Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1971 Dec 16 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 [828/821-43]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7277
Themes: Arts & entertainment, Education, Primary education, Secondary education, Higher & further education, Public spending & borrowing, Health policy, Race, immigration, nationality, Science & technology, Trade unions
[column 821]

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Secondary Schools (Improvement)

1. Mr. Deakins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many financial requests she has now received from local education authorities for permission to start schemes of improvement or replacement of maintained secondary schools for the years 1972–73 and 1973–74; and what percentage of requests she has authorised for each year.

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

The information asked for in the first part of the Question cannot be provided without disproportionate expenditure of money and manpower. The only secondary school improvement or replacement projects which have been included in the programmes for 1972–74 are those [column 822]where the main objective is the improvement of conditions in primary schools.

Mr. Deakins

Did the right hon. Lady try to get extra resources for these primary or secondary schools, or did she welcome the opportunity that the cut-back gave to slow down the progress towards comprehensive secondary reorganisation?

Mrs. Thatcher

I took the view that the conditions in many primary schools required even more urgent improvement than the conditions in secondary schools. In the first two years of the present Government's improvement programme, about three times as much money has been allocated in total than for the previous two years, the greater part going to primary schools.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Will my right hon. Friend continue to emphasise the primary school replacement programme—there are at least 90 primary schools in Derbyshire which were built in the last century—before she starts building new secondary schools, whether comprehensive or any other type?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am well aware of the urgency of replacing a large number of primary schools and the programme has been welcomed. I should also like to do some secondary school improvement projects as well, but it is not possible except to the extent that I indicated in my answer.

Mr. Marks

Since the Secretary of State is cutting both primary and secondary school building programmes in 1973, could she not use some money here for the immediate improvement of secondary schools?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not cutting any school building programme at all. They are record programmes. There was a building programme for the raising of the school-leaving age, which will come to an end because it will have been completed. Apart from that, the combined basis need and improvement programmes show an increase over the previous year.

Central Advisory Councils

2. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps she proposes to take to implement Sections 4 and 5 of the Education Act, 1944.

[column 823]

Mrs. Thatcher

In regard to Section 4, none at present. Under Section 5 a report on education for the year 1971 will be submitted to Parliament in due course.

Mr. Spearing

In not thanking the right hon. Lady for that non-reply, may I ask her to realise that she is defying the Education Act, 1944, as well as the requirement of Parliament that reports of the central advisory councils should be made? Is she aware that if they existed they would have a statutory duty to advise her on various matters? Is she afraid of receiving advice on such matters as school milk and school building?

Mrs. Thatcher

Governments of both parties have taken the same view about this. Both have appointed independent committees to advise them on specific matters. Both have had extensive sources of advice. The hon. Gentleman and I took part in a quite lengthy and interesting Adjournment debate on this subject and I have nothing to add to what was said on that occasion.

Student Unions

3. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what response she has had so far to her consultative document on the financing of students' unions; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Of the organisations consulted, some have already taken part in preliminary discussions, others have sent in written memoranda. Consultations are continuing.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Whatever the outcome of these consultations, will my right hon. Friend take care to ensure that in future no student is obliged to belong to the National Union of Students or is obliged to contribute either his own or his family resources to the cost of a student union? Will she look carefully again at the bizarre proposal in the Green Paper that in future voluntary student contributions to political funds should be a charge on the taxpayer or ratepayer?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot at the moment guarantee what my hon. Friend seeks in the first part of his supplementary question. Some reference to this is made in the consultative document. For the [column 824]rest, we have already had consultations with vice-chancellors and local education authorities. I have today received a message saying that the students have now fixed a date for a meeting next week and I think it better that we should continue the discussions before announcing any premature decisions.

Mr. Alan Williams

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the fact that the students are unanimously incensed against the Government is entirely of her doing? Does she not understand that it was absolutely predictable that her half-baked ideas would be seen as firm proposals when only one of the various possible alternatives was discussed in detail in the document and when that was prefaced by the words “It would probably be the most acceptable” ? Acceptable to whom? Does the right hon. Lady appreciate that if she does not back down on the central proposition, about which the document is wrong, a future Labour Government will revoke it?

Mrs. Thatcher

I find that, coming from the hon. Gentleman, difficult to take. Would he suggest that I put back the regulations to where they were when the Labour Government left office? If so, the students would have nothing like the rights which they now have—[Interruption]—because we altered the regulations to give students the right to a compulsory fee. I am anxious for the discussions to continue and they will continue with vice-chancellors, local education authorities and students, who are not unanimously against the proposals judging from the letters I have received.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is desirable that as a result of these discussions student unions should be accountable for such public money as they may receive and that the constitutions of student unions should have within them adequate minimum safeguards to ensure that they are operated in the interests of the majority of students and cannot be abused by militant minorities through defects in procedure? Is it not to be hoped—[Hon. Members: “Too long” .]—that the position of student unions will be strengthened not only in universities but in other institutions of learning?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agreed that the two main points raised by my hon. Friend [column 825]in his supplementary question are most important—that the money should be properly accounted for and that decisions should be taken by a body which is properly representative of the students' wishes.

Mr. Whitehead

Does not the right hon. Lady now realise that her good will in the forthcoming discussions would be taken more seriously if today we had one word of encouragement about the useful work that has been done by the N.U.S. and the vast majority of student unions, particularly as not one such word appears in the consultative document?

Mrs. Thatcher

I gladly acknowledge some of the excellent work that is done by both the N.U.S. and a number of student unions—indeed, by most of them.

Secondary Reorganisation (Derbyshire)

4. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is examining the objections raised by parents in the Melbourne, Aston-on-Trent, Barrow-on-Trent, and Weston-on-Trent areas of Derbyshire, against the proposed reorganisation of secondary education in the Sector “B” of Derby Borough; and whether she will give assurances that equality of educational opportunity will be provided to children in these areas with those offered to children in Derby Borough.

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

The period for objection to these statutory proposals expired only last Monday. Before making her decision my right hon. Friend will carefully consider all the objections which have been received. I cannot say more at this stage.

Mr. Rost

While thanking my hon. Friend for that slightly helpful reply, may I ask him for an assurance that parents in the Melbourne, Aston, Weston and Barrow-on-Trent areas will not be let down over the reorganisation of Sector “B” as were the parents in my constituency over the reorganisation of Sector “E” , when a botched-up scheme was bulldozed through against the best interests of teachers and parents? May we now please have an assurance that the 500 letters which I have received about this will be adequately considered? May we also have the Minister's confirmation of the fact that the county [column 826]education committee reluctantly had to lodge an official objection to the Derby Borough education proposals?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I can confirm that objections have been received from, among others, the parents described by my hon. Friend. I can also confirm that a formal objection has been made by the county authority. These and all others that are received will be most carefully considered and weighed. As I have said, the expiry of the period occurred only last Monday. I hope that my hon. Friend will feel, therefore, that my answer was rather more than slightly helpful.

Primary School, Upper Holloway

5. Mr. O'Halloran

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she hopes to announce her decision on the proposed primary school for St. Gabriel 's Parish, N.19; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The Inner London Education Authority's proposals for the next school building programme include one to build a new Roman Catholic primary school in Upper Holloway. My right hon. Friend hopes to announce the programme next spring.

Mr. O'Halloran

In view of that very disappointing reply, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that more than 100 children must travel outside Islington to school every day and that this number is growing? Does he intend to do something about this?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I would have hoped that the hon. Gentleman would have appreciated that the order in which this particular school is placed in the local authority's list is the concern of the local authority. I am sure he will take encouragement from the fact that for 1973–74 the authority proposed 24 primary improvement projects of which my right hon. Friend has been able to approve no less than 21 at a total cost of over £2.5 million, which is a good pointer for the future.

