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Education

Volume 531: debated on Thursday 29 July 1954

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Physical Recreation (Encouragement)

1, 2 and 3.

asked the Minister of Education (1) what steps she is taking to encourage and develop the game of association football; and what grants she has made to voluntary bodies in this connection;

(2) if she will make a full statement on what action she intends taking to encourage physical fitness and sport of all kinds;

(3) if she will call a conference of representative people interested in sport in order to receive suggestions and advice for future action.

Physical education forms part of the curriculum of all schools and of a great many establishments of further education. According to their age and sex children take part in a wide variety of games or sports, which will usually include association football for boys. Local education authorities also use their powers under Section 53 of the Education Act, 1944, to provide other facilities for physical training and recreation.

I make a substantial grant to the Central Council of Physical Recreation, which has close contacts with governing bodies of most national sports' organisations and which advises me on needs generally. I see no reason to call a conference or to suggest a change in our ways of encouraging young people to keep fit.

Will the Minister reconsider her answer in the light of the debate that took place last night and the excellent reply made by her Parliamentary Secretary? Will she consult her leading officials and then consider what action to take?

I shall certainly consider the debate that took place last night, and also the excellent speech of my hon. Friend.

12.

asked the Minister of Education whether, in view of the extent of juvenile crime, she will take steps to facilitate the provision of more courses, on the now well-tried principles of the Outward Bound schools, to divert the young into the interesting and healthy channels which they provide.

I regret that I cannot add to the answer given to my noble Friend by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on 8th July.

Bearing in mind the gap between the school-leaving age and the time of call up, does not my right hon. Friend think that a considerable extension of the type of training that is provided by the Outward Bound schools would have a tremendous effect not only in reducing juvenile crime but in diverting some of the activities of the "Edwardian" groups?

The work that the schools are doing is excellent. I would remind my noble Friend that it is open to local education authorities to assist young people attending these courses and that their expenditure in this respect ranks for grant. I believe that local education authorities generally are aware of the work those schools are doing, and that it needs no further recommendation from me, but if it does I certainly say again in this House what tremendously good work they are doing.

Would the right hon. Lady specify what organised efforts are being made outside school hours to divert young people's minds into constructive channels?

I think there are a very great many of them, such as through youth club schemes and further education. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would like details of any particular branch of these activities perhaps he would put a Question on the Order Paper.

Obsolete Schools (Rebuilding)

4.

asked the Minister of Education whether, in view of the fact that she proposes to bring Part III of the Education Act, 1944, into operation about 1957, she will ensure that, by that date, obsolete schools which have been on the black list since 1926 will have been rebuilt.

No, Sir. I cannot say precisely what progress will have been made by 1957 in dealing with unsatisfactory school buildings.

When does the Minister mean to modify Circular No. 245 so as to allow local authorities to get on with the rebuilding and rehabilitation of very old schools?

I think I made the position clear in the debate on Monday. Children are going from old buildings into new schools. In fact, one in six of all the children are now in schools that have been built since the war. That process is continuing. We shall have fewer children in the bad schools and will get to the stage in which we shall be able to pull down the old schools when we have sufficient new ones for the children to go into.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that old buildings do not necessarily mean bad schools?

Playing Fields

6.

asked the Minister of Education when she expects to be able to lift the ban on the development of playing fields imposed in 1952.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary gave her on 22nd July.

7.

asked the Minister of Education how many schools in Stoke-on-Trent have no playing fields; how many have school yards inadequate for organised games; and how many of these are primary and how many secondary modern schools, respectively.

Catering Training Facilities, South-West Region

8.

asked the Minister of Education if she is aware of the urgent need for a catering training school in the South-West region of England to meet the needs of the catering industry; and whether she is now prepared to give her consent to the inclusion in the 1955–56 education building programmes of such facilities.

15.

asked the Minister of Education what proposals she has received for providing a catering unit at Torquay Technical College to serve the South-Western counties; and what decision she has taken in this matter.

I am aware of the need for better facilities for catering education in this region, but as I have explained to the Devon local education authority, I cannot at present approve a proposal which involves substantial new building.

May we take it that it is only a temporary embargo on the provision of these facilities? Is the right hon. Lady not aware that her Department not only sanctioned the proposals but, I am advised, set aside money to carry them through? Does she realise the urgency of this need in South-West England, in which the catering industry is a basic industry?

I quite agree that we want to have better facilities for catering instruction, but we have certain urgent priorities in the building of technical colleges. The priorities are engineering, mining, textiles and building. However, I have suggested to the Devon authority that although it cannot put through its bigger project at the present time we should meet to discuss how its more pressing needs could be met by a relatively small project.

