Skip to main content


Volume 530: debated on Thursday 15 July 1954

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Service Families' Children

36 and 37.

asked the Minister of Education (1) what compensating facilities are offered to parents serving with Her Majesty's Forces to enable the education of the children of such parents to be equivalent in all respects to that offered to the children of other parents whose residence remains static;

(2) whether she is satisfied that the children of officers and men serving in Her Majesty's Forces have opportunities of education suited to their abilities and in no way worsened by the conditions of service of the parents.


asked the Minister of Education whether she has given special consideration to the educational problems presented by children of officers and men of the Royal Air Force, who are subject to frequent postings; and what action she proposes to take to enable these children to have the same opportunities as others.


asked the Minister of Education whether she is aware that the education of children whose fathers are serving in Her Majesty's Forces is often interfered with owing to postings; what is the size of this problem; and what steps she is taking to solve it.

I have no responsibility for children who are abroad with their parents serving with Her Majesty's Forces. Children who are in this country, with or without their parents, normally attend day schools in the ordinary way, but I recognise that the absence of parents abroad or frequent movements may cause special difficulties and local education authorities have power, in appropriate cases, to provide or help a child to obtain boarding education.

I am aware that the present arrangements do not always work satisfactorily and I am considering with my right hon. Friends who are responsible for the Services what improvements can be made.

While welcoming greatly that statement, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether she will take into special consideration local education authorities who have to bear a particular responsibility and burden in this direction? For instance, Bath has a considerable moving population in connection with the Admiralty, and certain counties, especially on the East Coast, where there are many airfields, have a similar burden.

Will the Minister bear in mind that serving men want for their children their rights under the 1944 Act, namely, adequate and separate primary and secondary education? And when she is considering this matter with the Service Ministers, will she look into the problem of our soldiers who are stationed in various areas of the country which do not provide such education?

Yes, I realise that. A great deal of the difficulty is over secondary education. In looking into these difficulties I will take account of the children of all who, because of their work, have to be moved frequently.

Comprehensive Schools


asked the Minister of Education if, in view of the small number of comprehensive schools under construction, she will take steps to encourage a greater number of local education authorities to provide such schools in order to offer parents and children a wider field of choice.

While I am prepared to sanction the building of some comprehensive schools, and I have already done so, I am not willing to press local education authorities to experiment with this form of secondary school in cases where they do not suggest it themselves.

Does the Minister agree that whereas 50 authorities are now building traditional grammar schools, only four authorities are building comprehensive schools—they are, of course, the best authorities in the country, such as Staffordshire, London and Coventry? Is she aware that her apparent partisanship in the matter is having a most unwholesome effect on authorities and is greatly resented in the country?

No, I would not say that. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that out of 146 local education authorities, 23 have included one or more comprehensive schools in their plans.


asked the Minister of Education in how many cases she has refused approval, wholly or partly, of local education authorities' plans for new comprehensive schools; in how many cases she has taken similar action in respect of grammar schools; and what are the grounds of her disapproval in each case.

Of 13 proposals made to me under Section 13 of the Education Act, 1944, for the establishment of comprehensive schools, I have deferred a decision on two, approved six in full and four in part, and refused approval to one because I did not consider it educationally advantageous.

The answer to the second part of the Question is, "None."

Does the Minister include in that statement the case of Eltham Hill and the more recent case of the Bec School? It has been widely published that she has disapproved of two schools in the London area. In view of her speech some weeks ago to London women Conservatives and the views that she then expressed, is the right hon. Lady aware that in the London area it is impossible to regard her views as unbiased towards this authority?

As to the question whether I have refused two proposals, I have stated that I have refused one. That is the enlargement of the Bec School by 1,500 places to accommodate 2,000. I refused that because I did not think it educationally advantageous and because I received objections from the borough council and from 8,116 people who had the statutory right to object. That is the only comprehensive school proposal which I have refused.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the decision that she has made with regard to the Bec School is resented by a very large number of people in South London and in my constituency? Is she aware that it is absolutely certain that, if an attempt were made to obtain another petition, more than double the signatures which she mentioned could easily be secured in favour of the Bec School being rebuilt and equipped as a proper comprehensive school?

