Slum conditions in old schools. The Chairman of the Inner London Education Authority—which with 400,000 children in its care is second only to Lancashire—has accused the department of education of failing to appreciate how far bad conditions in schools are affecting the morale of teachers.
The chairman Canon Harvey Hinds—was commenting on today's report by the national union of teachers on slum conditions in old schools all over the country.
Jeffrey Archer reports: [end p1]
The report says many teachers work in conditions which would be illegal in industry. Out of the 500 schools examined the report gives 30 case histories, including one school in East London. The report talks of the ramshackle outdoor lavoratory which can freeze in the winter and the tiny playground which can hardly cope with the 200 pupils. The only washing facilities are outside too, and there's no fountain for drinking water, just an unhygienic tap. Classrooms have leaking roofs and are heated by smoky coke stoves. Opening a window to let the smoke out makes the room too cold to teach in. Often teachers have tiny staff rooms and totally inadequate toilet facilities. This afternoon I spoke to the Education Secretary, Mrs Margaret Thatcher.
Mrs Thatcher, what is your reaction to the NUT report?
Well, we already know that there are a number of primary schools that need replacing. Indeed in some respects I was well ahead of the NUT, because though they reported I believe some 30 schools, I have made arrangements in my first two years school-building programme to replace a thousand old primary schools. This is three time as much as was ever done in any year before.
Do you accept the conditions which are listed in the 30 case histories and is there anything you can do about those particular cases?
Well, not all of the cases have in fact been identified. There are a number of schools that need replacing in their entirety and then there are a number of others that have some minor things that are wrong with them, which can be replaced by the local education authority, you know, they can have new toilets or new staff rooms, not the whole school replaced, but replaced out of a little block allocation they get for minor works purposes.
It seems that part of the purpose of the report is to warn that the morale of teachers is being seriously affected by the conditions of the schools. Are you disturbed by this? [end p2]
I'm always disturbed by the morale of teachers. Naturally we want to do everything to help them to discharge their duties in schools and good buildings can help them and that's why my primary school programme will, I believe, improve their morale enormously. [The following two sentences were not transmitted on News At Ten] If you have a quick look at it, you'll see that the four [word missing] columns are all for replacing primary schools. They're my programmes and you'll see how they compare with those carried out under previous governments, so from that you'll see that we've made this top priority.