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Size Of Classes

Volume 496: debated on Thursday 28 February 1952

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asked the Minister of Education the number of classes of over 40 pupils, and of over 50 pupils, in January, 1951, and for January, 1952, respectively.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 20th February to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler).

Is the right hon. Lady aware that that answer was not very satisfactory and that her Circular 245 will mean that classes will increase in size and cause considerable overcrowding? Will she withdraw the Circular?

I do not know why the hon. Gentleman says that my answer was not very satisfactory. To whom does he mean it was unsatisfactory? It may not have been satisfactory to know that a year ago there was this enormous number of large classes. I quite understand that, and I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it was not satisfactory, but I am not to blame for that. Under the scheme, which I think is a better scheme, for the building of schools and the supplying of school places to which I have referred in Circular 245, I think there will be more chance of getting all the places that we require.

But is the right hon. Lady aware that Circular 245 will restrict school building, that it is condemned by such responsible people as Dr. Alexander of the Association of Education Committees, and that it will mean there will be serious overcrowding in 12 months to two years' time?

The Circular restricts construction to where it is needed. I found that there was too much building. There was £120 million worth of work under construction, and if new starts had been made we would have had an enormous amount of building under construction and no buildings finished.

Is not this increase due to the raising of the school-leaving age before there was an adequate number of teachers to cope with the additional children?

May I ask the right hon. Lady if 80 per cent. of the building under construction is for primary schools?

Of the £120 million worth of work under construction there were 400,000 school places in technical colleges, and some other work. It was to get the completion of those primary places that I stopped the start of further work until those places wanted during this year were completed.

No, Sir. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the Circular he will see that certain starts were stopped—as he said. A revised programme has now been brought out and the number of places which the right hon. Gentleman had told us he thought would be required at the end of 1953 in primary and technical schools is exactly the same as the number of places included in this programme.

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply I beg to give notice that I will endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment.