Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1970 Jul 23 Th
Margaret Thatcher

HC PQ [Education and Science]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [804/727-42]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-c1500.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 5716
Themes: Education, Private education, Primary education, Secondary education, Public spending & borrowing
[column 727]


Comprehensive Education

1. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what consultations she had with representatives of the teaching profession before withdrawing circular 1065.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I have nothing to add to my speech in the House on 8th July.—[Vol 803, c. 676–88.]

Mrs. Short

I am glad that the right hon. Lady has now had discussions with members of the teaching profession. May we assume that this will be her future practice instead of rushing in and making statements beforehand? Can she say how many authorities have reacted to her [column 728]circular and how many will continue with comprehensive reorganisation?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot answer specifically the last question at the moment. I have had a number of representations, some from teaching staffs in schools. In the case of one school I had two petitions, one for and one against the circular.

Nursery Education

2. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals she has for the expansion of nursery education.

7. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals she has for more nursery school provision.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. william van Straubenzee)

My right hon. Friend is aware of the need for more provision for under-fives and this will be considered together with other claims on resources for education and the other social services. Progress under the urban programme will continue in deprived areas.

Mrs. Short

Can the hon. Gentleman say what sort of increase is likely with the urban aid programme? In view of the fact that his Department is rather keen on withdrawing circulars and issuing new ones, is he now prepared to withdraw circular 8/60 and to allow local authorities freedom to set up nursery classes where they have the resources and teachers, because many are anxious to exercise this freedom?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The hon. Member will know that over 10,000 places have been approved in the first two phases of the urban aid programme. It would be premature to announce any withdrawal of the circular.

Mr. Edward Short

Would the hon. Gentleman not be more forthcoming? The Tory manifesto said:

“We recognise the need for expansion of nursery education.”

By how much is it to be expanded, where and when?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The right hon. Gentleman will see as the programme develops.

[column 729]

Liverpool (Secondary Education)

3. Mr. Ogden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals she has received from the Liverpool City Council for the organisation of secondary education in that city.

Mrs. Thatcher

None, Sir.

Mr. Ogden

Is the right hon. Lady aware that her Conservative colleagues who control the City Council of Liverpool have considered and are considering a system of secondary reorganisation based on a 12-plus examination? Will she save everyone a great deal of time, trouble and unnecessary anxiety by saying that she will not approve any system of reorganisation based on an examination at 12-plus?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot comment on any scheme which I have not received.

Mr. Ogden

On a point of order. In view of the extremely unsatisfactory answer, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Primary Schools

(Size of Classes)

5. Mr. Marks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will change the basis of a class size of 40 in the building of new primary schools and the conversion of old ones.

Mrs. Thatcher

Nothing in the Department's Regulations or practice requires new or remodelled primary schools to be designed for classes of 40 pupils.

Mr. Marks

Is the Secretary of State aware that local authorities having conversions and mergers of schools are working on a basis of 40 children per classroom? Will she instruct local authorities to reduce this number so that more classrooms will be needed for the same number of children?

Mrs. Thatcher

We are constantly remodelling schools. The building regulations are based on the number of places in the school and nothing in the Regulations requires authorities to design those spaces for a particular number of children in the class. Indeed, they usually have very open plans in these days.

Mr. Edward Short

What is the right hon. Lady's target for class size? Does [column 730]she accept the target which I set out at Swansea on 12th March this year, or does she still adhere to the 1965 National Advisory Council target?

Mrs. Thatcher

I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman set out a target, but, as usual, he did not provide the money for achieving it.

Mr. Short

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the previous Government increased the number of teachers in training by 86 per cent.? By what percentage will she increase the number of teachers?

Mrs. Thatcher

The limiting factor on class size now is not so much that of teacher supply as of capital resources for the extra space required.

Direct Grant Schools

8. Mr. Iremonger

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement about her policy towards the future of direct grant schools, and the Ursuline Convent School, Ilford, in particular.

12. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement concerning her policy regarding the future of the direct grant schools.

29. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans she has for assisting the direct-grant schools; and whether she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

It is our expressed intention to encourage the direct grant schools. I am at present in consultation with the Direct Grant Joint Committee. No formal proposals have been received about reorganising the Ursuline Convent School.

Mr. Iremonger

Is there any way in which the Minister can give a guarantee that the arrangements which she makes will not be “mucked up” in future by Socialist Governments?

Mrs. Thatcher

Unfortunately I cannot give that guarantee, but they will not, in my hon. Friend's vernacular, be “mucked up” by me.

Sir G. Nabarro

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her statement and [column 731]warmly welcome it. Will she embrace my view that the direct grant schools do not represent a divisive influence in our society? Therefore, will she do her utmost to encourage the high quality which such establishments engender?

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, Sir.

Teacher Training

(Information on Drugs)

9. Mr. Iremonger

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement about her policy on teacher training to enable schools to deal with the misuse of drugs.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Information on drugs usually forms part of health education at colleges of education.

Mr. Iremonger

What about information on moral standards?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The Question is about drugs, and it is about this that I am answering.

Comprehensive Schools

10. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement of policy on comprehensive schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Government's aim is to ensure that all pupils shall have full opportunities for secondary education suitable to their needs and abilities. Authorities will be freer to determine the shape of secondary provision in their areas.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on sticking to her principles and her election pledges. What principle will operate if a local authority, contrary to the Ministry's opinion and advice, decides to impose universal comprehensive education in its area?

Mrs. Thatcher

The question will come to the Department under Section 13 of the 1944 Act and the Minister will then have to decide the question in the light of all the circumstances, including the objections received.

Mr. Walden

Are not we right in assuming that the Minister's policy is that there should be local freedom in this matter and that she will not impose what one hon. Member opposite called her [column 732]advice in this matter but will allow local authorities to select as they see best?

Mrs. Thatcher

The policy is to restore the position under the 1944 Act. That was expressed in the debate on 8th July, when I spelt it out in detail.

Public Lending Right

11. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement of Government policy on the proposed public lending right.

Mrs. Thatcher

My noble Friend Viscount Ecclesthe Paymaster-General will be giving consideration to this proposal and will make a statement in due course.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. As the Government are concerned about the new poor, and as authors are a considerable portion of that new class, will she give urgent consideration to allowing authors to get a fair return on books which are borrowed from a public library?

Mrs. Thatcher

I will communicate what my right hon. Friend has said to my noble Friend, and I am sure that he will make a statement as soon as he can.

Grammar Schools (Selective Entry)

13. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many grammar schools for boys or girls, or co-educational, in England and Wales continue to accept pupils subject only to the 11-plus examination or later entry, on a selective basis, calculated at the latest convenient date.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In January, 1969 there were 1,098 maintained grammar schools in England and Wales, 361 for boys, 373 for girls and 364 co-educational. All of them admitted pupils on a selective basis.

Sir G. Nabarro

Will my hon. Friend accept at once that it would be impossible to convert this mass of secondary schools on to a comprehensive—and universally comprehensive—basis in any short length of time and that selectivity will have to continue for the foreseeable future on the [column 733]basis on which it is conducted at present or with relatively minor changes?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Yes, Sir. I attempted to make the same point in the debate on the Loyal Address, though not so eloquently.

Mr. Orme

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in a city such as Salford, where unfortunately selection is still practised, some schools at the last examinations had one grammar school pass while others had 60 to 70? Is not this deplorable and, because of this policy, are there not certain children in some areas who are precluded from any further education?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Whatever it may be, that particular matter is not a matter for the Department, and it is worth recalling that it took place under the policy of the last Government.

South Shields

14. Mr. Blenkinsop

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will confirm the school building programme already authorised for South Shields; and whether she will invite applications for additional capital works in areas of special social need.

Mr. van Straubenzee

School building programmes which have been approved do not require my right hon. Friend's confirmation. Local authorities were invited in June to submit by September proposals for minor capital works in areas of special social need under Phase III of the Urban Programme.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that he intends to see a continuation of the very valuable authorisations for replacement of old schools which we had under the previous Administration and even to expand these in the future?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I hope that I made it clear to the hon. Gentleman that all proposals which have been approved do not require additional confirmation. I think that that gives the assurance which he requires.

