Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1972 Nov 23 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 [846/1493-1512]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 6859
Themes: Civil liberties, Education, Primary education, Secondary education, Higher & further education, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, European Union (general), Transport, Trade unions, Strikes & other union action
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EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Student Unions

1. Miss Lestor

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she has yet completed her examination of the rôle and status of student unions; and if she will make a statement.

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

Discussions with the parties mainly concerned are not yet complete. At present a number of different proposals have emerged but there is little common agreement.

Miss Lestor

I thank the Secretary of State for her reply. If the right hon. Lady agrees that it is important that good relations are maintained between the student unions and all areas of higher education, does she agree that it was rather unfortunate that her former Under-Secretary of State made statements at the end of October in Abingdon about the leadership of the National Union of [column 1494]Students, calling it irresponsible and hypocritical? Does she think that that is unlikely to give the background to the discussions that she needs?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have nothing but praise for W. van Straubanzeemy former Under-Secretary of State.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my right hon. Friend consider making political organisations within student unions self-financing on the basis of individual subscriptions from the members? This is an area in which there is widespread public concern, and I ask my right hon. Friend to consider the matter seriously.

Mrs. Thatcher

There was a suggestion in the consultative document that certain subscriptions might be on a voluntary basis. That met with a very mixed response, but it is a possible suggestion.

Teachers and Pupils (Personal information)

3. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will give advice to local authorities on the computerised storage of personal information about teachers and pupils.

Mrs. Thatcher

Not at present.

Mr. Huckfield

Does the Secretary of State think that it is time that she consulted not only representatives of local authorities but the teachers' unions? When she does so, will she bear in mind that there are some very strong objections by parents and teachers to surrendering personal information without sufficient safeguards that do not really exist for maintaining the confidentiality of information?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman's question is a little premature. The Local Authorities Management Services and Computer Committee has not completed its consideration of the findings of a feasibility study by using a computer for storing information on pupils and teachers. However, it has already published some notes for the guidance of local authorities on computer privacy.

Prestwick Oak Lodge School

4. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will now approve a commencement date for the building of a [column 1495]new school to replace Prestwick Oak Lodge School for educationally subnormal children.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

This project will be considered for inclusion in the Design List 1973–74, which is due to be announced in the spring of next year.

Mr. Haselhurst

Is my hon. Friend aware that many children in my constituency, and in the area adjoining the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler), who are waiting for places at a special school cannot at the moment find a place at the present building at Prestwick? The pressure will be further aggravated by the siting of a junior hostel in Whitefield in the near future. Can my hon. Friend give a further indication than that which he has been able to give so far?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I have seen the correspondence which my hon. Friend has had with my predecessor. I know the personal interest which my hon. Friend has taken in this school. In fact, he has visited it. My Department is well aware of the shortcomings of the existing premises, but we have not received any proposals from the Lancashire authority for the inclusion of projects in the 1972–73 preliminary list. When and if we do, I can assure my hon. Friend that my noble Friend Lord Belstead and I will give the matter the most sympathetic consideration.

11-Plus Examination

5. Mrs. Knight

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will issue guidance to local authorities regarding the holding of 11-plus selection examinations in spring, 1973 where proposals for secondary education are being contested by a large section of the local ratepayers.

Mrs. Thatcher

Until proposals for changes of character of existing schools have been approved local education authorities have a responsibility to operate them without such changes. The details of any selection procedures required are the responsibility of the local education authorities but those procedures must be effective.

[column 1496]

Mrs. Knight

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Birmingham has not made any arrangements for an 11-plus examination to be held for junior school leavers next year, even though her decision with regard to the Birmingham Education Committee's comprehensive plans cannot possibly be known by then? Will she not step in to avoid the educational chaos which seems highly likely to develop in Birmingham?

Mrs. Thatcher

Again, I think that it might be a little too soon to do that. I have made it clear that Birmingham must run the schools as they are until permission is given to change their character. The period for objections to Birmingham's proposals does not expire until about 13th January, and it seems most unlikely that a decision would follow soon after that because it is a very big plan and big plans of that kind take several months to examine. The objections themselves will take several months to examine.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is the right hon. Lady aware that, notwithstanding what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) has said, the present city council of Birmingham was elected on a massive mandate to abolish the obscene 11-plus examination, that it is fully supported in this proposal by the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters, and that, while there may well be argument about the details of reorganisation which the right hon. Lady will wish to take into account, nevertheless, to an overwhelming extent, the parents of Birmingham do not want to tolerate this offensive examination a moment longer?

