise the hon. Gentleman, since he would expect us to do that, just as the last Government did. We have sent a Circular to local education authorities about the related question of embarrassment to some children and, like the right hon. Gentleman before us, we hope that local education authorities will do everything possible so that children who have free school meals are not identifiable to their fellow schoolchildren, [column 1215]because children are extremely sensitive and I think that one of the worst things one can do is to make them conspicuous among their friends. We shall continue the right hon. Gentleman's policy of doing everything possible to encourage local authorities to do everything possible to see that there is no embarrassment to children in these circumstances.
The right hon. Gentleman asked specific questions about school meals. The policy is as set out in the White Paper to which he referred. The rate of increase will be also as set out there—up to 14p in 1973. He knows that there is a good deal more to it than that in the sense that the figures are averages and that the cost of preparing and serving school meals varies from area to area. These are only average figures.
I think that many parents might wish to have something less than a full school meal available for their children in the middle of the day. Not all children stay at school for meals and many parents would like to have a choice available. It may be, therefore, that some local education authorities will wish to serve not one meal but to give a choice. That rests with them, but in the meantime the policy as set out in the White Paper will continue. The policy is to charge the full cost to those who can afford it, with full provision under the new remission scales and under the family income supplement for those who cannot.
The logic of what the right hon. Gentleman was saying was that, because some children are not perhaps fed properly by their parents at home, one should abolish the entire cost of the school meal and give it free. If that is his logic, the cost would be about £260 million a year. Otherwise, the philosophy is to provide it free for those who cannot afford it but to charge an economic price for those who can, with tapering off for those who have more than one child.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred to school milk. Free school milk is to continue for children in nursery schools and in infants' schools—that is, for children up to seven years of age and, in primary schools, for children over seven and up to 12, where there is a medical need. But it is quite wrong to say that school milk is being abolished completely in infants' and primary schools—it is not. [column 1216]The power to which he referred, to sell milk to school pupils, will come forward in a Bill which will shortly be put before the House. At the moment, the local education authority has power to sell all sorts of beverages but not milk, and does of course sell all sorts of beverages. It should obviously have power to sell milk as well.
Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
To continue the thesis which the right hon. Lady is expounding, does not she agree that there is entitlement in junior schools to free school milk but at the same time local education authorities cannot sell milk to those children who wish to pay for it? Is it not the case, therefore, that those children who are entitled to free milk are being identified?
They are being entitled to free milk because of a medical need and not on a means tested basis. That perhaps is what is in the hon. Gentleman's mind. Free milk is in response to a certified medical need.
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)
Does not the right hon. Lady acknowledge that all children at that age have a medical need for milk and that many parents will be reluctant to identify their children as sickly and claim milk? Will there not be a great difficulty in take-up?
I acknowledge that most children of that age have need for milk. I do not acknowledge that they all have a need for free milk in schools, which is quite different.
I turn now to a subject which the right hon. Gentleman did not raise but which I feel I must say something about because hon. Members are bound to raise it in the debate, and, judging by the nods I see, some of them know what it is. I am referring to the privately made film, “Growing Up” , which I understand shows the sex act and some sequences on masturbation. I am sure that the House wishes to have my views.
As far as I have been able to discover, no invitation to attend the preview was sent to my Department or to the Inspectorate. But one of my professional advisers attended as a medical doctor and as an assessor of the Health Education Council. One other person from the Health Education Council was also present and a report will be made to the Council. The combined effects of the [column 1217]provisions of the Education Acts on curricula matters, of which this is one, are, speaking generally, that, first, in the case of a primary school, the effective power to prohibit the showing of the film resides with the local education authority, and, secondly, in the case of a secondary school, including a county secondary school, that power lies with the governors.
As Secretary of State I have no direct powers. Judging from the advice and information I have received, I am very perturbed by the possibility of this film being shown to schoolchildren, and I am sure that this view is shared by many other parents. I hope that local authorities, heads of schools, governors and individual teachers will consider with the utmost caution any suggestion that the film should be shown in the schools. In the light of any views which the Health Education Council may express, I shall be considering further whether any guidance to local education authorities is advisable on this matter, or the provision of sex education in general.
I should like to say a few words about teachers' pay which, of course, is also pertinent to the debate. This salary negotiation was about the structure of pay as well as the level. All the offers by the Management Panel were on the basis of a new structure. The open offer of 8.8 per cent., or 9.7 per cent. Without prejudice, refers to the percentage increase on the total sum of salaries as a whole, now running at £580 million a year. Its effect was that every teacher was offered 8 per cent., or 9 per cent. without prejudice, increase this year to take him to the appropriate point of one of five new scales, or one of two further scales relating to deputy head teachers or head teachers.
In successive years by virtue of this structured offer further increases would automatically accrue, because the new scales rise by higher annual increments than the old scales and to increased maxima. This, of course, is usual in a structural settlement. Over the course of some four further years, there would thus be a considerable increase in relation to the percentage offered as teachers proceeded by larger increments to the higher maxima.
I should like to give two examples of the final effect of the maxima, one at the bottom end and one at the top end, to [column 1218]illustrate the effect of the scales. I refer first to the non-graduate on the basic scale. The present maximum that he can earn is £1,720; the proposed maximum under the new basic scale would be £2,090. Therefore, the increase to him when the scale had been fully operative would be £370 a year. I take at the other end the head teacher of a large secondary school of about 1,800 pupils. His present maximum is £4,476 a year and his new maximum would be £5,035 a year. Therefore, the effect of this structure increase for him would be to increase his permitted maximum by £559 a year.
The total annual cost of the offer when its effect was fully felt would have been £87 million. The Teachers' Panel rejected this offer and the independent chairman of Burnham has ruled that deadlock was reached and has referred the matter for arbitration to my right hon. Friend R. Carrthe Secretary of State for Employment under the arrangements made in 1965 by the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland). The mater is therefore in his hands, but it may be useful if I make two points about the arrangements which are worrying some teachers.
The first is the terms of reference for the arbitration. Under the arrangements, the terms of reference have to be agreed between the two panels, the Teachers' Panel and the Management Panel. In default of agreement, they have to be settled by the independent chairman of Burnham. Secondly, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment can appoint an independent chairman of the arbitration panel only after consultation with both panels.
There are only two ways under present legislation by which teachers can get an increase in pay: one is by agreement in the Burnham Committee; the other is by arbitral award. If they feel that they cannot conclude an agreement, I hope that they will co-operate in arbitration, and I was glad to hear that the teachers' Easter conferences did not rule out this course. I make it quite clear that if the teachers would prefer to go back into the Burnham Committee and conclude the business there, the Committee's procedure would allow them to do so at any time.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me one or two pertinent questions about teacher supply. At the risk of being [column 1219]repetitive, I have already handed him his compliment on improving the pupil-teacher ratio, which a year ago was 23 pupils to one teacher and this year is provisionally put at 22.6 pupils to one teacher, an average for both primary and secondary schools together.
He mentioned my remarks at Buxton in January. What I said was:
“It is a serious question whether, in the second half of this decade, it will be right to continue the output of teachers at the present rate and thus to pre-empt a very large share of the total resources available for improving the operating standards of the schools.”
I should have thought it obviously desirable to keep the problem under review and to review priorities in education in the light of current conditions, and I wished to get discussion on that matter going.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me about class sizes. My task, as he knows, is to see that there are enough teachers in the schools. He also knows that it is for the headmaster or headmistress of a school to decide how his or her staff should be allocated, and I find support for this attitude in Circular 16/69 issued by the previous Government under the right hon. Gentleman's authority. In paragraph 4 it said:
“Later, when further targets are fixed” ——that is, for teacher supply—
“it will probably prove convenient to fix them in the form not of class sizes but of pupil-teacher ratios …”
and probably by a single overall national pupil teacher ratio. That, I believe, is the better way in which to go about it.
Mr. Edward Short
Is that all the right hon. Lady intends to say on that subject?
I am agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman's Circular and I assume he knows what went out in his Circulars.
He knows that the teachers' quota is not my quota. The quota is an arrangement between the teachers and the local education authorities, but the Department administers it. I thought that the quota was regarded as a stop-gap device to deal with a shortage. In so far as a shortage still persisted in some area, a quota would be needed, but I should [column 1220]have thought that we were coming to the stage when the improvement in teacher supply, thanks to the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors and some of my predecessors, was so great that we should at least consider whether the quota policy should be continued.
I turn briefly to the Youth Service. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) indicated on 1st April that he accepted the Y.S.D.C. report on behalf of the Government. I can only assume that he suffered a slip of memory, because the foreword to that report by his right hon. Friend E. Shortthe then Secretary of State made it clear that it was published as a discussion document without commitment of the Government, and, as subsequent statements in the House by the hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) testified, no decision on the report was taken by the previous Administration. It was therefore news to everyone that he, the chairman of the Council, had accepted it on behalf of the Government, but perhaps I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)
I do not think that the right hon. Lady misunderstood me, but she was misinformed by her advisers. I hope to return to this matter in detail later, but if the right hon. Lady will do me the honour of looking up the statement I made to a Press conference on behalf of the Government—I agree that it was not in the House and, if my memory serves me, I believe that it was in the parliamentary recess—she will find that I announced acceptance of the report in principle by the Government.
I can only say that it is news to everyone, including some of those who sat opposite on the Front Bench. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will kindly send me the statement in which he accepted his own report on behalf of the Government.
There are more educational advisers present at our deliberations today than I have seen in the last six years. This was an official statement I was putting out. I made the statement in the Department of Education in the presence of the entire educational Press. Would the right hon. Lady please jack it out of her own pigeon hole?[column 1221]
We will certainly look for it. I am surprised that when we have discussed this at Question Time—at which the hon. Member is rarely present—his own Front Bench did not follow up when I said that I had sat on the report for a far shorter time than they sat on a report without giving a decision. We will try to clear up the statement by the winding-up speech.
Mr. Denis Howell
No, I must get on.
On a point of order. On the last two occasions when we have had Questions in this House on education matters, I put supplementary questions to the right hon. Lady.
That is not a point of order.
Then it is a point of decency.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Order. I cannot judge on points of decency, unless they are non-parliamentary.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will make his point later. We will try to get the statement to which he refers.
The level of Government support to the Youth Service will be maintained in real terms. The proposal on capital grants, which I shall discuss with the various bodies concerned with the future of the Youth Service, is that some of the resources should be diverted through the mechanism of the urban programme to areas of social need. We shall be willing, on an experimental basis, to support promising new initiatives in our work with young people.
The right hon. Gentleman said that I had in effect abolished the Youth Service Development Council. The Albemarle Report proposed that this Council should be set up for a period of only 10 years. It said:
“The Minister of Education should initiate a ten-year development programme for the Youth Service divided into two stages of five years each. For this period of development the Minister should appoint a small advisory committee of not more than 12 persons to be called the Youth Service Development Council.”
[column 1222]That Council had done 10 years and that was the period envisaged for it by the Albemarle Report.
I did not accept some of the recommendations of the Report because I believe that the emphasis should continue to be on the youth aspect of it and not so much on the community. A great deal of youth work is in the community, but in the Department I wish the emphasis to continue to be on youth work.
Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
I cannot give way. I have not by any means occupied the full amount of time allotted to me by my speech.
