Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1972 Jun 15 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 [838/1697-1719]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7830
Themes: Education, Primary education, Employment, Public spending & borrowing, Health policy, Social security & welfare, Transport, Trade unions, Voluntary sector & charity
[column 1697]

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

National Union of School Students

1. Mr. Orme

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what communications she has received from the National Union of School Students concerning Government policy on education; and whether she will make a statement.

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

None, Sir.

Mr. Orme

Is the Secretary of State aware of the legitimate aspirations of many young people to be consulted and to be treated in an adult manner in our society? Will she encourage this process with headmasters, teachers' representatives and school children, particularly as the school leaving age will be raised to 16? This subject will come up more and more in the coming years.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his question. Many [column 1698]teachers are very well aware of these facts and realise that their senior pupils should be treated as young adults rather than as young adolescents.

Mr. McCrindle

Is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State convinced that the student members of the union are responsible for its actions, or does she believe that others who have long since left school are directing its activities?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have no knowledge of this particular union but I think it is important that young people at school, who are maturing rather faster than formerly, should have opportunities to express their views and should have some sense of responsibility.

18. Mr. John E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, what public funds have been provided for the launching of the National Union of School Students.

Mrs. Thatcher

None so far as I am aware.

Mr. Hill

Does my right hon. Friend agree that any new organisation, if it grows, should rely on voluntary subscribed income and that insofar as any other body, for example the National Union of Students, may wish to contribute, this contribution should clearly be seen to come from its own resources and should contain no element derived or possibly derived from public funds?

Mrs. Thatcher

It would be difficult to trace the precise source of moneys. As far as I am aware, the National Union of School Students has received to date £1,000 in assistance in kind from the National Union of Students. It would be difficult to trace any of that to public money. But I agree with the general sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend.

James Report

2. Mr. Willey

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a further report on the consultations on the James Report.

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

My Department has now almost completed a preliminary round of discussions at official level with the [column 1699]bodies most closely concerned. These discussions are proving of great value in clarifying the principal issues arising from the report.

Mr. Willey

I fully appreciate the difficulties of getting as much agreement as possible but is the Under-Secretary aware that we seem to be losing momentum? We are all agreed that there is need of a radical improvement in teacher training. Will the hon. Gentleman do what he can to expedite consideration of the report and, if necessary, get partial agreement upon it upon which the Government can act?

Mr. van Straubenzee

There is no loss of momentum. The right hon. Gentleman will know better than most the very large number of bodies which have an absolute right to express a view. The next stage, which is not very long away, is the round of personal consultations by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

Can my hon. Friend say whether the consultations are revealing a growing body of opinion in favour of the possible extension of the proposed Diploma of Higher Education to rather wider uses than those of purely teacher training, and can he say something about validation?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I would prefer to avoid speculation about any threads of agreement which might be beginning to emerge. There is a wide variety of views on both the points mentioned by my hon. Friend, and those views have already been expressed.

Mr. Moyle

As the Secretary of State is receiving a tremendous number of representations, may I ask in an entirely non-partisan way for an assurance that real consultations are taking place and that the representations are being discussed with the various bodies making them? Would it be possible for the Secretary of State to put her statistical branch on to producing a report of projections based on various assumptions about how the teacher-training problem might be solved? This might assist the consultations.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In reply to the first half of the question, the answer is quite definitely and absolutely “Yes” . [column 1700]The consultations are absolutely meaningful. On the second half, there are later Questions on the Order Paper on statistics and I must be careful not to trespass on them.

Primary Education in Urban Areas (Expenditure)

3. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will increase expenditure on primary education in urban areas for improving environmental standards.

Mrs. Thatcher

The £210 million already announced for 1972–76 for improving and replacing old primary schools will yield environmental as well as educational benefits.

Mr. Huckfield

Is the right hon. Lady aware that under Home Office Circular 247 of 1971, local authorities were asked for suggestions for projects to give children from environmentally deprived areas a break? Is she aware that every single scheme from Warwickshire was turned down? I refer in particular to that submitted by Nuneaton Borough Council for Chilvers Coton School. If she cannot use some of the money she has just mentioned for such projects, will she have a word with the Home Secretary to see whether he will do something about this matter in Warwickshire, and particularly in Nuneaton?