Immigrant Pupils

6. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will consult with the Home Department to ascertain the area in which the immigrants who are now known to be eligible to receive work permits have indicated [column 827]they will settle for the purpose of enabling her to estimate the number of children of school age for whom places will be required; and whether she will seek powers to give extra help to those local education authorities who are likely to have a large influx.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am in touch with my right hon. Friend about this matter. Authorities with substantial numbers of immigrant pupils are already eligible for special help under various provisions.

Mr. Pavitt

Is the right hon. Lady aware that there is not the slightest racialist overtone in this Question and that integration in my area is fantastically good, thanks to the help of the Community Relations Committee, the Willesden Chronicle and the Kingsbury News, which give excellent coverage to these matters? Is the Minister aware, however, that if we must have this large number of people needing school places, we would be grateful for the maximum amount of practical help to enable us to absorb the large number in my area?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for those comments and I assure him that we shall do our best to help.

Mr. Edward Short

To what extent, if any, is the concentration of immigrants now a criterion in allocating money in the urban programme?

Mrs. Thatcher

It is still one of the criteria. The criteria have not changed since the right hon. Gentleman was in office.

Medical Research Council

8. Dr. Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many times during the past five years the Medical Research Council has refused to undertake a specific research project requested by the Department of Health and Social Security or the former Ministry of Health.

Mrs. Thatcher

None, Sir.

Dr. Marshall

In that case, is there any need for changes of the kind recommended in the Rothschild Report?

Mrs. Thatcher

Possible changes have been put before the research councils for [column 828]the purpose of consultation have started and I think it would be unwise of me to say anything until they have been completed and the Government have decided what proposals to bring forward.

Mr. Alan Williams

Have any of the research councils refused to take on such projects?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot speak off-hand about some of the others, but I believe that the Agricultural Research Council has never refused to take on a project suggested to it. I have not specifically looked at the other two.

Violence in Schools

9. Mr. Jeffrey Archer

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will establish an inquiry into the problem of violence in schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

I share my hon. Friend's concern, but I am not sure that a centralised inquiry would make the best contribution towards solving this problem.

Mr. Archer

Does my right hon. Friend realise that that is not a satisfactory reply? Is she aware that many teachers and parents are genuinely worried, not just for now but about what is likely to happen in the future, as a result of the present trend? Cannot something more positive be done rather than simply expressing hope for the future?

Mrs. Thatcher

We are all genuinely worried about violence in schools. It is probably true that the situation in schools to some extent reflects the situation in society. I would not like to dash into an inquiry until I am certain that that would make a positive contribution towards the subject.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Is there, in fact, very much violence in schools?

Mrs. Thatcher

There is some violence in schools. So long as there is, we will be concerned. It is difficult to strike the right balance. One is very concerned about any violence that exists but one must not over-emphasise it.

Handicapped Pupils, Oldham

10. Mr. Lamond

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the average waiting period in Oldham [column 829]for admission to a special residential school; and how this compares with the average waiting time in the country as a whole.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I understand from the local education authority that the average waiting time for the six handicapped pupils placed this year was two months. The seven pupils at present unplaced have been waiting on average for nine months but four are attending day schools in the meantime. No national average figures are available.

Mr. Lamond

Does not the Minister agree that these figures are rather disappointing when one considers that to have a child of this kind at home is often very disruptive to the rest of the family? Would he not agree that attention to this matter is of much higher priority than giving £2 million to grant-aided schools? Could not that money have been applied to the solution of this problem?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I would not want to have any note of complacency in my answer. I have studied particularly all the cases awaiting admission, including the one with which I know the hon. Gentleman has been very much personally concerned, and rightly so, in which I think that there is the prospect of admission within the foreseeable future. But the hon. Gentleman will know that three new day schools—I talk of day schools—for maladjusted children opened in Lancashire this year, two more are under consideration at present and four more are programmed to start next year. That is an encouraging indication.

Mr. Edward Short

The Under-Secretary will remember that his right hon. Friend a few minutes ago said that she was following previous practice in using the Central Advisory Council only for ad hoc purposes. Does not he agree that there is now a case for re-establishing the council to consider the whole field of special education?

