Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1971 Feb 4 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 [810/1883-1905]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 8043
Themes: Education, Private education, Primary education, Secondary education, Public spending & borrowing, Health policy, Religion & morality, Social security & welfare
[column 1883]

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Colleges of Education (Intake)

1. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action she is taking to increase the intake to colleges of education.

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

Applications for non-graduate courses are at about the same level as last January. It is expected that the number of qualified school leavers will rise by 5 per cent. this year and that recruitment will exceed last year's figure. In addition, an increasing number of graduates are taking post-graduate courses in the colleges of education.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Minister aware of the great concern expressed by teachers and by the Chairman of the Association of Teachers in Colleges and [column 1884]Departments of Education on this matter? Is it correct that the shortfall in applications in relation to the target last year was 1,600? Is it correct that the registration of applications this year is 4 per cent. down on last year? Would the right hon. Lady——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) has put three questions.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The correct answer to the hon. Gentleman is that nobody would be content or satisfied with a certain level at present. But the figures which I have given, particularly on the increase of post-graduate courses in colleges of education, are surely very encouraging.

Mr. Alan Williams

In view of the relatively small proportion of increase envisaged in the medium term in those colleges, would the Minister explain how his Department intends to accommodate the 100 per cent. increase in the number of students we shall have in the next decade? In view of his right hon. Friend's comments about the restricted training of teachers in future, what special provision will be made to ensure adequate and suitable facilities for the training of girls elsewhere in education?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Obviously, these are all bound up with the very issues which the James Inquiry is examining. It would be unwise to make decisions for one particular sector until we have the whole picture.

Teaching of the Metric System

2. Mr. J. H. Osborn

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science to what extent syllabi have been prepared, books purchased, and at what annual cost, for the teaching of the metric system in schools and the setting of examination standards at primary, middle, and secondary stages; and to what extent the teaching of and examination in imperial units will be retained, for how long, and at what stages of education.

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

Preparation of the syllabus and purchase of books are matters for the school authorities. Guidance was given by the Department in 1969 that for some time pupils [column 1885]would need to be taught imperial as well as metric measures.

Mr. Osborn

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. While I accept that the first units to be taught in primary schools should now be metric, is it not a fact that too many educationists believe that there is no longer any need to teach imperial units? Will my right hon. Friend take positive steps to ensure that educationists, teachers and others are aware that we shall be using imperial units not only for the next five years but for perhaps the next 25 years?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree that it will be necessary for a number of years to teach imperial as well as metric units.

Mr. Alan Williams

The right hon. Lady will be aware that teachers are particularly concerned that the transition to the metric system should be as short as possible because of its educational impact. Will she confirm that the Government intend to put no brake upon the conversion to the metric system? Second, in view of the rather poor rate support grant determination this year, will she reconsider her decision on the provision of finance for metric education books for schools?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not responsible for answering questions on metrication as such. As the hon. Gentleman knows, only a target date has been set, and that is the end of 1975. I am surprised that he should call the rate support grant rather poor. It gave a bigger percentage for improvements than in previous years.

Secondary Education (Derby)

5. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations she has received from parents and teachers in the Breadsall area, objecting to the proposed reorganisation of secondary education in sector A by Derby Borough Education Committee; what investigations she has undertaken; and what action she proposes to take to ensure that adequate consultations are permitted before any scheme is introduced.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Before the Authority submitted its formal proposal on 29th January, 1971, my right hon. Friend had received more than 20 letters [column 1886]from individuals and from a Parents' Committee opposing the Authority's intentions. Now that the period for formal objections has begun, I cannot comment further.

Mr. Rost

While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that the letters which he has received are only the tip of the iceberg compared with those coming through my post and that, in addition to 50 letters, I have received a petition containing 1,500 names? May we have the assurance that this matter will be looked into again so that parents and teachers in this part of South-East Derbyshire can have a fair deal from education?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Perhaps I should remind my hon. Friend that the very purpose of the procedures which I outlined in my original answer is that all points of view may be properly taken into account. Meanwhile I repeat, with no discourtesy to my hon. Friend, that it would be improper for me to make any comment.

6. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals she has received from Derby Borough Education Committee for the reorganisation of secondary education sector A; whether she is satisfied the scheme is educationally viable, complies with her Circular 1070, and that adequate finance has been allocated to provide the necessary facilities to implement a satisfactory reorganisation; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The Authority submitted formal proposals under Section 13 of the Education Act, 1944 and gave public notice of its intentions on 29th January. 1971. There is now a period of two months during which objections may be lodged with my right hon. Friend who will thereafter make a decision on the proposals taking into account any objections.

Mr. Rost

While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that there is extreme anxiety among a large number of parents and teachers in the area because they are seeing a bulldozed and botched-up scheme of comprehensive education re-organisation forced through against the majority will? Will my hon. Friend [column 1887]undertake that the situation will be properly investigated?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am certain that my right hon. Friend will want to take very careful account of any objections that she receives. I am sure that my hon. Friend will therefore ensure that she receives them.

Sandwich Meals

7. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many education authorities are charging those children who eat sandwiches instead of a cooked lunch.

Mrs. Thatcher

None to my knowledge.

Mr. Carter

While thanking the right hon. Lady for that reassuring reply, may I ask what action she intends to take where local authorities at present do not permit children to eat sandwiches at school?

Mrs. Thatcher

A circular of guidance will shortly go out to local authorities on the whole topic.

18. Mr. Michael Cocks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what consideration she gave to the food values of various forms of sandwich meal before she decided to increase the price of school meals; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

None, Sir. The school dinner itself will continue to be suitable as the main meal of the day for those who take it, and there will be no change in its nutritional standard.

Mr. Cocks

I thank the right hon. Lady for that reply. In view of the great care which, as she says, the school meals staff take in producing a balanced diet, I thought that she would have given more thought to a measure that may throw more children on to their own resources for their midday meal. Will she put some guidance in the circular to which she referred when replying earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Carter)?

Mrs. Thatcher

It is not possible to consider the nutritional value of sandwiches as such. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it varies from one sandwich to another. The total cost of the school [column 1888]meal is 2s. 10d. The food part of that is only 1s. 1d.

Miss Lestor

When it was announced that ultimately the price of the school meal would be the economic cost, did that mean the economic cost at the time the announcement was made or the economic cost at any time in the future when it rises?

Mrs. Thatcher

So far the only provision made has been, first, to raise the cost of the school meal to 12 new pence and then to the full present economic cost, 2s. 10d. or 14 new pence, on the appointed days.

Mr. Loughlin

Will the right hon. Lady accept that it is very easy to be clever and jocular at the Dispatch Box, but that it is totally unfair to do so at the expense of children in primary schools? Will she now answer the question whether she has taken account of the damage that may be done to children as a result of having to take sandwich meals as compared with receiving meals of the nutritional value to which they have been accustomed?

Mrs. Thatcher

If there is any nutritional damage, the matter will undoubtedly be very quickly brought to my attention by the Chief Medical Officer. Already about 635,000 children receive free school meals, and the number is expected to rise to 800,000 as a result of measures the Government have taken.

Professional Teaching Qualifications

(Failure Rate)

8. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many persons obtained professional teaching qualifications from departments and colleges of education in England and Wales in the years 1965 to 1970; how many failed to satisfy the examining authorities over the same period; and, of that number, how many failed to obtain qualifications solely on account of an inadequate practical performance.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The failure rate in each of the years mentioned was between 3 per cent. and 4 per cent. No information is available about failures due solely to inadequate practical performance. I have arranged for detailed figures to be circulated in the Official Report.

[column 1889]

Mr. Spearing

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great deal of anxiety among practising teachers and student teachers about the general and detailed arrangements for teaching practice? In view of the fact that there was no specific reference to this in the terms of reference of the James Committee, can the hon. Gentleman say that due weight will be given to the subject in the deliberations of the Committee and its subsequent recommendations?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not think it likely that an inquiry of this eminence into teacher training will not look closely at teaching practice.

Following is the information:

Students successfully completing initial professional training, and students failing examinations, in departments and colleges of education, in the academic years 1964–65 to 1968–69 were as follows (excluding students in Art Teacher Training Centres and Colleges of Education, Technical):

Similar figures are not yet available for the academic year 1969–70 nor it is known how many students failed solely on account of an inadequate practical performance.

These figures include a number of students who successfully completed professional teacher training at the end of three years but who continued in college for a further year to take a Bachelor of Education degree.

The figures relate to students taking the examination for the first time; students who failed but were later recommended by the A.T.O. or later passed on re-examinations are included in the failure figures.

