Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1972 Dec 6 We
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ITN First Report (launch of Education White Paper)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: ITN Studios, Wells Street, central London
Source: ITN Archive: transcript
Journalist: Robert Kee, ITN
Editorial comments: Live. Timings taken from Evening Standard, 7 December 1972 (Londoner’s Diary).
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1181
Themes: Education, Primary education, Higher & further education

A government White Paper on the future pattern of education in England and Wales over the next ten years is out this morning. Like all government White Papers it's a steam-roller of a read at times, but it does reveal some interesting changes and one virtually revolutionary one.

Within ten years the Government hopes to provide enough nursery school places for all children whose parents want them to go to one. That's increasing the number of nursery school places to ten times what they are at present. To pay for this the Government will give local councils £15 million a year for two years for special nursery school building programmes, and more money to keep the schools running.

There'll be priority for poor areas, and, it's hoped, for children with special needs. [end p1]

Mrs. Thatcher the Secretary of State for Education will be carrying on with her primary school building policy. And between 1975 and 1977 she'll be giving £20 million to rebuild old secondary schools.

There'll be 150 thousand more teachers by 1971, to give each school the equivalent of one extra teacher for every ten working there now. And there'll be changes in the way teachers are trained. Universities are only to be allowed to grow more slowly than at present, but there's to be a big increase in the numbers going to polytechnics, technical colleges and other higher education centres.

Altogether one in five young people will be getting education after leaving school—but the government hope more of them will be studying at home, not moving away from their parents as at present. [end p2]

In the studio to talk about her new plans, which incidentally have been broadly welcomed by the NUT, is the Secretary of State for Education, Mrs. Thatcher. [end p3]

Kee

Mrs. Thatcher, just one quick point; these plans are for some time ahead, will we see any new nursery school development in the immediate future?

Thatcher

Well, it's broadly a ten year plan, you're quite right, it's a general strategy over the greater part of the field of education. I hope the first extra nursery schools will be going up in the year 1974–1975—between now and then we have to try to get bids from the local authorities about where they'd like them.

Kee

You say in the White Paper that of course these new nursery schools are only going to make the real social and educational contributions they should if the character of what goes on in them is right. What sort of things have you in mind, I mean what really will be their character educationally?

Thatcher

Well, I think one could have different sorts of nursery provision: you could put all the young children in a special nursery school, on the whole we've rejected that idea, we think it better that they should be attached to primary schools, so that they can go with their elder brothers and sisters to the primary school, and get used to the idea. But there is one other point, the playgroup movement has shown how important it is to have parents still involved with children while they are at the school or at the playgroup, and we would like to incorporate this idea into our nursery education.

Kee

Of course there is a school of thought that says that nursery schools aren't necessarily the right answer to the social and educational problem here, because parents [sic] between three and five should remain primarily with their mothers all the time, and it could be said possibly that what you should do, what you should, what society should do is subsidize mothers who have to go out to work to stay at home and look after their children.

Thatcher

I don't think that's quite the whole story—that age children can learn very fast indeed, and I think many of them would benefit from a few hours a day more formal training than they're getting [end p4] now. As far as nursery education is concerned, we plan to provide for about three hours a day part-time provision, either morning or afternoon. So you don't in fact take the child away from the mother for very long.

Kee

And as you were saying of course, with wherever possible, parental help in nurseries.

Thatcher

We would like the parents to be involved with the nursery schools as well.

Kee

I suppose we should also stress of course this isn't going to be compulsory.

Thatcher

No, we've not, no, we're not making it compulsory to go to nursery school, we think in fact there'll be an enormous demand without making it compulsory.

Kee

Can we now come on to the plans for primary schools? You stress here that your priority here is to remove old Victorian buildings—I think some people would say the priority should perhaps be getting down the size of the classes. Now in the White Paper you do say, well, of course, only 2.5 per cent are now over forty, but I should have thought a very large percentage is quite close to forty, isn't it?

Thatcher

Look, I agree with you. The most single important thing in education is the quality of teaching, and we have steadily been improving the numbers of teachers compared with the numbers of pupils for quite some time. We aim in the White Paper to go on making that improvement. Now in any individual school you might find that a headmaster would say when he's got an extra teacher, “Look, we won't average out the size of classes, we've got a group of a few children who really need extra remedial training: we'll put the extra teacher on this half dozen.” Now that's a matter for him, and it might be a very much better way of using the teacher to benefit the children rather than by averaging out the class sizes. We leave that for the local headmaster or headmistress.

Kee

Now on your plans to slow down the growth of university education, I think perhaps the best think I could do would be to put you two questions which have just come in from the Association of University Teachers and their reaction to your White Paper. They say, “What is the Secretary of State going to say to those parents who have worked to give their children a university education only to find no places available?”

Thatcher

Now look, let's have one thing clear. There're going to be lots of increased places in universities. But the biggest expansion is going into the polytechnics, and in fact I think the answer to their query is that over the past three or four years an increasing number of young people have been choosing to go into the polytechnics, and their rate of growth has been faster than that of the university, and I think many many young people would now prefer to have the kind of training which is perhaps more directed towards the jobs they'll have than they would necessarily get in a university which has a wider role to play.

Kee

There's no philosophy behind this reduction in growth rate of making university education very much an elitist thing?

Thatcher

Well you can't call it elitist—we're planning for a very large increase between now and 1977, and also up to 1981. It is an expansion all the way along the line.

Kee

Mrs. Thatcher, thank you very much.