Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

HC PQ [Education and Science]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [836/1524-43]
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7425
Themes: Education, Primary education, Secondary education, Employment, Public spending & borrowing, Local government finance, Social security & welfare
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Student Accommodation

1. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations she has had from the Vice-Chancellors Committee on the subject of student accommodation; and what plans she has discussed to make greater provision.

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

My right hon. Friend has received and discussed with the Vice-Chancellors Committee a memorandum on the 1972–77 quinquennium which includes its view on student accommodation. She hopes that building programmes already authorised will make it possible to increase the number of university residential places from nearly 87,000 in 1970–71 to about 120,000 in 1974–75.

Mr. Dalyell

In relation to the 1972–77 programme, in 1977 how much of the university accommodation will supposedly be substandard?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I would prefer to limit myself to the programmes which have already been announced. As the hon. Gentleman realises, they show a welcome increase in the percentage of students who will be in provided residences.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Is the Minister aware that in many university towns the acute shortage of accommodation and the fact that four or five students are willing to share one flat are forcing up rent levels of private flats to the disadvantage of local inhabitants?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am also aware, Sir, that there are special difficulties in the city, part of which the hon. Gentleman represents, but the loan finance system now being operated by the University Grants Committee, taking the country as a whole, is working remarkably well.

25. Mr. Deakins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what [column 1525]is the cost per student of providing purpose-built residential accommodation for university students and for students in other institutions of advanced education.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The basic building cost of providing a study bedroom and ancillary accommodation for a student in the public sector is £970. When the cost of fees, furniture and external works is taken into account the total figure is of the order of £1,300 per student. The cost for a university student is about the same.

Mr. Deakins

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that that is a very welcome answer. Will it be the policy of the Government to ensure that other facilities as between the public sector and the universities will work out at the same equal figure of cost per student?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I would not like to give an assurance over the whole range, but the hon. Gentleman will know, because I am very much in sympathy with the spirit of his supplementary question, that building cost limits have significantly been improved in the public sector, to the benefit of both the sectors about which he is concerned.

Mr. Moyle

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that many conventional commercial organisations will not provide finance for this purpose but that the Vice-Chancellors Committee has recommended that a public body should be set up to deal with this matter? In view of the conversion of the Vice-Chancellors at any rate to a modicum of Socialism, will not the hon. Gentleman give in gracefully?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am not sure that this is proving a difficulty commercially. In fact, in the current year it is going well. However I am always prepared, within proper limits and with reference to the University Grants Committee, to look into any particular case.


2. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recent changes there have been in the numbers of teachers employed by local education authorities.

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

At the end of January, 1972, over 20,600 [column 1526]more teachers were employed by local education authorities in England and Wales than on 1st February, 1971.

Mrs. Renée Short

Has the right hon. Lady had information since January, 1972, that some local authorities are proposing to, or have, cut down the number of teachers to prevent increases in the rates? Does she not think this is a deplorable practice, and will she advise local education authorities which are doing this that it is against her policies?

Mrs. Thatcher

So far as I am aware, local education authorities have not cut down the number of teachers so much as announced that they will not increase them or replace teachers who are retiring.

Mrs. Renée Short


Mrs. Thatcher

May I continue? The information I have from one authority refers to a case which is already substantially over quota. I agree with the hon. Lady that I do not wish any cuttingdown of teaching staff to take place because I regard the provision of adequate teaching staff as one of the most important aspects of education.

Mr. Edward Short

As there is to be an increase of 18,000 or 19,000 in the total number of teachers in September, does not the Minister agree that it is essential for local authorities to take up their full quota? If the right hon. Lady hears of such cases, as she may well do in the next few weeks, will she take vigorous action to see that local education authorities employ their full quota?

Mrs. Thatcher

The increase may be even more than 18,000 because, as the right hon. Gentleman will have heard, last year the increase was of some 20,000 teachers. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the quota is adjusted to take into account the number of teachers expected to come out of teacher training colleges. A large number of authorities are over quota, only three are precisely on quota and some are below. One purpose of the quota is to see that all trained teachers are employed by local education authorities.