15. Mr. Blenkinsop

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement on the [column 734]proposals for secondary education reorganisation now before her Department.

Mrs. Thatcher

I understand that the hon. Gentleman intends this Question to refer only to South Shields. I am informed that the authority, at its meeting on 29th July, will decide whether it wishes the Department to consider further the proposals now before it.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is the right hon. Lady prepared to accept proposals which would set back the whole agreement which has been reached in this town after long discussion and argument and which would result in the acceptance of continued selection at 11-plus?

Mrs. Thatcher

When the authority has let us know what it wishes to happen, we will consider the proposals.

Independent Schools

16. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, whether, in the interests of educational freedom, she will take steps to increase the number of schools which cannot be interfered with by her Department or local authorities.

Mrs. Thatcher

I believe in a healthy independent sector. Schools which are not maintained by local education authorities are subject to the provisions of Part III of the Education Act, 1944 or of the Direct Grant School Regulations 1959.

Mr. King

May I assume that my right hon. Friend will re-emphasise the desirability of a strong independent sector in the interests of educational advance and experiment? Will she confirm that one child independently educated saves the Treasury about £1,500?

Mrs. Thatcher

I could not confirm the specific amount, but apart from that the answer is “Yes” to both parts of my hon. Friend's supplementary question.

Mr. Marks

Will the right hon. Lady investigate those schools where unqualified people are in charge? Will she investigate those which have not been approved as efficient by her Department and particularly those which are not purpose-built?

Mrs. Thatcher

The schools are inspected by Her Majesty's Inspectorate.

[column 735]

Higher Education

19. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she will be starting discussions with university representatives about the development of higher education in the 1970s.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The Department is already in consultation with the University Grants Committee about this.

Mr. Lane

Is my hon. Friend aware that his promptness will be welcomed? Will he confirm that it is not the intention to put excessive strain on universities by urging them to expand too much or too fast?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am certain that these are factors which must be foremost in the discussions to which I have already referred.

Mr. Edward Short

May I ask the Under-Secretary the question which I asked his right hon. Friend and to which I received no reply? By what percentage is it proposed to increase teacher-training over the next five years?

Mr. van Straubenzee

This is one of those matters which is clearly under consultation at present, within one month of the Conservative Government taking office.

Corporal Punishment

20. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will take steps to phase out corporal punishment in schools.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In my view, this is properly within the discretion of local education authorities and teachers.

Mr. Cronin

Is the Under-Secretary aware that in almost no other European country is corporal punishment permitted? Is not corporal punishment in schools unnecessary, does it not teach children to approve of physical violence, and does it not often lead to sadistic practices?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am well aware that this a matter which arouses strong feelings both ways, but I still believe that it is better left in the way I first suggested.

Mr. Cronin

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory [column 736]nature of the answer, I shall seek leave to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Playgroups and Nursery Facilities

21. Mr. John E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make proposals for encouraging the provision of playgroups and similar nursery facilities for children under five in those areas where formal nursery schools or classes cannot yet be made available.

23. Miss Lestor

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will take steps to encourage the expansion of playgroups and to assure a greater Departmental responsibility for them.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Responsibility for the inspection and registration of playgroups will be a matter for social service departments of local authorities under the Local Authorities (Social Services) Act passed by the last Parliament and for my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Social Services. But I recognise the educational importance of the work done by playgroups and I hope that, in suitable cases, local authorities will continue to give assistance to them.

Mr. Hill

In view of the great growth of the playgroup movement, has not the time come to establish some more formal links with the Department of Education and Science, especially in regard to the setting and maintenance of standards of education, rather than leave it so much on health grounds?

Mr. van Straubenzee

My hon. Friend, who is expert in these matters, will understand the problem arising out of his suggestion in relation to the legislation to which I have just drawn attention, but I shall, naturally, look at them in the light of his observations.