Mrs. Thatcher

The purpose of the money I have announced is the improvement of old primary schools; money under the urban aid programme which is allocated to my Department is given almost wholly to nursery schools and nursery classes. That is a very important priority. In addition, we have some money for the Youth Service, a greater proportion of which is being switched into the deprived areas this time.

Work Experience Schemes

4. Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress is being made towards enabling 15-year-old children to take part in work experience schemes.

Mrs. Thatcher

Legislation will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time permits.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Those [column 1701]in my constituency, of whom there are many, including myself, who have always opposed raising the school-leaving age will be relieved with her reply and will be glad to know that children will be able to take part in work experience. I hope this will be in conjunction with the colleges of further education, of which I have a particularly good example in my constituency.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend says. The work experience schemes are valued by teachers and pupils alike. It would be to our greatest advantage if we could procure the legislation by Easter, 1973, but it is not within my power to promise that.

Mr. Marks

Will not “as soon as parliamentary time permits” be too late? Are not the children now able to go on work experience schemes those who stay on voluntarily for a fifth year, and will not they be unable to go after September because of the regulations, unless the regulations are altered?

Mrs. Thatcher

Work experience schemes normally apply for one year before the compulsory school-leaving age. I am therefore advised that the relevant point to secure legislation would be Easter, 1973.

National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain

5. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will request the Arts Council of Great Britain to accept the subsidy responsibility of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain in the same manner as she did with the National Youth Orchestra and other organisations concerned with the musical education of young people.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Grants to individual organisations are a matter for the Arts Council.

Mr. Clark

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the Arts Council gives an annual grant to the National Youth Orchestra because it received a request from his Department to do so? Does he also realise that the National Youth Brass Band has asked for parity with the National Youth Orchestra? Will he reconsider the matter, because the brass [column 1702]band movement has a great deal of cultural support in many parts of the country?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I should not want any answer of mine to be taken for one moment as making comparisons, certainly not derogatory comparisons, between the National Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Brass Band. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the decision to support the orchestra was taken in the lifetime of the last Government. I make no point of that, but it was taken then, and therefore I cannot know what pressures, if any, were exerted. The hon. Gentleman's request is essentially one which must be addressed to the Arts Council.

Mr. Faulds

Does not the hon. Gentleman comprehend that the obdurate attitude to which he seems to be a party smacks very simply of social discrimination?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I think the hon. Gentleman is wildly out of date, because any cloth cap image there may have been to brass as such certainly does not exist today.

Hayes Primary School, Kent

6. Mr. Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what reply she has sent to the letter written to her on 5th May, 1972 by parents of children attending Hayes Primary School. Hayes, Kent, regarding conditions at this school.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I have seen my hon. Friend a copy of the reply.

Mr. Hunt

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his courtesy in sending me a copy of that reply. Is he aware that in the Hayes area of my constituency there is deep parental involvement in education and that many parents feel that their children, because of overcrowding, are not getting a fair start at the school? May I therefore persuade him to whisper in Bromley's ear that it might be a good idea to consider the allocation of part of its quite generous minor works allocation to the provision of additional accommodation at Hayes Primary School?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I shall resist temptations to whisper in the ear of [column 1703]Bromley or anyone else. I shall leave the shouting to be done by my hon. Friend. To be fair to Bromley, he will recall that one of the reasons for the problem—I make no compliaint of it—is its general policy in relation to the size of classes. That is a very respectable argument from its point of view.

Corsbie Hall School

7. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what advice she has given to local education authorities about the sending of handicapped children to Corsbie Hall School in Fife, following the decision of the Scottish Education Department to register the school as satisfactory.

Mrs. Thatcher

None, apart from allowing the Oldham local education authority to keep at the school the four children it had already sent there, as I pointed out in my reply to a Question by the hon. Member of 11th May.—[Vol. 836, c. 1536–7.]

Mr. Hamilton

Has the right hon. Lady seen the latest letter I received from the Scottish Education Department saying that following the registration of the school there has been a serious deterioration in the staffing structure, including the departure of the head and one or two other teachers, to such a degree that that Department has warned local education authorities in Scotland to have a look at the school and to consider withdrawing their children? In the coming session, if the staffing qualifications are not satisfactory, will she issue the same instruction to the English education authorities, which are continually sending their children to the school?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. The question does not arise until I am asked to give guidance in respect of a particular school by a particular local education authority. If conditions have changed since my right hon. Friend registered the school, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put that matter to my right hon. Friend. I have no jurisdiction whatever over the registration of schools in Scotland.

Mr. Hamilton

On a point of order. In view of the extremely complacent attitude of the right hon. Lady to the matter, I shall seek to raise it on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

[column 1704]

Community Service

8. Mr. Duffy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will arrange for the Inspectorate to promote the study of methods of encouraging community service in schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

HM Inspectors have regard to school-based community service activities in the course of their normal duties and give advice to local education authorities and schools.

Mr. Duffy

Is the Secretary of State aware that more than 1,500 Sheffield secondary school children undertake community service in their own time each year, and that 25 per cent., of the city's comprehensives encourage some form of social work by their pupils in school time? Does she not think that the time has arrived to investigate the educational opportunities provided by such work, and more particularly to relate it to areas of study within the schools?

Mrs. Thatcher

I know that a large number of schools of all kinds have community service as part of their curriculum, and the inspectors collect information on it in the course of their duties. The Schools Council is considering proposals for projects for curriculum development in voluntary service, so the hon. Gentleman may be well satisfied that we are aware of the possibilities in this area.

School Transport (Working Party)

9. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she now expects the working party on school transport provisions to produce their report.

42. Sir A. Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she now expects to receive the report of the working party which is reviewing the arrangements for free school transport.

Mrs. Thatcher

As I said in my Answer to a similar Question by the hon. Member for Goole (Dr. Marshall) on 13th April, it is too early to forecast how long the working party will take to complete its work.—[Vol. 834, c. 1419.]

Mr. Skinner

As the working party's terms of reference include the high cost of travelling just inside the three-mile area, does not the Secretary of State think [column 1705]it absurd for local education authorities such as Derbyshire to stick to the rigidity of that Section of the Education Act which results, certainly in one instance in my constituency, in children having to travel over bleak, remote countryside just inside the three-mile limit or having to pay as much as £1.20 in bus fares? Does not she think there should be less rigidity in the remaining few months until the working party issues its report?

Mrs. Thatcher

There is not a great deal of rigidity, because local education authorities have discretion to pay transport fares within the statutory limits. It is up to them whether they exercise that power.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a good deal of urgency for the resolving of this problem? This matter has been on the stocks for a long time and there is a great deal of dissatisfaction, as has already been shown by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). Will my right hon. Friend do everything she can to expedite the report so that it is issued before the end of the Summer recess?

Mrs. Thatcher

It is important that the working party should be able to do a thorough job. A good deal of information has to be acquired. But I will bring the remarks of my hon. Friend and of the hon. Member for Bolsover to the attention of the working party.

Comprehensive Education (Bolton)

10. Mr. Laurance Reed

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what criteria she intends to use in accepting or rejecting schemes for comprehensive education in Bolton that will be submitted to her by the newly elected council.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Each proposal is judged on its merits and in the light of any objections which may be made. General criteria were set out in Circular 10/70.

Mr. Reed

May I ask my hon. Friend to pay special heed to objectivity in consultations which may take place with parents and teachers, and also to the fact that the existing system in Bolton produces exceptional academic results to the benefit of a large number of children from poorer homes?

[column 1706]

Mr. van Straubenzee

If the inference of that supplementary question is that I think that there may not be objective consultation, that obviously would be a very proper ground for making objection to my right hon. Friend when and if the time comes.

Mr. Whitehead

If each scheme is judged on its merits, why has no reply to the scheme submitted to the Department by Derby been forthcoming for many months, although the local authority——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Question is about Bolton.

Mr. Redmond

When my hon. Friend gets representations from the new Corporation of Bolton, will he bear in mind that at the recent election the majority of people voted Conservative and were therefore against any change in the education system in the borough?

Mr. van Straubenzee

That merely shows how very high in our estimation are the people of Bolton.

Mr. Marks

In considering these proposals, will the hon. Gentleman consider also the recent report by the National Foundation for Educational Research on comprehensive schools, which suggested that evidence against large schools is negligible and that children above average ability do not suffer through being with less able children?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Obviously, all reports of this nature and of any kind are under constant scrutiny. But in the short space of question and answer, I must say that I do not think that the conclusions are quite as simple as the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

11. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what are the expected numbers of pupils and teachers, and the resulting pupil-teacher ratio, in maintained schools in England and Wales in the year 1983 given that there is no change in current policy.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I regret that I cannot usefully add to my answer to a Question by the hon. Member on 22nd May.—[Vol. 837, c. 289–90.]

