PLEDGE BY MRS. THATCHER
Where towns had an overspill problem or where there were new housing estates, new schools or extra accommodation must and would be created, even at this time of heavy cut-backs in local government spending.
This assurance was given by Education Secretary Mrs. Margaret Thatcher on Saturday in an interview with an “Eastern Daily Press” reporter at the end of her one and a-half day visit to Norfolk.
“What we are protecting for the schools is the basic needs programme. That is, how many places you need. What is being held up is the straightforward replacement of schools,” she said.
On Friday Mrs. Thatcher saw Wymondham College and its controversial Nissen-hut class-rooms—and acknowledged “the real need” of replacements. On Saturday she saw Thorpe Grammar School, an overcrowded establishment which has a considerable number of mobile classrooms in use.
Again she made clear her concern and her understanding of schools with problems like this. “But mobiles are roofs-over-heads,” she said.
She was unable to commit herself at this stage on precisely what help could be available to schools like Wymondham and Thorpe in the present financial climate.
During Friday afternoon the Minister had visited the tiny Wendling Primary School, near Dereham, which has less than 30 pupils. She made particular mention of this, for she had not previously visited a small school like this one.
What had impressed her was what it meant to a village to keep its small children in a school right there in the village. It was an ideal arrangement.
To which she added that she had been strongly impressed at each point of her visit in Norfolk by the spirit, the enthusiasm and the skill of the county's teachers.
The Minister also had a word to say on student grants.
With the end of the three-year review period for grants now coming up, her department was in negotiation with students, vice-chancellors and local authorities about grant increases. Working parties were looking into this question, but it had to be borne in mind that there were now so many students that grant increases were expensive. [end p1](2) Eastern Daily Press, 15 January 1974
Minister takes all in her stride—but phew!
A male colleague, covering the visit of Mrs. Thatcher to Norfolk last week-end, was so impressed by her mastery of facts and femininity that he here gives credit in print—where credit is obviously due!
It is ten o'clock on Friday morning at Hethersett. And Education Minister Mrs. Margaret Thatcher is formally opening the Woodside First School.
She is bright and alert, relaxed and charming, faultlessly groomed and dressed with careful simplicity in a plain, short-sleeved dress with one small ornament on the shoulder.
During the rest of the day she will be visiting three other schools in mid-Norfolk, then driving across to King's Lynn to see the technical college. Finally to a political dinner at Wisbech, before returning to Norwich to stay the night.
Saturday morning finds her, on the dot at 9.30, at Thorpe Grammar School. Then out to How Hill to see the county's further education establishment. Finally back into Norwich to Wensum Lodge.
And throughout that time, a close observer would find her taking a real and lively interest in everything she sees, with time for a word with everyone, from tiny kids to prosey local worthies.
So what, you might say? All that should be in the line of duty for a Minister.
But before you reach that conclusion, it might be useful to add that on Thursday, the day before she came to Norfolk. Mrs. Thatcher had a morning Cabinet meeting in London. The afternoon and evening were spent in the House of Commons taking part in the crucial economy debate. She left the House at 10.30 p.m., drove to Liverpool Street Station—and arrived at Norwich at 1.36 a.m. Friday.
In other words, she had about five hours' sleep before her gruelling Friday diary began. And when an “E.D.P.” reporter managed to get a snatched five-minute interview with her before she left for London at lunchtime on Saturday, she was still as relaxed and fluent as if she were settled in a comfortable chair in her own drawing room with an hour to spare for a chat.
On arriving back in London she had a quick dash to the shops to get in some provisions for the week-end. For Margaret Thatcher still runs her own London home with only a daily-help coming in a few mornings each week.
Just how do you do it? we asked. “It is a matter of having the right constitution,” she said in a matter-of-fact way which indicated that she herself didn't see anything particularly special in her demanding routine. “Happily I happen to have that constitution,” she adds with a grin.
And the family? “We always have breakfast together, no matter what. And no matter how late it is when I'm in London I see Denis Thatchermy husband and sons [sic] at the end of the day. I always see there is plenty of food in the fridge. So when I'm not around it is no hardship for them to help themselves.”