Will the right hon. Lady bear in mind that this is intended to be a regional unit for the whole of the South-West? Will she remember that the tourist industry is one of the most important in the South-West, particularly in Cornwall and in my constituency, Falmouth and Camborne? If the Treasury is blocking the way to this much needed extension of the buildings will she ask the Chancellor to remove his embargo quickly?

I do not think I can add to what I have said, and the hon. Gentleman will not disagree with me about the importance of mining, as well as catering, in his constituency.

Will my right hon. Friend, now that the Government's policy has progressed so much, use her influence with other Ministers who are in favour of amending this circular so that there can be better training for this great dollar-earning industry in future?

I think that we must keep the priorities, and that the other Ministers and the House will agree that the four priorities we have in the types of technical education must come first.

Meals And Milk Service

9.

asked the Minister of Education whether she is aware that children who receive education in premises specially sanctioned under the Education Act, 1944, by reason of the fact that they receive education otherwise than at school, are ineligible to receive meals and milk service afforded to other children; and whether she will take whatever steps are necessary to put an end to this anomaly.

Yes, Sir. Local education authorities have power to provide milk and meals only for children who are in attendance at school. Legislation would be required to change this position.

Will my right hon. Friend consider introducing legislation in view of the extreme importance of children receiving adequate meals? It is not more important that they should get adequate meals than that we should be put to a little trouble to amend or remove regulations that prevent them from having them?

The children who go to the schools do, of course, get milk and meals. At present, I cannot ensure legislation could be brought in to deal with these particular groups of children.

Is there no limit to the activities and, therefore, to the expenditure of the taxpayers' money in my right hon. Friend's Department?

Yes. I think the fact that there is a limit has been brought out in several debates and answers to Questions. I should like that limit to be as high as possible, and, perhaps, even higher than it is.

Modern Secondary Schools, Bristol

11.

asked the Minister of Education how many classes there are in the modern secondary schools in Bristol with over 30 pupils; to what extent the overcrowding is due to a shortage of teachers or accommodation; and if she will now agree to grant the number of schools requested by the local committee for the coming year.

There were 263 such classes in January, 1954. The Bristol education authority would require both more teachers and more accommodation to enable it to reduce to 30 the size of classes in its secondary modern schools. I have included in the authority's 1955–56 building programme and its reserve list all the projects designed to provide additional secondary school places for which they asked.

In view of the serious position in Bristol, will the Minister now consider reversing her previous decision to reduce the number of schools required by the education authority from 10 to seven? Will she help the local authority by granting money for the three schools?

As I pointed out, I have included in the authority's 1955–56 building programme and its reserve list new secondary schools designed to provide accommodation for about 2,750 children.

Is it not a fact that the Minister reduced the number of schools required by the local authority last year from 10 to seven and now, in 1955 to 1956, she is restoring the number to 10?

Bristol is carrying out an enormous building programme. It is building practically everything it possibly can and, in 1955–56, will be building to accommodate an extra 2,750 secondary school children.

Bec Grammar School, Wandsworth

13.

asked the Minister of Education why she has refused to permit the London County Council to proceed with its development plan for Bec Grammar School and secondary education in that area.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson), on 15th July last.

Is the Minister aware that that answer means that she is the sole arbiter of what is educationally advantageous to children, that it means that she has the right to flout the decisions of local education authorities, and that in this she is behaving like a French minister of education and not a British Minister of Education?

I am rather surprised that the hon. Gentleman, who knows so much about the Education Act, 1944, did not look it up before making those remarks. If he will look at Section 13 he will see that although a local authority may propose closing or opening a school the responsibility for the decision is the Minister's. I am also surprised that the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members opposite should talk of the flouting of the opinions of local authorities by Ministers, when in their own statement of their future policy, they say they will insist on comprehensive schools in all parts and tear up, I presume, more than 140 development plans.

Minor Capital Work (Allocations)

14.

asked the Minister of Education why, when Southampton local education authority asked for an allocation of £42,690 for supplementary allocations for minor capital work on school building, only £13,600 was allocated for that purpose.

I made this allocation, as a supplement to the authority's basic allocation of £17,775, after taking into account the size of its major school building programme, its need for additional school places and the relative urgency of the need for the improvements which it wished to carry out.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that this reduced allocation is preventing the local authority from carrying out some very necessary and urgent work on the schools, particularly on improving sanitation? Will she be a bit more generous the year after?

I would point out that the total allocation for minor works has been £31,375, and, in addition to any extra places provided, there will he about £15,000 for improvement.

28.

asked the Minister of Education the total amount requested by local authorities in the last financial year for minor capital work; and how much was approved.

29.

asked the Minister of Education how much of the money allowed for minor capital work in the last financial year was used for extensions.

