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Roman Catholic Schools (Cost)

Volume 485: debated on Thursday 22 March 1951

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asked the Minister of Education whether he will give an estimate of the total capital cost to the Roman Catholic community, to the Exchequer and to the local education authorities respectively, of carrying out the proposals contained in local education authorities' development plans for the improvement and replacement of existing Roman Catholic schools and for the building of new Roman Catholic schools to meet the anticipated increase in the number of schoolchildren.

As the answer contains a number of figures, and requires a somewhat lengthy and technical explanation, my right hon. Friend is circulating it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I can summarise the result by saying that the net initial capital cost to the Roman Catholics of bringing up to standard existing facilities for nearly 400,000 children is, on present standards and prices, estimated to be about £28,500,000. The contribution of the Exchequer and of the local education authorities to this work would amount to some £45 million.

The cost to the Roman Catholics of providing new school places for an additional 170,000 children is estimated to amount to just over £23 million. The local education authorities would be responsible for the provision of the dining and certain other facilities and this is estimated to cost just over £2 million, of which the Exchequer would carry its share by way of grant, most of it at the rate of 100 per cent.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the grave difficulties of the Church communities in meeting the demand which will be made upon them in this connection? While all connected with this problem are thankful to the Minister of Education and the Parliamentary Secretary, for what has been done in an administrative way, will everything possible be done to promote an agreed settlement which will ease the burden on the Church communities.

We are always prepared to come to any agreement which is possible under the terms of existing legislation. In reply to the earlier part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, I would point out that I do not think that this burden represents an impossible sum, bearing in mind the long period over which this expenditure will be spread and the fact that Exchequer loans will be available to help the Roman Catholics to meet the £28 million which I have mentioned.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that my hon. and right hon. Friends are in sympathy with the point of view expressed by the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) as to the difficulties experienced by the denominations? Would he agree, first, that any adjustment made within the framework of the existing settlement should be made in the interests of all denominations alike and not in favour of one particular denomination? I think we should all agree on that. Secondly, would he be ready at any time to hear representations from hon. Members on this side of the House in support of the point of view put by the hon. Member for Eccles?

Clearly, my answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question was in complete agreement with the point made by the right hon. Gentleman. Whatever can be done must be done for all denominations. In reply to the second part of the supplementary question, my right hon. Friend and myself are anxious at all times to get help in educational matters which, after all, call very much for a co-operative effort especially in this House. If the right hon. Gentleman will approach my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, no doubt any discussions which he suggests will be welcomed.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that no alteration is made in the 1944 settlement without agreement by all parties interested including the teachers?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, though this burden may or may not be an impossible one, it has turned out to be a good deal heavier than was envisaged when the 1944 settlement was made? Though I do not expect the hon. Gentleman to give an answer in response to a supplementary question on this matter, would he agree that there is a great distinction between keeping the essence of the settlement of 1944 and making detailed changes to meet changed circumstances which perhaps nobody foresaw at the time?

We have, in fact, made certain detailed changes, but it may be that they do not go as far as the bodies to which we refer would want us to go.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary take into consideration the difficulties which are now arising with local authorities because of the great influx of Irish people into large towns and cities,

Estimated Initial Capital Cost of Implementing Development Plan Proposals
Expenditure £000s

Share of initial capital cost to be met by:

"Maintaining facilities"New (additional) school places
Alterations to existing schoolsTransferred and rebuilt schoolsSubstituted schools and schools for displaced pupilsSpecial agreement schoolsTotal
Managers and Governors4,1507,40011,0755,75028,37523,150

*Local Education Authorities

Exchequer Grant to Managers and Governors4,1507,40011,07522,625

* Subject to grant aid from Ministry of Education.

The estimate assumes that all Roman Catholic schools will become aided or special agreement schools and that in general the development plan of the local education authority, even where it has not yet received my right hon. Friend's formal approval, represents the best practicable forecast of future educational needs. It should be remembered, however, that individual projects included in development plans require detailed consideration and approval when the time comes to carry them out, and the extent to which particular projects are eligible for grant under Section 102–104 of the Education Act. 1944. will depend on the circumstances at that stage.
The scope of the estimate is limited to the initial capital cost of building work. It excludes, for example, the cost of furniture and equipment, which is provided by the local education authority; any interest charges to be met by the managers or governors for loans raised to finance their share of the initial capital cost; and any sums accruing to the managers or governors from the sale of discontinued schools or from war damage payments.
The cost of the building work has been estimated on the basis of the current ceiling figures for net cost (£140 per place for most primary schools and £240 per place for most secondary schools). Allowance has also been made for external works, such as the construction of roads and paths on the site which are excluded in the calculation of net cost per place.
The local education authorities' contribution covers the provision of dining facilities, medical inspection rooms, playing fields, etc. The cost of this work, much of which is physically inseparable from the main building work, has been apportioned on the basis of percentage figures obtained from an examination of recent school building projects. In the case of special agreement schools the local education authority also contributes 50–75 per cent. of the capital cost of the rest of the building work.
It is impossible to forecast the length of time which it will take to implement completely proposal's in development plans; but the total expenditure given in the table is bound to be spread over a considerable number of years. Generally speaking, managers and governors of aided schools can apply for Exchequer loans in respect of their share of the expenditure included under the general heading of "Maintaining Facilities", such loans being available in normal cases for a maximum period of 30 years.
Once these capital costs had been met the only expense falling on the managers or governors would as in the case of existing aided or special agreement schools, be the cost of external repairs and of any further alterations which might be found to be necessary, and towards these they could expect a grant of 50 per cent. from my Department. All the other expense of maintenance, including the salaries of the teachers, would fall on public funds.

because Birmingham alone has 20,000 Irish people and the schools are so overcrowded that it is sometimes impossible to find accommodation?

I have always understood that the main export from Ireland into Great Britain has been not creamery products, but genius.

Following are the figures: