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School-Building Programme

Volume 466: debated on Thursday 23 June 1949

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asked the Minister of Education what was his target, in value, for school-building for 1948 and 1949, respectively; how much of the 1948 target was completed and in process of construction by 31st December, 1948; and how much he anticipates will be completed and in process of construction by 31st December, 1949, of the 1949 target.

The target adopted by my Department in the planning of educational building is the programme of work to be started in each year. In 1948 a programme of £26 million was carried out in full. For 1949 the target is £50–£55 million, and there is a good prospect that a programme of this size will be carried out. These figures relate to all educational building work sponsored by my Department. Projects for primary and secondary schools account for about 70 per cent. of the 1949 programme and for about 60 per cent. of the 1948 programme.

Can the Minister say, first, concerning 1948 and the £26 million worth of work carried out, what was the target for 1948 and what percentage was the achievement of the target? Can he say, in the second place, on what grounds he hopes confidently that the target for this year for £52 million worth of work will be carried out in the year?

The target refers to the amount of building work started, not to that which is completed. That is the only basis upon which we can work. When I say the target was completed I mean that £26 million worth was actually started.

But was it not the case that before 1948 the Minister announced that the target for 1948 to be begun was £52 million worth? If he gives us a figure of £26 million worth of work having been begun, obviously only half of the target of beginnings was achieved. Does he, therefore, express the same confidence in the results this year?

I should like to look at that. I do not know where I said a target of £52 million would be started.


asked the Minister of Education what is the target he has set for replacing the 644 schools which are on the 1925 blacklist; and what is planned for 1949.

The development plans submitted by local education authorities provide for the replacement, or improvement, of all primary and secondary school buildings which fall short of the prescribed standards. This work will be carried out as rapidly as the resources available for school-building permit. For the time being, I am bound to ask local education authorities to devote the major part of their resources to the provision of the large amount of additional school accommodation required to meet the needs of new housing, or to cater for the additional children coming into the schools as a result of the rise in the birth rate. These new schools will incidentally relieve the situation in many older schools. In addition, minor improvements are being made to many existing schools.

Is the Minister satisfied that in those particular areas where these black listed schools exist sufficiently vigorous steps are being taken to provide new schools, and thus to do away with the old ones?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the difficulty of local authorities in providing schools is the shortage of school architects? Has he any plan for remedying this shortage?

That shortage has been known for some time by the local authorities, and I personally have been impressing upon them the necessity of organising and reorganising their appropriate departments to meet the requirements.

What pressure does the right hon. Gentleman's Department bring to bear upon the local authorities, and what is the nature of it? We all realise that a number of these schools has been on the black list now for something over 25 years, and nothing has been done.

The only form of pressure that can be put upon the local authorities is to point out the necessity of overcoming the problem. I have given them authority to get on with it, to the extent that materials and labour are available, and now that the limitation of having to get approval for work costing less than £5,000 has been taken off, the local authorities are at liberty to go ahead with the job.