Miss Lestor

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that, however sympathetic he may be to the playgroup movement, it is difficult to encourage playgroups to develop under his Department if the Department has no responsibility for them? Will he, therefore, again consider sharing responsibility for playgroups with the new Social Services Committee and, in the meantime, issue a circular to local education authorities drawing [column 737]attention to the needs of the under-fives not covered by nursery schools?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I have gently to remind the hon. Lady that the legislation under which we work was the product of her own Government.

Miss Lestor

Before I was there.

Schools (Mini-minor Improvements)

22. Mr. John E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will restore to local education authorities freedom to carry out mini-minor improvements to schools; and within what limits.

Mr. van Straubenzee

No decision has yet been made about mini-minor works. Local education authorities are free to use their minor works allocations for projects which individually cost up to £30,000.

Mr. Hill

Would not my hon. Friend agree that to restore “mini-minors” would enable a great many exasperating small defects to be removed from schools which at present have to remain in old buildings, particularly primary schools in rural areas?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I know that my right hon. Friend's mind is in no way closed to suggestions in this respect, but my hon. Friend will recall that few minor projects now need individual approval.

Secondary Education and School Building

24. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will publish a White Paper on Government policy towards secondary education and school-building programmes.

Mrs. Thatcher

Not at present.

Mr. Judd

Will not the right hon. Lady agree that for those who are trying seriously to get on with the job of accepting responsibility for the education of our children, it is not good enough only to have a thoroughly negative circular from her Department, and that there is urgent need for a clear indication of what positive thinking there is on the things that matter?

Mrs. Thatcher

That was positive thinking, and the 1944 Act, as amended, [column 738]is a positive Act under which great advances were made by previous Ministers of Education.

Mr. Maude

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, in following her admirable policy of restoring freedom of choice to local authorities, it is essential that, where selection is chosen by a local authority, resources be made available to allow it to work properly through the provision of adequate numbers of school places?

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, Sir. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point.

Mr. Edward Short

In the Press notice issued after the right hon. Lady met the National Union of Teachers, she was reported as saying that she would consider issuing a further circular to give guidance. Has she now abandoned that?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. The answer which I gave to the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend was, “Not at present” .

Direct Grant and Independent Schools (London)

25. Mr. Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps she proposes to take following the proposal by the Inner London Education Authority to discontinue contributions towards places at direct grant and independent schools in the London area.

Mrs. Thatcher

At most of the direct grant schools affected by the decision of the I.L.E.A., other local education authorities have been taking up all or nearly all of the free places which the schools are required to offer as a condition of grant. I am in consultation with the Direct Grant Schools Committee about the future of the direct grant schools.

Mr. Hunt

I am glad that many of the other boroughs, particularly outer London boroughs, are interested in taking up these places, but will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that she will give every possible encouragement, perhaps even by financial contribution, to enable these outer London boroughs to take up the places relinquished as a result of that spiteful and short-sighted decision by the Inner London Education Authority?

[column 739]

Mrs. Thatcher

That is one of the matters which I am considering with the Direct Grant Schools Committee.

Mr. Molloy

Is the right hon. Lady aware that her answer, her abominable circular and her whole philosophy towards education are a complete negation of the Prime Ministers “One Nation” theme? Will she tell us who is the hypocrite?

Hon. Members

You are.

Mrs. Thatcher

I think that my hon. Friends are answering that question adequately.

Universities (Local Authority Grants)

26. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will issue a circular to local authorities giving guidance to them on their policy towards financial grants by them to universities.

Mr. van Straubenzee

No, Sir. This is best left to the judgment of the local authorities.

Mr. Judd

Whatever may be the eccentric excesses of an unrepresentative minority of the student community, does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is totally ill advised for ill-informed local authorities crudely to try to tie political strings to the financial support which they give to universities?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The hon. Gentleman knows that I share his concern at the link between local authorities and the university or other institutions in their area, but I do insist that this is a matter for their decision.