£2·1 million out of the allocation to local education authorities in 1953–54 for minor works.

I am not quite clear why the right hon. Lady is now able to answer this Question when she was not able to give me an answer to Question No. 28. This Question is consequential upon Question No. 28. How, therefore, is she able to give me one answer without the other?

If the hon. Lady will look at the two Questions, she will see that in Question No. 28 she asked me to give the total amount requested by local authorities in the last financial year for minor capital work and how much was approved; and, in Question No. 29, she asked me how much of the money allowed for minor capital work in the last financial year was used for extensions. The first figures I cannot give her immediately, but I will let her have them in writing.

Boy, Midsomer Norton (Technical School Entry)

16.

asked the Minister of Education why Michael Sandells, of Drill Hall Cottage, Steam Mills, Midsomer Norton, Somerset, was refused entry to a secondary technical school on the grounds that the Somerset County Education Authority did not consider him suitable, although he was top of his form, passed all his tests, and the said authority did not interview him.

Boys, Durham (Corporal Punishment)

17.

asked the Minister of Education whether her attention has been called to the action of Mr. Oliver Whitfield, of the Secondary Modern School, Durham, who caned 200 boys because he was unable to discover a misdemeanour alleged to have been made by one of them; whether such mass corporal punishment of children has her approval; and whether she will issue instructions for the dismissal of this headmaster for punishing 199 innocent boys.

I have seen reports of the incident in the Press. Disciplinary matters of this kind are within the discretion of the headmaster and of the local education authority, and I would not wish to intervene. In any case, I have no power to require the dismissal of the headmaster.

Is the right hon. Lady aware of the statements made by the Home Secretary on this question of punishment a few days ago, when he said:

"… the two requirements of natural justice that have gone back to the beginning of civilisation are that a person who may be punished should know what the complaint is against him and that he should be given an opportunity to meet it. That is the basis of the rule of law throughout the ages."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 1292.]
Was either of those conditions fulfilled in the case of any one of these 200 children? Is this not a gross abuse of the ordinary custom of justice which is being denied to these children and has not the right hon. Lady the responsibility of safeguarding their rights? What action does she intend to take to prevent this gross abuse of justice?

Without expressing an opinion whether there was justice or not, I can only repeat that I shall not interfere with the duty and responsibility of the local authority and the headmaster.

Is the Minister aware that the parents in this district are not complaining, and that it would be an advantage if my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Peter Freeman) would leave the teaching profession alone for a while? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Is the Minister further aware that the discipline of this school can only suffer from the publicity given to a Question of this sort?

New Secondary School, Cippenham

18.

asked the Minister of Education if she will authorise the building of a new secondary school at Cippenham, Slough, during 1955–56.

I hope that, following discussion with the Buckinghamshire local education authority, it may be possible to include this project in the reserve list to their 1955–56 school building programme.

While expressing appreciation of the Minister's consideration of this problem, as there will be 1,000 children in this school at the end of 1956 and the school is built for only 540, may I ask whether she will give urgent consideration to the request for a new school?

I cannot say anything precise at this stage. We are still in discussion about the reserve list. In the main programme settled for 1955–56 there are four secondary and four primary schools at an estimated cost of £631,000. An enormous programme is being undertaken. I know that the school is wanted urgently.

School, Bacton-Mendlesham

20.

asked the Minister of Education when the proposed central school in the Bacton-Mendlesham area of East Suffolk will be built; and on what approximate date it is anticipated that it will be ready for use.

I have received no proposals from the local education authority for the inclusion of this proposed school in an early building programme.

In view of that rather distressing reply, will my right hon. Friend take as much action as possible with county authorities to see that these schools are built in the rural areas and allay the fear of parents that children who are sent into small towns become urbanised?

Yes, I think that what I said in the debate last Monday will show my hon. and gallant Friend that that is my desire. That is why I have been anxious to retain the village schools. We are getting a further programme of secondary schools.

Circulars 242 And 245

21.

asked the Minister of Education when she expects to be able to withdraw Circulars 242 and 245 and to restore the freedom which local education authorities enjoyed prior to these circulars being issued.

These Circulars will continue in force so long as the national financial situation requires. I do not accept the implication of the last part of the Question.

Is the education service to be the last to find any relief under the apparent prosperity which the Government claim to have restored?

The financial position is very much better, as the hon. Gentleman has said, thanks to the work of this Government. If he will look at the Estimates and the amount of building work that is being done, he will see that, thanks to the improvement, we are able to spend more on education and, I think, get better value.

School Building Programme

22.

asked the Minister of Education what protests she has received from the Welsh Joint Education Committee concerning the school building programme in Wales; and what reply she has sent.