The hon. Member has not quite understood. This was not a case of presenting a petition. As the hon. Member knows, when a local authority proposes to build a school or to close one it has to advertise the fact in the local Press. That advertisement includes the statement that 10 or more local government electors can send objections if they wish, as can also the managers and the governors of any school, This was not a case of a petition being prepared. These electors had a right to object.

Could the right hon. Lady say whether or not she has a settled view and policy against comprehensive schools, or for them? Secondly, if that is not the case, has she a settled view or predisposition to disagree with Labour local authorities and tries to upset their plans? Which is it?

I said that I have deferred a decision on two, I have approved six in full and four in part. The reason for approval of the four in part was that the entire school was not needed at present. I have refused only one. The decision must be that of the Minister, according to the Act. At the same time that I decided it was not, in my opinion, educationally advantageous to increase the Bec School to 2,000 and make it a comprehensive school, I approved the building of a new comprehensive school in Finsbury.

In view of the Minister's misleading reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

That is not the proper language to use in giving notice to raise a matter on the Adjournment. The proper phrase is, "Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply."

On a point of order. Are you now ruling, Sir, that to use the word "misleading" is an unparliamentary expression?

The hon. Member ought not to stretch my Ruling beyond its context. I say that in giving the customary notice to raise a matter on the Adjournment the proper expression is, "Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply."

On a point of order. The Minister's word has been imputed by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler). Ought he not therefore to withdraw the expression?

Perhaps the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) will leave that to me. A reply may be called misleading, without imputing that it is so intentionally, and I could not rule that word definitely out of order, but I am expressing the opinion—which I hope the House will understand—that in giving formal notice to raise a matter on the Adjournment it is better to stick to the traditional form and not to import argument.

School Transport (Distance Limit)


asked the Minister of Education if she will authorise local education authorities to waive the distance limit for the provision of transport for children going to school where road conditions involving heavy traffic or lack of footpaths make this desirable in the interest of road safety.

As I made clear in Circular 242 on 7th December, 1951, I am prepared to agree to the relaxation of the normal distance limits in particular cases, including cases of exceptional danger from traffic.

Surely the time has come when this economy circular should be withdrawn, or is the financial situation of the country still as desperate as it was 2½ years ago?

I am glad to agree with the hon. Gentleman that the situation is not as desperate as he knew, and we knew, it was 2½ years ago. At the same time, except where there is particular danger, we cannot relax the distances of two miles and three miles which were laid down in the 1944 Act and I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that the same arrangements were made by the previous Government.

Tennis Courts, Wokingham Secondary School (Use)


asked the Minister of Education whether the hard tennis courts at Wokingham Secondary School have been used for that purpose, by whom and for how long.

I am informed that, since the school was opened, the tennis courts have been used for about three-quarters of the school week during the spring and summer by the pupils for tennis, and that during the autumn and winter they are in daily use for netball. In addition, there are voluntary coaching sessions in tennis after school hours on four evenings a week.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the grass surrounds of these courts impose considerable restrictions on the use to which the land would otherwise be put, and in view of the great demand for capital expenditure on the improvement of other buildings, are not hard tennis courts and their surrounds an unnecessary expenditure in these days?

No, I do not think so. The tennis courts are laid out mainly on the normal hard playground and are an integral part of the school's provisions for physical education.

Over-Age Teachers (Employment)


asked the Minister of Education how many teachers over the age of 65 years are employed in maintained primary and secondary schools.

The number of teachers over the age of 65 employed on 31st March, 1953, the latest date for which figures are available, was 587.

Can the Minister say whether the number of teachers who remain on after the age of 65 is increasing or not?

