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Stress Area Schools

Volume 885: debated on Tuesday 4 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will review the arrangements for listing schools eligible for stress grants.

The Burnham Committee has only just concluded an agreement on the payments to teachers in social priority schools. It intends to review the arrangements at a later date in the light of experience.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the experience of some teachers in the London borough of Newham is bitter? Over half the teaching force is eligible for an additional grant of over £200, but in some schools with equivalent catchment areas there are no such plans. Therefore, the system is being worked in an arbitrary fashion and the reaction of teachers in those areas is notably bitter. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that within a year there is a review and that, if necessary, the Newham Borough Council will be allowed to have an equivalent amount of money to share between all the teachers in the borough to avoid the bitterness that has been created?

The designation of the schools to benefit from this allowance was decided by the Burnham Committee. It is not a matter in which I have power to intervene, nor should I wish to do so.

The very fact that about 57 per cent. of teachers in Newham are in schools that will receive the allowance means that the problems of the borough—which my hon. Friend and myself, as Members for the borough, know are severe—will be alleviated to some extent. Considerable help will be provided to retain experienced teachers who are urgently needed because there will be a financial incentive for them to stay. At the margins of a scheme such as this there is bound to be resentment by those who do not come within its provisions, but I still think that the scheme will help Newham and many other parts of the country.

In some rural areas there are severe problems of social deprivation which do not fit into the categories outlined by the Burnham Committee. Will the right hon. Gentleman take all these criteria into consideration, particularly in my area where the local education authority believes that the bilingual requirement of teachers ought to be considered?

What the hon. Gentleman has said does not detract from the general benefits which the scheme will provide in both rural and urban areas, but it illustrates that the Burnham Committee had a difficult job in drawing up the criteria. When the committee reviews the matter in a year's time it will want to consider the practical experience of local education authorities throughout the country and all the various criticisms and the suggestions that are made.