Turning to education expenditure as a whole, after taking into account the expected benefits of the Government's reduction in expenditure on school meals and milk and further education fees, total education expenditure in each of the years 1970–71 to 1973–74 remains higher in the 1970 White Paper than the forecast in the previous White Paper. Therefore the expenditure, even after the economies, is higher than that provided for by the previous Government. Moreover, over the coming four years, expenditure on education is now forecast to rise by 11 per cent. compared with the rise of 9.3 per cent. estimated by the previous Government. Not only is the total sum higher but the increase is greater.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows the school building programme will reach the highest record level in history. In the years 1971–72 and 1972–73 the total programme in each year will be £212 million. The emphasis is on primary school improvements and that has been my top priority. Cost limits have just been raised and we have allocated an extra £2 million in each of the two successive years to minor works, particularly those arising from the need to do more to the primary schools. We have revised the number of primary schools that were built, pre-1903, which need replacement. The reason for that is that as more local education authorities realised that for the first time there was a genuine possibility of replacing their schools they found an extra certain number—[Interruption.] The only mistake I made was in relying on figures got during the right hon. Gentleman's time. [column 1223]
As to educational priority areas, our policy on primary schools has directly helped those areas to a far greater extent than anything which the right hon. Gentleman did. A great deal of that money has gone to replace schools in educational priority areas. It follows that the Government's policies in education are to give top priority to the improvement of primary schools, to concentrate limited nursery school courses in deprived areas, to give more opportunities to those who would otherwise have left school at the age of 15, to re-deploy monies for the Youth Service in favour of the less prosperous areas and to make improved provision for higher education, with particular reference to the polytechnic sector.
These policies are designed positively to increase educational opportunity in those parts of the education service where it will prove most effective. They are the policies being implemented in our programmes and I confidently ask the House to reject the right hon. Gentleman's Motion and to support the Amendment.
Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)
I am grateful to have the opportunity of following the right hon. Lady in the debate. I want to spend most of my speech dealing with the desecration of the Youth Services to which the right hon. Lady has just committed herself, but before doing so I should like to mention one or two things arising from her speech. It was the most remarkable speech we have heard, completely devoid of any idea or policy which we could have expected to be put forward by any Minister who has had ten months to assess the situation.
The best tribute I can pay to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) is to point out that in the 55 minutes for which the right hon. Lady spoke—we do not complain about that—exactly half of the time was spent in answering points raised in the speech of my right hon. Friend. The right hon. Lady does not do a service to herself or her cause by counting everything she has to say, especially in education, in absolutely party political terms, as she has done this afternoon. There was the reference to me: “The hon. Member for Small Heath does not usually come to [column 1224]our discussions” , she said. That is a gratuitously insulting thing for a Minister to say. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. James Hill) will listen, he can judge for himself.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris
Order. Sedentary interjections are rather indecent.
I am grateful that my vocabulary is gaining acceptance. Having sat through several Question sessions and asked Questions, having sat throughout the night to get a debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, and having had to leave here at ten o'clock in the morning without being able to raise the subject, I would say, with that history, that it ill-becomes the right hon. Lady to make the slighting references which she made.
The Secretary of State made two points which were novel. First, he said that, in future, plans for the reorganisation of secondary education are to be, not approved by the Government, but taken note of. That is a change of monumental proportions. What we want to know is how far the allocation of resources, particularly for capital works, will have regard to the plans put forward by local authorities. The right hon. Lady said very little on this subject. I assume, and we all hope, that the fact that the Department is to take note of instead of approving plans does not mean that resources for the capital programmes of the Ministry will not be made available if the Government take note of but do not necessarily approve the plans.
The second novel point which the Secretary of State made concerned teachers' salaries. I hope that she will consider this matter again. I cannot think of one reason why the teachers should accept or be expected to accept the Government's offer. It was bad enough at the time that it was made, but since then increases of about 30 per cent. have been negotiated in the motor industry and fantastic tax concessions have been given to surtax payers in the Budget. In the time scale since the offer was made, it is almost indecent to expect teachers to go to arbitration or to be content with an 8.8 or 9 per cent. increase. I ask the Government to carry out a radical reappraisal of the wages situation in the teaching profession and to do the decent [column 1225]thing and make a much more realistic offer.