[column 1707]

Mr. Spearing

But that Question asked for the figures up to 1983 and the hon. Gentleman gave only the figures up to 1976 on the ground that that was the furthest that the national expenditure survey had gone. Would not he agree that if the consultations referred to earlier by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) are to be meaningful, the figure for 1983 should be published? Will he also agree that the figure is likely to be in the ratio of 17 to 18 pupils per teacher? Is not this a reasonable aim if the present system is continued?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The hon. Gentleman may feel on reflection that he has not done justice to my answer of 22nd May, in which I set out the reasons why it would not be meaningful to make a longer projection. I shall not enter into any speculation about the figures in the second half of the hon. Gentleman's question.

16. Mr. Marks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what were the numbers of teachers and pupils in primary and secondary schools in January 1972; and what is her estimate of the numbers for January, 1976.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In January, 1972, there was the equivalent of 388,500 full-time teachers in maintained schools and about 8,391,000 pupils. In 1976 I expect the respective numbers to be 453,000 and 9,072,000.

Mr. Marks

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that discussion and consultation on the James Report is extremely difficult unless he produces all the figures that were made available to the James Committee? Is he taking into account when he publishes pupil-teacher ratios the point that first-year teachers will be working for only 80 per cent. of the time?

Mr. van Straubenzee

All the considerations such as those mentioned by the hon. Gentleman are given a weighting in arriving at the estimates I have given. With the forward figures which have already been made public, I would have thought that discussion could be very meaningful indeed.

Sir R. Cary

Can my hon. Friend say whether, following the excellent plans [column 1708]announced at the beginning of the Session to help primary schools, a greater number of teachers have been attracted into those schools?

Mr. van Straubenzee

There is some encouraging evidence, particularly with some of the better qualified people, that they are beginning to think very seriously in terms of primary schools and are no longer simply regarding them as below their competence, remembering that it is an important sector of our education.

Mr. Barry Jones

Is the teacher quota a minimum or maximum these days?

Mr. van Straubenzee

It is a general guidance figure.

Teachers (Superannuation)

12. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how the teachers' pension fund is invested.

Mrs. Thatcher

There is no invested fund. Interest is credited to the account at a rate fixed by reference to that obtainable from long-dated government stocks. The benefits and any post-retirement increases are paid from the Exchequer.

Mr. Jessel

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether the rate is not equivalent to only about 3½ per cent? Is not that a quite unnecessarily low yield which is not as advantageous to retired teachers as might be the case? Will she take another look at what is produced for the retired teachers?

Mrs. Thatcher

The rate of interest varies with the conditions. There have been times when it has been as low as 3½ per cent., times when it has been 5½ per cent., and times when it has been even higher. The terms of reference are such that the rate varies according to prevailing conditions. My hon. Friend will appreciate that there is a working party still sitting which has secured agreement on certain points and is to report shortly.

Mr. Bagier

Is it possible that the superannuation fund is not being invested correctly and that that is therefore partially responsible for the fact that the teacher contribution from salary towards it is higher than for many other sections of the public service?

[column 1709]

Mrs. Thatcher

In part that is true. It is higher than for some other sections of public service—perhaps the hon. Gentleman has the local government sector particularly in mind. But the minimum retirement age of teachers is a good deal lower.

25. Mr. Jeffrey Archer

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she has plans to improve the workings of the teachers' superannuation scheme.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Improvements have recently been agreed by the working party which has been reviewing all aspects of the teachers' superannuation scheme. Regulations will be laid before the House in due course.

Mr. Archer

I thank my hon. Friend for tht reply. Will he assure the House that he will keep this matter under review at all times, as it influences the standard of our teachers?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Yes, Sir, in accordance with the required procedures. I think my hon. Friend will find, when he studies the scheme, that it contains some significant advances for the teaching profession.