Total wastage through failure and withdrawals has varied in recent years between 10 per cent. and 12 per cent.

Educational Priority Areas

9. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the Government's future policy for educational priority areas.

Mrs. Thatcher

Through the Urban Programme and in other ways it is my policy to help local authorities to give special attention to the educational needs of socially deprived areas.

[column 1890]

Mr. Spearing

I am surprise at that rather general answer. Is it not a fact that the period of E.P.A.'s is due to finish in some areas this March? Since the origin of these grants was in November, 1968, there may be new needs which have arisen since then which the right hon. Lady would want to look at closely.

Mrs. Thatcher

There are no specific areas designated. But a number of schools receive special attention. Areas which have multiple social deprivation will continue to receive help under the Urban Programme in the way of extra teacher quotas and by other means.

Mr. Lane

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us from non-priority areas, while fully supporting the Government's policy towards priority areas, are delighted by the prospect of increasing resources for non-priority areas, especially for the replacement of antique primary schools? Can my right hon. Friend confirm that that is definitely her intention and hope?

Mrs. Thatcher

The last improvement programme for primary schools was divided approximately equally, about half going to the socially deprived areas and half to other areas. I cannot say precisely how the next programme will be divided. There are a number of ways. It might possibly be done on the basis of the distribution of pre-1903 schools in the country.

Miss Lestor

Can the right hon. Lady be a little more forthcoming on the future of educational priority areas, bearing in mind that the recent Douglas Report and the earlier Newsome Report demonstrated clearly that it is the working-class child who is discriminated against in areas which are culturally, educationally and socially deprived, and that this is a real and urgent problem?

Mrs. Thatcher

That is why special help was given by the hon. Lady's Government. It has been and is being continued by my Government.

28. Mr. Armstrong

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals she has for the expansion of resources allocated to the educational priority areas in the Northern Region; and if she will make a statement.

[column 1891]

Mrs. Thatcher

The Northern Region's share of the 1972–73 major school building programme is £12.4 million compared with £11.5 million in the 1971–72 programme. £11.5 million in the 1971–72 programme. £249,000 for educational purposes has recently been approved for the Northern Region in the third phase of the Urban Programme.

Mr. Armstrong

Would the right hon. Lady accept that the children concerned in these areas have been permanently deprived of the opportunity to reach their potential? Is it not a strange order of priorities that the right hon. Lady can be so generous towards direct-grant schools, which in the main are catering for children who have not been deprived, and yet so mean towards educational priority areas where there are children who need attention and who are being done an injustice?

Mrs. Thatcher

I would point out that the amount allocated under Phase 3 of the Urban Programme was greater than the amount allocated under Phase 2 or Phase 1. We are doing better.

Museums and Galleries

(Entrance Fees)

10. Mr. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress she has made in discussing with the representatives of museums and galleries the imposition of entrance fees.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The considered views of nearly all the institutions on the details of a scheme of charges have now been received and there have been preliminary discussions about the collection of charges.

Mr. Strauss

In view of the large number of exemptions which will be necessary to make this entrance tax tolerable, would not it be better to drop the whole silly and abnoxious proposal now?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has recognised with his usual generosity, that there would be a flexible scheme allowing exemptions in appropriate cases. No doubt he will be pleased with the scheme when he hears it.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

On that last point, is my hon. Friend giving special attention to the needs of students and of those parents who desire to take their [column 1892]children frequently to museums and galleries to familiarise them with the treasures contained in them?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I know that both those groups are very much in the mind of my noble Friend.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is it not the case that the overwhelming majority of representatives of museums and galleries whose opinions have been made known are hostile to the idea of introducing charges?

Mr. van Straubenzee

What is interesting is that there has been a change of view in certain places, including one very well-known person who originally campaigned against the principle but now concedes that there is much in it.

Miss Lestor

My hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) would normally raise this matter, but unfortunately he is confined in hospital where, of course, there are no admission charges——

An Hon. Member

Not yet!

Miss Lestor

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House, first, what is likely to be the net cost of administering these charges; second, what is expected to be the net yield; and, third, what arrangement will be made for the exemption of school children, and will it have to be paid for by local authorities?

Mr. van Straubenzee

As Parliament would expect, all those matters will be made clear in the comprehensive announcement which is to be made by my noble Friend.

I am sure that the House regrets the absence of the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds). However, I think that the hon. Lady is doing pretty well in comedy.