Mrs. Thatcher

Birmingham, like any other local education authority, is just as much subject to the law as I am, and the law under Section 13, with provision for objections, must be followed.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

Will my right hon. Friend look at the very serious point which has been raised and is widely believed in Birmingham—that the local education authority, in instructing the chief education officer to make no arrangements for junior schools leaving examinations next year, is in contravention of Section 13(5) of the Education Act, 1944, as amended?

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Mrs. Thatcher

I do not believe that it is yet in contravention of the Act. That is my advice. I hope I have made it clear that the schools must continue as they are until permission has been given to change them. The Birmingham education authority issued the notices wrongly in the first instance and did not display them properly. It has re-issued them, and that factor itself has given rise to considerable delay.

Mr. Marks

What is the right hon. Lady's view about the 11-plus selection examination? Is she for or against it?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have no personal view.

Nursery Education

6. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now make a statement about her proposals for the expansion of nursery education.

24. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will now withdraw Circular 8/60.

43. Sir Gilbert Longden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans she has for the expansion of nursery education; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not yet ready to make an announcement. Full details of the Government's new priorities in the education service will be given to Parliament in due course.

Mrs. Renée Short

But does the right hon. Lady not think it high time that she unveiled the promise that she made at the Tory Party conference in October? Will she give an assurance that she will not go back on that undertaking? Can she in the meantime explain why there has been an under-spending of £785,000 on the urban aid programme, which could well be used to provide more nursery classes in priority areas?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot answer on the urban aid programme, which comes under the Home Office. I can only tell the hon. Lady that we have used up our full quota on nursery school places. I have approved an extra 13,124 nursery school places under that programme in [column 1498]England and Wales, which is the larger part of the nursery places provided under the urban aid programme. I assure the hon. Lady that I shall not go back on my promise to introduce a programme of nursery education on the education budget.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

Although my right hon. Friend is not responsible for the urban aid programme, is she in a position to say whether, in making their bids for the next phase of the programme, local authorities did or did not show marked preference for more emphasis on nursery education and pre-school provision?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think that they put in for quite a number of extra nursery school places but I could not give my hon. Friend the exact priorities without a specific Question to that effect. But there will be more places under the latest urban aid programme.

Petroleum Technology

8. Mr. Eadie

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will seek powers to enable her to finance courses in petroleum technology at postgraduate level.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The recurrent grants provided by my right hon. Friend through the University Grants Committee can be used, and are already used, to finance postgraduate courses in subjects which are associated with the petroleum industry.

Mr. Eadie

The hon. Gentleman has not answered the Question. Does not he agree that with the advent of North Sea oil there is a need to consider allocating greater financial resources for the provision of graduate courses in petroleum technology? Will he bear in mind the areas where the oil is found? For example, if any consideration is given in the allocation of financial resources, will he give consideration to Heriot Watt University in Midlothian?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I know that the hon. Gentleman takes great interest in this subject, and I assure him that the Department considers it to be of the greatest importance to the country. The meeting of the needs for new requirements, however, is not a matter for us but [column 1499]for the universities themselves. The Heriot Watt Institute of Offshore Technology has got off to a very good start, thanks to a private grant, and we shall continue our interest in the matter.

Arts Council

9. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the operation of the Arts Council; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Yes, Sir.

Mr. David Clark

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there was great pleasure on both sides of the House when, following a letter from one of his predecessors, the Arts Council gave a grant to the National Youth Orchestra? Will he now dispel any suggestion that the Arts Council is biased against workingclass culture and send it a similar letter requesting a grant to the National Youth Brass Band?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The allocation of individual grants is a matter for the Arts Council. My noble Friend the Paymaster-General cannot do it. He is like Bagehot's constitutional sovereign. He has the right to be consulted, the right to encourage and the right to warn, but not, himself, to make grants. But I am able to say that he and I are of the view that “culture” should be widely interpreted, and we believe that brass bands give great enjoyment and provide opportunities for participation to a large number of people, and that in its own way a brass band can make as big a contribution to our culture as the Amadeus String Quartet.

Degree Qualifications (Sale)

10. Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if, with a view to ending the practice of selling bogus degrees and other qualifications, she will seek powers to require all educational establishments catering for students beyond the minimum school leaving age to be accredited to the National Council for the Accreditation of Correspondence Colleges, or a similar organisation.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir: there would be difficulties about any kind of legislation. I am considering how I can best [column 1500]make information more widely available about United Kingdom degrees and other recognised qualifications. At present the Department gives guidance on the validity of specific qualifications when asked.

Miss Fookes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Robbins Committee of about 10 years ago was adamant that legislation was needed? May I remind her that there are such scandals as the case where someone was given a certificate of competence in estate agency and valuation matters and it turned out to be in the name of someone's cat?

Mrs. Thatcher

It is easier to pose the problem than to find the precise workable legislative solution.

Mr. Heffer

Shoot the cat.

Mrs. Thatcher

Some of us might say, “Shoot the people” as well. We are working on this problem. If there were an easy solution, we would have already found it.

Miss Lestor

I agree with what the hon. Member for Merton and Morden (Miss Fookes) has said, and I appreciate the difficulty of framing legislation to deal with the problem. May I remind the right hon. Lady that at the moment there are at least 27 degree mills in this country, and about 200 abroad? They are used by people here, and this often causes acute embarrassment to foreign students? For example, Sussex University is constantly being embarrassed by the Sussex College of Technology, one of the organisations which sells these degrees. The problem is increasing all the time and action is needed quickly to try to protect people from these malpractices.

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree with the hon. Lady. The problem arises when there is a certificate that looks as if it gives a degree comparable with a degree given by another institution of a similar name. It would be very difficult to get at all these institutions by legislation. The moment we took action against one, another would spring up giving not degrees but associateships, fellowships or licenciateships. I doubt whether, if we named them all, we would ever catch up with others that would then spring up. It must be remembered that there are a number of respectable professional bodies which give a series of letters, not [column 1501]always by examination but often warranted by the experience of the person, which stand very high in the eyes of people here and abroad.

School Leavers (Intelligence Quotients)

11. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will set up a further inquiry into the intelligence quotients of those who leave school at or before the age of 16.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir.

Mr. Meacher

Is the right hon. Lady aware that merely raising the minimum school-leaving age to 16 will not by itself stop the waste of the national pool of ability, because the Crowther Report and others since have found that a third of the top 10 per cent. by IQ rating leave school at that age anyway? What alternative plans has she that will definitely stop this drastic under-achievement, which neither the nation nor those concerned can afford?

Mrs. Thatcher

The survey given publicity in the Crowther Report was not an IQ survey, and I know of no purely IQ survey. It was a test of ability of National Service recruits, conducted through the Army's own tests of ability. Since that time—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman will know that IQ is not the only measure of ability. For that reason I was a little surprised by his Question. The Government have taken steps to raise the school-leaving age to 16, and I hope that many other young people who wish to do so will continue their education in colleges of further education and through the many facilities available.

Student Grants

12. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will set up an inquiry to report as a matter of urgency on the level and arrangement of students' grants and of parental contributions.

27. Dr. Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will now undertake a review of student grants.

Mrs. Thatcher

Arrangements have been settled for the triennium beginning [column 1502]with the academic year 1971–72 and I see no need for an inquiry now.

Mr. Hardy

Is the right hon. Lady aware that many students—perhaps the vast majority—fear that there will be no real increase in grants before 1974–75? In view of recent price increases and those which are obviously forthcoming, will not the Government, if they act in a mean way, be guilty of a harsh injustice affecting not only students but many parents who pay contributions?

Mrs. Thatcher

We negotiated the grants for the triennium and the total sum of £76 million was made available. Those round the negotiating table, including representatives of vice-chancellors, students and local authorities, as well as of central Government, decided to allocate that sum in the proportion—this is for provincial universities—of an increase of 13.1 per cent. for the year 1971–72, 3.5 per cent. for 1972–73, and 4.5 per cent. for 1973–74. That was the decision made, and I believe that it should stand.

Dr. Marshall

Is the right hon. Lady aware that accommodation charges in university halls of residence are now exceeding the notional accommodation element in student grants by over £50 annually? Is this not causing real hardship to many students, and should there not be an immediate increase in grants?

Mrs. Thatcher

The accommodation charges in universities and polytechnics vary widely. The figure in the grant takes an average of those charges. By doing so there will be some above and some below, but there is an extra amount of about £100, I believe, in the grant, which can be used either to make up the short-fall or, as the students wish, for other purposes.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

Has my right hon. Friend any estimate of the proportion of students who may not be receiving the appropriate parental contribution? Before the recent increase I believe there was an estimate of about 1 in 5.

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot confirm the previous estimate, and there is no current estimate. In 1972–73 we expect student grants to cost about £120 million. The assessed parental contribution should be [column 1503]of the order of £35 million. We have no knowledge of how much of that is actually paid.

