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Education

Volume 437: debated on Thursday 22 May 1947

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Curriculum (Additional Year)

1.

asked the Minister of Education what steps he has taken to inform local education authorities of the curriculum he has prescribed to be followed during the additional year at school.

I do not prescribe the school curriculum, I will, however, be issuing very shortly a pamphlet which will deal with the planning of the whole secondary course from eleven to fifteen or sixteen rather than with a particular part of it in isolation.

I fully appreciate that the Minister of Education does not prescribe the school curriculum, but surely on an occasion such as this, when the school-leaving age is being raised, should not some advice have been given by the Minister of Education? Is it not a fact that education authorities all over the country are very anxious and worried because they have had no indication from the Ministry on this important matter?

I am not aware that they are in that state. As a matter of fact, they have had advice and are receiving, as I said, a further pamphlet dealing with these matters.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the teaching profession would resent any attempt by His Majesty's Government to prescribe for them the terms of the curriculum, and that they regard that special privilege as one of the most cherished of the profession?

Lindsey

2.

asked the Minister of Education how many school canteens have been installed in Lindsey; and how many schools are yet without canteens.

There are 182 school canteens in Lindsey, serving 213 school departments, out of a total of 321.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether those figures refer also to school dining rooms?

3.

asked the Minister of Education how much extra school accommodation is required in Lindsey owing to the raising of the school-leaving age; how much of this accommodation has already been found; and whether he is satisfied that accommodation will be found for all those requiring it.

Twenty-nine classrooms and 22 practical rooms are needed under the scheme of hutments to be erected by the Ministry of Works and a new light construction school to accommodate about 500 pupils is required at Scunthorpe. None of this accommodation has yet been completed, but the Ministry of Works hope that it will all be ready in time, except perhaps for some fittings and equipment for part of the first instalment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that as much progress is being made as is possible?

Yes, Sir, I think the Ministry of Works have done and are doing their best.

Children's Bicycles (Safety)

4.

asked the Minister of Education whether he is aware that at three schools in Cambridgeshire on examination of children's bicycles to see if they were roadworthy, 154 out of 181 were found to be in need of attention; and whether he is making any arrangements for similar examinations to take place in other schools in the country so as to avoid the possibility of numerous accidents arising from the use of faulty bicycles.

The periodical examination of children's bicycles at school has been encouraged for many years and the attention of local education authorities has been drawn to the matter on several occasions. I do not consider that any further reminder is required at the present time.

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that in view of the very large proportion of bicycles at these schools which were faulty—and which must needs mean that road accidents are bound to increase, particularly on children arriving at schools—some direction should be given to the education authority? Does not the Minister realise that those figures themselves indicate that the inspections are not sufficiently frequent?

Yes, but the figures indicate that an inspection did take place, and the local authority's attention has been called to the necessity of inspections time and again. Maybe this Question and answer will further emphasise the necessity for them.

Does not the Minister think it would be advisable to ask this authority how it was that so large a proportion of the children's bicycles were in that condition, and whether it was due to the fact that inspection had not taken place in this area?

I should want a little more definition of "out of order" with respect to a bicycle before I was prepared to accept that 154 out of 181 were unrideable.

Will my right hon. Friend tell us if the inspection was carried out by a competent authority?

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the bicycle repair people have facilities to make the necessary repairs to prevent accidents?

Village Schools, Ripon

5.

asked the Minister of Education whether he has considered the proposal of the West Riding County Council to concentrate six village schools in the district -North-West of Ripon into two central schools, one result of which will be that young children from three of these schools are to be transported away from their home environment to Ripon; and whether he will oppose this wholesale elimination of village schools as contrary to the spirit of the Education Act, 1944.

Proposals to discontinue certain schools in the Ripon district are included in an instalment of the local education authority's development plan recently received in the Ministry, and will receive my careful consideration.

Does the Minister of Education realise the perturbation in the minds of the parents in these villages at the suggestion? Can he say whether this moving of young children of five to 11 from villages to central schools is the policy of his Department?

Universities (Entry)

7.

asked the Minister of Education whether he has con- sidered the copy sent to him of the suggestion recently put forward by the high master of Manchester Grammar School for the equivalent of a Barlow Report on Secondary Education in order to secure an adequate entry of students to the universities; and what action he proposes to take.

I have taken note of the high master's suggestion and, though I do not think that an inquiry would be appropriate at present, I will certainly bear it in mind.

The right hon. Gentleman will realise that the whole Barlow Report rested on the assumption that there were thousands of potential scientists being lost, and no examination has taken place in the schools?

Free Meals And Milk

8.

asked the Minister of Education the number of free meals and quantity of free milk taken by schoolchildren in an average week.

