asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the lunchtime supervision of children at schools.
I deeply regret the fact that members of the three largest teacher unions have, in pursuit of their pay claim, chosen to withhold their support from the head teacher in exercising his overall responsibility for the conduct of the school during the midday break. This has placed a great strain on the head teachers and I should like to express my respect for them and for their sense of duty towards the pupils—and to those who have helped them—in maintaining supervision over the past months. [HON. MEMBERS: "Humbug."] I am surprised that Opposition Members do not share that sense of respect. I have made public the Government's readiness to consider alternative arrangements and some additional funding for midday supervision in 1986–87 in return for a clearer definition of teachers' duties.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that I once supervised 1,500 school dinners every day? Therefore, I can well understand the agony recently expressed by head teachers over their problems with supervising school dinners, supervising schools, meeting parents during the lunch hour, supervising the neighbourhood of the school and so on. Is it not a terrible irony that after years of fighting for payment for lunchtime duty there has so far been no discussion by teaching unions of my right hon. Friend's offer of 21 May for payment for lunchtime duties?
I very much hope that discussions on that matter will start fairly soon.
How many children will there be to supervise if the proposal in the Fowler review to scrap free school meals is implemented?
The Fowler review is in Green Paper form. There will still be a need for midday meal supervision, whatever happens on that account.