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Ancillary And Administrative Personnel

Volume 984: debated on Tuesday 6 May 1980

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7.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if there will be any reduction in the ancillary staff in schools as a result of reductions in local authority manpower; and whether he expects any savings in administration personnel.

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is his policy on the reduction in employment of ancillary workers in schools.

The Government's expenditure plans imply some reduction in ancillary staff in schools as pupil numbers fall as new arrangements for providing school meals are introduced in the light of the Education Act 1980. The Government plans also imply savings in administration personnel. The pattern and extent of these reductions will be for individual local authorities to determine.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that, given expenditure targets, local authorities are sometimes faced with the alternative of preserving the ancillary worker arrangements inherited from former authorities or of getting rid of teachers? Does he not further agree that authorities should be given every encouragement to get rid of ancillary workers rather than teachers, to conform with those expenditure targets?

The encouragement is certainly there. My right hon. and learned Friend made that point clear. Perhaps I can offer my hon. Friend some consolation if he is concerned about the policy of former local authorities. The Government's expenditure plans allow nationally for some increases per pupil in schools' non-teaching costs expenditure. I hope that will satisfy my hon. Friend.

Is the Minister aware that the policy of getting rid of ancillary workers is causing great hardship and a lowering of standards in education and care in schools in Leicestershire? Does not he accept that the poorer the area, the greater is the loss incurred by a reduction in the number of hours worked by ancillary workers? Does not he agree that these invaluable people, who are often poorly paid, are vital to our education system?

My right hon. and learned Friend has made clear, and I also acknowledge, that the ancillary worker plays a vital part in the daily life of any school, no matter for which age group it caters. I am aware of his anxiety, and that experienced by his constituency and county. However, to be parochial, some £600,000 was restored to the budget of Leicestershire for that aspect of expenditure. My right hon. and learned Friend and the hon. and learned Gentleman were engaged in correspondence in the middle of March. That should give him some reassurance that the restoration of that money will encourage the retention of a number of ancillary workers at primary school level. Indeed, ancillary workers are probably most needed in that area.

Does my hon. Friend agree that there are educational advantages in having school meals supervised by teachers? If he agrees, will he work towards that as a long-term objective?

In an ideal world that might be the ideal situation. Unhappily, the trends and developments of recent years have led to a shift away from that policy. The school meals provision is effectively administered, and I hope that the Education Act 1980 will improve that provision.

What notification have the Merseyside authorities given to the Minister about the reduction in the establishment of ancillary and administrative staff, in the various educational undertakings? Will he give some assurance that he will carefully reappraise any recommendations that are made, in the light of local need?

I cannot promise to reappraise anything. It is predominantly a matter for local Merseyside authorities to decide. I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety, but, as far as I know, my Department has received no notification from Merseyside. The best thing to do is to check that thoroughly. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Due to the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I give notice that I shall seek to raise the subject of ancillary staff on the Adjournment of this House, if I am fortunate enough to be able to do so.