Skip to main content

Pupil Costs

Volume 129: debated on Tuesday 15 March 1988

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what increase has been made in real terms in the spending per pupil in primary schools in each year since 1979.

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

Between 1979–80 and 1986–87 spending per pupil in primary schools in England increased, in real terms, by 26 per cent. I shall arrange for the full details to be published in the Official Report.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Will he confirm not only that we are improving spending per pupil, but that pupil-teacher ratios in the same schools are also improving dramatically?

My hon. Friend is right. The Government's strong record is supported by other objective measures. Overall, pupil-teacher ratios in January 1987 were 17·3: 1 compared with 18·9: 1 in January 1979, and as a result average class sizes have been improving in primary and secondary schools.

Has not spending on primary schools taken place despite, rather than because of, Government spending? Do not the figures show that Government expenditure on primary schools has dropped one fifth, while local government expenditure, frequently in defiance of Government policy, has increased by 50 per cent.? Is it not cynical and disreputable of the Government to seek to claim the credit for expenditure which they have not made and which they frequently opposed?

The hon. Member ought to look at the facts. He ought to be aware that we have increased spending by £1·3 billion in the next financial year. If he looked at the facts he would realise that these changes have been brought about over nine years in succession.

Can my hon. Friend say how much is being spent in primary schools on books and equipment, and how that compares with previous years? Will he tell us what his forecast is for the next financial year?

My hon. Friend's question is quite appropriate. The Government's plans for increased spending of £1 billion in cash provides scope for local authorities to increase their spending per pupil on books and equipment by nearly 40 per cent. in cash compared with actual spending in 1985–86.

Order. May I ask hon. Members to listen to questions and answers arid not to carry on private conversations?

Does the Minister realise that, despite what he has said about an increase, which is totally insufficient, there are not enough books in the primary sector? Schools are using dog-eared books. When the members of the Select Committee went to the plushy, leafy areas in the south they found that parents could treble the capitation allowance by adding their own money to it. Rate-capped councils in downtown areas of east Sheffield could not possibly do that. Why does the Minister not admit the truth — that there is insufficient money to educate our children properly in the primary sector?

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was becoming moderate as time went on, but clearly that is not the case. He ought to know that how local authorities spend their money is for them to decide. They have to compare the priorities that they have to meet.

Is my hon. Friend able to give any indication of how administrative costs in education may have risen over the same period?

All authorities owe it to their ratepayers to offer the best value for the substantial investment in education. They need to review their policies from time to time, first, to remove surplus school places, secondly, to cut the cost of school meals, caretaking and cleaning and, finally, to keep a tight rein on the cost of administration and bureaucracy.

Following is the information:

Net Institutional Recurrent Expenditure Per Pupil


Primary Schools—England


Expenditure Per Pupil


Year on Year Increases




1 Net institutional recurrent expenditure covers the cost of salaries and wages, premises and certain supplies and services. It does not include the cost of school meals, central administration and inspection, debt charges or revenue contributions to capital outlay.

2 The cash prices for the earlier years have been repriced to 1986–87 prices using the gross domestic product (market prices) deflator.