Mr. van Straubenzee

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friend has available to her in this sphere specialist advice which she draws upon and is continuing to draw upon.

Higher School-Leaving Age

11. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will give local educational authorities [column 830]the discretion to allow pupils to spend the extra year, when the school leaving age has been raised to 16 years, in a full-time course at a technical college if both parents and headmaster agree.

17. Mr. Cormack

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will encourage the use of technical college facilities by 15-years-olds when the school-leaving age is raised to 16 years.

Mrs. Thatcher

Circular 8/71 explained that when the school-leaving age is raised to 16 further education colleges will no longer be empowered to provide full-time education for pupils in the 15–16 age group. In appropriate cases I welcome co-operation between schools and further education by such means as linked courses, to which the circular draws attention.

Mr. Marten

I realise that there are these linked courses but that is not the point. Does not my right hon. Friend agree that there is, perhaps, even a small proportion of children who would benefit far more by doing a full-time course at a technical college rather than staying on at secondary school? This would require a slight amendment of the law. Would my right hon. Friend look again at this matter particularly in the light of what is happening in Northern Ireland, where the law is being altered for this purpose?

Mrs. Thatcher

If a greater proportion of time were to be needed in further education colleges, it should be done in conjunction with the headmasters of the schools, otherwise it would be tantamount to not raising the school-leaving age to 16 if young people could stop going to school and go full-time to a particular course which attracted them in a college of further education even though that did not give full education.

Mr. Cormack

Would my right hon. Friend think again about this? Many people in the teaching profession are extremely alarmed and apprehensive about the consequences of raising the school-leaving age and this would meet their point.

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not think that the colleges of further education would regard themselves as able to cope necessarily with all the difficult problems from [column 831]the schools, because some young people do not wish to stay at school for the further year. We have just about the right balance by encouraging maximum co-operation between the colleges of further education and the schools and I should like to see how it works out in practice.

Mr. Molloy

Is the right hon. Lady aware that there is grave concern about this problem, which will get worse unless something is done about it? Some local authorities feel that they could resolve this problem if they had assistance from her Department with regard to their present plans—the London Borough of Ealing, for instance. Would the right hon. Lady be prepared to see the education authorities of the Borough of Ealing to examine their difficulties with regard to the scales for teachers and their programme? If they could be resolved, this could make a great contribution to the problem.

Mrs. Thatcher

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his ingenuity in his supplementary question. My recollection is that Ealing has not fully decided about the particular pattern of comprehensive education that it finally wishes to pursue. When it does, naturally it will come to the Department.

15. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what response she has had from local education authorities to her recent circular about preparations for raising the school-leaving age; whether she is satisfied with the response; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Fifty-five reports had been received by 3rd December when a reminder was sent to authorities which had not so far replied. I shall make a fuller statement as soon as practicable in 1972.

Mr. Lane

While I congratulate my right hon. Friend on going ahead with this desirable reform, which the last Government postponed, will she acknowledge that there is real anxiety among many of the teachers involved? Will Ministers do their utmost in speeches and in other ways to make sure that the preparations are pursued with the necessary urgency during the next 12 months?

[column 832]

Mrs. Thatcher

I know that there is still some anxiety, which is why we are trying to put over as much information as possible while there is still time to remedy any defects. I would gladly make more speeches about the desirability of raising the school-leaving age because it will now be going up without a doubt.

Mr. Spearing

Does the right hon. Lady appreciate that one of the great difficulties in providing suitable education for those who will be staying on is adequate space and that the current regulations on space in schools are inadequate? Will she ask her inspectors to look at the question and report to her on it?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot accept that the current regulations on space are inadequate. I have seen excellent schools built under the current regulations. The sum of £125 million was allocated for buildings for the programme to raise the school-leaving age.

School Meals

12. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what are the latest figures of children eating school meals; and how this compares with the situation prior to the last increase in charges.