Mr. Pardoe

Can the right hon. Lady say whether it is her intention to continue with parental contributions and the related means test for ever and anon, or at least for the foreseeable future? What studies has her Department made to see whether the means test could eventually be incorporated within the Government's income tax credit scheme?

Mrs. Thatcher

I doubt very much whether it could be incorporated in that scheme, but the hon. Gentleman will no doubt raise the point when the matter is debated. The value of the parental contribution rises as the numbers of students increase, as does the cost of student grants. It would be very expensive to abolish the contribution, costing £35 million this year and possibly £40 million or so next year and the year after. I have no plans to spend that amount on abolishing the contribution.

Mr. Kinsey

Will the right hon. Lady look at some of the anomalies which have arisen in the grant system? May I bring one to her attention, namely, that when young girl students get married and pass out of their parents' legal control the parents are still expected to make contributions to the grant?

Mrs. Thatcher

As my hon. Friend will see, there is probably a good reason for that. If by getting married the young girl saved her parents' contribution, it might be rather a popular thing to do. [Laughter.] A young married woman student is paid the same rate of grant as other students unless she lives at home with her husband who is not a student.

Mr. Moyle

Is the right hon. Lady telling the House the full story about the negotiations over student grants? Is it not true that the vice-chancellors and principals of polytechnics wrote to her on 28th May, 1971, saying that if the present level of student grants were proceeded with there would be trouble over students meeting board and lodging charges before the end of the three-year period? Will she confirm that this is true and, following the advice of the vice-chancellors and principals, conduct an inquiry?

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Mrs. Thatcher

We have received a letter from the vice-chancellors. It is very easy for anyone to demand an increase for which he does not have to pay. Most of us remain of the opinion that a settlement of £76 million for the triennium was not ungenerous.

London Teachers (Meetings)

13. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she last met representatives of teaching staff employed in the Inner London Education Area to discuss matters for which she is responsible.

Mrs. Thatcher

There have been teachers from Inner London on deputations which have come to see me, but I have not met them separately.

Mr. Cox

I note that reply. Is the right hon. Lady aware that thousands of teachers are away from school today protesting against her deplorable action in deliberately stopping the negotiations on 20th October? Is she aware that this action, following so quickly after the savage cuts which she imposed on the minor works programme in London, has done more to destroy the morale of London teachers than any other action in recent years? Will she give an assurance to this House and to the thousands of teachers who will be here today that she is prepared to send back to the Burnham Committee the whole question of the London allowance, that she will abide by that Committee's decision and will in no way attempt to interfere with the negotiations, as she has done in the past?

Mrs. Thatcher

During the Chequers talks, negotiations in Burnham were suspended. When the Chequers talks broke down I immediately saw the Chairman of Burnham, the local education authorities and the teachers. They decided to meet on that day, and an offer was made which was accepted by one of the committees of Burnham, namely the college of education teachers but not by the others. The minor works programme for London is calculated on a formula related to the number of children in the schools——

Mr. Cox

That is totally irrelevant.

Mrs. Thatcher

It is not totally irrelevant to a rational person. The number [column 1505]of children in the centres of cities is falling as families are moving outside to the suburbs and counties. Therefore, the minor works programme for the counties has gone up because the counties have more children.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one solution would be for the teachers' London weighting allowance to be on the same basis as that which operates in local government and the Civil Service, that is, inner London weighting and outer London weighting?

Mrs. Thatcher

That course of action is open to the management panel of Burnham if it wishes to make that kind of offer. The Burnham system is exactly the same as that which was introduced and operated by the Labour Government. I have followed it precisely. The formula is calculated by reference to that which was created in 1967 by the National Board for Prices and Incomes. Some have the same London allowance for the whole of the greater London area, as do the teachers. Others choose to have the allowance in two tiers. If the management panel wishes to negotiate in two tiers, it has the majority voice on that issue with the local authorities.

Mr. Spearing

Will the right hon. Lady deny that on or before 20th October, before the talks had broken down, she made a specific request to the London authorities on the Burnham Committee not to put their offer—as had been promised—on that date? If she made that request, will she explain how it came within the terms of reference of the Government's statement of 26th September, which would have allowed the London weighting to go up by £104 before being affected by the freeze?

