Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1972 Apr 13 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 [834/1403-25]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 8049
Themes: Education, Higher & further education, Industry, Science & technology, Society, Social security & welfare, Transport
[column 1403]

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Teacher Training (James Report)

1. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now make a progress report on her consultations on the James Report on Teacher Training.

24. Mr. John E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will list the bodies with whom she is having consultations about the James Report.

30. Mr. Willey

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement on the arrangements she has made regarding the consultations on the James Report; and when she expects these consultations to be concluded.

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

Comments have been submitted by about 20 bodies and some 30 others have been invited to let me have their views by the end of May. I expect discussions with some of the principal bodies to start next month but I cannot yet say how soon they will be completed. With permission, I will circulate lists of the bodies concerned in the Official Report.

Mr. Spearing

Does the right hon. Lady not agree that effective consultations can take place only when substantial facts are known? Is she not aware that her hon. Friend the Under-Secretary told me in answer to a Question before the Recess that he is considering publishing figures concerning the future of [column 1404]teacher supply? Will she ask him to publish those figures so that the facts on which the James proposals stand or fall may be made known?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish information, given under the promise that it would be confidential, to be revealed later. Statistics are being prepared and I hope that they will soon be available.

Mr. Hill

Can my right hon. Friend say to what extent she is now able to give an estimate of the cost of implementing the report and, secondly, how far in the proposed consultations there will be an attempt to discover to what extent professions other than teaching might use the proposed two-year diploma in higher education?

Mrs. Thatcher

Estimates are being prepared on a number of different assumptions. On the second point raised by my hon. Friend, I hope that those in industry and commerce will make it known whether they would wish to use people who have completed the two-year diploma course. It would help us to adjudge whether such a course would be more widely used.

Mr. Willey

In view of the formidable and authoritative criticism that has been made of some of the James recommendations, will the right hon. Lady consider publishing, as soon as she feels able, her own tentative views so that they may be further discussed and there may be consultations about them? At the same time, does she realise that the James Committee Report does not have the appendices we might have expected in such a report and that if she presents her views she might also supply the factual information upon which they are based?

Mrs. Thatcher

If I were to publish any tentative views before consultation I should come under very severe criticism indeed. I prefer to carry out the consultations. I am sure that that is the right way to proceed. I expect them to be both extensive and interesting because the subject and the entire report are so important.

Sir Gilbert Longden

Should it become clear that there is general agreement about the proposals for the third cycle [column 1405]which provides for in-service training, would my right hon. Friend take an opportunity soon thereafter to ask L.E.A.s to include a clause in the contracts of service of teachers entitling them to such training?

Mrs. Thatcher

I appreciate the importance of that point. Before we did that it would be important to see that the proper facilities were available and also to bear in mind that in some subjects it is difficult for some local authorities to arrange secondment. That third cycle has been generally welcomed, but it will nevertheless require a lot of further working out before it could be put into effect.

Mr. Dormand

Whatever the Secretary of State decides to do about the James recommendations, will she ensure that close attention is paid to the probationary period? Would she not agree that the present arrangements are totally unsatisfactory and that positive action must be taken over this most important period in a teacher's life?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree that positive action must be taken on this as on the third cycle. There were proposals, welcome to a number of people, about the probationary period in the first part of the report. Whether or not we accept them, I agree that some improvements should be made in the probationary part of a teacher's service.

Mr. Moyle

Does the right hon. Lady agree that the decision to try to reform teacher training on the basis of a report founded on confidential evidence was wrong, as it has undermined the credibility of the report with all sections of educational opinion, including even the vice-chancellors? Will she therefore make available to the public the evidence given by her departmental officials?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. At the beginning of its report, the James Committee pointed out that a great deal of information which had been published was already available to it and had been before the Select Committee, and that were it not for those reports and publications it would not have been able to proceed as fast as it did.