Miss Lestor

I do not think the hon. Gentleman has answered my question about the net cost.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I thought that I had made it clear that this will be part of the comprehensive statement to be made by my noble Friend.

11. Mr. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether a decision has now been reached about the need for legislation before fees can [column 1893]be charged for entrance to the British Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The Trustees of the British Museum and the British Museum (Natural History) have been advised that legislation may be necessary to put beyond doubt their power to charge for admission.

Mr. Strauss

I am glad to know that, but is the hon. Gentleman aware that there will be strong opposition to this legislation in view of the fact that none of the tax raised will accrue to the museums and galleries and in view of the arguments of those who want to see art made more and not less available to the public?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not know why there should be strong opposition. There are at least two respectable precedents established by legislation. I refer to the Imperial War Museum and the National Maritime Museum.

Mr. Hunt

When my hon. Friend introduces the legislation will he remind right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that a substantial proportion of those who visit our museums and galleries are tourists from overseas and that British taxpayers see no reason why they should be asked to subsidise these people to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds a year?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I take note of that. At the same time, we in this country like to think that our national treasures are widely shared. But it must be accepted that, if we want increased provision, we need to have the kind of provision that I have been dealing with in answering this Question.

Grant-Aided Secondary Independent Schools (Finance)

14. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the cost of financial subventions from all public funds to grant-aided secondary independent schools in 1970–71; and whether any increase is contemplated in 1971–72.

Mrs. Thatcher

In 1970–71 the Exchequer grant to the direct-grant secondary schools in England and Wales is expected to be £6.4 million and fees from local education authorities of the [column 1894]order of £10 million. The level of Exchequer grant for 1971–72 has not yet been settled.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that those figures denote continued support for this system generally and in principle? Will she reassure the House that she intends no change in the arrangements for grant-aided secondary education in the early future?

Mrs. Thatcher

In the early future, no change. In the more distant future I hope to receive representations from the Direct Grant Committee about how further we can help it. I think that it is important that these schools continue, because for a number of parents they are the middle way between the wholly independent system and the wholly State system.

Mr. Edward Short

Would the right hon. Lady care to elaborate the statement she made at the Conservative Party conference that if a local authority did not take up its places she would find ways of assisting these schools directly, that is, by-passing the local authority?

Mrs. Thatcher

That could already be done under the provisions which the right hon. Gentleman left.

Drug Addict Centres

15. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make an official visit to a drug addict centre at the earliest convenient opportunity.

Mrs. Thatcher

Not at present.

Mr. Dalyell

Why did the Department register a formal objection with the Government business manager, the Lord President of the Council, to a Ten Minute Rule Bill on this whole complex subject, which at least would have allowed adult parliamentary discussion of an urgent issue? Why was it stifled by the Department?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not think that that arises from the Question. But I am certain that any advice I gave objecting to anything that the hon. Gentleman said would have been advice very well given for very good reasons.

Mr. Dalyell

Oh no!

School Milk

[column 1895]

16. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions she had with the British Medical Association before she took the decision to discontinue school milk to the over-sevens at primary schools; what advice she received; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Pupils up to 12 who need milk on health grounds will continue to receive it on the certification of the school medical officer. The answer to the first part of the question is, “None, Sir” .

Mr. Hamilton

Is the right hon. Lady aware that before the Labour Government decided to stop giving school milk to secondary pupils they studied the advice of the British Medical Association, and that there is very strong medical opinion that it will be detrimental to children's health if we cease giving them milk when they are over the age of seven? Will she now seek medical advice before the Government take this niggardly action?

Mrs. Thatcher

It would have been most unusual to consult the British Medical Association. The Government would have been much more likely to consult the Chief Medical Officers Committee. But as milk is to continue to be given on medical grounds, there did not seem to be any need to do that.

Mr. Edward Short

What is to come of the right hon. Lady's plan to sell milk in primary schools now that she has discovered that she has no power to do so?

Mrs. Thatcher

I hope that legislation will be introduced later in the year.

Mr. Hamilton

On a point of order. Because of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply to my Question, may I give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment?

School Curricula (Responsibility)

17. Mr. Roger White

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will review the present system whereby education authorities allow heads of schools to bear responsibility for school [column 1896]curricula, particularly with regard to reading matter issued to teenage children.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Education Act gives control of the curriculum to the local education authorities and the governors of aided secondary schools. They can decide how best to exercise their responsibilities and how far they should delegate them to head teachers.

