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Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Volume 976: debated on Tuesday 18 December 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what he estimates will be the effect on the pupil-teacher ratio of his request to local education authorities to reduce future planned expenditure.

1 in 1978–79—will improve to 18·7: 1 in the current school year and will remain at that level in 1980–81.

If, as many believe, the overall pupil-teacher ratio is a good indicator of the success or otherwise of Government policy, are not those figures encouraging and do they not indicate the wisdom of concentrating effort in the classroom—if necessary, at the expense of matters on the periphery?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. The pupil-teacher ratio in this country is at its best ever level. We intend that it will remain so in 1980–81.

Will the Secretary of State call upon those authorities which are worsening the pupil-teacher ratio to stop doing so and will he write guidelines to that end?

We do not propose to lay down guidelines. This is a matter for the local education authorities. I repeat to the hon. Gentleman that the ratio is at its best level ever. Our economic proposals for next year, including the reductions that we look for in education expenditure, will allow it to continue at that level.

While I warmly welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's reply, may I ask him whether he agrees that one problem, particularly in secondary schools, is the quality of teaching rather than the pupil-teacher ratio? What will he do about increasing the numbers and improving the quality of teachers, particularly those in secondary schools in the vital science, mathematics and engineering subjects?

I accept that there is concern in certain quarters about quality in the teaching profession, and there is nothing new in that. The standards for entry to teacher training colleges and the teaching profession generally have recently been improved, and I hope that as the new teachers come into the profession the overall standard will improve.