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Education

Volume 87: debated on Monday 18 November 1985

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with the present state of education in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

As our White Paper "Better Schools" made clear, although there have been marked improvements in recent years in both primary and secondary education, sustained efforts will be needed to ensure that all our schools achieve the high standards of our best schools. The Government's education policies for the schools are aimed at securing that objective. I must add that the present strike is doing serious damage to the education of our children.

Are not the hon. Gentleman's ministerial colleagues responsible for the prolonged pay dispute with the teachers? Will he accordingly advise them to get on with the job of trying to sort out this dispute, for the sake of children, teachers and parents?

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Government are responsible for prolonging this dispute—quite the reverse. The Government are not intransigent. They have shown their helpfulness by promising to make a further £1·25 billion available over the next four years. That will be in addition to whatever award is received by the teachers by way of increases in wages during those years.

Is my hon. Friend aware that Clwyd county council is prepared to spend up to £2 million of its normal capital allocation on developing the castle and grounds at Bodelwyddan, at a time when it proposes to defer the school capital programme? Is that not a scandal? Will my hon. Friend bring the utmost pressure to bear on the county council to persuade it to concentrate on its statutory obligations, the principal one being education?

The development at Bodelwyddan castle is a matter for Clwyd county council. I have visited the technical and vocational education Initiative established at the castle, and been very much impressed by it.

Is the Minister aware that Labour councillors on Clwyd county council have been against the development and that Conservative councillors have been pushing it? Will the hon. Gentleman have a word with them over the matter?

The hon. Gentleman is confirming what I have already said, that this is primarily a matter for the county council.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I have been informed that the National Association of Schoolmasters and the National Union of Teachers have selected both his constituency and mine for special disruptive action? Does that not show a cynical disregard for the welfare and education of our children, and prove beyond any shadow of doubt that much of the present action is politically motivated and has nothing to do with the interests of the teachers?

There is much cynical disregard, in particular, of the interests of the children, about which we are most concerned, although we are also concerned about the interests of the teachers. The Government, as I have said, have shown their helpfulness by saying that further money can be made available over the next four years, provided that we get changes in the pay structure and conditions of service that we require.

If the Minister wishes to raise the quality of teaching in our schools, will he implement the market law, which is that the higher the wages paid to the teachers, the better will be the quality of the teachers that we have in our schools?

We accept, and have said, that there are shortages of teachers in certain subjects, and that we should like to pay more to attract people to take up teaching in those subjects. That is one of the aims of the restructuring proposed by the Government.