8. Mr. Marks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many local authorities have applied for [column 1527]additional teachers for slow-learning children since her speech on the subject at Easter, 1971; and how many additional posts have been approved.

Mrs. Thatcher

The quotas of 13 authorities have been increased by a total of 577 teachers.

Mr. Marks

I am grateful for that reply, which I welcome. Is the right hon. Lady aware that there is a danger that slow-learning children and even average children in schools are not getting a fair share of the staff and that staff are being concentrated in the sixth forms? Have Her Majesty's inspectors reported on this danger?

Mrs. Thatcher

The answer to the specific question is “No” . I note that the hon. Gentleman is grateful for the answer, but I myself do not think the answer is good enough and it is somewhat disappointing. I hope we shall have more applications for more teachers. The hon. Gentleman heard the answer to a previous Question and will know that more teachers are available this year compared with last year. The increase is more than we expected.

19. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when, and in what form, she expects to publish statistics concerning the future supply of teachers.

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot yet add to the reply given to the hon. Gentleman's Questions on 28th March. The number of teachers in service is at present increasing by about 18,000–20,000 a year.—[Vol. 834, c. 63.]

Mr. Spearing

Does not the right hon. Lady understand that that is a disappointing reply? Does she not recall that as long ago as last March the Under-Secretary of State said that these figures were available and that he was considering in what form to publish them? On 13th April the right hon. Lady herself said that she hoped to publish them soon. Is not the continued suppression of these figures incompatible with our democratic institutions and practices?

Mrs. Thatcher

No figures are being suppressed. If the hon. Gentleman cares to look at my reply he can calculate for himself the future supply of teachers on [column 1528]present policies. The only factor none of us knows about is the wastage factor, which we find is slightly less from the teaching profession than it was, and this could have a significant effect on the figures.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would my right hon. Friend apply herself to one point? Is teacher supply today adequate to ensure that within a measurable length of time from now we can reduce the size of primary school classes to below 30?

Mrs. Thatcher

Class sizes, particularly in primary schools, are a less and less significant gauge of the number of teachers available. We usually go by pupil-teacher ratio, because fewer and fewer children in primary schools are taught, in the strict sense of the word, in class. As my hon. Friend can see from my reply, the supply of teachers will go up over a period of five years by about 100,000. This is already making a significant improvement in teacher-pupil ratios in schools, including primary schools.

Mr. Moyle

Does not the right hon. Lady agree that she undertook to the House to begin consultations on the James Report by Easter? Will she confirm that she has begun them? If that is the case, the answer to my hon. Friend's question is that she has begun the consultations without a lot of the essential information being available. Does she think that that is the right way to carry on consultations about a matter which has grave implications for the training of teachers and the future of the education system?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. He has the figures of future teacher supply on the basis of existing policies. We have not yet decided any changes in policies. If changes are decided upon we shall have to recalculate certain figures. To answer the earlier part of his question—apart from the innuendos—I promised to start consultations just after Easter. Consultations are now taking place.

Smaller Education Authorities

(Special Assistance)

3. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many education authorities will serve a [column 1529]population of below one-quarter of a million after 1st April, 1974; and if she will seek to discuss ways in which her Department can offer special assistance.

Mrs. Thatcher

On the basis of the 1971 census figures of population, 14 in the Greater London area, nine in the rest of England and two in Wales. I have no reason to think these authorities need special assistance.

Mr. Hardy

Does the right hon. Lady agree that there is continuing anxiety about the position of smaller authorities following reorganisation? Will she therefore agree to confer with representatives of local authorities which are likely to bear responsibility in those areas on the ways in which the needs can be met and the arrangements that are necessary?

Mrs. Thatcher

Good local education authorities can be found in all size ranges. Size is not the only criterion of efficiency. I have no reason to think that the smaller authorities will require any special assistance.