Mr. White

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many parents are disturbed to find that their 14-year-old daughters are being given books like “The Catcher in the Rye” to read in school? Will she look into the possibility of laying down guidelines to education authorities rather than giving head teachers carte blanche?

Mrs. Thatcher

Head teachers do not quite have carte blanche. The secular responsibility for curriculum matters is laid upon the local education authorities. On the whole they are sensitive to opinion on this matter. I should be very reluctant to issue guidelines on a matter of this kind.

Mr. Marks

Would not it be better to give parents the opportunity to serve as parent representatives on boards of school governors and managers so that they can make clear their point of view and that of other parents?

Mrs. Thatcher

There are many ways of parents making their point of view clear, and I think that they do. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Roger White) for raising the question, because I think that parents feel that the teaching given in the schools should help pupils to uphold the best moral standards of our society.

Mr. Edward Short

Will the Bill which the right hon. Lady mentioned at the North of England conference give parents representation on school governing bodies?

Mrs. Thatcher

As the Bill is not yet ready for introduction, I would rather leave that matter until the proposals are laid before the House.

In-Service Training for Teachers

19. Mr. Michael Cocks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals there are for expanding opportunities for in-service training for teachers.

[column 1897]

Mr. van Straubenzee

My Department is expanding its own provision for in-service training and is also providing funds to promote greater and more effective use of the resources of universities, colleges and local authorities under the auspices of area training organisations.

Mr. Cocks

I welcome that reply, but I urge the matter on the hon. Gentleman as being the most effective way in which modern advances in educational thought and practice can be rapidly disseminated throughout the profession.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I would not enter into dispute with the hon. Gentleman on this. My answer shows improvement, for example, in relation to the Department's own provision, which is what I am talking about. This represents a 12½ per cent. increase on last year.

Mr. Alan Williams

Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that adequate facilities are available in particular for in-service training for the B.Ed. qualification? Could he give the strongest possible lead to education authorities, advising them to make time available to teachers to attend such courses?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The Department has given every encouragement over the whole field of in-service training. The previous Government recognised, as we do, that progress in this matter must be made by degrees.

Qualified Teachers (Numbers)

20. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many qualified teachers are expected to be trained by the colleges of education and university departments in the years 1975 and 1980.

Mr. van Straubenzee

About 43,000 students are expected to complete initial courses of training in colleges and departments of education in 1975. It is too early to make a realistic forecast for 1980.

Mr. Hardy

I am grateful for that reply but does not the hon. Gentleman agree that recent pronouncements by the Secretary of State suggest that there will not be an adequate increase in the number of teachers to be produced by 1980? Does not he agree that this will become increasingly inadequate in the light of [column 1898]the increasing demand which will be experienced in the next ten years, and that this will give rise to grave and growing disappointment among educationists and parents during the 1970s?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. I thought that there was widespread understanding of the point of view which was admirably expressed by my right hon. Friend—that we need not concentrate solely on numbers in this field. I thought it was a valuable thing to have said.

Mr. Lane

Does my hon. Friend expect to see a continuing steady improvement in the pupil-teacher ratio in the early 1970s?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Yes, Sir, although there may be a temporary check in the year in which the raising of the school-leaving age takes effect. With the reservation, I confirm what my hon. Friend says.

Mr. Alan Williams

The right hon. Lady indicated in a speech that she envisaged a restriction in the rate of increase of the number of entrants to education colleges in the mid-1970s. Will the hon. Gentleman spell out in some detail precisely what she meant?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I shall not attempt to spell out in detail a matter which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is under close and professional scrutiny at present. My right hon. Friend was charting a course, and I have found widespread agreement with what she said.

School Places (Cost)

23. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the capital and revenue cost per place of nursery, primary and secondary education, respectively.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Capital costs per pupil place at present are:

for nursery schools between £412 and £574 depending on the size of the unit;

for primary and secondary schools £371 and £702 respectively.

Current expenditure per pupil for 1970–71 is estimated at: £202; £97; £186 for nursery primary and secondary schools respectively.