[column 1406]

Following is the information:

THE BODIES INVITED TO SUBMIT COMMENTS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

Local Authority Associations

Association of Education Committees.

Association of Municipal Corporations.

County Councils Association.

Inner London Education Authority.

Welsh Joint Education Committee.

Teachers Associations

National Association of Head Teachers.

National Association of Schoolmasters.

National Union of Teachers.

The Joint Four.

Colleges of Education

Association of Teachers in Colleges and Departments of Education.

Bodies concerned with denominational voluntary colleges

British and Foreign School Society.

Catholic Education Council.

Church of England Board of Education.

Methodist Education Committee.

Non-denominational voluntary colleges

*Froebel Institute College of Education.

*Goldsmiths' College.

Homerton College.

Westhill College of Education.

University Bodies

*Association of University Teachers.

*Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals.

The Open University.

Universities Council for the Education of Teachers.

University Grants Committee.

*These bodies had submitted some comments before the letter of invitation was sent.

Bodies Concerned with Advanced Further Education

Association of Colleges of Further and Higher Education.

Association of Principals of Technical Institutions.

Association of Teachers in Technical Institutions.

Committee of Directors of Polytechnics.

Other Bodies

Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work.

Council for National Academic Awards.

National Union of Students.

OTHER BODIES WHICH HAVE SUBMITTED COMMENTS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

Area Training Organisations

Loughborough University of Technology Institute of Education (Sub-A.T.O.).

University of London Institute of Education.

[column 1407]

Colleges of Education

Bedford College of Education.

Bolton College of Education (Technical).

Christ Church College, Canterbury.

City of Leeds and Carnegie College.

Furzedown College of Education.

Homerton College.

Nonington College of Physical Education.

Northern Counties College of Education.

Philippa Fawcett College.

Poulton-le-Fylde College.

St. Mary's College, Cheltenham.

St. Paul's College, Cheltenham.

St. Paul's College, Rugby.

Southlands College of Education.

Stockwell College of Education.

Weymouth College of Education.

L.E.A.

Nottingham.

OTHERS

Ethel Wormald College Students' Union.

Nottingham A.T.O. Advisory Committee for In-Service Training and Curriculum Development.

The School Broadcasting Council for the United Kingdom.

The Trades Union Congress.

Deaf/Blind Children

2. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the educational provision for deaf/blind children; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Local education authorities were asked in July, 1970, to review the provision available in their areas for children with defects of both sight and hearing. Many are educated with other handicapped children; but since that date a further special unit has opened and at least five others are now being provided.

Mr. Ashley

May I, for a change, express my warm appreciation to the right hon. Lady for her initiative on this issue and ask her to seek to extend the provision of special units for deaf/blind children even further and to try to ensure that it is available throughout their period of education, which is not the case at present?

Mrs. Thatcher

I shall consider sympathetically any requests received, but the hon. Gentleman knows that it is difficult to make provision available over the whole country when a very small number of children are involved. There are 460 children who are known to have defects of both sight and hearing, and we must weigh in the balance the need for widely spread units against the need for units [column 1408]of a size sufficiently large to provide all the facilities.

Dr. Stuttaford

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, before the happy day comes when we eradicate these sensory defects by encouraging school medical officers to push the German measles vaccination programme, what the schools, and particularly the smaller schools, need is more equipment? They are still woefully short of equipment, particularly of auditory trainers. My right hon. Friend could immediately help the smaller units by providing more equipment.

Mrs. Thatcher

The question of equipment is for the local education authorities. Some of these children are in hospital schools, which now come within the responsibility of the Department. However, if my hon. Friend has any particular cases in mind, we shall very much like to know about them because we are all anxious to help.

Mr. Edward Short

Does the right hon. Lady recollect the Imprisoned Minds Campaign in July, 1968, and the large public meeting at the Central Hall, West-minster, at which Lord Boyle and two of her present ministerial colleagues spoke and at which a letter from the present Prime Minister was read which stated that if the Labour Government did not institute a Plowden-type inquiry into the education of handicapped children a Conservative Government would? When will the right hon. Lady implement that specific promise by the Prime Minister?