I have been informed that the Welsh Joint Education Committee wish to discuss with me the question of educational building programmes in Wales and Monmouthshire. I hope to arrange a meeting at a convenient date.

Is the Minister aware that I should like to be there? Is she further aware that there is trouble on the way and that the Welsh local authorities are saying many things before they reach her office? Does she not realise that the best way to peace is to meet the requests of these authorities?

The hon. Gentleman said that he would like to be there. Perhaps he will communicate his desire to the Welsh Joint Education Committee. As to what these people say before they reach me, perhaps when they have heard what I have to say they will go away saying something different.

23.

asked the Minister of Education how far local education authorities are permitted to decide their own priorities with regard to the selection of what new schools shall be built in their areas.

Each year I invite local education authorities to list in order of priority the projects they wish me to include in the following year's programme and its reserve. I exclude from this list only those projects which fall outside the categories of work allowed by Circular 245, or which could without damage be deferred to a later programme, or which cannot reasonably be expected to start during the period. This, of course, is normally done in consultation with the authority.

Is the Minister aware that publicity has been given in the educational Press to a local authority in whose area No. 1 priority has been given to a school for a term of years, and that this has been crossed out by the Minister who has given priority to another school? Does she think that the woman in Whitehall knows best?

I do not say that the people in Northamptonshire who drew up that list necessarily knew best, for this reason. The school that was listed was chiefly for reorganisation and, therefore, did not come under the provisions of Circular 245. That particular school has now been put into the reserve list because, I think, by 1958 there will be more children coming to the school, and that is the date when it is required. The other schools are for more children who will be coming there before that time.

24.

asked the Minister of Education to what extent schools included in the reserve list for one year are included in the actual building programme for the following year.

If I put a new school project unconditionally in a reserve list, authorities can assume that it will be included in the following year's main programme unless there has been a marked change in circumstances or they satisfy me that alternative arrangements can be made to accommodate the children.

Does that mean that the proposed new school at Newton Hyde, which the Minister placed in the reserve list for 1954–55, will definitely be in the building programme for 1955–56?

I would have to refresh my memory about the school to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

New School, Trimdon

25.

asked the Minister of Education what consideration is being given to the representations made to her by the hon. Member for Sedgefield for the building of a new school at Trimdon village; and whether this school is to be commenced in the 1954–55 programme of the Durham County Council.

I cannot finally settle the Durham authority's school building programme for 1955–56 until I receive the further information from it for which I have asked. Meanwhile, its proposal to build a new infants' school at Trimdon has been included in the reserve list for that programme.

Who is responsible for determining the order of priority? Is it the right hon. Lady's Department or the county council? Is she aware that the parents in this area, which is a development area, are concerned at the number of accidents which have taken place on the highway which adjoins this new estate, through children having to travel to other parts of the district?

I have just informed the hon. Gentleman that the programme is not settled because I have asked for further information. When I get that further information I will consider the whole matter.

Gateshead

26.

asked the Minister of Education how far the county borough of Gateshead was permitted to select the type of schools to be built in its area in its latest building programme.

The Gateshead local education authority listed three secondary schools in order of priority for inclusion in its 1955–56 school building programme. I included the first in its main programme and an instalment of the second in its reserve list, and deferred the third.

Is the right hon. Lady not aware that this local authority has pressed for permission to be allowed to build a Roman Catholic grammar school in Gateshead and that she gave me an assurance some time ago that she hoped to go as far as possible in increasing the number of grammar school places in Gateshead? Is this not the wrong way to carry out her assurances?

No, I do not think it is. I think it is right to increase the number of secondary school places. Work on the new school which was started in March, 1953, will provide for about 700 children. The authority already has under construction a secondary school which will double the number of places in the maintained grammar schools. The third school was, I know, for Roman Catholic children, but arrangements are being made for the authority to take up a number of places in Roman Catholic independent and direct-grant schools. At present, it has 29, but it is to increase that number this August.

Small Trusts (Rural Parishes)

27.

asked the Minister of Education whether she will give an assurance that the many small trusts founded to further the betterment and education of children in rural parishes will be protected and the trustees encouraged, where necessary, to find new ways of carrying out the intentions of their founders rather than that the funds should be controlled centrally or merged into county founds.

I cannot give an assurance that I will not in any circumstances make use of the powers given me by Parliament under Section 2 of the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1948, but it is my policy to help the trustees of individual educational charities to play a useful rôle wherever possible.

While thanking my right hon., Friend for that partial assurance, may I ask whether she can tell us whether she has torn up the proposals made in the days of her predecessors for looting these endowments in many counties? I should like to think that she has.

I do not know anything about looting in the time of any of my predecessors or in the time that I have been at the Ministry of Education.