Yes, Sir, the number is increasing. In March, 1951, there were 409; in March, 1952, there were 476; and I have given the number for March, 1954.

School Building (Supplementary Allocations)


asked the Minister of Education the amounts of supplementary allocations for minor capital work on school buildings requested by the local education authorities in Southampton, Southampton County, Portsmouth, Essex, Hertfordshire and West Sussex, respectively; and the amount granted in each case.

With permission, I will circulate the answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

Local Education AuthoritySupplementary Allocation for Minor Works Programme, 1954
Allocation RequestedAllocation Made
Southampton C.B.42,69013,600
Southampton County94,47040,000
Portsmouth C.B.28,8449,165
West Sussex25,00023,000

All-Age Schools, Wiltshire


asked the Minister of Education the number of all-age schools under the Wiltshire Education Authority; and what is the number of children over the age of 11 plus attending such schools.

In January, 1953, the figures asked for were 99 and 2,895 respectively. I have no figures yet for the number of children in January, 1954, but the number of all-age departments had been reduced to 83 by that date.

In view of the answer to Question No. 36 and the fact that there are many Service men stationed in Wiltshire, will the right hon. Lady give special attention to ensuring that Service men's children have the right to adequate, separate, primary and secondary education?

I want to see adequate, separate, primary and secondary education for all.

Howardian High School, Cardiff (Boy's Education)


asked the Minister of Education why she will not accede to the request of Mr. R. C. Gilkes, Sunnybank, Station Road, Radyr, Glamorgan, that his son be permitted to complete his education at the expense of the Glamorgan education authority at the Howardian High School, Cardiff, where the son has almost completed his second year, in view of the fact that Mr. Gilkes has undertaken to provide transport and the county education authority would be involved in no greater expense than if the boy should proceed to another school in the area of the county.

I do not consider it reasonable that the Glamorgan local education authority should be required to pay the Cardiff authority for providing education for Mr. Gilkes' son at a Cardiff school when a place is available for the boy in a Glamorgan school near to his home and he is at a stage in his school course at which a transfer may be made without detriment to his school career.

Is not my right hon. Friend's reply quite inconsistent with the spirit and, indeed, the actual wording of the 1944 Act? Is it not a fact that there is a place available in the Cardiff school for this boy, that he has already completed half his school education and that his father is prepared to take such steps as, would involve the county authority in no extra expense? Is it not a fact that if the father chooses to do as he suggests, he would not be committing any breach of the 1944 Act?

The 1944 Act does not lay down that children can necessarily be educated outside the local authority area in which they live. I would point out to my hon. Friend that in this case it would cost Glamorgan more. Glamorgan has a place in its own school and, therefore, there is no extra charge in taking the boy in, but if he is to be sent to school in Cardiff, Glamorgan would have to pay Cardiff for that place. I feel that I should not press Glamorgan to do that.

Dysentery Outbreak, Oldbury


asked the Minister of Education if she is aware of the outbreak of dysentery among children of certain schools in Oldbury; and if she will make a statement as to the cause.

I understand that out of 82 confirmed and 28 suspected cases of dysentery in Oldbury arising between 1st April and 10th July, 54 of the con- firmed and 25 of the suspected cases related to children of school age, chiefly from three schools. The infection has been identified as a common type and the outbreak has been mild in character. I am satisfied that the local health authority, in conjunction with the local school medical authorities, are doing all in their power to check the outbreak. It has so far not been possible to identify the original source of infection.

Will the right hon. Lady review the staffing arrangements that have been imposed by her Department on the school meals service to discover whether the economies which have been made are not a contributory factor to the outbreak of food poisoning in the school meals service in my constituency and elsewhere in the country?

There is no reason to believe that infection arose from meals or milk supplied to the school, but it has not yet been possible to identify completely the original cause of the infection. A short time ago a circular was sent to all authorities dealing with the school meals service, making suggestions for the improvement of hygiene in schools.