Mrs. Thatcher

The promise was not to institute a public inquiry. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I have an excellent Advisory Committee on the Education of Handicapped Children which sometimes sets up sub-committees to consider specific problems. That body is working extremely well and, together with all the other information available, gives us all we need. The main object is steadily to improve the facilities for these children.

Student Relations

3. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science which recommendations of the Education and Science Select Committee's Report on Student Relations published in 1969 she now intends to implement.

[column 1409]

Mrs. Thatcher

The greater part of these recommendations were addressed, not to the Department, but to various bodies concerned with higher education. I take the work of the Committee into account in developing higher education policy.

Mr. Mitchell

Will the right hon. Lady consult her hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who knows something about this Committee's work? When does she propose to institute an inquiry into financing that part of higher education which is outside the university sector?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not propose to institute an inquiry into that matter for the time being. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have very important decisions about the future of higher education to make this year, and we shall be receiving a number of views on that subject.

Staying on at School

4. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the proportion of young people currently staying at school after reaching the statutory school leaving date both in the West Riding of Yorkshire and in the area where the highest proportion occurs.

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

For maintained secondary schools, 49 per cent. and 83 per cent. in January, 1971. The average for England and Wales was 56 per cent.

Mr. Hardy

The number of young people staying on at school in the West Riding has increased in the last year or two, but is the hon. Gentleman aware that the principal reason for it is the very serious unemployment problem facing the country? Will the hon. Gentleman give an estimate of the numbers of people staying on at school because of unemployment in the West Riding and in the other area referred to in the Question?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I doubt whether that is so because, unhappily, this is a feature of school life throughout the country. However, I accept that there is nothing like a sufficient number of people staying on at school in the West Riding, and this is one of the justifications for the statutory raising of the school leaving age.

[column 1410]

Paintings (Conservation)

5. Mr. Allason

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now make a statement on the Report of the Anderson Committee on training in the conservation of paintings, a copy of which is in her possession.

14. Mr. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she proposes to establish a centre for training in the restoration and conservation of paintings and drawings, as recommended in the joint report of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation; and whether she will make a statement.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The report is being studied. My noble Friend is not yet in a position to make a statement.

Mr. Allason

Has my hon. Friend noted that the facilities for training in conserving paintings are totally inadequate and that there is a clear need for a conservation institute? Has he also noted that the terms of reference of the Anderson Committee related only to paintings and drawings, whereas there is a need for conserving other museum exhibits—for example, textiles?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I noted the very clear evidence in the report concerning weaknesses in this matter, although whether it necessarily leads to the conclusion that an institute should be founded is plainly one of the matters at present under discussion. But I warmly accept what my hon. Friend says. While paintings are mostly the concern of the galleries, there are many other respects in which conservation is very important, such as metal work and textiles, which my hon. Friend mentioned.

Mr. Strauss

Although we cannot complain if the Government want time to consider this very important report, may we have an undertaking that they will give it very sympathetic consideration in view of the importance of its recommendations and that we shall have a decision within a few months—before the summer recess at the latest?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The report raises major considerations, and it is only reasonable that my noble Friend the [column 1411]Paymaster-General should want to study it very closely.

Mr. Cormack

May I express the hope that my hon. Friend's understandable caution will not become complacency? A year ago he informed me that there were only 10 fully qualified restorers in our national institutes and that 12 were in training. Has the situation improved?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The problem of restorers is serious, but the question which requires careful consideration is whether the solution suggested by the very able Anderson Committee is the right way to proceed.

Mr. Faulds

That is not good enough. In view of the crucial importance of the findings and recommendations of the Anderson Committee, will the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State—and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will excuse me for addressing this question to her—undertake to implement them?

Mr. van Straubenzee

There are major ramifications in the report's recommendations, and it is not in the least unreasonable that a report published quite recently should be closely studied before decisions are made.

Medical Research Council (Establishments)

7. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many research establishments under the Medical Research Council she has now visited officially.

Mrs. Thatcher

Four, Sir.

Mr. Dalyell

Since it is becoming a matter of some embarrassment for hon. Members on both sides of the House to have to say to constituents who work for the M.R.C., “We have had no debate on this” , and as the House of Lords has had a two-day debate on the Rothschild Report, cannot the Government give time for discussing this matter before decisions are made?

Mrs. Thatcher

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am not responsible for arranging the business of the House. I agree that such a debate in this House would be very interesting. Perhaps the [column 1412]Opposition would care to use one of their Supply days for it.

Mr. Moyle

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the Rothschild Report is a Government paper and that therefore the Government should provide time for a debate on this matter? The right hon. Lady will no doubt have found that the research establishments she has visited are doing excellent work. Does she not agree that in visiting four establishments she has done much better than Lord Rothschild did before he submitted his Green Paper to the other place?

Mrs. Thatcher

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman forgets that Lord Rothschild was chairman of one of the research committees and knows a very great deal about it. I am amazed that he should presume to attack such a distinguished researcher.

School Children (Computerised Data)

8. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what research is presently being undertaken by her Department into the computerised filing of data on children at school.

Mr. van Straubenzee

None, Sir.

Mr. Huckfield

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that some local authorities are actively engaged in putting on computerised files educational and other data about school children? Is he not concerned that these data files include teachers' assessments of pupils which may remain with them for the rest of their lives? Is he not concerned that his Department is not doing very much about this? Will he ensure that his right hon. Friend at least looks into it and——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has already asked four questions.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am aware of the pilot project to which the hon. Gentleman referred and in respect of which, he will recall, he had an Adjournment debate rather under a year ago. I am asked whether my Department will conduct research into the matter. The answer is, “No” . The confidentiality of records is not something that is brought out afresh by virtue of the records being computerised.

[column 1413]

The Arts (Government Policy)

9. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a further statement of Government policy on the arts.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The 1972–73 Estimates (Class IX) show the broad headings of the expansionist policy for the arts being pursued by the Government.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In view of the vast sums of money that are being spent in regional development grants, which will eventually amount to £300 million—which I certainly welcome—what plans have the Government for keeping expenditure on the arts in the regions in proportion to this increase and so improving the quality of life in the regions?

Mr. van Straubenzee

On many occasions my noble Friend has been on record as warmly encouraging provision for the regions. I am sure that my hon. Friend will have noticed, for example, that the Arts Council has increased in the forthcoming year from £466,000 to £700,000 its grant to the regional art associations. That is a decision of the Arts Council, but it shows an important trend.

Mr. Strauss

Is it not ludicrous that the Government should have two Bills before the House, one introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer relieving taxpayers of a tax burden of more than £1,000 million and the other introduced by his right hon. Friend imposing for the first time in our history a tax of £1 million on visitors to museums and galleries? Will he not prod the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ask him to relieve his right hon. Friend of the promise made by the Minister responsible for the arts two years ago, in entirely different circumstances, to impose this £1 million taxation, a great part of which is paid for by children for whom the right hon. Lady has responsibility?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The House will have ample opportunity at the further stages of the Bill in question for discussing these matters. The Standing Committee sat for nine happy sittings and on each occasion the arguments of the Opposition were decisively repulsed.

[column 1414]

Mr. Robert Cooke

Will my hon. Friend make it quite clear to his noble Friend in another place that the needs of the regions are of great importance? although the Arts Council has apparently been persuaded to increase its allocation, perhaps a little more could be done in that direction, since the Arts Council needs a shove from both sides of the House?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I will convey those sentiments to my noble Friend. My hon. Friend, who follows these matters closely, will recall the discussion in another place at the end of last month in which my noble Friend expressed sentiments with which he would warmly agree.