Mr. Edward Short

I agree that size cannot be equated with efficiency or quality, but would not the right hon. Lady agree that there is a minimum size below which no local authority should be able to fall? Since it is understood that 15 metropolitan districts will be below the Government's figure of 250,000, will the right hon. Lady discuss with her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment the possibility of supporting our idea, which seeks to give her the power at any time in future to combine two or more metropolitan districts?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not agree that there is any rigid minimum. Certainly neither the Department nor the Royal Commission ever set a rigid minimum; indeed the Royal Commission avoided doing just that. There are already powers in the Education Act, 1944, to have joint education authorities where both authorities agree.

Rate Support Grant

4. Mr. Winterton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will detail the basis upon which the education element of the rate support grant is allocated to local education authorities.

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Mrs. Thatcher

The answer would be very long and complex. I shall therefore write to my hon. Friend giving as much information as possible.

Mr. Winterton

I thank my right hon. Friend for her reply and look forward to receiving her letter and its interesting details in due course. Is she aware that certain subjects in a school's curriculum are sadly starved of equipment? I refer to the subject of needlework which is taught in many secondary schools and I would point out that if parents do not supply materials their children are unable to take advantage of the class. Surely this will affect their potential in the marriage stakes later in life.

Mrs. Thatcher

I should not like to be accused of being associated with that idea though, one never knows, they might avoid quite a load of trouble. Needlework and such subjects would come within the category of books and equipment, and my hon. Friend will be aware that once a local education authority has received the rate support grant I have no control over how the money is spent. Account is taken in the rate support grant negotiations of the need to improve the amounts available for equipment both of this and of other kinds.

Mr. Marks

Is the Secretary of State aware that it is not the local education authority which gets the grant but the council? Is she satisfied that the improvements in education for which allowance is made in the rate support grant have been carried out by all councils?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have no authority once the rate support grant has gone to the council. What the hon. Gentleman has said is one reason why we are retaining statutory education authorities under the new Bill, because we feel they will have greater powers to secure provision for the future of education than otherwise would be the case.

Local Government Reorganisation

5. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what advice she has given to local education authorities about the co-ordination of educational activities prior to the transference of educational services under the [column 1531]proposed local government reorganisation; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Until the Local Government Bill has been enacted no official advice will be given. Informal advice is being given by the Department and the inspectorate when requested. Local education authorities are aware of the problems and are taking steps to prepare for the changes.

Mr. Clark

Does the Minister realise that many parents will be disappointed with her reply? Does she not appreciate that there is considerable disquiet among parents about the future of their children in case they suffer due to the administrative changeover? Does she realise that this is especially relevant at certain levels since there is a feeling in some areas that one might see the reintroduction of the 11-plus?

Mrs. Thatcher

It would be wrong for me to send out a circular until the Bill had been through this House and the other place—in other words, until the legislation has been properly enacted. We still have a further stage to go through in this House and, one never knows, there may even be changes in the other place. It would be advisable to wait for official advice until the process is complete. In the meantime, if unofficial advice is required it will be given. Local education authorities are well aware of the problems and are not being idle in taking steps towards their solution.

Captain W. Elliot

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that where the new boundary isolates a school from the previous school population, it will not be an obstacle to children crossing the boundary?

Mrs. Thatcher

I gladly give the assurance that the boundary will not be an obstacle, any more than the present boundary is an obstacle to a young person going to a school on the other side of that boundary if both local education authorities agree.

Foreign Language Teaching

6. Mr. Tilney

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what advice and training have been provided through Her Majesty's inspectors and teachers on the teaching of Western Euro[column 1532]pean languages in view of the need to facilitate British trade with Western Europe.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Her Majesty's inspectors are in constant touch with local education authorities, schools and colleges and in the normal course of their duties give advice on foreign language teaching. Each year they run a series of short courses for teachers covering the languages most widely taught in schools and the techniques of instruction involved.

Mr. Tilney

Does my hon. Friend agree that once Britain joins the Common Market there will be a substantial demand by many British companies for salesmen who can speak several European languages? Should not great efforts now be made to see that the youth of this country is so qualified?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Yes, Sir. In my view, whether or not—but certainly when—we join the Common Market, this will be a great requirement for our young people. I would draw attention not only to the work on this subject done in the schools but to the work carried out in further education colleges, which is very material indeed.

