Skip to main content

Education

Volume 650: debated on Thursday 30 November 1961

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

Pamphlet (Schools And The Commonwealth)

1.

asked the Minister of Education what steps have been taken to circulate Pamphlet No. 40, Schools and the Commonwealth, throughout schools in the United Kingdom; and with what results.

Copies of Schools and the Commonwealth were sent to local education authorities in England and Wales and a notice about the pamphlet was sent to all independent and direct grant schools. Similar action was taken by the Scottish Education Department. Local education authorities have drawn the attention of their schools to the pamphlet. Her Majesty's Inspectors tell me that, compared with three or four years ago, schools are showing an increased interest in the Commonwealth.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that Answer. Can he assure us that his Ministry and the inspectors, in particular, will take every opportunity open to them to encourage an understanding and awareness of the Commonwealth among the schools? Can he also tell us whether this pamphlet has been sent to any other Commonwealth countries?

Yes, Sir, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. We think that this is a most important task. I personally sent a copy to each High Commissioner in London and copies also went to education departments in all Commonwealth countries. I have been assured that they have been very well received, and I hope before long to hear that they have actually been put into use.

Can the Minister assure us that every encouragement is being given in the schools to inform children of the backgrounds of Commonwealth citizens who come to this country to work or study?

Secondary Modern Schools (Gce Examination)

2.

asked the Minister of Education how many secondary modern pupils, from how many schools, were entered for the General Certificate of Education examinations this year; how these figures compare with those for the last three years; and what outstanding and average results were achieved.

This information will be available next spring when I will send it to the hon. Member.

Russian Language

3.

asked the Minister of Education how many students passed the General Certificate of Education A level in Russian during 1960; how many students at technical colleges are currently studying Russian at an advanced level; and how many teachers are now available to teach Russian at the General Certificate of Education O level.

The answer to the first part of the Question is 120. The two other figures asked for are not available. Returns obtained by the Committee on the Teaching of Russian show that about 300 further education establishments in England and Wales offer courses in Russian and about one in six of these has advanced classes. There are some 270 teachers of Russian in schools and about 330 in further education establishments, though there is some overlap between the two figures.

Is there not a great discrepancy between the number of 120 students taking advanced courses in Russian and that of 6,000 who pass in Latin and Greek? Ought not something to be done to bring the matter into focus? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider setting up an institute of Russian studies, or something of that sort, since we seriously lag behind in the study of this language and subjects associated with it?

I expect to receive the report of the Committee under Mr. Noel Annan on the teaching of Russian in schools and establishments of higher education during the first three months of next year, and I certainly expect that I will take action on its recommendations.

Is the right lion. Gentleman aware that when the Prime Minister made his last visit to Moscow he asked the rector of the university there how many students were at the university and that the answer was 10,000, and when he asked how many were learning English he was told that all of them were? Is there not something wrong when we are doing so little to encourage the study of Russian while the Russians are making such advances in the teaching of English?

I agree that we shall have to do more, but it is much easier for other countries to make the choice of the second language because English presents itself as the obvious choice.

Playing Fields And Sports Facilities

4.

asked the Minister of Education how many local education authorities allow full use of their school playing fields and sports facilities to local youth organisations, how many allow restricted use, and how many allow no use at all; and if he will name those in each category.

The extent of shared use has to be arranged locally in the light of varying circumstances and it cannot be presented in statistical form. Authorities know that I am anxious that the fullest possible use should be made of school playing fields and other sports facilities.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and welcome his announcement that he supports such arrangements. Is he satisfied that all local authorities are making their sports facilities available to responsible local youth organisations? if there is a substantial number which are not, can he say what he proposes to do about it?

If I were informed that a local authority was against shared use on principle, I should most certainly make representations.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind in any action he takes in response to the supplementary question of the hon. and learned Member that there is a maximum use which can be made of playing fields if any grass is to be retained on them?

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he is consulted before school playing fields are taken over for building? Is he aware that in my constituency a school playing field is now being used as a site for a school and that £30,000 is to be spent on a playing field across a main road? Does he carefully consider these things before school playing fields are abandoned for other projects?

If the hon. Member will send me particulars, I will look into that case.

Prefabricated Aluminium Schools

6.

asked the Minister of Education what representations he has received from local education authorities concerning the corrosion of prefabricated aluminium schools; and what steps he proposes to take in this matter.

