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Education

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 23 November 1961

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Abu Simbel Monuments

10.

asked the Minister of Education whether he will make a statement regarding the financial help which the United Kingdom is giving towards the international effort to preserve the 3,000 year old colossi at Abu Simbel.

Her Majesty's Government have already helped in the preservation of the Nubian antiquities by giving a special grant through the British Academy to the Egypt Exploration Society of£10,000 for each of the years 1960–61 and 1961–62. The Government are not at present contemplating any contribution from public funds to the appeal for the preservation of the Abu Simbel monuments.

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he is doing what he can to secure effective international co-operation over this matter?

It is very difficult. The response to an appeal for over 60 million dollars is not going well.

Is the Minister aware that since we debated this matter in the House, it has now become certain that, by a stupendous feat of engineering, the Abu Simbel monuments can be saved at a cost of something like 70 million dollars, of which our own contribution over nine years, if we gave it in proportion to the rest of the civilised world, would be under£3 million? While it may be difficult to make a grant like this in present economic circumstances, will the Government bear in mind that it would be a great contribution to improving the understanding between the West and the Middle East?

The amount required is four times U.N.E.S.C.O.'s annual budget, and there are so many children oat of school in Africa that I think it is not in scale.

Will the Minister endeavour to keep a sense of proportion? Is it not a fact that the great monuments of ancient civilisations all over the world are gradually falling into decay and being neglected? Is it not essential, when a new conception of the universe is coming before us, to preserve these relics of ancient glories? Will he not allow his heart to govern his head a little?

I agree with my hon. Friend that ancient monuments and objects of beauty ought to be preserved, but there is a scale of proportion here, too.

Road Safety

11.

asked the Minister of Education what further steps he has taken to increase road safety education in schools.

My Department has issued a revised pamphlet on "Safety Precautions in Schools" which contains a special chapter on road safety; and I have recently asked local education authorities to intensify their efforts to test and train child cyclists.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that Answer is rather more satisfactory than the Answer he gave to the preceding Question?

School Children (Reduced Fares)

12.

asked the Minister of Education if he is aware that owing to the increase in the school-leaving age parents of children in boarding schools at a distance from home are penalised by the fact that during the last year at school such children are not allowed to travel on British Railways at the reduced fares earlier available to them as schoolchildren, and if he will now consult with the British Transport Commission with a view to the introduction of reduced fares for children of school-leaving age.

If local education authorities consider that a child needs boarding education, they have power to help the parents with the travelling expenses as well as with the fees. I cannot interfere with the discretion of fare-fixing bodies to decide on fare concessions.

Does the Minister realise that this widow's dilemma, of which I have informed him, may deprive the boy of his last year at school, and will he consult the appropriate authorities with a view to avoiding that loss to the boy?

The authority is the Aberdeen authority. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman has some means of representing his case to them.

If the Minister dissents, as I imagine he does, from the view that transport is a social service—it is a means of conveying of people from place to place—will he have consultations with his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Labour to see whether the cost of transport from home to school, and from place of residence to place of employment, can be set against Income Tax?

Minor Works

13.

asked the Minister of Education how soon he expects some loosening of the temporary restrictions of minor works announced as a result of Circular 13/61.

The allocations announced under Circular 13/61 cover a period of eighteen months ending on 31st March, 1963. The allocations for the 1963–64 period will be decided next year, as part of the annual review of the public sector investment programmes.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this decision to put into eighteen months a smaller sum than is usually allocated for one year is having an extremely adverse effect on the moder- nisation of some of our older primary schools? When this present period of restriction is over, will he look into the question of giving some special assistance to these older primary schools and to those local education authorities which are trying to make special efforts in this direction?

Does not the Minister agree that the bad effects of this economy outweigh the saving made? This is a comparatively minor saving, which is causing enormous disturbance in education. Will the right hon. Gentleman see that it is restored earlier, and that the Treasury does not resort to its customary interference with our educational service?

The situation is not quite as bad as the hen. Gentleman thinks. We have freed from all control jobs under£2,000, which are now known as the "mini-minor jobs", and which add up to quite a lot of money.

Educationally Sub-Normal Children

14.

asked the Minister of Education how many educationally sub-normal children between the ages of 5 and 11 years at primary schools are receiving specialised teaching, and how many are not.

These detailed figures could only be obtained by making special inquiries from more than 22,000 schools. My right hon. Friend has recently collected information from local education authorities about their arrangements for providing special education in ordinary schools and proposes to consider whether more detailed examination of selected areas would be desirable.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that it is absolutely vital to know the size of the problem, particularly in the primary schools, because unless we know exactly how many children are backward it is very difficult to know what to do? Will he look into the matter more closely and see if he can institute an inquiry to find out how many children need this specialised type of education?

Yes, Sir. The matter is complicated by the wide range of degrees of backwardness which have to be taken into account. I will bear in mind what my hon. Friend says

15.

asked the Minister of Education whether he will institute an inquiry into the progress of educationally sub-normal children after they leave school at the age of 15 years.

A Working Party of the British Council for Rehabilitation is at present considering the needs of handicapped school leavers. It will assess to what extent those needs are being satisfactorily met, and make recommendations. An observer from the Ministry sits on the Working Party. When my right hon. Friend receives its Report, he will consider whether he should institute a special inquiry about educationally sub-normal children.

Do I understand from my hon. Friend that the educationally sub-normal are included in this inquiry about educationally handicapped children? Will he institute an inquiry iii the borstals and various other institutions throughout the country to discover how many of our children are educationally sub-normal?

Educationally subnormal children are included in the inquiry, and we are gathering together what information we can about the general size of the problem and its distribution.

Comprehensive Schools

16.

asked the Minister of Education if he will set up a small committee to carry out a nation-wide survey of comprehensive schools and report on their development, so as to assist local education authorities which are considering the establishment of such schools for the first time.

I agree with the view expressed in the recent report on London comprehensive schools that it would be premature to attempt a considered judgment on the success of this type of school. I have no evidence that local education authorities are unable to obtain advice in particular cases when they need it.

What I was asking for was not a considered judgment but a factual report which would be of benefit to local authorities, who are considering how to get rid of the 11-plus examination and may be unaware of the wide diversity of comprehensive schools which exist and the different techniques and methods being used? As they may also be unaware of the substantial success scored by many of them, would not such a factual report be of great benefit?

I do not see how such a factual report could be of value unless it went into all the circumstances and considered whether this type of school was as good or not as good as other types. That is a very difficult thing to do when they have not had long enough to establish themselves.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman will agree that, although it may be a difficult thing to do, it will be no more nor less difficult later? Valuations of this kind are always liable to be somewhat subjective. Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that, when a local authority embarks on an experiment of this kind, it means a very great deal of wasted time and effort if it has to rely on its own individual contacts to inquire of other local authorities precisely how they have done this, that or the other? The London survey is now two years old. There are schools in other parts of the country which could be treated similarly. Would the right hon. Gentleman please think about this matter again?

I agree with the London County Council against the hon. Lady. I do not think that such a report would be of use at this time.

Evening Institutes (Men Students)

17.

asked the Minister of Education why the number of men students attending evening institutes in 1960–61 has not reached the annual level of attendance attained between 1949 and 1952; and what steps he is taking to improve the situation.

The number of men students taking recreational courses fell in 1952–53 following an increase in fees. The figures are now almost back at the previous peak. Many vocational courses have been transferred to technical colleges, so that current attendances represent a notable expansion in adult education over recent years.

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not attribute the drop of 68,000 to cutting out ballroom dancing. Will he look at the Education Act, 1944, to see what his obligations are in the further education of adults and try to build up some of the work that was lost by the imposition of fees by the Government which has damaged further education in the last ten years?

Day Release

18.

asked the Minister of Education why the number of boys and girls aged between 15 and 17, released during the day for study, has declined since 1956–57; what percentage of that age group were day released in 1956–57, 1959–60 and 1960–61, respectively; and what steps he is taking to improve the situation.

The percentages for which the hon. Member asks were respectively 12·7, 10·9 and 11·9, but the number of students between 15 and 17 receiving day release rose by about 30,000 between 1956–57 and 1960–61. I hope that the proposals in the White Paper published this year will help to improve the situation, but the main obstacle is failure to appreciate the value of day release.

Is not this a further indication of the right hon. Gentleman's lack of grasp of this problem? If he cannot make county colleges compulsory, would not one way to help solve the difficulty be to ask local education authorities and technical colleges to appoint more organisers? If the right hon. Gentleman wants to deal with the matter on a voluntary basis, is it not necessary to provide the funds and the staff to get amongst industrialists?

The main cause of the trouble is that employers do not yet realise how valuable is day release.

When we last discussed this matter the Minister said that he was having discussions about it with employers and trade unions. When will he be in a position to come to the House and make a statement about those discussions?

When the study group on the difficulties of granting the right to young employees to claim release has finished its work. It is in discussion now.