Mrs. Thatcher

Through my representatives on Burnham, I asked the committee not to make an offer—[Hon. Members: “Disgraceful.” ]—there is nothing new about this—while the Chequers talks were in progress, as did Ministers in other Departments which were concerned with current negotiations. It was reasonable to do that when we were negotiating with the unions, the teachers being represented on the body that was holding voluntary negotiations. Those talks broke down on the Thursday [column 1506]night. On the Friday morning I saw the Chairman of Burnham, the local authorities and the teachers. They had a meeting on that day, so the undertaking to meet after that day was in fact honoured.

Mr. Cox

In view of the totally unsatisfactory nature of that reply I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible date.

Speech Therapy (Quirk Report)

14. Mr. John Wells

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action she intends taking on the Quirk Report on speech therapy.

Mrs. Thatcher

The committee's report was made jointly to my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State Sir K. Josephfor Social Services, for Scotland, G. Campbellfor Wales and P. Thomasmyself. It touches on the interests of many authorities, organisations and professions, either as employers, users or colleagues of speech therapists. My right hon. Friends and I have therefore arranged for the interested bodies to be consulted immediately so that we can take their views into account in reaching decisions on the recommendations of the report.

Mr. Wells

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the profession faces a number of difficulties which must be remedied rapidly? Pay is inadequate, research facilities are inadequate and divided control of one minute profession between four Departments is absurd.

Mrs. Thatcher

Unification of speech therapy services under the proposed area health authorities is one of the recommendations of the Quirk Committee. I assure my hon. Friend that we shall be consulting on all the proposals made by that committee.

Mr. Ashley

Is the right hon. Lady aware that speech therapists are scarce, underpaid and grossly neglected by the Government? When does she propose to get a move on.

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree that speech thereapists are scarce. There are 800 speech therapists, and the committee recommended an increase in the number, and a broader-based training. These matters are being considered now.

[column 1507]

School Transport

16. Mr. Terry Davis

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what guidance she has given to local education authorities about the provision of school transport pending the report of the special working party.

Mrs. Thatcher

None, Sir. The local education authorities are well aware of their duties and powers in relation to school transport.

Mr. Davis

Is the right hon. Lady aware that Worcestershire County Council has discontinued a school bus previously provided in Bromsgrove under its discretionary powers? Does she agree that local education authorities should try not to make matters worse while we are awaiting the report of the working party on school transport?

Mrs. Thatcher

That is a matter between the hon. Gentleman and his local education authority. I am sure that he makes very powerful representations. As he has pointed out, local education authorities have discretion, and I must not interfere in the way in which they exercise it.

Fanfare for Europe

17. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the co-ordination between Lord Mancroft and Lord Goodman over the arrangements for the Fanfare for Europe; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, Sir. Both Lord Goodman and Lord Mancroft worked closely together to ensure an extensive and varied programme of events over the country as a whole catering for a wide variety of tastes in both the cultural and sporting spheres.

Mr. Marten

In view of the mounting public amazement at the curious expenditure of this public money in the midst of an economic freeze, will my right hon. Friend tell us what she is doing to monitor the expenditure which is carried on her Vote? Secondly, in view of the vote last night, will she apply for money for a Fanfare for the Commonwealth?

Mrs. Thatcher

My hon. Friend will have to put the latter part of his supple[column 1508]mentary question to my right hon. Friend A. Barberthe Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Government have allocated £350,000 towards the cost of events for Fanfare for Europe, subject in due course to parliamentary approval of the Supplementary Estimates.

Mr. Jay

Will the right hon. Lady explain what the activities of these two noble Lords have to do with either education or science?

Mrs. Thatcher

Both of them are very distinguished in almost all spheres.

Secondary Schools

18. Mr. Marks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many proposals she has received from local education authorities since June, 1970, to convert selective secondary schools to non-selective secondary schools; and how many she has rejected.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Department's statistics do not distinguish between proposals relating to comprehensive schools development and other proposals relating to secondary schools. Of about 2,300 proposals related to secondary schools, I have rejected 101.

Mr. Marks

Having failed to discourage local education authorities from submitting plans for comprehensive schools, why is the right hon. Lady in several cases insisting on the retention of selective schools in otherwise comprehensive areas, so sabotaging the efforts of Labour and Conservative councils to get rid of 11-plus selection?

Mrs. Thatcher

Usually because there is a large volume of objection to the local education authority proposals which is catered for in the legislative provisions, or because the physical or curriculum arrangements do not appear to be satisfactory.

Mentally Handicapped Children (Teacher Supply)

19. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals she has to increase the supply of teachers specially qualified to teach educationally subnormal children.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As the hon. Member will know from the reply to his Question on 15th November, the numbers of [column 1509]students taking three-year courses of initial training for teachers of mentally handicapped children are in fact increasing. My Department is planning further expansion of such provision.