Education Act, 1944 (Determination Of Disputes)

7.

asked the Minister of Education how many disputes under Section 67 of the Education Act, 1944. were referred to him for determination by local education authorities and managers and governors of schools in the calendar year 1960; and how many were determined by the Minister within this period.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider circulating local authorities about that dispute to give them some guidance?

Gce Examination

8.

asked the Minister of Education if he will provide in future legislation that the General Certificate of Education examination be scheduled earlier in the year so that it follows the winter studies more closely and equally avoids conflict with the widening holiday period in the summer.

The Secondary School Examinations Council, which advises me on the arrangements for the General Certificate of Education examination, are now considering the possibility of advancing the date of the summer examination. But this is a complex matter which involves extensive consultations. A change of date would not require legislation.

I am obliged to the Minister for that answer. May I ask whether he will make sure that the rhythm of the students during the winter, and the summer recreational requirements of both students and parents, are fully borne in mind and not excluded because of the mechanics of the system? Secondly, will he bear in mind that many professional examinations terminate by the end of June, and that the medical people conclude their examinations by Easter? Because of this, it is desirable that it should be brought forward to, say, the period between Easter and Whit week.

The schools fear that there may be dislocation in their work if the date is advanced very much, and it is for that reason that we have to have careful consultations.

Parents' Wishes

9.

asked the Minister of Education if, in view of the misunderstanding which arises in the minds of parents over Section 76 of the Education Act, 1944, he will in future legislation seek to amend this Section so that parents, managers, governors and local education authorities will know the position in relation to the education of pupils in accordance with the wishes of the parents.

I have published general guidance on the application of Section 76, which I am sending to the hon. Member. I do not think it would be wise or practicable to legislate in greater detail.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that local education authorities are very worried about some of the flimsy reasons which a small minority of parents are advancing for wanting to send their children to certain schools? Is it not a fact that this Section was intended to cover what one might term a conscience clause, and will the Minister make this perfectly clear in any direction he sends to local authorities?

I am not aware that the reasons are flimsy. I assure the hon. Gentleman that in the cases which have been brought to my notice the local authorities have given careful attention to the Section of the Act to which we are referring.

The Minister may have misunderstood what I said. Would not he consider, for instance, that when parents who are in dispute with the local authorities about the choice of school advance as the only reason against a certain school that it has not a certain uniform, that that is a flimsy reason?

If parents are aggrieved under this Section, they have a right of appeal to the Minister, and I hope that they will do so.

Will the Minister ensure that, providing the circumstances are reasonable, he will do everything in his power to safeguard the parents' choice of school in this way?

The usual question is precisely whether the expenditure is reasonable or not.

Boarding Schools

10.

asked the Minister of Education how many weekly boarding places are at present offered by State secondary weekly boarding schools.

There are nearly 9,600 boarding places in maintained secondary schools in England and Wales. I cannot say how many of the pupils concerned return home at weekends.

Will the Minister say what is the approximate cost of one of these places, and how much a parent has to contribute to that cost?

Not without notice. Indeed, the places are rather different. Some are in hostels, and in other cases arrangements are made for pupils to live with families.

11.

asked the Minister of Education which local authorities have submitted plans to him for the purchase, and conversion into secondary weekly boarding schools, of large country houses now on the market in their areas.

In that case, will the right hon. Gentleman consider sending a circular to local authorities suggesting that they might prepare plans along these lines?

Classes (Size)

12.

asked the Minister of Education, in view of the fact that more than 60 per cent. of senior pupils are still being taught in over-size classes, if he will carry out a special survey of all existing measures for the recruitment of teachers, the organisation of classes in the schools, and the distribution and use of teaching talent, with a view to adopting emergency proposals for reducing the size of classes.

I am reviewing the recruitment of teachers in consultation with the National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers, and shall shortly be revising the quota scheme with the object of providing a stronger incentive to authorities to attract back into the schools qualified married women teachers. I agree that improved methods of school organisation and how to make the fullest use of available talent are important and that they should receive increasing attention.

Cannot the Ministry give itself a thorough shake up in this matter? Is it not terrible that 16 years after the war more than 60 per cent. of our secondary school pupils are still being taught in over-sized classes, and that there is this shocking position among the staff? Will the Minister regard this as an emergency operation to recruit all the teaching talent available in the nation?

I wish it were only an emergency. It is continuing all the time and has our attention the whole time.

In an effort to see that it does not continue as long as the right hon. Gentleman anticipates, will he regard this as an emergency measure? We all appreciate the advice given to him by the Council, but does not he think that in present circumstances we ought to take exceptional steps to promote the further recruitment of teachers?

We shall receive its report shortly, and I shall pay the greatest attention to it.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that, whatever action he may take, the quality of the teachers recruited is as important as the quantity?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the modification he has made to the quota as regards married women has had a slightly beneficial effect? Will he consider excluding all specially recruited married women teachers from the quota system as a means of encouraging local authorities in their recruiting?

I expect to go some way towards that but the matter is still under review.

European Languages

13.

asked the Minister of Education, in view of the possibility of 'the United Kingdom joining the Common Market, what steps he is taking to improve the teaching of European languages in schools.

The numbers of children passing the G.C.E. in French and German at both Ordinary and Advanced level are steadily increasing. Spanish and Italian show the same trend though the numbers are smaller. Many secondary modern schools have begun to teach a European language. I am sending my hon. Friend further details of the various schemes in which my Department is taking part.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that sufficient emphasis is laid on the practical use of the languages, and that the teaching is not of too academic a nature?

Will my right hon. Friend be kind enough to consider issuing a circular to all the local authorities concerned drawing their attention to the problems involved when we enter the Common Market and our need for European foreign languages?

That is a very large task to which I shall have to give careful thought.

As we are members of the Commonwealth, does my hon. Friend agree that if there is to be increase in facilities for teaching foreign languages it would be a pretty good idea to give some priority to the teaching of African and Asian languages?

This is a laudable idea, but I believe rather difficult to put into practice.

Commercial Subjects

14.

asked the Minister of Education, in view of the possibility of increased trade with Europe, what steps he is taking to improve the teaching of commercial subjects useful in the export trade.

I give all the support I can to commercial and technical colleges who are ready to add new courses to meet the demand. It is important that exporting firms should work out their future needs in good time so that classes may be organised and used to maximum advantage.

What advice is my right hon. Friend taking from those actually engaged in the export trade who are helping him in this project?

Berkshire

16.

asked the Minister of Education if he will state the percentage increases over the past ten years in the numbers of schoolchildren and expenditure on school buildings works in Berkshire compared with England and Wales as a whole.

In numbers of schoolchildren 21 per cent. for England and Wales, 64 per cent. for Berkshire. In expenditure on school building, 60 per cent. for England and Wales, 526 per cent. for Berkshire.

Because Berkshire's need is evidently greater.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind, when he has further funds to allocate for school building, not only the need for new schools but for the extension of existing schools, because full weight will still need to be given to counties like Berkshire which have exceptionally big increases in the number of school children and are finding the facilities for teaching them very difficult?

I went to Berkshire and I realise the difficulty that they have there through the school population increasing so fast.

Public Schools

17.

asked the Minister of Education if he will give the approximate number of boys from State schools who have entered public schools during the past five years with the aid of bursaries or scholarships granted by local education authorities; and how many of these boys lived in the administrative county of Essex.

In March, 1961, 9,700 boys attending independent schools had their fees paid in full by local education authorities: of these 1,100 came from Essex. I have no separate figures for public schools apart from other independent schools.

Is it not true that only a minority of scholars from State schools enter the big public schools, which seems to indicate that the alleged traditional benefit of public school education, particularly with regard to professional employment later on, is reserved for a minority whose parents can afford to send them there?

I would take the view that in the grammar schools under the maintained system and in the direct grant schools excellent preparation for careers can be obtained.

Would the right hon. Gentleman find out exactly what percentage in the more prominent public schools comes from State schools of one kind or another?

The fact is that I do not know what a public school is: no one has been able to provide me with a satisfactory definition.

Bangor Normal College

18.

asked the Minister of Education what is the reason for the delay in providing extra places at the Bangor Normal College, as a result of which potential students have now been told to transfer their applications elsewhere.

The cost of the expansion proved on tender to be £305,000 in excess of the Ministry's cost limit of £400,000. The scheme is now being revised in order that the necessary savings may be made.

Would the Minister agree that there must be something wrong with his administration when plans for a college like this can go quite so far without anyone having discovered that the demands are almost double what would be permitted? Is not there something very seriously wrong in the methods of consultation in matters of this kind that a situation of this sort should occur at all?

We cannot act until we know what the tender is in terms of money. A similar small scheme for St. Mary's College, Bangor, kept within the Ministry's cost limit.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman must give some sort of instruction with regard to the cost of a place, and should it not be clear and lucid enough for the people in charge of these enterprises to know where they are going?

Indeed, yes. These cost limits were known to the college before the architects were asked to submit their plans.

