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Volume 649: debated on Thursday 16 November 1961

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Weekly Boarding Schools


asked the Minister of Education what plans he has for the development of weekly boarding secondary schools in country districts where at present transport difficulties prevent after school activities and interfere with homework.

I recognise how beneficial weekly boarding can be, but it is expensive to provide, and at present priority must in general be given to the provision of day school places.

Is the Minister aware that in some country districts the problem is becoming very acute? Is it not a good idea to plan ahead? Has he any plans? If so, what are they? Will he tell us?

If any local authority likes to submit a plan to me, of course I look at it. Where these weekly boarding schools exist—it is certainly so in my own county—they are of very great value. I hope that the time will not be too distant before we can do something about it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in respect of Wales some of Her Majesty's inspectors are very much concerned about the problem, especially in the upper forms of grammar schools? Can he be a little more flexible about it? Is he aware that some students are missing opportunities of adequate science-teaching, for example, because they have no arrangements of this kind?

Yes, Sir; I agree. I think that these will be a very valuable addition to boarding schools in these areas. That certainly is the case with the one in my own village. That is why I know about it. I hope that local authorities will submit some plans, but I cannot promise them priority.

Burnham Committee


asked the Minister of Education if he is aware that his refusal to accept the recent Burnham Committee award in full is detrimental to the negotiating machinery for the teaching profession which has been the accepted method of negotiating teachers' salaries for 42 years; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy this matter or to set up an alternative method of negotiations acceptable to the teaching profession.


asked the Minister of Education what proposals he has for maintaining the independent authority of the Burnham Committee.

I would refer the hon. Members to what I said in the House in the debate on the Address on 3rd November.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is a month since I put down the Question and that things have changed since then? Is he aware that the drastic action that he took against this delicate negotiating machine, the Burnham Committee, has created very bad feeling and amazement in the minds of the teaching profession? Is he aware that it has caused more friction in our education system than anything done hitherto? Is he also aware that confidence in the machine has been impaired? What steps is he taking now to restore that confidence, or is he going to build up another negotiating machine for the teaching profession?

I am now engaged in friendly discussions with both sides of the Burnham Committee, and I think the hon. Gentleman would be well advised to allow me to get on with the talks.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the manner in which he cut the agreed award and then threatened the teaching profession with legislation if it did not accede to his cut has undermined the profession's confidence in him? May we take it from his reply that he will now begin sensible negotiations and will not treat the profession to further blackmail and bludgeoning?

It can hardly be called "threatening the profession" when I told it that if I did not bring in the Bill it could not have the £42 million.

In view of the enormous harm done in the profession, will the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that there will be further and satisfactory consultations with the parties to the Burnham Committee and that he will not introduce any legislation before he has made a statement to the House about the result of those consultations?

I can give the first assurance that the hon. Gentleman asks for. I should say that the second will probably follow, but we must see how we get along.



asked the Minister of Education in respect to the gypsies and other travellers living in caravans in a place in north-west Kent, details of which have been sent to him, how many children of school age were not attending school at the latest convenient date; how many were refused admittance to local schools; and what action is being taken to ensure that the children receive education services in accordance with the statutory obligation.

Thirty-nine children living in Darenth Woods were recently found not to be attending school. Twenty-two children were presented without notice at Stone Church of England Primary School on 6th November but could not be admitted on the spot. The Kent Local Education Authority is taking steps to accommodate in suitable classes those children who are not already in a school.

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain when these suitable classes are to start? Is he aware that the people who live there are threatened by the local authority, which says that when it has bought the land it will have them turned off in seven days? Also, will he explain why, since the people have been there so long, the education authorities did not get the children to go to school before I spoke to the people and advised them to send their children to school?

The hon. Member's interest in the gypsies is very well known, and I am glad that he has found these children. I have written to him about the circumstances and about placing them in schools. I really think that the Kent Education Authority does its best when it knows that the children are there.


asked the Minister of Education if he will request all local education authorities to supply him with details of the number of children of gypsies and other travellers, of school age, living in caravans, shacks or motor vehicles in England and Wales, not attending schools, and of how many, who have reached eight years of age, who have never registered for or attended school.

The figures which the hon. Member asks for would soon be out of date. Local education authorities try to make the best arrangements they can for such children whey they can trace them.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that there is a statutory obligation about all children going to school? Is he aware that other countries have provided special schools for such children and that we are the worst country in the world in dealing with them? I shall produce evidence of that in our debate on 1st December.

I do not think that any local authorities knowingly fail in their statutory duty to provide suitable education for nomadic children, but they must first know that the children are in their area.

Classes (Size)


asked the Minister of Education how many classes in primary schools have more than 40 and more than 50 pupils, respectively.

