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Volume 481: debated on Thursday 30 November 1950

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1944 Act (Operation)


asked the Minister of Education when he intends to put into operation Part III of the Education Act, 1944.

It is my intention that Part III of the Education Act, 1944, should be brought into operation as soon as I can be sure that it can be effectively implemented. This will not be possible until the country's building position and the supply of teachers, particularly of women teachers, have improved to a sufficient extent to enable schools to remedy, within the period of time which would have to be specified under Section 71 (1) of the Act, whatever shortcomings in premises and staffing might be found.

Can my right hon. Friend say what action it is now competent for a local authority to take if His Majesty's Inspector's report on a particular independent school states that it is housed in totally unsuitable premises, and staffed by unqualified teachers?

The local authority can prosecute the parents for not providing education for the children suitable to their age and ability, as laid down in the Act.

Grammar School Places


asked the Minister of Education what steps he intends to take to see that local education authorities whose percentage of grammar school places is low make efforts to increase the percentage.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Grey), on 13th November.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the duty has been laid upon him by the Education Act of 1944 to ensure that there shall be a varied and comprehensive system of education in every local authority area? How can it be varied and comprehensive if there are not sufficient grammar school places?

It is also laid upon me to see that there are sufficient places for all children between the ages of five to 15 and the amount of building required to meet the increasing bulge in the age group makes it absolutely impossible to provide secondary schools and primary schools at the same time. As a consequence, 80 per cent. of the school building has to be in primary schools and to make up the difference required to give everyone the type of education required will need a great deal more expenditure in years to come.

School Building Programme


asked the Minister of Education whether places will be available for all the children of school age in 1953.

On present plans, the school building programme will provide in total the number of places required for children of statutory school age in 1953, but I can give no guarantee that there will not be temporary local shortages.

Does not that answer conflict very considerably with the speech the Minister recently made at Bristol, where he expressed great anxiety that throughout the country this target would not be met?

I do not remember making a speech recently in Bristol. I certainly have not given any figures anywhere in contradiction of this answer. What I did say somewhere, whether it was Bristol or not I do not know, was that in order that these figures should be met it was necessary that the local education authorities should get on with the programme.

School Meals And Milk


asked the Minister of Education the number in receipt of, and the cost of, free meals, free milk, cheap meals and cheap milk, in schools at the outbreak of the last war, and to the latest convenient date.

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

In view of the difficulties which have existed since the war, is it not fortunate that provision was made by legislation for all these matters by a Conservative Government before the war?

I only wish that more provision had been made by any sort of Government. It is the implementation that matters, not the legislation.

Following is the answer:
No. of pupils in grant aided schools receiving:—
1. Free midday meals111,000(a)310,000(b)
2. Midday meals on payment50,000(a)2,540,000(b)
3. Free milk560,0004,700,000(b)
4. Milk on payment1,940,000Nil
Cost to public funds in:—
1. 1938–1939:
Meals and Milk (1 to 4 above)£1·47 million (c)
2. 1949–1950:
(i) Meals (1 and 2 above)£27 million
(ii) Milk (3 above)£6·6 million
  • (a) Refer only to Public Elementary Schools: no record is available for Secondary Schools.
  • (b) Represent numbers recorded on a day in October, 1949.
  • (c) It is not possible to apportion this expenditure accurately between meals and milk.
  • 13.

    asked the Minister of Education what progress has been made to secure a supply of school milk to the 14 schools in Norfolk that have been without a supply during this term.

    A milk supply has been arranged for four of the 14 schools and every effort is still being made to find a supplier for the remaining 10.

    Is it not rather strange that in a county which is producing far more milk than ever before, and is sending it to other parts of the country, children in schools there should be without a supply of milk for no other reason than that there is not a supply in the immediate neighbourhood but there is a supply available further away?

    These children have had milk previously, and I am given to understand that the supplier has given up delivery and that the difficulty is one of obtaining a supplier at the price which is normally paid. The question of the price paid is a matter for the Ministry of Food.

    Could the Minister say whether the difficulty arises out of the recent changes made in milk distributing margins by the Minister of Food?

    No, I do not think so, but it is a question of the amount paid to the supplier for the milk.

    Surely this matter could have been settled before now in view of the fact that it has been known about since last July. That is surely time enough to produce a better result than 4 out of 14.

    It is strange that this difficulty should have arisen in only 10 schools out of the total number of schools in Norfolk. It seems to me that in this matter there is some reason in addition to that suggested.

    Film Strips


    asked the Minister of Education how far it is the policy of his Department to encourage local education authorities to lend film strips to independent and private schools.

    I think this is a matter which is best left to the discretion of local education authorities. I understand, however, that it is the general practice for schools of all kinds to build up their own libraries of film strips for use in teaching.

    Since the parents of children who are at independent or private schools help to pay for education in this country, surely the children at those schools should have the right to the film strips which are available in the hands of the local education authority? Will not the Minister make that clear to those local authorities which refuse?

    There is no objection whatever to these strips being used in any kind of school when they are available, but I would point out that it is customary for schools themselves to own and purchase their films.

    School Children (Foot Comfort)


    asked the Minister of Education whether there has been a recent survey on foot comfort among school children; and with what result.