Mr. Faulds

May I support my right hon. and distinguished Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss). Instead of making further statements, will not the hon. Gentleman retract on past policy? Will he not have the gumption to withdraw the Museums and Galleries Admission Charges Bill in view both of the near unanimous opposition to it and the great damage it has done to the relations of the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend with the trustees of the various institutions?

Mr. van Straubenzee

If the Bill were to be withdrawn it certainly would not be withdrawn in answer to a supplementary question.

Corsbie Hall

10. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many children from English education authorities are still attending the private fee-paying school for handicapped children at Corsbie Hall, Thornton, Fife; and what steps those local authorities are taking to make their own provision for such children.

Mrs. Thatcher

Four, sent by one local education authority. This authority and three others jointly maintain a boarding special school for 50 maladjusted boys aged 7–16, but it has no vacancies at present for these four boys.

Mr. Hamilton

Does the right hon. Lady regard it as satisfactory that the borough of Oldham should continue to send children to a school in my constituency which for some months she has regarded as educationally unsatisfactory? [column 1415]Does she still stand by that decision, or is she prepared to allow Oldham to send its children to an institution which she regards as educationally unsatisfactory?

Mrs. Thatcher

As the hon. Gentleman knows from the answers to his questions yesterday, a further inspection has been completed by inspectors attached to the Scottish Education Department, and we are awaiting the results of that inspection to see whether my right hon. Friend will register this school. If he does not do so, I shall have to consider seriously what further action is to be taken in respect of these four children.

School Meals

11. Mr. Ashton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what she estimates to be the total cost of restoring the price of school meals to its 1970 level.

Mr. van Straubenzee

An additional £26 million per year.

Mr. Ashton

Will the Minister tell us what sort of a Government give away £1,200 million in the Budget and at the same time compel half a million kids to eat sandwiches and chips for their dinner? What representations did his Department make to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister, either before the Budget or after it, to ask them to find the £26 million to reduce the cost of school meals to what it should be?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's Question and supplementary question because they illustrate the difference of viewpoint, in that the £26 million is equivalent, for example, to about 300 new primary schools.

Mrs. Knight

Will my hon. Friend set up an educational establishment to inform members of the Opposition that the Budget does not give money away but merely allows people to keep more of their own money in their pockets?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I cannot help my hon. Friend because I am afraid that in this, as in much else, the Opposition are ineducable.

Mr. Edward Short

Is it still the Government's policy, as announced in “New Policies for Public Spending” in October, 1970, to charge the full econo[column 1416]mic cost for school meals, or has that policy gone the way of all their other initial policies?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The matter will be appropriately considered, as has been previously announced.

Milk (West Riding)

12. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many primary school children in the West Riding receive free milk on medical grounds at the latest convenient date; and what this is as a percentage of those medically examined for the provision of such milk.

Mr. van Straubenzee

205 in October, 1971. No information is available about the number of children examined for this purpose.

Mr. Clark

Does not the Minister realise that it is a frightening answer that out of 109,000 junior school children in the West Riding only 205 receive free milk on medical grounds? Will the Minister look into this matter, because there must be many junior school children in the West Riding who are suffering because they are not getting the milk they need on medical grounds?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept that I am as concerned as he is that any child who is entitled to milk should get it. He may not have appreciated that the figure I have given is necessarily one taken in October, 1970, very soon after the new arrangements came into effect.

Mr. Deakins

Does not the Minister agree that the process of medically examining children to see whether they need free school milk has became a farce in the past few months? The figures given in answers from the Government in recent weeks show that the percentage varies enormously from one local authority to another and can only reflect differing standards adopted by various local authorities?

Mr. van Straubenzee

It is much too early to come to conclusions so determined as that. When the statistics are available from the next census it may be possible to draw a conclusion.