Gypsies

22.

asked the Minister of Education what was the number of children of gypsies and other travellers living in caravans in north-west Kent, details of which have been sent to him, who were admitted to local schools during the week commencing 20th November; what special provision was made to accommodate them; and what are the prospects of their benefiting from the educational services available to them.

Thirty-two. A special class has been established in hired accommodation for retarded junior pupils so that their educational needs may be assessed. The arrangements made by the Kent Education Authority are well calculated to benefit the children provided that they attend school regularly.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that great credit is due to a local schoolmaster who has put himself out to help these children, some of whom have never been to school and yet are eight or nine years old? When they want to go to school on Sundays they are very happy. Does he not think that it is tragic that the local council is buying the land so that it can turn these people off and will be able to do so next week, on the eve of Christmas, when there is nowhere else for them to go? It is uprooting the children from the school. If the council waited until the spring, three-quarters of the families would be going to work on the farms until the autumn. Cannot something be done to help these children?

I agree that this particular teacher is doing a tough job, and I think we are all grateful to him. As for the information which the hon. Gentleman has just given me, I had better look into it.

Would the right hon. Gentleman look at the precedent which has been set by Eton Rural District Council, which has now provided land for gypsies so that their children may go to school?

Laboratories And Workshops (Accidents)

25.

asked the Minister of Education how many accidents involving injury to students or damage to equipment, respectively, occurred in technical college laboratories or workshops and secondary school laboratories or workshops during 1960.

I do not require local education authorities to submit returns to me on these two matters.

After consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour I recently issued an Administrative Memorandum on Industrial Safety and the Education Service, a copy of which I am sending to the hon. Member.

Would it not be better if the Minister, instead of exhorting local authorities, brought the laboratories and workshops within the scope of the Bill which the Government will ultimately promote, and which was started by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh)?

It is not very easy to get the facts on how much damage has been done to equipment. I think that I can hardly collect that kind of information.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can find out how much damage is done to persons?

National Foundation Of Educational Research

26.

asked the Minister of Education what grants from public funds are made to the National Foundation for Educational Research.

My grant to the Foundation for the current year is £7,000. Local education authorities are contributing £29,000 as members of the Foundation.

As a large sum of public money is involved, would the right hon. Gentleman consider consulting with this Foundation so that it could make more freely available the information it collects? Is he aware that it labels reports "Confidential" which contain no dark secrets at all, and which ought to be made freely available to persons interested in education?

My Department is discussing various matters with the Foundation at present and I shall see that this is included.

School Building

27.

asked the Minister of Education why the school building programme for 1963–64 has not yet been announced; and when that programme will be announced to local education authorities.

This programme is part of the public sector capital expenditure which is under review. I hope to make an announcement about school building shortly.

Will the Minister treat this as a matter of urgency? Is he aware that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster-General in talking to the House on Tuesday told hon. Members that he wanted local authorities to think in terms of five-year plans of capital expenditure and that the future school building programme is about the most important item in that capital expenditure? Will he do what he can to speed up letting local authorities know?

School, Chandler's Ford

28.

asked the Minister of Education what is the price at which the Hampshire education authority is acquiring the site for the erection of Oakmount Secondary School, Chandler's Ford; and why he refused permission to acquire this site in 1954.

I understand that the authority has paid £75,000 for this site. This is a complicated case, and I will write to the hon. Member as soon as I have full information.

Is the Minister aware that this land was eagerly offered by the owner to the Hampshire education committee, in 1954, for £7,500, that it asked the Minister to give permission to buy the land, that permission was not forthcoming, and that it has now had to buy the same land at a cost not of £7,500 but £75,000, and even that is below the market value of £100,000? Does he not think that his Ministry, which has a moral responsibility for inflicting an extra £67,000 on the ratepayers, should bear some of the financial burden? [Interruption.]

May I say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), who has just entered the Chamber, that I am sure all right hon. and hon. Members in the House will wish to extend to him their affectionate and respectful good wishes on the occasion of his birthday?

As a supplementary to that, may I express to the right hon. Member for Woodford the pride and pleasure that we all feel on this the occasion of his 87th birthday and at his presence among us on this historic occasion?

Perhaps I may remind the Minister of my supplementary question, which was broken into by this extremely happy occasion. Since his Ministry is morally responsible for saddling the ratepayers of Hampshire with an extra £67,000, cannot he accept the financial responsibility?

The hon. Member put his Question down only a day ago. As he has also shown, there are many details which must be looked into. But I can assure him that as soon as I have received the full information I will communicate with him.