Mrs. Thatcher

In October 4,658,000 pupils in maintained schools in England and Wales took the school meal compared with 5,148,000 in autumn, 1970. About 805,000 free meals were taken this year compared with 627,000 last year.

Mr. Carter

Would not the Minister agree that those figures completely undermine her oft-repeated claim that the numbers will eventually return to the pre-increase charges level? Would she not further agree that, if this trend continues, after the next increase is announced and implemented we are likely to be left with the rump of a school meals service very close to extinction?

Mrs. Thatcher

Before any further increase we shall have another set of census figures and we shall know exactly what is happening. I remind the hon. Gentleman that school meal charges have been raised before and the take-up has fallen off before.

Mr. Farr

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that whenever charges of [column 833]this nature are raised there is always a temporary falling-off in numbers which is gradually made good in the following months?

Mrs. Thatcher

That frequently happens. In some of the secondary schools a different pattern of midday provision is emerging and, for the first time in the statistics, we had a look at the numbers who are taking different kinds of meals from the standard midday meal, and it is quite a number in secondary schools.

Miss Lestor

Is not the right hon. Lady aware of the fact that it is well over half a year since this increase took place and that the forecast return to the number formerly taking school meals has not happened? Further, would she comment on the tremendous concern being expressed by primary school teachers and medical officers of health about large numbers of children in primary schools going without a hot school meal, without school milk and without any sort of refreshment during the morning and even getting nothing until they get home at night? As many of these children are from deprived areas, they will start showing signs of malnutrition.

Mrs. Thatcher

If that should happen, the committee on medical aspects of school meals would be the first to report it and naturally we would be the first to wish to do something about it. The level of those taking full school meals in primary schools is greater than the level of those taking full school meals in secondary schools.

Research and Development

13. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what timescale she has in mind for suggestions sent to her, arising from her Green Paper on the Framework for Government research and development.

Mrs. Thatcher

The timing is set out in paragraphs 6 and 7 of the Government's Green Paper.

Mr. Dalyell

What exactly is the rationale behind saying to the learned societies and the research councils, “You have got only until 14th January to give us your detailed opinion on the most controversial report of recent times” ?

[column 834]

Mrs. Thatcher

They have not got only until 14th January. The final date for consultations is 29th February.

Mr. Palmer

Will the right hon. Lady impress on her right hon. Friend the Leader of the House the need for an early debate after the Recess on this important subject, which is causing great consternation in scientific circles?

Mrs. Thatcher

I will draw my right hon. Friend's attention to what the hon. Gentleman has said, but consultations will be continuing for the two months after Christmas and it is for the House to consider at what period it is best to hold a debate.

School Milk

14. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what advice she has sent to local education authorities with reference to the pricing policy of milk sold in schools; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Circular 12/71 advised local education authorities that the charge should cover the cost of the milk and the expense of providing it.

Mr. Clark

Will the right hon. Lady confirm that if local education authorities are to abide strictly by circular 12/71 they have to charge twice the cost of the milk? In the light of that, will she follow the practices of some of her Cabinet colleagues and accept that she has made a wrong decision and reintroduce free milk for all primary school children?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot confirm the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. On the contrary, the variation in charges for school milk is considerable. Some authorities are providing it for little above the wholesale cost while for others it is costing a good deal more. So long as the authorities balance their account for milk over the area they do not have to charge specifically the cost at a specific school.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are still many primary schools where milk is not available for the parents who wish to buy it? Will she do everything she can to see that those schools' local education authorities [column 835]make the milk available to parents who wish to purchase it for their children?

Mrs. Thatcher

My hon. Friend has raised an extremely important matter. Only just over 30 education authorities are selling milk. I understand that where it is being sold the scheme is very successful. From what I have seen when going about the country myself, I understand that many parents are prepared to pay for the milk, but it must be on sale.