[column 1417]

Road Safety

13. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals she has for implementing recommendation 644 of the Council of Europe on road safety and road safety in schools; and if she will make a statement?

Mrs. Thatcher

On the first part of the recommendation, my Department and the Department of the Environment are collaborating in the preparation of guidance on road safety education for teachers. The remainder of the recommendation is a matter for my right hon. Friend Peter Walkerthe Secretary of State for the Environment.

Mr. Jones

Is this not the thin end of the wedge of changes in our school system following entry into the Common Market, and is not a new principle being established when the Government seek to lay down what is to be taught in our schools? Has the Secretary of State any plans to consult the teachers on this matter in the near future?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, I do not believe that it is the thin end of the wedge. Our system of curriculum is different, and will remain different, from that in some continental countries. At an earlier stage we gave guidance on road safety and that kind of thing, and we shall continue to do so in the future. I hope that a handbook will be published later this year.

Mr. Simon Mahon

Is the right hon. Lady aware that it is not only roads that present dangers to children, since in my constituency in the last 10 years we have lost 32 children in the local canal? This is a disgrace to any nationalised board. Will she consider the possibility in industrial areas of opening more and more schools during the summer holiday to try to obviate these dreadful tragedies to working-class children?

Mrs. Thatcher

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, he has gone a rather long way from the Question, but if local education authorities wish to open schools during the summer holidays—and some of them do—they are free to do so. Such a course would require very carefully controlled supervision or there could be even more tragedies.

[column 1418]

Primary Schools (Northamptonshire)

15. Sir G. de Freitas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much money has been spent on building new primary schools in Northamptonshire since 1st July, 1970.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Payments made to contractors as reported by the local education authority up to 31st December, 1971, totalled £468,000.

Sir G. de Freitas

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that by insisting that I ask a Question about the whole of Northamptonshire, which includes many other constituencies than my own, instead of a Question about my constituency of Kettering, he has deliberately concealed the fact that the Government have done almost nothing to relieve over-crowding in my constituency?

Mr. van Straubenzee

There must be some misunderstanding.

Sir G. de Freitas

None at all.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The Question asks how much money has been spent in Northamptonshire.

Sir G. de Freitas

The hon. Gentleman refuses to answer.

Mr. van Straubenzee

With respect, that is what I have answered and I can answer only Questions relating to local education authorities.

Mr. Fry

As a Member for a Northamptonshire constituency which perhaps has the fastest growing school population, may I congratulate my hon. Friend on putting right the priorities in education and on concentrating on primary school places, a course for which many people are grateful? Will he continue to keep priorities right and not be dragged into any half-baked schemes for secondary reorganisation?

Mr. van Straubenzee

There is no doubt that the present concentration on replacement of old primary schools has been widely welcomed.

Sir G. de Freitas

In view of the totally unsatisfactory and deliberately misleading reply, I give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

[column 1419]

School Transport

16. Dr. Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when the report of the working party on school transport will be available.

Mrs. Thatcher

The working party has only just been established. It is too early to forecast how long it will take to complete its work.

Dr. Marshall

Will this report be published?

Mrs. Thatcher

I expect the recommendations to be published. I shall consider whether the report will be published when I receive it. I wish it to be a comprehensive report, and I cannot undertake that it will make an early appearance.

Mr. Hicks

Could my right hon. Friend confirm that the terms of reference of this working party include full consultations with the Department of the Environment and counties and authorities concerned with the whole future of transport in rural areas, because probably one facet of the situation could help in resolving another?

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, the Department of the Environment will be represented on the working party, and matters which will fall to be included in the review include the present statutory walking distances, danger to children from traffic hazards, the burden on parents of increased public transport fares, the growing public expenditure on school transport and the use by local education authorities of their discretion in the provision of transport. I hope that both the composition of the Committee and its terms of reference will meet my hon. Friend's approval.

St. Giles' School for the Handicapped, Croydon

17. Sir R. Thompson

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will now authorise the rebuilding of St. Giles' School for the Handicapped in Croydon as a school for deaf children.