Mr. Dormand

That is a typically complacent reply from the Department about this seriously neglected sector of education. Is the right hon. Lady aware that of the teachers who are teaching ESN children—which is what the Question is about—only 22 per cent. are qualified and that within the last four years there has been an annual increase of only 13 teachers attending these courses? Is it not abundantly clear that a Plowden-type major investigation into the education of ESN children is long overdue?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Department is not in the least complacent about this important section of the educational service, and attaches a great deal of importance to it. There are 400 places available in 17 colleges for three-year courses of initial training for teachers of mentally handicapped children. The intake to those courses in September, 1972, was only 358. Nevertheless, negotiations have been in progress with five other colleges of education with a view to providing a further 100 places in September, 1973. We have encountered some difficulties over this and are now pursuing other means of increasing the number of places.

Sir D. Renton

Could not places which have not been filled perhaps be quite easily filled if a shorter course of three years were offered to those who already have a good deal of practical experience?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As my right hon. and learned Friend will know, teachers of educationally sub-normal children are not required to have special qualifications, but as a transitional arrangement, following the transfer of the responsibilities for this form of education from the DHSS to my Department, holders of the Diploma of the Training Council for Teachers of the Mentally Handicapped can take one-year conversion courses. In 1971–72, 464 teachers took one-year courses as opposed to three-year courses.

Polytechnics (Accommodation)

20. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether [column 1510]she will make a statement on the Government's policy towards residential and working accommodation for students at polytechnics.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Resources are allocated for polytechnic buildings on the basis of the expected increase in student numbers and the proposals submitted by individual local education authorities. The further education major building programme which is due to start in 1974–75 includes some £32 million for polytechnics, of which about £5 million is intended for residential accommodation.

Mr. Judd

I welcome the news of this increase in public expenditure, but does not the hon. Gentleman agree that polytechnics have a long way to go before they overcome the acute inadequacies in their working and residential accommodation compared with most other universities? Will he note that when, in places like Portsmouth, dramatic plans are announced about increasing the number of students at polytechnics, it can have grave consequences not only for students who are working in overcrowded conditions, but for the local community in terms of driving up land prices and aggravating an already bad housing shortage? Will he instruct those responsible to watch this aspect of the problem.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I, personally, am very concerned about the position of polytechnics and agree that a great deal needs to be done. Next week I shall be attending the designation of the North London Polytechnic. With regard to the college in Portsmouth, in which I know the hon. Gentleman takes a great interest, we have allocated £2,400,000 for building in the two years 1973–75; and, in addition, the building programme provides accommodation for 500 residential places. These figures reflect my Department's awareness of Portsmouth's particular needs. As for the last point made by the hon. Gentleman, I shall bring it to the notice of the appropriate people.

Old Schools

21. Mr. Lamborn

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will give urgent consideration to restoring the minor works allocation to its 1971–72 level, in order that the Inner London Education Authority and other [column 1511]education authorities in older urban areas can prevent further deterioration in standards in old and ageing schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

School rolls in Inner London and many other large cities will be static or declining in the mid-1970s and their reduced minor works allocations for 1974–75 reflect this. I have allocated about £6.5 million in the major building programmes for 1972–75 for the replacement of 47 old primary schools in inner London.

Mr. Lamborn

Does the right hon. Lady appreciate that in dealing with the older urban areas it is no use equating the subject with the movement of population? The minor works allocation for the inner London area in 1974–75 is half the figures that it was up to 1971–72, and in terms of what work can be done for the money it is probably under a quarter. In the inner London area there are still 300 Victorian primary schools, many of which still have outside, unheated toilet accommodation, and many improvements in such schools have had to be postponed as a result of cuts in the minor works programme.

Mrs. Thatcher

But the capital works building programme is mainly a basic needs programme, and therefore must be related to the increased numbers or otherwise in the area. The older urban parts of large cities benefit very much from the primary school improvement programme, and this has been the case with the inner London Education Authority.

Mr. Latham

In view of her reply to an earlier question and her declared belief in local democracy, will the right hon. Lady consider giving local education authorities discretion to spend money on what they may regard as more important local educational projects, and, indeed, to divert to such projects money which would otherwise be spent on the proposed Fanfare for Europe?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not think that that would get anybody very far. There are pilot schemes in five local education authorities involving block capital allocations for everything except the primary school improvements programme. That number will be increased to 24, and we shall see how a system of block capital [column 1512]allocation works before we go any further with it.