    The importance of giving attention to the condition of children's feet at the time of medical inspection is increasingly recognised by local education authorities. Several have carried out special surveys in recent years. These have suggested that many foot defects are due to ill-fitting or otherwise unsatisfactory footwear.

    Can the Minister say whether it is possible for him to impress upon authorities and parents the great need there is for stronger boots for children?

    It is a question not of stronger boots but of correctly fitting boots. Education in this matter is needed among parents as well as children.

    Schools, Norfolk (Dental Treatment)


    asked the Minister of Education how many school dentists have been at work in Norfolk this term; and what proportion of the pupils are receiving dental attention.

    Five, Sir. I understand that nearly half the school population of the area are receiving regular dental inspection and treatment.

    Emergency treatment is available for the greater part of the other half, and where we can do so we are attempting to increase it.

    Can the Minister say whether there has been any response in Norfolk or elsewhere to the circular sent out three or four months ago from the British Dental Association, urging local groups of dentists to take part in this work on a part-time basis?

    There has been some response but I cannot, without notice, state to what extent.

    Examination Statistics


    asked the Minister of Education what are the percentages of children that passed from the primary schools to grammar and technical schools, respectively, for the country as a whole, the comparable figures for the City of Leeds, the county of Kent and the division covered by the North-West Kent Divisional Executive.

    As the answer contains a table of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

    Following is the answer:
    AreaSummer 1950
    Percentage of children from maintained primary schools offered grammar school placesPercentage of children from maintained primary schools offered places in secondary technical schools
    Leeds County Borough15·94·3
    North-West Kent Divisional Executive11·00·0


    1. In Kent children are transferred to secondary technical schools from secondary modern schools. The numbers thus offered places in secondary technical schools in 1950 give roughly comparable percentages for Kent and the North-West Kent Divisional Executive of 11·6 and 10·4.

    2. I have no exactly comparable figures for England and Wales, but in January, 1950, 20·6 per cent. of 13 year-old children holding free places in grant-aided schools were in grammar schools or grammar streams. The comparable percentage for technical schools and streams was 3·4.

    School Harvest Camps


    asked the Minister of Education whether, in view of the forthcoming discontinuation of school harvest camp schemes after 1951, he will consult with the National Farmers' Union to see in what ways pupils can be kept in contact with agricultural life and the educational benefit of those schemes preserved.

    I should be happy to be associated with the discussion of this question which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture proposes to hold with the National Farmers' Union.

    The Minister says that he will be happy to be associated with the discussion. Does he mean that he will be associated with it? Does he expect to be happy or not?

    Irrespective of the happiness, I shall be glad to be associated with it.

    University Students (Grants)


    asked the Minister of Education how many university students are now receiving State grants; and what are the maximum and the minimum grants paid to students.

    The number of university students receiving State grants is at present 24,266, including some 3,800 intending teachers. The standard figures of maintenance for holders of State awards are set out in Administrative Memorandum 332 of which I am sending my hon. Friend a copy. In addition allowances for wives and dependants are available for students under the further education and training scheme and for certain other older students.

    Can my right hon. Friend say how the number of students and the amount paid in grants compare with the pre-war figures?

    Teachers' Training Colleges


    asked the Minister of Education how many more men and women respectively, could be accommodated in existing training colleges for teachers, if suitable applicants were available.

    The general colleges are full. The colleges ofering housecraft training could take about 70 more women.

    Questions To Ministers

    The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

    7. M. JENNINGS,—To ask the Minister of Education if he is aware that the Durham County Council have sent out a circular to all teachers under their authority asking them to produce evidence of membership of a trade union by a fixed date or lose their employment; and what action he proposes to take.

    On a point of order. May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker? In view of the importance of the material of the Question No. 7 and the fact that the appearance of this Question, together with another one, on the Order Paper led you to decide not to permit a Private Notice Question on the matter, could the Minister answer Question No. 7?

    Certainly not. The Member who put down the Question was not here to ask it. That is his responsibility. It is not a point of order.

    Emigration To Canada


    asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what discussions he has had with the Canadian Government in regard to the fall in emigration from the United Kingdom to Canada in recent years.

    Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that he should initiate some discussions on this matter? I realise that it is primarily a matter for the Canadian Government, but is it not disadvantageous to this country that no action should be taken to speed up emigration?

    I agree with the hon. Member that it is really a matter for the Canadian Government to initiate. We should be happy to have talks with them on this subject if they wish to initiate them.

    Is not one of the great barriers to emigration the financial policy of His Majesty's Government? Until that is altered, which can only be done by this Government, can talks possibly begin?

    I take it that the hon. Member is referring to the limitation on the export of capital. That, of course, has had some effect, but I think it has not had a very great effect. I have, naturally, looked very carefully into that point. We should like to relax our controls as soon as possible, but I do not think that this limitation has had a very great effect on the numbers of emigrants to Canada.

    Has the Minister discussed that aspect of the problem with the Canadians? Surely the Canadian Government might give him a better founded view than the view which he himself has formed.

    I have discussed this matter with the Canadian authorities. I do not think that they disagree with what I have said.

    Is not one of the causes of the fall in emigration to Canada, the result of the general policy of the Government, which has resulted in people being so much happier at home than they used to be?