Mrs. Thatcher

Proposals from the Croydon local education authority, which were not linked, for replacing St. Giles' School and for establishing a new school for the deaf are being considered in [column 1420]connection with the 1972–73 design list for special schools which will be announced in a month or so.

Sir R. Thompson

I thank my right hon. Friend for that moderately encouraging reply. May I ask her to put her personal weight behind a favourable decision? Is she aware that the provision for deaf children in the largest of the London boroughs is deficient and ought to be remedied, that many of the children spend a large part of their time going to and from other schools elsewhere, and that this scheme has the support of six London boroughs and would be an absolute winner, especially if it were sited in Croydon?

Mrs. Thatcher

I hope my hon. Friend might think that my weight might not be sufficient. In fact his authority has not yet told my Department that it wants to establish a new school for the deaf in St. Giles' School. He will be aware that schools for the deaf have to be carefully sited so that they are at the centre of a large catchment area. I shall carefully consider my hon. Friend's request with my mind, if not with my weight.

Portsmouth Polytechnic

18. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement on representations made to her concerning the adequacy of residential and working accommodation for the proposed expansion of Portsmouth Polytechnic, with special reference to the needs of the Social Work Department.

Mr. van Straubenzee

My right hon. Friend has received letters from two hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd), about accommodation at Portsmouth Polytechnic. I have replied to them on her behalf, pointing out that further large building projects are now under consideration. These would provide amongst other things for a Humanities and Social Science block and a substantial amount of additional staff and student accommodation.

Mr. Judd

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Does he appreciate that in recent years this Social Work Department has had grave difficulties in [column 1421]trying to cope in improvised accommodation, and that speed in the new building project is essential for the well-being of the polytechnic? On the wider front, is he aware that the general problems of accommodation in Portsmouth Polytechnic are not unrelated to the prolonged sit-in there, and will the Government look as speedily as possible at the problems not only of Portsmouth Polytechnic but of polytechnics generally?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I shall avoid making any comments on the sit-in since, as the hon. Gentleman knows, it is the subject of legal proceedings. I hope he will recall the substantial programme approved last November by my right hon. Friend for this polytechnic which amounted to £1.16 million and which included residential places. I accept that there have been some difficulties at the polytechnic. I hope to visit it shortly.

Educational Inequalities

19. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what policies she has to reduce regional inequalities in education.

Mrs. Thatcher

The raising of the school leaving age is expected to make a major contribution by offsetting the wide regional variations in staying-on rates for pupils over the compulsory school leaving age.

Mr. Meacher

Is the Secretary of State aware that the average son of a professional person in Surrey has roughly a 200 times greater chance of entering a university than has the average daughter of an unskilled worker in West Ham? Is not the right hon. Lady's deliberate failure to extend positive discrimination in expenditure beyond mere tokenism responsible for maintaining this disgraceful stain on our educational system?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman would be aware that we run a scheme of positive discrimination. We positively discriminate in favour of those areas in the urban programme by allocating expenditure to nursery schools in these areas. There is also discrimination in favour of some of the educational priority area schools. The third matter which will greatly assist these children is the raising of the school leaving age—a decision which has been ducked by every other Government.

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Mr. Goodhart

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that one subject on which there is the greatest disparity between the good and bad regions is the provision of school books and equipment? What further action does she propose to take to encourage bad regions and bad authorities to increase their provision in this respect?

Mrs. Thatcher

Within the rate support grant, each time it is negotiated, there is an improvement factor, part of which is designed to enable authorities to raise the standard of books and equipment. The local authorities do an excellent service by publishing the figures showing which authorities give high priority to books and equipment in their schools.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Is the right hon. Lady aware that in a recent reply to me she stated that the Government intended to review the rate support grant system for unfavourable regions? Can she undertake that she will either publish her views on this subject or give us a White Paper before the Local Government Bill becomes law, so that people can make representations to her while that Measure is passing through this House or the other place?