[column 1899]

Mr. Short

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for those figures. Before dismissing the provision of nursery education as being too expensive from the capital cost point of view, will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that when we provide nursery schools through the urban aid programme we are providing for two children in one place, because they attend on a part-time basis? Will he therefore bear in mind that it is possible to spread the benefits of nursery education at a lower cost per child than the cost of secondary and primary education appears to suggest?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I accept much of what the hon. Lady said.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Will my hon. Friend do all he can to further what the hon. Lady is asking for, because nursery education is of enormous importance? Its importance is often unrecognised and underrated.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not underrate its importance. I am sure it is not necessary to remind my hon. Friend, however, that we always have to work within the limits of resources available.

Mr. Marks

Nursery classes and nursery schools are taking children part-time—one group attending in the morning and another in the afternoon. Will the hon. Gentleman urge local authorities to make extra provision, therefore, for clerical and other assistance, because the system involves twice as much work as would be the case if half the children attending were to spend all day at the school?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I will look at this point, but the hon. Gentleman is illustrating the financial problems in such provision.

Nursery Classes (New Infant Schools)

24. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now encourage local education authorities to include proposals for a nursery class or classes when preparing plans for new infant schools, if they wish to do so.

Mrs. Thatcher

In appropriate cases local authorities will, I hope, bear in mind the possibility of the later addition of nursery classes when planning new [column 1900]primary schools. But for the present, resources should be concentrated on the replacement and improvement of old primary schools and on the expansion of nursery education under the Urban Programme.

Mrs. Short

Is the right hon. Lady aware that many local education authorities are very keen to provide nursery classes, are able to do so from their existing capital means but are being prevented from doing so by the circular which she issued some time ago which militates against it? Will she therefore let local education authorities know that where they can find the money, she will not prevent them from doing so when new plans for infant schools are being submitted to the Department for approval?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not think that I can go quite as far as that. Many of us are very keen on the extension of nursery education but the limiting factor, as the hon. Lady will have gathered from the reply to Question No. 23, is resources. I hope that where new primary schools are built they will be built in such a way as to leave room for expansion for nursery classes later.

Sir G. Nabarro

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind, in the context of financial resources, that every parent who sends his or her child to a private fee-paying independent school is lifting the whole of that financial burden off the taxpayers and ratepayers?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree. I should not, in addition to everything else, like to take on the burden of costs which these parents bear.

Miss Lestor

In view of what the right hon. Lady said about the commitment to nursery education, and what was said in the Conservative Party manifesto, will she now allow and encourage those local authorities which have schools with empty classrooms in them to use those rooms for nursery classes for pre-school children?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot go as far as withdrawing the circular which prevented that from happening. Nursery school places are being expanded this year, however. An additional 5,000 places are being provided under Phase 3 of the urban programme.

[column 1901]

Teachers and Pupils (Safety and Health)

25. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will introduce legislation akin to the Office, Shops and Railway Premises Act, 1963, to provide for teachers and pupils the same safeguards as are provided for office workers and others.

Mrs. Thatcher

Substantial safeguards for teachers and pupils are already provided under existing law and it would be premature to consider new legislation before the Committee on Safety and Health at Work has completed its task.

Mr. Jones

Does it please the right hon. Lady to hear of youngsters using archaic accommodation, such as outside toilets, and working in unhealthy out-of-date so-called classrooms which are really storage rooms, cloakrooms or corridors? Does not she agree that such shameful physical conditions in industry would result in walk-outs by those involved? Why should the long-suffering teachers have to put up with such conditions?

Mrs. Thatcher

I realise that I have been left a very considerable problem in this respect and I am trying to tackle it as rapidly as I can.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the right hon. Lady look at the appalling conditions in which speech therapists have to work in many schools? Is she aware that often they have to work in a room which is little more than a cupboard. It is not easy for them to do their very serious work in such conditions.

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not want anyone to work in appalling conditions. We are steadily doing all we can to increase the school improvements programme.

Choice in Welfare 1970

26. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she has read Choice in Welfare 1970, showing results of a survey under the Institute of Economic Affairs, a copy of which is in her possession; and if, in the light of that survey, she has any proposals to encourage parents who so desire to pay for the education of their children.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have read the Institute of Economic Affairs' third report on [column 1902]Choice in Welfare with great interest. I trust that parents who wish to will continue to support the independent schools.

Mr. King

Does not every financial forecast indicate the growing difficulty of financing the improved education system we all want to see if taxation is to be the only source of revenue? Will my right hon. Friend, therefore, through the taxation system or otherwise, do her utmost to see that private money is injected into the system?

