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Primary School Expenditure

Volume 24: debated on Wednesday 26 May 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how much was spent per pupil in primary schools in Scotland in the most recent year for which figures are available.

Local authority current expenditure on primary schools, at outturn prices, excluding items such as meals and milk, was £636 per pupil in 1980–81. This represents an increase per pupil in real terms by comparison with the two previous years.

As this is a record figure, what steps is my right hon. Friend taking to publicise it and to show the people of Scotland the success of the Government's education policy?

I take every opportunity that I can to mention this, because it counteracts the alarmist stories put about by some Labour Members, which suggest that there are even schools without books for pupils to do their lessons, when the amount of money that has been set aside per pupil is greater than it has ever been before.

Is the reference on page 60 of the public expenditure White Paper another alarmist story? It states that money will be made available for redundancy pay to primary school teachers. Is that figure included in the sums that have already been mentioned?

Surely the hon. Gentleman would agree that if any primary school teachers need such assistance, they should get it. There is now a better pupil-teacher ratio than there has ever been, and provision per pupil is increasing. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome that.

Has there been any progress in matching the drop in student numbers with reductions in the administration of education departments?

We are stressing to education authorities that this is an opportunity to reduce administrative costs when there is a smaller number of pupils in the schools. I am sure that many of them are taking that seriously.

Following the right hon. Gentleman's answer to the question on Scottish teachers' salaries tabled by the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie), will he explain how Scottish local authorities will find the money to fund the difference between the 6 per cent. pay settlement and the Government's initial 4 per cent. offer?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Scottish education authorities were parties to the reference of this matter to arbitration. Indeed, one of the main reasons that the arbitration board gave for its award was that it had to have regard to what local authorities could afford to spend. Like everyone else, the local authorities must ensure that when making their decisions they do not commit themselves to things that they cannot afford.