Mrs. Thatcher

There is a discussion paper already published on local government finance, and the hon. Gentleman naturally will put his views when that paper is debated.

Mr. Edward Short

Does not the right hon. Lady feel that the correction of regional imbalances would be a better priority than the provision of primary schools as such, wherever they are?

Mrs. Thatcher

Many of the bad primary schools are in the regions and therefore they get a larger share of the primary school improvement programme. It is fair to the children to try to allocate the money in proportion to those who are in Victorian buildings. About half of it has gone to bad areas in the industrial regions.

Secondary Education, Derby

20. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she has now examined the objections lodged against the proposed reorganisation of secondary education in the Sector “B” area of Derby Borough; and what [column 1423]plans she has for advancing the timetable to build a new secondary school to meet the demand in the Melbourne, Aston-on-Trent, Weston-on-Trent, and surrounding areas of South Derbyshire.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The Department is examining the statutory proposals for Sector “B” together with those for Sector “C” to which there have been objections. An instalment of a new secondary school at Chellaston has been included in the 1972–73 preliminary list.

Mr. Rost

Is my hon. Friend aware that that reply will be most welcome to children in my constituency? I thank my hon. Friend for it. Is he aware, further, that if that new school is not built, children in South Derbyshire will have to take a selective examination to enter a non-selective system and that that is why the building of this new school and the priority which the Minister is giving to it will be very warmly welcomed in my constituency?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. It was for that reason, and for others, that it was included in the preliminary list.

Mr. Whitehead

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his Department's failure to give any specific authorisation so far to Sector “B” proposals, and incidentally to give any adequate reply to letters from me and other hon. Members with constituencies in Derby, is being interpreted by teachers and parents as a sabotaging of the comprehensive scheme and as an indication that the Department is willing to wound but afraid to strike.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I cannot be responsible for the interpretations that parents, assisted by the hon. Gentleman, may be making. My right hon. Friend has a statutory responsibility, and it would be wrong for me to comment on the merits of the scheme while they are under her consideration.

Inner London Education Authority

21. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she last met the leader of the Inner London Education Authority to discuss education measures affecting the authority.

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Mrs. Thatcher

On 27th March, 1972, Sir.

Mr. Cox

Is the right hon. Lady fully aware, therefore, of the deep concern of the authority following the savage cuts that she has made in its minor works programme? As these cuts will total some £700,000 in the next three years, is it not time the right hon. Lady rethought her proposals in view of the serious damage the cuts will cause to junior and primary schools in the Inner London area and, above all, in the most deprived areas of London?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot reconsider the decision. The total available for minor works is allocated on a well-tried formula of the number of extra children for whom the authority has to provide plus a small margin for improvements. Hitherto other areas have compared very unfavourably with the Inner London Education Authority.

Vocational Students (Financial Assistance)

22. Mr. Booth

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will ascertain how many local authorities are fully operating the scheme recommended by the Confederation of British Industry and the local authority associations for financially assisting vocational students between the ages of 16 and 18 years.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The local authority associations recommended local education authorities to exercise their discretion to assist part-time students up to the age of 18. The Department has no formal standing in the matter and my right hon. Friend would not feel justified in interfering. I welcome the fact that most authorities do make some provision to assist.

Mr. Booth

Is it the Government's policy in operating the Industrial Training Act, 1964, to have a uniform high standard of industrial training throughout the country? If it is, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is wholly wrong that young workers should be dependent for financial assistance for educational and vocational training and fees on the attitude that the local authorities take towards an agreement between the C.B.I. and the local authority associations?

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Mr. van Straubenzee

It is not an agreement of that nature, but I can confirm that my right hon. Friend warmly welcomes the advice given by the local authorities to assist part-time students up to the age of 18 partially for the reasons that the hon. Gentleman has given.