Mr. Loughlin

Will the right hon. Lady consult her right hon. Friend the Home Secretary with a view to increasing the provision in prisons to cater for the number of Labour councillors who are refusing to implement her school milk policy, so that we can ensure that if the children cannot receive free milk the councillors can go to gaol?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman is quite capable of putting that abstruse point to Reginald Maudlingmy right hon. Friend himself.

Music and Dancing (Talented Children)

16. Mr. David James

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will introduce legislation to ensure that children of any age who show exceptional musical or dancing promise can be educated at special approved establishments at Government expense, in view of the inability of local education authorities to evaluate such talent or to pay for the specialised residential education involved.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. Local education authorities already have powers to assist in such cases.

Mr. James

Will my right hon. Friend recognise that in addition to the factors I list in my Question there is a great reluctance on the part of local authorities to send children out of their areas and that this hits particularly hard a constituent of mine, Carmel Russill, who at the age of 15 is still not able to go to Cheetham School, Manchester, to receive the 'cello lessons which he richly deserves?

Mrs. Thatcher

Local authorities do not usually send pupils outside their area where they feel that they can provide full [column 836]and proper education within it. I have considered very carefully the case raised by my hon. Friend. Perhaps he will kindly tell the parent of the young person concerned that I have read her letter which he let me have earlier today.

Mr. Faulds

Does the right hon. Lady realise that this is one of the most responsible Questions asked from her side of the House this afternoon? Does not she regret that a great deal of artistically-gifted talent goes to waste among children with such gifts, particularly in the present situation of Tory control—temporary, but transient, thank God—of many education authorities?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am dealing now with one particular case of a very talented young person. The local education authority has the power which my hon. Friend seeks and I cannot administer any such scheme as he is asking me to administer from the central Government.

Primary Schools (Nursery Classes)

18. Mr. John E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will request local education authorities to ensure that all new primary school buildings should have space for a nursery class.

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 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.

Mr. Hill

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the provision of space in the planning of any new scheme is vital so that a nursery class can be added later? Will she encourage local education authorities to make the space available as far as they can for voluntary activities on behalf of children under five by leasing it to play groups or any other organisation that can provide something for those children?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree with my hon. Friend that space should be provided at new primary schools for the later addition of nursery schools or classes when resources become available.

[column 837]

Mr. Barry Jones

Are not hundreds of thousands of youngsters in rural areas suffering a social blight almost as serious as that suffered by children in urban areas? Will the Minister take special measures to inject urgency into nursery school building in rural areas? Are not peripatetic teachers in the nursery service a means of getting round this difficult problem?

Mrs. Thatcher

The problems of education in some of the rural areas are quite as great as in some of the old city centres. For that reason I gave an extensive primary school programme for rural areas and when resources are available for nursery schools the needs of rural areas will also be considered.

Dr. Stuttaford

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the raising of the school-leaving age may be an advantage to only a few pupils but that the spending of additional funds at the nursery school level would be to the advantage of nearly every child? We shall never obtain equality of educational opportunity until we have adequate nursery schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

I should like to do a good deal more for nursery education, as would almost every hon. Member. But it would not be possible suddenly to switch resources which have been devoted to raising the school-leaving age and adding extensions to secondary schools to make extra provision for nursery schools. I will bear in mind that my hon. Friend is also very anxious to have more nursery provision.

Mr. Freeson

Does the Minister accept that her hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. John E. B. Hill) was suggesting that the provision of space for a nursery class should be a condition of planning consent for a scheme even where the building could not go ahead at this stage? Will she bear in mind that should this be done some local authorities might be prepared to spend money from vote heads other than education to achieve the provision of pre-school facilities ahead of the provision of nurseries when the Department can allow it?

Mrs. Thatcher

My hon. Friend was asking me to request local authorities to provide space and where possible to make it available.

[column 838]

Teachers' Centres

19. Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the number of teachers' centres in England and Wales.

Mrs. Thatcher

I understand from the Schools Council that there are about 500 teachers' centres.