In January, 1961, 18,244 classes in primary schools had more than 40 pupils. Included in this number are 131 classes with more than 50 pupils. These figures represent, respectively, 14·3 per cent. and 0·1 per cent. of classes in primary schools.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is a rather staggering and disgusting figure? Does he not also agree that in the main the children who are in large classes are in working-class areas and that they are the very children who ought to be getting privileges instead of treatment of this kind? How soon does the right hon. Gentleman think he will be able to alleviate this dreadful problem?

I feel with the hon. Lady that we must do all we can to alleviate the problem, but she knows as well as I do that in the year of intermission we shall not be able to do very much.

Teachers (Married Women)


asked the Minister of Education what facilities at present exist to enable married women with responsibilities for children of school age to train themselves as teachers.

The eight day colleges, of which six have opened this year, have 1,700 places and are intended for older students, particularly married women. Married women can also take advantage of some 2,300 day places for women in the colleges which are primarily residential.

Will the right hon. Gentleman see whether these facilities are available as widely as they could be? Is it not clear that the shortage of teachers is likely to last for a very long time? In the light of the figures he has given of over-sized classes, should we not tap the reservoirs which exist in many areas, where married women with young children would, if the facilities were available, be prepared to train as teachers. Will he expand these facilities?

We have begun by setting up these colleges in areas of most concentrated population. If they are a success, I hope that we shall be able to go further.

Technical Colleges And Schools


asked the Minister of Education how many technical colleges and schools there are in Great Britain; what is the number of students attending them; how many are in course of construction; and how many are planned.

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

Has the right hon. Gentleman any hope to give to the House that we shall catch up on the present serious leeway we have lost to other countries? I think I am right in saying that we have about one-third of the number of full-time technical students which France has. Is the right hon. Gentleman's programme designed

England and WalesScotlandTotal
Number of establishments76192853
Number of students attending these establishments in the 1959–60 session:—
(a) Full-time112,76812,549125,317
(b) Sandwich10,038


(c) Part-time501,00335,609536,612
(d) Evening784,58452,696837,280
Number of projects included in major further education building programmes where construction is in progress12618144
Number of projects approved under further education building programmes up to and including 1962–63 on which work has not yet started21725242

* No separate figures in respect of sandwich students are available for Scotland. Few such courses are now available and virtually all students are attending three-term full-time courses.

(a) Maintained secondary technical schools232
(b) Direct grant secondary technical schools5
Number of students at (a) at January, 196197,039
Number of students at (b) at January, 1961838

* There are no comparable schools in Scotland, where technical education forms part of the general secondary curriculum.

Non-Teaching Staff (Pay)


asked the Minister of Education whether he will take steps to ensure that the wages of school care- to put us at least on a par with other European countries?

I cannot accept the comparison with France, because any comparison would depend on the kind of courses one is comparing. The present programme is about £100 million in England and Wales and £19·4 million in Scotland, and about one-third has been completed. The programme is a large one, but I am not denying that it may be possible to go faster in certain areas.

Do my right hon. Friend's figures include extensions to existing technical colleges as well as new ones?

They include what are known as major projects, some of which are extensions.

Following is the information:

takers and other non-teaching staff employed by local authorities are so increased as to ensure that they will be earning not less than £1,000 a year in 1971.

School caretakers and other non-teaching staff may be expected to share in the benefits of the economic growth which will result from the financial and economic policies of Conservative Governments over the period to 1971.

In view of the fact that the increase that will have to be given to them in order to achieve this figure which the Prime Minister has promised them will be in the region of 5 to 6 per cent. a year, when will they begin to get the increases, and bow does the right hon. Gentleman expect to influence the wages settlement machinery so that they can reach this figure, promised by the Prime Minister, by 1971?

This is an interesting point. The basic wages for full-time caretakers range from £9 16s. a week in a small rural school to £16 4s. a week in a large school in a city, and that is with no overtime. I think we might get there.

Further Education (Women Students)


asked the Minister of Education to what causes he attributes the slow growth since 1952 in the number of women students attending part-time day courses in establishments of further education; and what steps he is taking to increase the number of such students.

I attribute this disappointing growth to the fact that employers have not yet appreciated the benefits of giving day release for continued education. Rather more teenage girls than boys take full-time courses in colleges of further education.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the Conservative Government's policy of imposing much greater fees on students in part-time evening institutes caused the drop from 815,000 in 1950 to 670,000 and 674,000 in successive years? The figure has now only reached 683,000. Would that explanation not be nearer the mark?

When the fees were raised there was a great falling off in ballroom dancing, but the number of students attending vocational courses went up.