I wish to concentrate on one matter, namely, the Report on the Youth Service. The Youth Service Development Council, of which I had the honour to be Chairman for five years when I was Under-Secretary of State, took the view that the Albemarle Committee, on which I was privileged to sit, had charted the course for the Youth Service for the next ten years. The time was ripe when the same job needed to be done for the 1970s. My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central said that about 29 per cent. of all young people in the urban areas were not attached to any form of youth organisation. That is 100 per cent. too many. Our figure and researches showed that the figure in the main conurbations was about 10 or 12 per cent. In other words, nearly 80 per cent. of young people in the large towns—the figure is 70 per cent. if one excludes university students and people in higher education—having left school in areas of great deprivation, do not take or do not have the opportunity of involving themselves in the Youth Service.
In that crisis situation the Youth Service Development Council started to do its thinking. The Albemarle Committee charted the course for the youth service over the next ten years and it was hoped that the situation would be corrected. When we found that, far from correcting it, the situation for young people in urban areas was chronically worse, we faced up to the logic of that and said that it would be complete nonsense to end the Youth Service Development Council. That is why we recommend that the council should remain in being. But the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State has got rid of it.
There has been a catastrophic fall-off in the Youth Service. Many of the problems concerning violence and hooliganism on Saturday afternoons which I used to deal with were almost entirely due to the fact that youngsters of 16, 17 and 18 years of age were not spending their leisure time wisely and that the services of counselling and leisure facilities which should have been available to them were not available to them.
By cutting down the Youth Service the Secretary of State has washed her hands completely of this subject. The great [column 1226]problem concerns the unattached people. As we said in our Report, the generation gap between the 13 and 18 year olds is greater than it is between the 18 and 38 year olds, because the 17 and 18-year-old youngsters regard 13 and 14-year-old-youngsters in the Boy Scouts, and particularly in the Wolf Cubs, as “kids' business” .
Our recommendation was that the youth service should be divided; there should be two youth services. There should be one following the traditional pattern, with uniformed organisations, and so on, but which could properly be attached to the formal education service. But we reached the conclusion that what the country mainly needed for the unattached, more physically mature if not intellectually mature youngsters was a new young adult service. It is that recommendation which has created the difficulties we face.
I know the processes in the Department. I know the way in which Ministers are advised. When we made our proposals, strenuous opposition was built up in Whitehall. I was amazed at the pressures put on Ministers to get the Report rejected, mainly by people who had not the faintest idea what we were talking about. This was illustrated in a Written Answer given by the Secretary of State. The right right Lady said that the Report should be jettisoned, even though the Youth Service Development Council had spent two years on it and two major working parties had considered two aspects of the problem that I have been talking about, because she did not think that it would be right radically to change the nature of the service by setting up a youth and community service without clearly defined responsibilities.
It is extremely difficult clearly to define what one wants to do in this area. If we could clearly define it for the 17, 18 and 19-year-olds, there would be no problem. I should not be telephoned on Saturday afternoons by representatives of newspapers asking me to comment about hooliganism. People would not complain about hooliganism and our juvenile courts would not be filled with an ever-increasing number of youngsters.
The trouble is that if the Youth Service were put, as it should be put, in a general community setting, especially for [column 1227]the young adults, it would cost money. Extra resources would have to be made available. There would have to be changes in attitude. I said in the presence of the educational Press that we accepted the Report in principle. I could not go further, as I should have liked to do—and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central will not mind my saying this—because the forces of obstruction were already building up in Whitehall. Those forces were very formidable. We had a formula to deal with this revolutionary situation which I was creating when I set up a Departmental committee under the chairmanship of a distinguished civil servant, and although I announced acceptance of the Report in principle, it was sent to him to deal with and to recommend details. That took a very long time.
I know the people who advised the right hon. Lady. I think that it is to the credit of my right hon. Friend that he refused to accept the advice that he was being offered. By that time I had left the Department of Education and gone to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, where I was still able to keep in touch with the situation, because this was being considered at Cabinet Committee level. What astounds me is that the advice which is accepted on this matter is from people who have not the faintest knowledge of the youngsters we are talking about. We are talking about individuals in such places as Sheffield, Liverpool, London and Birmingham, who are spending their time on the street corners, who come from very bad housing conditions, who work in dead-end jobs, who have no proper leisure facilities available to them, who have no counselling advice available to them, who have no mature, professional youth service advice available to them.