Mr. Bagier

What approaches has the hon. Gentleman had from the teaching profession, who consider that there is dissimilarity between the Civil Service scheme which is non-contributory, the local government scheme in which the contribution is 6 per cent., and the proposed teachers' scheme in which the contribution is 6½ per cent.? Have any proposals been put to the teachers which provide for parity between teachers and others?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The basis of at least one scheme mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, as has been explained earlier, is very different from that of the teachers' scheme. I hope he will feel that the recommendations of the working party to be made to the Government will be a significant advance.

School Children (Health)

14. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the general level of health amongst school children; and if she will make a statement.

[column 1710]

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, in general. Of the children examined at periodic school medical inspections in recent years fewer than one in 300 has been found to be in unsatisfactory physical condition.

Mr. Carter

Is the right hon. Lady aware that in a recent survey of a section of school children in Birmingham, a quite disturbing health deficiency was found? As in Birmingham there has been an alarming drop in the number of school meals, coupled with the fact we have discontinued the free supply of school milk, does not the right hon. Lady think that the time is right for a very careful and full survey amongst all school children into the general state of their health?

Mrs. Thatcher

The Chief Medical Officer makes a report every second year on the health of school children and on the school health services in general. The report to which the hon. Gentleman refers concerned the health of some 500 or 600 children aged between 14 and 17 in secondary schools. Any action I might have taken in withdrawing free milk has nothing to do with that, because free milk was withdrawn from secondary school children by legislation passed by the last Government. My only action in connection with it was to make milk available to secondary school children on sale.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

Recognising that of the 600 sampled school children up to 25 per cent. have the disease of rickets, according to biochemical and clinical analysis, and since Dr. Cook, one of the foremost consultant physicians, is awaiting £4,000 so that his investigation can go into greater detail, will my right hon. Friend consult the Department of Health and Social Security about this matter, which is causing deep consternation in Birmingham?

Mrs. Thatcher

Of course I will. I remind my hon. Friend that the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security has answered a Question on this, pointing out that all the evidence is being currently considered by the local health authority and officers of his Department, and also by the school medical service. We are concerned about this report and are already considering its impact.

Miss Lestor

When studying the health of school children, will the right hon. Lady pay particular attention to the state [column 1711]of the teeth of young children, which are probably worse now than they have ever been? Will she consider it in relation to diet provided and to the lack of nutrition we are hearing about?

Mrs. Thatcher

All these matters should be taken into account. As the hon. Lady knows, a working party is sitting on all aspects of the school meals and refreshment services, so the matter will be considered in relation to food and refreshment provided through the schools. It is a very wide issue, as the hon. Lady knows.

School Meals (Standards)

15. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps she has taken to deal with the problem of school meals which fall below the standards set by the Department of Health in the 33 schools which provided less than 25 per cent. of the recommended intake of energy and the nine schools providing less than 20 per cent., as shown in the information sent to her by the hon. Member for Willesden, West.

Mrs. Thatcher

The survey carried out a year ago by a team from Queen Elizabeth College, London, was limited to a small number of schools in the area of a single local education authority which has already taken action to put things right where they appear to be wrong.

Mr. Pavitt

Is the right hon. Lady aware that if this happened in just one small area, it may well be happening in other areas? Will she expedite the inquiry and do all she can to ensure that the standards laid down by the Department of Health and Social Security are adhered to, not only in questions of energy but in the balance of the meal? Will she look again at the problems of school milk, which is part of a balanced diet?

Mrs. Thatcher

This survey was carried out at the request of the local education authority in whose area it took place. The local education authority received it and took action where it thought necessary. The survey was not of the food issued, which is what our advice refers to, but of the food consumed by the children, which is a rather different point. It is important that the school meals inquiry should do a thorough job, and I [column 1712]fear that it will take some time before it reports.

School Building (Costs)

17. Mr. Ashton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will state the latest estimates of percentage increased costs for school building.

Mrs. Thatcher

School building cost variations are reflected in periodic changes in cost limits, which have been increased by about 43 per cent. since 1967.

Mr. Ashton

Why will the Minister not give the answer for the last 12 months? Is it not a fact that house building costs have gone up by 22 per cent. due to the rise in the price of land and building costs? Has not the price of school building gone up by much the same proportion? Does she intend to cut back on standards if the cost of school building goes up as much as the cost of housing?