Mrs. Thatcher

I could not possibly agree to that because it is not my Ministerial duty so to do. I think that this report will contribute greatly to the discussion of independent education in future.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the right hon. Lady look again favourably at her hon. Friend's suggestion following the dictum of the Secretary of State for Social Services on Monday? Would not charges of this kind provide a financial incentive to children to look after their own educational interests and thus provide financial savings which the Chancellor of the Exchequer could use for further tax reductions for the better-off?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not quite sure that I got the full impact of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. It seemed to me somewhat abstruse and at one point I was not quite convinced that jocularity was confined to the Dispatch Box.

Mr. Marks

Would the right hon. Lady give protection to parents who misguidedly pay for their children's education by publishing the list of the 1,300 independent schools not recognised by the Department as efficient? Will she publish it so that they do not have to come to London to look at the manuscript list before they can find out?

Mrs. Thatcher

There is a later Question about that subject on the Order Paper. The majority of these schools have never applied for or wished to have recognition as efficient, since some of the best-known ones can stand on their own reputations without having to have such recognition added to their qualifications.

Miss Lestor

Can the right hon. Lady say what attention she is giving, in view of the question about parents who pay [column 1903]for their children's education, to the rate relief received by public schools registered as charities? Should not that list be made more widely known among those who have to bear the brunt of the rate relief?

Mrs. Thatcher

I trust that the rate relief to educational charities will continue.

Primary School Classes, Northern Region

27. Mr. Armstrong

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many primary school classes in the Northern Region have more than 35 pupils; and what proposals she has for eliminating oversize classes in the region.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In January, 1970, 3,877. The local education authorities will be helped by their share of building programmes and the rapidly increasing supply of teachers. My right hon. Friend is willing to consider applications for increased quotas of teachers.

Mr. Armstrong

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the greatest educational reform for primary school children would be to reduce the size of class, to enable individual teaching and attention to be given? In view of the distressing number of over-size classes in the Northern Region, would he consider making extra allocations of resources so that not only will there be an extra quota of teachers—the cost of which will fall on the local authorities—but there will be extra building resources to give the children the opportunity they deserve?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not dissent from the hon. Member's view that the ratio between teacher and taught is significant in effective teaching. I do not question that for a moment. But I hope that he will have noted the increased resources that have been made available. I do not want him to read any complacency into my answer.

Mr. Cordle

Dealing with hygiene, is it not possible for the Minister to look carefully at the provision of conveniences to see that some of the primary schools are very soon equipped with less isolated buildings and that pupils have fewer difficulties in getting to them?

[column 1904]

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am glad to say that that is the kind of important matter which flows directly from the replacement schemes for old primary schools which have already been announced by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Rhodes

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that in the Northern Region the distribution of overcrowded classes is extremely patchy so that it is possible to have, as I have in my constituency, a large number of classes with over 35 pupils whereas there are none as far as I know in other constituencies within the City of Newcastle-upon-Tyne? Will his Department, in future approvals of the building programme, bear in mind that when an area is developing with new housing estates, overcrowding can occur even though nearby slum clearance reduces the size of classes?

Mr. van Straubenzee

These are all matters to take into account, but they are surely also very much in the minds of competent local education authorities in submitting plans to my right hon. Friend.

Public Libraries (Expenditure)

29. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will publish in the Official Report details of per capita expenditure on public libraries by each of the largest 20 cities or county boroughs in England and Wales outside London; and whether she will make a statement on Government policy towards those authorities with below-average expenditure.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The information requested is published in the annual Public Library Statistics issued jointly by the Institute of Municipal Treasurers and Accountants and the Society of County Treasures. Per capita expenditure is one of the factors taken into account in assessing the adequacy of a local authority's public library provision. A lower-than-average expenditure would not necessarily of itself be sufficient reason for Government action.

Mr. Judd

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that there are a number of boorish local authorities, including, I am sorry to say, the Conservative-controlled City Council of Portsmouth, with an absolutely disgraceful record in terms of public library service? What does he [column 1905]intend to do to promote greater interest and greater attention on the part of these local authorities to this public service?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The statistics do not bear out that unreasonable criticism of Portsmouth. The central problem, as the hon. Member must know better than I, is the replacement for the Central Library. That, as he knows, is in hand.