asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what are the major conclusions drawn by Her Majesty's Government from the recently published survey of secondary schools.
The report gives an extensive picture of current provision and practice, the implications of which need to be carefully studied at national and local levels. It shows that most teachers and pupils in secondary schools work hard and have solid achievements to show, but that there is a need for some re-thinking of the structure of the curriculum.
Does my right hon and learned Friend accept the implication of the report that the so-called core subjects—especially the sciences and modern languages—should occupy on average more than half the available curriculum time, wherever that is possible? Is that not particularly important for those pupils who leave school at the statutory minimum age but with only modest academic achievements?
One of the lessons to be drawn from the report is the need to rethink the structure of the curriculum. The Government propose to do that by issuing their views in the form of a consultative document and we shall invite the views of local education authorities and teachers' bodies on that document.
Does the Minister agree that the report refers to the past? If we look ahead, does he agree that the cutbacks in expenditure that his Department will implement over this year and the coming year will pose an even bigger threat to the curriculum? Does he agree with the headmaster in my constituency who said that the present cutbacks pose a threat to the quality of the service and will result in a reduction of the service?
I do not accept that suggestion for the many reasons that I have given in the past about the size of the cutback compared with the drop in the pupil population. However, I agree that one of the worrying features highlighted in the report which should be considered with regard to the future is the shortage of teachers of certain specialist subjects. That shortage must be reviewed in the light of the width of the curriculum.