Mr. Moyle

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that when this matter was last the subject of Questions on 9th March he agreed with me that English was likely to be the major working language of the Common Market because of its strength and precision and that provision for its teaching was going ahead on this basis? How does he reconcile this view with President Pompidou 's desire that French should be the major working language of the Community?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I should have thought that in course of time English might become the major single language, but for a very long time—certainly in the foreseeable future—a good working knowledge of other languages in the Common Market will be an essential part of the equipment of our young people.

Pre-School Places (Harrow)

9. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what estimate has been made by her Department on the size of the waiting list for pre-school places in the London Borough of Harrow.

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Mr. van Straubenzee

The Department does not make or collect estimates of this kind.

Mr. Dykes

Does not my hon. Friend think that it is rather disappointing that this Socialist-controlled local authority appears not to have the slightest idea of pre-school demands either now or over the next few years? Will he consider having further conversations with the local authority concerned to ascertain the precise position?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The question of estimating demand must be a matter for the authority. As at January, 1971, there were 200 pupils in nursery schools and classes in Harrow and a further 750 four-year-olds in reception classes in primary schools, which includes rising fives. Together these are about 15 per cent. of the combined three- and four-year-olds in the borough.

Comprehensive Schools

10. Mr. Duffy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what guidance she is giving to existing local education authorities on the size of comprehensive schools in the planning of future school building programmes.

Mrs. Thatcher

In a recent speech I drew attention to the increasing evidence that the very large schools which were once seen as normal for comprehensive development are no longer so regarded. But a great deal must depend upon local circumstances.

Mr. Duffy

But is not the right hon. Lady aware that the bogy of the big school has always been raised by the opponents in principle of our comprehensive system? Does she not think that a lot of nonsense is talked by the opponents of the large school and that they ought to realise that the large school is a different school and must be run in a different way in that it provides opportunities which are wholly desirable and perhaps unique—if only the administration and administrators are equal to the challenge it presents?

Mrs. Thatcher

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The new factor is how well some of the smaller comprehensive schools are running and how high is their voluntary rate of staying on into the sixth form. It means that one does not need [column 1534]such a large school to get a viable sixth form. That was the original reason for having the very large school. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the information he will find that some of the smaller schools are running very successfully. But I do not wish to be absolutely rigid.

Mr. Evelyn King

In considering the best size of school, which I recognise is not an easy subject, I welcome my right hon. Friend's assurance, if it be an assurance, that departmental thinking will no longer be dominated by the alleged necessity for large sixth forms often doing eccentric courses and subjects which are not very necessary. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that middle and lower school boys have their rights as well as the older boys at the top in our schools, since their rights have tended to be neglected?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think that many children are happier in smaller schools. I will not say that all of them are. The tendency to increasing numbers in sixth forms may have led to our having larger schools than were necessary. But I do not wish to lay down rigid rules. I prefer only general guidelines. It is important to provide for as many of the pupils in schools as possible, including the middle and lower years as well.

Mr. Armstrong

Does the right hon. Lady agree that the real reason why smaller comprehensive schools are now becoming generally acceptable is that children are more intelligent than ever her Department or most educationists gave them credit for and, therefore, a viable sixth form is on the cards with a much smaller number? Does not this encourage the right hon. Lady to get rid of her obvious prejudice in favour of selective schools?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman has made the case perfectly for the smaller comprehensive schools. I am glad he agrees with me about it.

15. Mr. William Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many plans for the introduction of comprehensive schools have been rejected by her Department since June, 1970; and how many schools were involved.

Mrs. Thatcher

The practice of approving or rejecting non-statutory schemes for [column 1535]secondary reorganisation was discontinued over a year ago.

Mr. Price

Has the right hon. Lady's attention been drawn to the fact that certain towns and cities in various parts of the country changed hands last week and that in due course many of them will seek to end selection in their schools? Will the right hon. Lady assure the House, in view of the hallowed Tory belief in the freedom of local government, that when these proposals come forward they will not be obstructed by her or by her Department?

Mrs. Thatcher

I give the assurance that I gave in the manifesto. The existing rights of local education authorities will be maintained, whatever their political complexion.

