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Education And Science

Volume 79: debated on Tuesday 21 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was total expenditure on school education in England in 1978–79 and how this compares with expenditure in the most recent year for which figures are available, at constant prices.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science
(Mr. Bob Dunn)

Current expenditure on schools by local education authorities in England amounted to £6,708 million in 1978–79 and £6,885 million in 1983–84, the latest year for which firm figures are available. Both figures are at 1983–84 prices.

As the school population has fallen by about 1 million, and as total expenditure on education has risen in real terms since 1978–79, does my hon. Friend agree that these figures show clearly the high priority that the Government are placing on school education? By how much has expenditure per pupil at school risen in real terms since the Government came into office?

My hon. Friend is right in his interpretation. Expenditure per pupil in real terms has risen steadily since 1979 and is now at its best ever level. Expenditure per primary pupil increased by 17 per cent. and per secondary pupil by 12 per cent. between 1978–79 and 1983–84.

How does that compare with expenditure per pupil at Harrow and Eton and such schools?

Does my hon. Friend agree that expenditure per pupil does not tell the whole story? Why does the Inner London education authority spend more on its secondary school pupils than any other education authority when only one in seven get five or more O-levels—only six of the 96 education authorities do worse than that— whereas Surrey, spending about average for shire counties per secondary school pupil, has one in three pupils leaving with five or more O-levels? Does my hon. Friend further agree that parents arid pupils want efficient and effective education, not a mindless demand for more resources?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the nature, robustness and thrust of her supplementary question. As she rightly says, there is no simple relationship between expenditure and the quality of education. Were that the case, ILEA would be top of the league in all respects.

Is the Secretary of State not planning for cuts in real terms over the next three years, and for cuts in expenditure per pupil? Should the Minister not tell the House that?

As the hon. Member knows, our plans for current expenditure by local authorities this year are consistent with our commitment to a continuing improvement in educational standards. The plans for education spending by authorities in later years, set out in the 1985 public expenditure White Paper, are provisional. They will be revised later this year after consultation with the local authorities and in the light of circumstances and the prospects then prevailing.