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Ilea Schools: Books And Equipment

Volume 416: debated on Monday 2 February 1981

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2.47 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied that schools under the jurisdiction of the ILEA look after their books and other educational equipment.

My Lords, the maintenance of books and equipment in the Inner London Education Authority schools is the responsibility of that authority. My right honourable friend was however concerned at the evidence in Her Majesty's Inspectorate's report on the ILEA that school libraries, books and educational equipment were not always used to the best advantage. The Department of Education and Science will shortly be discussing the report's implications with officers of the authority, and this matter will be one of the items for consideration at that meeting.

My Lords, would my noble friend bear in mind that, whereas there are some councils and some educational library services which are meticulously careful about the use of books and other public property, there are others who are exceptionally lax? Would it not be in the interests of the good, as opposed to the bad, if comparative figures were published so that we could see those areas which were careful in maintaining and looking after their books and show up those areas which are slapdash and which do not seem to mind if books are taken out indefinitely and even lost?

My Lords, the inspectorate's report on the ILEA addressed itself primarily to the questions of the quality of educational provision. However, my noble friend has drawn attention to the fact that the report also said that the inspectorate found cause for concern at the way some of the resources were actually used. The department has no evidence on comparative use of resources, but there are of course comparative statistics produced by CIPFA on capitation allowances which make it quite clear that the amount available in the ILEA is very considerably above the national average.

My Lords, do we not have our priorities somewhat addled, when many schools do not have enough books? Surely we should not bother too much about how children all over the country care for their books. Is the Minister aware that, as in the past, some children will look after their books and others will not?

My Lords, it is always a matter of great concern that children in school, whatever authority or school they are in, should learn to look after the books and equipment in their school, and that the teachers should be encouraged to make the best use of the resources available. The concern in this particular case was about the very considerable resources available to ILEA, and I will give the figures: the capitation allowance in primary schools in ILEA is £29 per head per year and in secondary schools £58, whereas the average for England and Wales is £15 in primary schools and £28 in secondary schools. Not always in every school is it used to the best advantage.

My Lords, would the Minister agree that there were some flattering comments in Her Majesty's Inspectorate's report as well as a few criticisms? They said, regarding nursery schools' equipment and their range of resources, that it was

"… impressive, with plenty of books and materials. The premises and equipment are usually well cared for".
So far as primary schools were concerned, they said:
"Some schools have outstanding collections of resources of all kinds, well catalogued and well used".
As for multi-racial education language centres, they said:
"The language centres are ample and generally in good condition. The range of books is sometimes outstandingly good and, often commendably, feature a number in the pupils' native language".
Would the noble Baroness agree that ILEA needs rather better capitation than some areas, bearing in mind the many difficulties they have, and would she further agree that some authorities are extremely mean in their capitation allowances?

My Lords, I am prepared to agree that the inspectorate report indicated that parts of the ILEA service were satisfactory, but it was very critical of the secondary schools, a most important area of school education. It is, therefore, only right that these matters should be discussed with the authority, which is the usual way of proceeding on an inspector's report, either in the case of an individual school or, in this case, of an authority. The point at issue is not whether or not the capitation allowances are right; the point at issue is that with large capitation allowances, very considerably higher than in other authorities, we are getting the best value for money in ILEA in all schools. I think that is a proper question which needs to be addressed to ILEA.

My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness to explain why it is necessary for ILEA to have twice as much per head for its elementary school children as Oldham?

My Lords, it is not for me to explain why ILEA should have the capitation allowances it has, but in fairness to them there are considerable problems in London. They are, however, better off than other authorities which also have major inner city problems, and the capitation allowances in London are considerably above those of metropolitan districts, which average £14 for primary schools and £26 for secondary schools.

My Lords, we all wish there was more money for education than there is. The Government have made allowances, within the amount of money the Government have agreed within the block grant arrangements, for there to be an increase in the amount of money for capitation allowances of 2 per cent. in real terms for this year. How that money is distributed is of course a matter for the local education authorities.