The people who were advising me and who have advised the right hon. Lady—whose advice I could not accept but whose advice she has accepted—are people who send their children to Oxford or Cambridge or other universities. That is the reality of the situation. The advice is given by people who come from good homes in middle-class surburbia. They are quite unaware of the conditions operating for so many youngsters [column 1228]in the working-class areas. That is the truth of the situation.
I come to the scandal of this. I come back to the situation which grieves me most of all. The right hon. Lady announced the decision on 29th March, nine months after she had come into office. In those nine months the right hon. Lady and the Under-Secretary did not call a single meeting of the Youth Service Development Council. In all those nine months, when they were taking a decision to jettison this Report and not to accept it, they did not have even the decency to ask the Youth Service Development Council what was its advice. They never had the sense to take their ideas and proposals to the council. It was still there to advise the Government. It had been set up by Lord Eccles, and when he set it up he said that it was set up not only to advise the Government but to advise the Cabinet. Therefore, it was of that importance when he started it, and he took the chair of the council when he started it.
Let us look for a moment at the situation which has arisen in our society. Every youth training college has gone over to the principles of the Report and is operating it in the training of youth leaders. Every one of them has moved from a one-year course to a two-year course as the first move to get a three-year course, and they are all doing the training of young people very sensibly in the context of the community. That is the concept which the right hon. Lady has rejected.
She told us in her speech that the one thing she does not like is the idea of the Youth Service leader operating in the community. What a nonsense that is on her part in accepting that advice, which she put to the House today. I cannot believe she thought it up herself. I have more respect for her than that. What a nonsense it is. Are these youngsters not in the community? What a nonsense for her to say, “I am not going to have the Youth Service operating in the community” .
I said that a great deal of youth work which is done in fact is done in the community. The Department prefers the emphasis to remain on the 14 to 20-year-olds, with the same [column 1229]latitude with regard to the age range. It prefers the emphasis and stress to be on the youth work, and not to extend to the whole of the community work which, as the hon. Gentleman is the first to know, is a charge on other spheres as well.
If it is a charge on other spheres, it is not being done. What the right hon. Lady is saying is that there is a tremendous vacuum in our society, because we all know that other agencies outside the Youth Service—if it is upon those she is to rely—cannot be relied upon to deal with the matter because they are not equipped to do so and have not the resources to do so. There is a vacuum in the most important section of the youth service.
Not only have the training colleges gone over to this concept, but most of the local authority departments have done so as well. They have changed their youth facilities from Youth Service to youth and community services. They have accepted the logic of the position as well.
The youth organisations, as the right hon. Lady must know, view with great alarm the developments which she has announced throughout the day. I hope very much that the right hon. Lady will think again about the situation, because we have only a small budget for the youth service. In all conscience it is far too small, and that is a reflection upon as well as upon the right hon. Lady—perhaps an even bigger reflection, for I do not think we want to shirk our responsibilities. There should be someone overseeing where the money goes and having a look at the continuing problems in the service. It ought not to be a job just for a Minister and civil servants.
Although she made her announcement, the right hon. Lady has not told us what she is putting in the place of the council—even though she has rejected the one body which could do this job effectively. I am sorry that I shall not be here for the reply by the Under-Secretary of State—for reasons which I have given him and which are not a discourtesy to him: I have to go elsewhere. However, I hope that when he replies he will tell the House what he intends to provide to fill the vacuum which has been created in the central control of the Youth Service [column 1230]and the central observation of the problems facing us. It is a very serious situation because what the right hon. Lady and her colleagues have done is to disband the Youth Service team serving the young adults in our society wherever their needs were defined, and they have put nothing in its place. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will say something about that and the continuous and growing problems produced by this specification of the Youth Service.