According to the return made for a normal school day in October, 1946, the number of pupils receiving free school meals in maintained schools on grounds of financial hardship was 338,450. The number of pupils in maintained schools receiving one-third of a pint of milk, which was free of charge for all pupils, was, on the same clay, 4,369,000.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the system of providing and distributing milk is the best that can be devised to save waste?

It is the best we have found up to now, but I would hesitate to say that it is the best that can be devised.

I would not like to say. I have not any idea what happens to it, except that it is not taken home.

Emergency Training

11.

asked the Minister of Education what is the approximate proportion of those accepted over 12 months ago for training under the Emergency Training of Teachers Scheme whose training has not yet commenced; whether he is aware that Mr. G. Smith, College Road, Gildersome, near Leeds, was accepted for training in January, 1946, prior to his demobilisation in May, 1946, and has now been informed that a further substantial period of waiting is inevitable; and whether he will now give the approximate date when this training will commence.

A candidate's name is placed on the waiting list for emergency training colleges by reference to the date of his Class A release, and not the date of his acceptance, if he applied while he was still serving in the Forces. For others it depends on the date of application. Of those candidates whose names have been entered on the lists in this way up to the end of April, 1946, slightly over one-sixth had not begun their training by the beginning of May, 1947. My Department replied to Mr. Smith a fortnight ago, giving him the best possible information as to the date when he may expect to begin his training.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his Department replied to my constituent to say that a substantial period of waiting was still required? Can he say when the end of this waiting will be, and why my constituent is being singled out and placed in this one-sixth minority whose training has not commenced?

There are any number of reasons why he may be among that one-sixth minority, but the principal reason is that the number of applicants far exceeds the number of places available, and it will take time to admit them all. The success of the scheme has made it all the more necessary for the waiting period to be longer. But the date of acceptance of the individual on his Class A release has been kept stable from the beginning in order to prevent people going ahead of the queue.

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that this young man's training will commence not later than September this year?

I cannot possibly give that assurance because I may be doing an injustice to someone else in another category if I do so.

Independent Schools (Primary Scholars)

12.

asked the Minister of Education whether he has circularised local education authorities giving them a figure of the number of vacancies open at independent schools for children at primary schools; what has been the response; on what basis the selection is made; and what is the average total cost to the taxpayers and ratepayers.

Particulars of the places put by independent secondary schools at the disposal of the Committee on Boarding Education were circulated to all local education authorities. Sixty-five have so far been allocated. In addition, some local education authorities have made similar arrangements direct with the schools. The selection of the pupils is a matter for the individual local education authorities, to whom guidance has been given in Administrative Memorandum No. 225. The information asked for in the last part of the Question is not available.

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the grammar schools are not further weakened at the expense of the independent schools, because they remain the only avenue by which a poor boy can get to a university?

Will the right hon. Gentleman say if independent schools can make application direct to local education authorities indicating how many places they can offer to children from primary schools?

Grammar Schools (Staffing)

13.

asked the Minister of Education whether his attention has been called to the number of grammar school masters who have recently left the profession; and what action he proposes to take to prevent this loss in the future.

I have seen reports in the Press, but I have no direct evidence of abnormal wastage, and, while I am concerned to secure the suitable staffing of all types of schools, I am not satisfied that special action in respect of grammar schools is called for.

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the figures, which show that 1,300 such teachers have left in the last few years? I admit that some have gone to inspectorates and so forth, but will he use all his influence to get a revision of the graduate scale, which has the support of the whole of the teachers of this country?

I am not satisfied that the revision of the graduate scale is necessary, nor that the figures are accurate. I should like to check them. They have appeared in the Press, but I have had no opportunity of checking them. I do not think it is a question of the graduate scale determining the influx of teachers or otherwise.

Educational Standard

14.

asked the Minister of Education whether he has considered the resolution, of which a copy has been sent to him, passed by the Southwold Town Council at its last meeting, deploring the poor standard of educational attainment of children attending the local schools; and what reports his inspectors have made on the schools in this area.

I am looking into the matter, and will communicate with my hon. Friend.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a general resolution of this character has caused a great deal of anxiety to parents and teachers, and also that the accusations about bad spelling have been levelled at school children for centuries past, and always will be?

I am conscious of that, but I think I ought to inquire into the special circumstances here before coming to a decision.

Will my right hon. Friend, when considering this and similar cases, also investigate the conditions under which education is carried on in the classes?

Speech Therapists

15.

asked the Minister of Education the number of local education authorities now employing speech therapists; the number who have no speech therapists in their employ; and whether he will circularise the latter recommending them to appoint such officers.

Ninety local education authorities are now employing speech therapists and 56 authorities have no speech therapists on their staff. Local education authorities generally are fully alive to the importance of employing such officers, but unfortunately, the supply of speech therapists falls short of the demand.