Captain W. Elliot

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that no crack-brained schemes of Socialist authorities will be approved unless they are educationally sound?

Mrs. Thatcher

We look at each case on its merits under Section 13 of the Act. In accordance with the provisions of that Section all educational factors and the weight of objections have to be taken into account.

Mr. Edward Short

Will the right hon. Lady say how many proposals to convert selective schools into non-selective schools she has rejected since June, 1970?

Mrs. Thatcher

I believe that there is a later Question about that on the Order Paper, but my recollection is that the number of schools is about 30. There are more proposals, because one school can be the subject of a number of proposals. I believe that there is a later Question on this issue.

24. Dr. Stuttaford

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what approval she has given to comprehensive schools in Norwich with more than 1,000 pupils.

Mrs. Thatcher

Three schools, whose establishment was approved in August, 1970, now have more than 1,000 pupils.

Dr. Stuttaford

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in view of her recent welcome comments about the size of schools Norwich has too many schools that are too large and that this is caus[column 1536]ing anxiety to educationalists in the city, from whatever political party they may come?

Mrs. Thatcher

The numbers at all these schools will fall in September, 1972, when the age of transfer changes from 11-plus to 12-plus. The overall numbers will therefore fall. I do not think it is possible to have changes in existing schools, even though they may be quite large, where they are working reasonably well. At any rate the initiative rests with the local education authority to put up fresh proposals, and then of course I will always consider them.

Corsbie Hall School

11. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she now intends to withdraw her advice to local education authorities against the sending of handicapped children to the private school at Corsbie Hall, Fife.

Mrs. Thatcher

This school was finally registered by my right hon. Friend G. Campbellthe Secretary of State for Scotland on 24th April. I do not therefore propose to take further action in respect of the children sent to the school by the Oldham education authority.

Mr. Hamilton

Does that mean that the right hon. Lady is still sticking by her advice to local education authorities in England not to send their children to this school, or is she positively encouraging them to do so? Does she recognise that in some instances the fees are £1,200 a year per child, which is about 50 per cent. more than Eton's fees, and that neither she nor any Minister of the Crown would send their own children to this school? Will the right hon. Lady urge local authorities which still insist on sending their children to it that they inspect the facilities there regularly and get on speedily with making provision in their own areas for these children?

Mrs. Thatcher

The only children concerned at the moment are four children who are sent by Oldham local education authority. They were the only outstanding cases in which I may have had to take action had the school not been registered. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's other point about the cost, residential education for maladjusted children [column 1537]or children with special education requirements is very expensive, and £1,200 is not an unknown quantum for State schools either.

Mr. Hamilton

The right hon. Lady should go and look at it.

Schools (Car Parking)

13. Mr. Adam Butler

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will review the criteria governing the provision of car parking spaces for new school building projects.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Car parking allowances are kept under review.

Mr. Butler

While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him whether he can give the House a little more information about his thinking on this subject? Can he say whether the allocation for junior teachers will be increased above the present one in three, which is already proving inadequate and will become increasingly so as teachers' salaries increase? Will my hon. Friend also consider the provision of spaces for older schoolchildren who increasingly will be driving to school?

Mr. van Straubenzee

My hon. Friend's question illustrates the difficulties facing all those concerned with the education service. After all, there are very great demands on capital resources for school building, and there will be a number of different views about whether further priority should be given to the provision of car spaces. But of course I undertake to keep this matter carefully under review.

Nursery Schools

14. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will pay a series of official visits to nursery schools.

32. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans she has to visit nursery schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have no plans for such a series. Nursery classes are included in visits I make. Nursery schools in Wales are of course the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend P. Thomasthe Secretary of State for Wales.

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Mr. Jones

Is the right hon. Lady aware that in 1971 she did not visit a single nursery school as such? Why is she so lukewarm towards establishments which can be of such tremendous help to the children of working-class families in cities and rural areas alike?

Mrs. Thatcher

I did not visit a single nursery school as such. I visited a number of nursery classes. I fail to see the difference that the hon. Gentleman is straining to make. There is increasing provision for nursery places. It is not as fast as I should wish, but it is increasing.

