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General Certificate Of Secondary Education

Volume 115: debated on Tuesday 28 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recent representations he has received about the funding of the GCSE examinations; and if he will make a statement.

In the past three months we have received 150 representations about the funding of the GCSE examinations.

The Government have made substantial provision for the successful launch of the GCSE. We look to local education authorities to direct that provision in support of GCSE work in their schools.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that a sum of over £250,000 is being provided by the Government for GCSE examinations in Bolton—a sum fully in line with others being provided elsewhere for schools? Will he look into the provision of top-up sums for Bolton council to ensure that sufficient funds are available in total?

I am happy to confirm what my hon. Friend has said. Last year the Government provided a total of £112,900 for GCSE expenditure in Bolton. This year the Government are providing for expenditure of £60,700, through education support grants for books and equipment. We have also provided £95,000-worth of expenditure for training Bolton's GCSE teachers. I undertake to continue to review top-up expenditure.

The Secretary of State keeps on telling us that there is adequate funding for GCSE, but everywhere we hear—from parents, teachers and local education authorities—that there is a desperate situation in the making with too little—[Interruption.]

We hear that there is a desperate situation in the making, with too little funding being provided too late and beginning to blight the future of 600,000 children. To resolve this matter, will the Secretary of State take action similar to that which he took in the face of public concern about Brent, by calling for an HMI report to be produced urgently to look into GCSE funding in, say, 100 representative schools across the country?

I have no need to do that. Her Majesty's Inspectorate judges that these courses have got off to a satisfactory start and that pupils are generally enthusiastic about their GCSE lessons. HMI has said that on average there are sufficient material resources in schools at this stage.

How much additional money are the Government providing in the current year for GCSE, and how much does that work out per child in the fourth or fifth year on average? Can the Government take action to ensure that the local education authorities do not purloin any of this money for other purposes? Will he ask them to provide an assurance that they are spending that money for the purpose for which it was intended?

This year the Government's plans provides for the spending of £100 million of GCSE non-teaching costs—that is, for books, equipment, materials and ancillary staff. We shall continue to monitor carefully the resources that local education authorities target to their schools in support of GCSE activities.

Is it not the case that only £25 million is being hypothecated for the GCSE examination? Is not the real truth that head teachers and parents alike recognise that the GCSE examination is under-funded and under-prepared and that there are far too many reports coming in of inadequate supplies of books, equipment and material, as well as shortages of teachers and lack of training? Is it not the case that if we are to rescue this examination from being a damaging failure the Secretary of State must take immediate action?

This examination and its funding are the best endowed of any examination in recent history. We will, of course, continue to monitor the direction of funds by local education authorities to the funding of GCSE activities, but that, of course, is a matter for them.