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Schools (Reorganisation And Closure)

Volume 887: debated on Tuesday 4 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what weight he attaches, when considering schemes for the reorganisation of secondary education and proposals for the closure of village primary schools, to any consequent additional costs for the transport of children.

My right hon. Friend takes into account all relevant factors, of which additional transport costs may be one, in his consideration of proposals under Section 13 of the Education Act 1944, as amended, and gives them due weight.

Does the Minister recognise that in areas such as Northumberland the reorganisation and closure of village schools tends to lead to bussing on a grand scale, with children travelling 15, 20 or 25 miles a day? Does he recognise that as well as the social disadvantages of such a system the cost should be weighed in the balance when the economics of village schools and small local schools are being considered?

Yes, I recognise the factors that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. I remind him that the initiative for the reorganisation or the closure of any school comes from the local authority and that my right hon. Friend takes into consideration all matters. Of course, the overriding consideration is the educational well-being of the children in the area.

Is my hon. Friend aware that in many areas, and certainly in my constituency of Chorley, the bus companies have refused to harmonise their concessionary fares to scholars with the raising of the school leaving age? As there has recently been an increase of 30 per cent. in the cost of public transport, does not my hon. Friend think that remedies should be applied in this direction?

This is a matter we have in mind when discussing the wide issues of transport policy which were raised in a previous Question.