Mr. Jessel

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a growing consciousness of the benefits that nursery education can confer, and will she bear this in mind in making plans for the future?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree that there is a growing consciousness, and I accept the educational case for increased nursery provision. But this is one of many desirable improvements for which one cannot immediately find funds. I am sure that my hon. Friend appreciates that point.

Miss Lestor

May I push the right hon. Lady a little on this? Surely she was impressed by the strength of feeling that was expressed by the lobby here last Tuesday and by the number of people who signed the petition calling for more nursery education. I speak for large numbers of people who feel that if the right hon. Lady would take upon herself a tour of nursery schools she might have her impressions and enthusiasm for this form of education quickened. There is a growing feeling that we are deluding ourselves when we talk about equality of opportunity in education when we deprive so many of our pre-school children of this facility and discriminate against them by having only a very small amount available.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, but when the hon. Lady was a junior Minister in the Department she was successful in resisting the feeling to which she has just referred——

Miss Lestor

That is quite untrue.

Mrs. Thatcher

—for the identical reasons. The hon. Lady herself firmly believed in more nursery education but she was not able to find the resources with which to increase the provision [column 1539]as fast as she wished and as fast as I should wish. We are in no different position in that respect.

Miss Lestor

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Lady will be aware that it was her own Government which put the ban on the further development of nursery education——

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is not a point of order.

Corporal Punishment

16. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will seek powers to regulate the use of corporal punishment in primary schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. In my view this, like other questions of discipline in individual schools, is best left within the discretion of local education authorities, the managers of the schools and the teachers.

Mr. Cronin

In view of the successful results of the Inner London Education Authority's abolition of corporal punishment in primary schools, should not the right hon. Lady at least advise other education authorities to take a similar course of action? Is it not high time that this idiotic and sadistic habit of beating small children in our schools ceased altogether, and should not she give a lead in the matter?

Mrs. Thatcher

One does not wish this form of punishment to be used very much—indeed, only very rarely—but I think we should leave this matter to the local education authorities and to the teachers.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Without being doctrinaire or emotive either way on this question, may I ask my right hon. Friend what research has been done into why this form of discipline is not found necessary in most corresponding foreign schools but is found necessary in this country?

Mrs. Thatcher

As far as I am aware there has been no research on that subject but, as my hon. Friend, will be aware, there are different rules governing schools in other countries from those which operate here.

Comprehensive Education (Bolsover)

17. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what [column 1540]firm proposals she has received for development of comprehensive education in Bolsover.

Mr. van Straubenzee

None, Sir.

Mr. Skinner

That does not surprise me. We have a Tory county council, and that has not changed hands. That will take place next year.

Does not the hon. Gentleman understand that what makes it even worse is that when children in the Bolsover Urban District Council area of Stanfree pass the 11-plus, it costs £2 a week to send a child to the Staveley Grammar School —£1.20 in bus fares and the rest in school meals? Will he tell the Tory-controlled Derbyshire County Council to do something about it?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The complexion of the central Government or, indeed, of the county council has nothing to do with this. Funds are not available for the sole purpose of secondary school reorganisation, and were not available under the previous Government. The hon. Gentleman is therefore criticising his own Administration.

Mentally Handicapped Children

20. Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many mentally handicapped children who are entitled to education under the Education (Handicapped Children) Act, 1970, are not receiving such education in residential institutions for the mentally handicapped.

Mrs. Thatcher

Most of the children concerned receive education in non-residential schools. Local education authorities have a duty under the Education (Handicapped Children) Act, 1970, to provide suitable education, whether residential or otherwise, for all the mentally handicapped children in their areas, including children in hospital. If my hon. Friend is aware of any special cases I should be glad if she would let me know.

Mrs. Oppenheim

Is my right hon. Friend as disturbed as I am by the report of the headmistress of Stoke Park School that, out of 157 children at Stoke Park Hospital, 64 who are eligible for education under the 1970 Act are not receiving it, not because they are not capable but because there is no room?