Pontefract and Featherstone

28. Mr. Harper

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals she has received from the West Riding County Council for the reorganisation of secondary education on comprehensive lines in the Pontefract and Featherstone area.

Mrs. Thatcher

Last February, the authority withdrew its proposals for reconsideration.

Mr. Harper

I am not surprised at that. But is the right hon. Lady aware that most of the surrounding area has already [column 740]gone comprehensive, that Pontefract and Featherstone are desperately wanting the reorganisation of secondary education on comprehensive lines, and that the only thing stopping this is the further school accommodation which is desperately needed, especially in the Featherstone area? Will she, therefore, given an instruction and some extra resources to the West Riding County Council so that it can get on with the school building so necessary in this area in order to let us have comprehensive education?

Mrs. Thatcher

School building is the limiting factor in these proposals. It was the limiting factor also under Circular 10/65.

Conisbrough Northcliffe Secondary School

32. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science is she will include in the 1971–72 building programme the project for the rebuilding of the Conisbrough Northcliffe Secondary School.

Mr. van Straubenzee

My right hon. Friend is considering a proposal by the West Riding Authority for the improvement and extension of this school for inclusion in the preliminary list of projects which may be expected to start in 1972–73.

Mr. Wainwright

Will the hon. Gentleman take into account that this school has suffered subsidence and there are 14 temporary classrooms placed hotch-potch around the area, and will he, therefore, consider bringing the project forward a year earlier to ensure that proper accommodation can be found for the children there?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I could not under take to do that. The school building starts which we inherited for 1971–72 are already fully committed.

School Children (Transport)

34. Mr. Wyn Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if, in view of the hardship caused by increased bus fares to parents of school-children travelling less than two miles to school in the case of children under eight years old and less than three miles in the case of children over eight years [column 741]old, she will take steps to abolish the limits on free transport for school children, particularly in rural areas.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Local education authorities already have discretionary powers to provide free transport for children living within the statutory walking distances.

Mr. Roberts

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but is he aware of the anxiety caused to a growing number of working mothers, especially since the introduction of British Standard Time?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am aware of the problems and of my hon. Friend's concern about them, which was evidenced in our proceedings last week, but on the specific point which he raises I draw his attention to the latitude which is available.

Mr. Edward Short

Will the Government give an undertaking that they will not increase the charges for school transport?

Mr. van Straubenzee

That does not arise out of this Question.

Subnormal and Maladjusted Children

35. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans she has for increasing the number of residential school places for educationally subnormal children and maladjusted children.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Schools already under construction will provide 257 residential places for educationally subnormal children in England and Wales. I expect that nearly 400 further places will be provided in buildings to start not later than March, 1972. The equivalent number of places for maladjusted children is 616 and 350.

Mr. Goodhart

Will my hon. Friend keep in mind that there is a desperate shortage at national level in both categories, and that the finding of places for both educationally subnormal children and maladjusted children gives local authorities some agonising problems?

Mr. van Straubenzee

It happens to be one of my particular interests, and I [column 742]know that my hon. Friend has concerned himself much with it, but I can only give as an answer, “Within the terms of the resources available” .

Mr. Spearing

Will the hon. Gentleman agree that it is possible to deal with some maladjustment cases by special units attached to existing schools rather than by providing relatively expensive buildings as special schools, and will he look into that?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am always prepared to look into any possibility in this field.

Mexborough Schools

37. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will approve the request to combine the Mexborough Secondary School with the Mexborough Grammar School so as to form a comprehensive unit.

Mr. van Straubenzee

No such proposal has been made to my right hon. Friend by the West Riding local education authority.

Mr. Wainwright

Is the Minister aware that the Mexborough and District Divisional Education Committee has given approval for the combination of the two schools to take place, that the existing secondary school will be with us for a long time and that the reactionary attitude of the West Riding County Council in not allowing the schools to go comprehensive means that there will be children in the Mexborough district condemned to existing secondary school education and not having the opportunity of a better kind of education?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am aware of the point about the Divisional Executive, but I remind the hon. Gentleman—I think he knows it well—that it has only advisory functions, and no proposal has been received from the authority.