Gypsies

19.

asked the Minister of Education if he will consider the establishment of special temporary all-age schools near caravan sites organised by gypsies and other travellers whose children are at present receiving no regular education.

It is for local education authorities to decide how best to provide for the education of nomadic children whilst they remain in the area. On both educational and economic grounds, attendance at a local school is generally the best arrangement.

I appreciate where the responsibility lies, but these are very special cases, with very limited numbers of applications in widely scattered parts of the country. If my right hon Friend could see his way to organising a special central pool of teachers with the necessary special experience, it would help the problem very greatly where it arises.

The difficulty is that the children move about. I think that my hon. Friend would agree that it is better to try to fit them into the schools which are in their area.

Does not the Minister recognise his responsibility here? Education is the key to solving a problem which is looked on by some as a scandal and others as a nuisance. Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise the unfairness when some of these children of 10, 11 or 12 years of age who cannot read or write are put into classes, which are already too large, with regular school children? Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that other countries have dealt with this problem by providing special classes in the areas of gypsy encampments? I have a letter from a headmaster which states:

"The problem of admitting gypsies to the school has been a constant worry for several years now".
Will not the Minister wake up to this great social evil?

It is for local authorities to provide education for the children in their area. In my experience, they do their best, but we must first know that the children are there.

Commercial Education

20.

asked the Minister of Education what proportion of the total expenditure of public money on education is spent on commercial education.

About 10 per cent. of the students in technical and commercial colleges who are working for recognised qualifications, are taking commercial courses, but I am unable to say how much of the public expenditure on education is attributable to them and to students taking commercial courses elsewhere.

Would my right hon. Friend agree that, in spite of the progress made in the past two years, there is still scope for a great deal of improvement in the facilities for commercial education? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that over the coming year probably the proportion spent on commercial education will increase?

Schools (Black List)

22.

asked the Minister of Education how many of the 2,828 schools placed on the Board of Education black list in 1925 are still in use today.

By 1938 the number of schools on the black list had been reduced to 871.

Since the war, local education authorities have submitted annually lists of the most important and urgent replacement and improvement projects they wished to do. These lists have always exceeded the investment totals that could be permitted, but I have little doubt that very few of the schools on the original black list have not either been closed or improved.

Would the Minister agree that that Answer is completely evasive? I should like to know the number of schools on the black list today. Surely he has means of ascertaining the number. If he cares to write to local authorities they will be able to supply him with the necessary information.

If we kept a list of this kind we should have to have the criteria, which were not very satisfactory before the war, and add to the list schools which were becoming obsolete.

As things are at present, it seems better that we should leave it to local authorities to determine their own needs.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman can reply to my hon. Friend's Question. It is not beyond his resources to give the number. Why cannot he give the number and an undertaking that the elimination of this black list is a priority?

I do not think that the black list as it was in 1938 is very relavant today, but I have no doubt that what the hon. Gentleman asks could be done.

Non-Teaching Staff (Pay)

24.

asked the Minister of Education if he will give approximate estimates of the percentages of non-teaching adult male employees of education authorities in England and Wales whose wages are based, respectively, on rates below£10 a week, between£10 and£12 a week, between£12 and£14, and over£14.

Authorities inform me of their total expenditure on the salaries and wages of non-teaching staff but not of the numbers employed either as a whole or in particular categories or at particular levels of remuneration. I cannot therefore make even the approximate estimates for which the hon. Member asks.

I was well aware that the Minister did not have the information. Without it, how could he make the statement, as he did last week, which gave the impression that these people will be getting around or towards£1,000 a year in the manner that the Prime Minister promised? Will the Minister explain how somebody earning about£12 a week, which, I understand, is the average wage in this case, can get up to£1,000 a year if wage increases are to be tied to a 2½per cent. annual increase in productivity when a 5 per cent. increase is required each year, starting this year, to fulfil the Prime Minister's promise?

I explained to the hon. Member last week that continuing Conservative Governments would achieve this.

Teacher Training Colleges (Married Women)

25.

asked the Minister of Education if he will publish a list of teachers' training colleges which at present provide day places for married women; and to what extent these courses are timed to enable married women with responsibility for children of school age to take advantage of them.

I am sending the hon. Member a list of 114 colleges. Nearly every general training college that admits women is ready to take married women and I am sure that they will do all they can to arrange convenient daily time-tables. College vacations more than cover normal school holidays.

Can the Minister, therefore, say over what proportion of the country the opportunity exists for married women living at home and who have responsibilities with young children to get day courses to train themselves as teachers?

The best answer I can give is that the hon. Gentleman should study the list of 114 colleges.