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Mrs. Thatcher

As regards children in hospital the capital building programme is under the control of the hospital authorities, and we are still negotiating with the Department of Health and Social Security about this. We attempt to see that every child in hospital who is mentally handicapped has an education suitable to his or her abilities, and we shall continue that. If my hon. Friend has particular cases, will she please bring them to my attention and I will look into them?

Mr. Pavitt

Now that the Act has been in operation for two years and the transfer of responsibility from the Department of Health and Social Security to her Department must be fairly well advanced, will the right hon. Lady take the opportunity of issuing information to the House about how this is proceeding and what kind of problems remain to be solved in the locality?

Mrs. Thatcher

On the whole the Act is working well. We are making steady improvements but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, sooner or later we come up against the old problem of getting sufficient resources for the demands being made upon them, and this is another area on which one would wish to make extra expenditure.

Wandsworth (Finance)

21. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representation she has received from managers of schools in the Wandsworth, Central constituency as to the effects of the financial cuts she has made in the global sum approved for the Inner London Education Authority programme.

Mr. van Straubenzee

None, Sir.

Mr. Cox

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the widespread criticism being voiced by managing bodies of primary and junior schools in my constituency and that support for them is being voiced by Tory managers who are utterly disgusted at the cuts that have been ordered? In view of that, is it not time either that these policies were changed or that the hon. Gentleman—or his right hon. Friend—had the courage to come to my constituency and defend himself before managers, parents and teachers and hear what they all think of him?

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Mr. van Straubenzee

As on a previous Question, the hon. Gentleman is referring basically to the minor works problem. He will forgive me for reminding him that inner London has a declining primary school population.

Mr. Cox

That is not the answer.

Mr. van Straubenzee

It is no good the hon. Gentleman shaking his head. Inner London has a declining primary school population and therefore it is understandable, looked at globally, that it should have a reduced sum for this purpose. But the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that there are some unacceptable primary schools still working, and that is precisely why my right hon. Friend is giving priority to their replacement.

Mr. Stallard

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that these cuts are causing serious hardship in some London schools? Does he appreciate that there are still 44 secondary schools in the London area operating from more than one site, 37 of them in buildings which date back to the early nineteenth century, buildings which are a disgrace to twentieth century education? Will the hon. Gentleman therefore give urgent consideration to my hon. Friend's request for these cuts to be reconsidered so that at least some of the problems in London may be alleviated?

Mr. van Straubenzee

In so far as the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question refers to secondary schools, I accept without question that there is a great deal more that any Government want to do, but I adhere firmly to the view that good government is the proper ordering of priorities and that the proper ordering of priorities here is the replacement of old primary schools.

Open University

22. Dr. Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will list those provisions of the charter and statutes of the Open University relating to the qualifications required for enrolment.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Clause 4 of its charter gives the university power to prescribe in the statutes, ordinances or regulations the conditions under which persons shall be admitted to the university or to any particular course of study. Statute [column 1543]No. 16 gives the senate power to regulate the admission of persons to courses of study.

Dr. Marshall

Is it now Government policy that school leavers should be enrolled as students in the new Open University?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Such an idea is under discussion. It was first publicly given expression to by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Dormand

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the provisions are adequate for disabled people taking Open University courses?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I believe so. The guide for applicants makes special reference to disabled persons; but if the hon. Gentleman has a detailed point in mind he knows that I will be happy to look into it.

School Building Allocations (Warwickshire)

23. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what are the allocations of money for school building in Warwickshire in the years 1969–70, 1970–71 and 1971–72.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The allocations are £2.5 million, £3 million and £4.5 million at 1971 prices.

Mr. Huckfield

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is certainly no cause for self-congratulation? Does he know that my constituency comprises the fastest growing part of the county, especially if one compares the figures for my area with those for the rest of the county? When does the Department propose to do something to increase the allocation to ease the primary school pressure in the Attleborough and Stockingford parts of Nuneaton?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The latest figures, and particularly those for the whole of last year, reflect especially the Chelmsley Wood development—about which the hon. Gentleman will know more than I do—which is now tending to be run down, and that accounts for the particular form of the figures.