Mrs. Thatcher

If the hon. Gentleman wants the figures for the last 12 to 14 months he may have them. In April, 1971, I increased the cost limits by 13 per cent. In April, 1972, I increased the limits by a further 15 per cent. School building has to take place within the cost limits.

Mr. Spearing

Would the right hon. Lady agree that as this has to be within the cost limits it is right that extra costs should be allowed where building costs are highest, such as in London? Would she reconsider that point?

Mrs. Thatcher

No. Our evidence is that there are certain schools in rural areas, for which the materials have to be transported a long way, where the costs are every bit as high as in the central city areas. Where particular costs are involved because of the difficulties of the site, special arrangements are already made.

Local Education Authorities (Size)

21. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what consultations she has had concerning the size of local education authorities proposed in the Local Government Bill.

[column 1713]

Mrs. Thatcher

Following the publication of the Government's White Paper in February 1971 there was a period of nine months in which all concerned had ample opportunity of making their views known. Many factors have to be considered in deciding the size of local education authorities.

Mr. Dormand

Does the right hon. Lady not agree that the larger the local education authority—and some of the new proposed local education authorities will be very large indeed—the greater the need for the delegation of some powers to elected authorities? Is she aware that the Local Government Bill abolishes all delegation and that for a personal service such as education this is a completely retrograde act? Would she impress upon all concerned that provision ought to be made in the Bill for delegation for the reason I have given and also to avoid the farcial situation in which major cities such as Bristol, Hull, Nottingham, Leicester and so on will have no educational functions of any kind?

Mrs. Thatcher

I know that this matter has been debated during the passage of the Local Government Bill on several occasions. It is true that statutory delegation goes, but it is my intention when the Bill has passed through all its stages, to give guidance in a circular about the administration of education with a view to giving as much of a say locally as possible.

Mr. James Johnson

Since Hull has been mentioned, may I ask the right hon. Lady whether she has any idea of the sociological and geographical divisions of the new non-metropolitan Humberside county? Does she realise that the two banks are not yet linked by a bridge and that there are wide open spaces in Lincolnshire? Will she think again and use her influence to bring about the linking into local education administration units of places such as Scunthorpe and Grimsby, as well as the North Bank?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not have the details in mind, but within the 1944 Education Act there is power to amalgamate local education authorities into a joint committee.

[column 1714]

The Arts (Government Policy)

22. 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 in the light of recent developments.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I cannot usefully add to the reply I gave to a similar question by the hon. Member on 13th April.—[Vol. 834, c. 1413.]

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Now that the Prime Minister has established that the Philistines are sitting opposite and that we are the party of the beautiful people—[Laughter.]—can my hon. Friend tell us what plans the Government have for special aid to British orchestras, which are likely to meet increased competition from their heavily subsidised continental counterparts when we enter the Common Market?

Mr. van Straubenzee

This is essentially a question for the Arts Council, which is charged by this House with disbursing these funds. It is doubtful whether members of the main British orchestras would want to become full-time, salaried players, as is the position with a number of their continental counterparts.

Mr. Strauss

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the best contribution he and his colleagues on the Front Bench could make to the arts in this country and the public appreciation of the arts is to refrain, before it is too late, from imposing an entrance tax on those who wish to see our national treasures?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I find that a large number of people see very clearly that this Measure, combined with greatly increased resources for our museums and galleries, makes a great deal of sense.

Mr. Faulds

Knowing the talent for toadying of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) who is perhaps more beatific than beautiful—is it surprising that we saw this as a planted Question and, as I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) assumed, we thought that the opportunity was to be taken of announcing the abandonment of that miserable, mean little Measure, the Museums and Galleries Admission Charges Bill? Does [column 1715]the hon. Gentleman realise that when we form the next Government—as we undoubtedly shall—we shall make it speedily clear to the trustees, whose responsibility such matters are, that we shall welcome their decision to abandon this piddling little scheme?

Mr. van Straubenzee

That supplementary question shows that the hon. Gentleman does not listen, because on the last occasion he asked me exactly the same question I explained that such a move would never be made at Question Time, and I suspect that it would not be made at that time by any subsequent Government. However, we are apparently talking about the next Government from the other side of the House and have therefore moved into the realms of fantasy. Perhaps we should get on.

Children Remaining at School

24. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the current percentage of children staying on at school beyond the ages, respectively, of 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 years in each of the Department's regions.

Mr. van Straubenzee

As the Answer contains a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate the information in the Official Report.

Mr. Meacher

Does not the Minister agree that the slow down in closing the gap in the timing of school leaving between children in the North and in the [column 1716]South is largely due to the almost total cutback in renewing and rebuilding secondary schools? Does not this indicate that exclusive concentration on primary schools was devised to make sure that inequalities of education were bound to increase at the crucial later stages?

Mr. van Straubenzee

No, Sir. This argument cannot be sustained for one moment, if only because the trends and differences between regions go back far beyond the period covered by the recent and rightful concentration on the replacement of old primary schools. What the hon. Gentleman will find—and here I think he and I can agree—is that the figures are a total justification for the decision to raise the compulsory school-leaving age this year.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the only way to ensure equality of opportunity is by providing decent primary schools so that children can have a fair start instead of trying to botch up schemes at the other end of school life when the damage has been done and children from poor homes have not an equal chance with children of the middle class?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The evidence is overwhelming that a child given a good start at the primary stage has a running advantage, from whatever home he comes.

Following is the information:

[column 1717]

Direct Grant Schools

26. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will state the number of direct grant schools in existence in 1964, 1969 and 1971; the total sum in grant for each of these three years; the grant per pupil for each of these three years; and the grant per pupil in real terms for each of these years.

Mr. van Straubenzee

As the Answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate the information in the Official Report.

Mr. McCrindle

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the country gets a good bargain in the direct grant schools? If that is so, will he consider extending the number of direct grant schools so that more children from an ordinary background may be given the opportunity of a splendid education at such an institution?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I join my hon. Friend in a tribute to the work done in the educational service as a whole by the direct grant schools, but that is a different matter from adding to their list, at least at present.

Following is the information:

Sub-standard Schools

23. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, if she will set up an inquiry to consider [column 1718]the effects upon pupils and teachers of working in schools with sub-standard conditions.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir.

Mr. Jones

Is the right hon. Lady aware that poor school conditions frequently have a depressive effect upon attainment and teaching? Does she agree that in many working-class areas the school building regulations are not enforced?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am aware that poor conditions can have that effect, and that is why we have the largest ever improvements programme for schools.

Governing Bodies (Pupil Members)

27. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many local education authorities have indicated to her that they wish to appoint pupils to the governing bodies of schools in their area; and what advice she has given.

Mrs. Thatcher

Two, both in relation to county schools. In such cases the appointment of governors and the constitution of governing bodies are matters for the local education authorities; but I have offered them the advice that the appointment as governors of persons under the age of 18 would appear to be unlawful.

Mr. Mitchell

I thank the right hon. Lady for her reply, but will she do her best to ensure that pupils are not appointed to governing bodies on which teachers are not represented?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have under consideration the question whether teachers should be able to serve as governors of their own schools, but there appear to be legal as well as other problems.

Primary Schools (Swindon)

28. Mr. David Stoddart

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the standard of primary school accommodation in Swindon; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. van Straubenzee

It is the responsibility of the Wiltshire local education authority in the first instance to ensure [column 1719]that the accommodation in their schools is satisfactory.

Mr. Stodart

Has not the Minister a responsibility to see that local education authorities are doing their job properly, and is he aware that Clifton Primary School, in my constituency, built in 1875, is a disgraceful slum school? Will he not call for a full report on this building from the Wiltshire education authority?

Mr. van Straubenzee

No, Sir, I will not call for a special report from this or any other authority in respect of a school of this kind. The hon. Gentleman's question emphasises the wisdom of concentrating on the pre-1903 primary schools for the replacement programme.

Teachers (Employment After Retiring Age)

30. Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will encourage local education authoirties to make use of teachers over the retirement age who are able to offer subjects for which there is a shortage of suitably qualified younger members of the profession.

Mrs. Thatcher

Local education authorities are quite free to employ after the age of 60, which is the minimum pensionable age, suitable teachers whose services they need and who are willing to continue.

Miss Fookes

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will she give encouragement to local authorities who do not do so, or are not always willing to do so, to employ such teachers? I have in mind a particular case, not in my own local authority area.

Mrs. Thatcher

I hope that local education authorities will continue to employ these people, especially in subjects in which there is a shortage of teachers. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this point.