Miss Fookes

In view of the importance of the centres for in-service training, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether she is satisfied with the number and, more particularly, with the distribution of these centres throughout the country?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am never satisfied. I have seen some of the work that is being done and it is excellent. I applaud the way in which local education authorities are going about this. Inevitably there are some much better than others, but I hope that there will be a steady improvement in number and quality.

Mr. Latham

Does the right hon. Lady agree that another aspect of preparedness for the raising of the school-leaving age, apart from accommodation and money, is the nature of the treatment of older children who stay on at school? Would she say what encouragement she is giving to teachers to play their part in this and to see that there is created for the older child a more adult atmosphere in school, away from the days of gym slips and pigtails, short trousers and school caps, so often associated with senior pupils in their last year?

Mrs. Thatcher

Teachers have played a prominent part in curriculum presentation for raising the school-leaving age, through the Schools Council. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will read some of the Schools Council literature on this subject. It is distributed to the teachers through the teachers' centres and I know that teachers are finding it most valuable.

Postgraduate Students (Grants)

20. Mrs. Knight

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the question of providing loans instead of grants to postgraduate students.

[column 839]

Mr. van Straubenzee

My right hon. Friend has no statement to make at present.

Mrs. Knight

Is my hon. Friend aware that many education authorities, occasionally for extremely good reasons, find it impossible to make grants to postgraduate students but that the same students might well be enabled to have a loan and therefore to continue with their studies?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The greater amount of support comes from central funds in one way or another, but, as I say, I am not in a position to make a statement about a switch to loans for postgraduates.

Mr. Alan Williams

Would the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that when the time comes to make a policy statement, it will not be done simply in answer to a Written or Oral Question but that he will give the House a formal statement in view of the important principles involved?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Yes. There will need to be consultation and we shall not do it in the way that the last Government announced the increases in fees for overseas students—by a Written Question on the last day that Parliament sat.

Mr. Edward Short

All these exchanges surprise me. Are the Government considering loans instead of grants for postgraduate students?

Mr. van Straubenzee

My right hon. Friend has said in public that it is one of the matters under consideration in the context of the future development of higher education.

Scottish Business School

21. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the progress of the Scottish Business School.

[column 840]

Mr. van Straubenzee

I understand that the chairman, secretary and members of the council have been appointed and that an interim programme of postgraduate and post-experience courses is already in operation.

Mr. Douglas

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Scottish Business School is getting off to a good start and that eventually the students coming through the school might make an impact on the Scottish economy—if we can get rid of the present Government so that we shall have an economy in Scotland?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am glad to confirm that the school has got off to an admirable start. One of the three constituent universities is the one in which I spent a year, and the good start is under this good Government.

Nursery Schools and Classes

23. Mrs. Monks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science which local authorities are providing places in nursery schools and classes under the urban programme.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The provision of 16,300 places by 76 local education authorities in England has been approved. With permission, I will circulate details in the Official Report. About 2,000 additional places will be approved shortly in areas of high unemployment.

Mrs. Monks

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the emphasis she is putting on this provision and say how glad I am to note that a large increase is proposed?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. She will find when the details are circulated that they are of considerable assistance.

Following are the detail:

Number of Full-Time Places in Nursery Schools and Classes Approved in:-

Notes:

(i) Phases I and II relate to projects approved for starting in the period 1968–70. Phases III and V provide for building starts up to 31st March, 1973.

(ii) Phase IV comprised non-capital projects to be carried out in 1971–72.

[column 843]

Expenditure

24. Mr. Ashton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further plans she has for redistributing expenditure on education; and on what aspects of education these will take place.

Mrs. Thatcher

The present plans of the Government for expenditure on education are set out in the White Paper “Public Expenditure to 1975–76” .

Mr. Ashton

May I take that as an assurance that the Minister will not take any money from things like the provision of milk to give it to grant-aided schools? Can she assure us that she has stopped pursuing a policy of taking from the under-privileged to give to the over-privileged?

Mrs. Thatcher

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that extra money will continue to be given to education to expand the education programme.