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Colleges Of Education (Ponteland And Fenham)

Volume 932: debated on Tuesday 17 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she has completed her consideration of the recent representations she has received about the future of the Northumberland College of Education at Ponteland and St. Mary's College of Education, Fenham.

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend intends to consider together all the representations about the future of these and other colleges when the process of consultation with local authorities and other bodies is completed. She hopes to announce her decisions on them in June.

Can the hon. Gentleman assure us that his right hon. Friend takes into account the considerable documentary evidence about educational deprivation in the North-East which has been presented by one of the colleges? Will he consider how much worse the situation could be if the services of these two colleges to local State and Catholic schools were withdrawn? Will the Secretary of State do her best to ensure that even with the reduced intake these two colleges have a future rôle?

We shall take account of the evidence arriving from many deputations—I have seen 27 so far, with five to come—as well as documentary evidence. We shall look at both of the colleges in the North-East and give them due consideration. We shall give them the same consideration as is given to all colleges in the country.

Will the hon. Gentleman accept from one who accompanied one of the many deputations that my particular deputation was very grateful to him for his courtesy and the consideration he showed? Will he further continue to consider, as I know he has done so far, the importance of maintaining the one Roman Catholic teaching college—the training college at Fenham—in the North-East? Will he recognise, through his efforts—I know that he is making them to the best of his ability—to maintain this college of education, the importance of religious teaching in schools?

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman has said. I do my best with the delegations and I shall bear in mind that the removal of this college would remove a Catholic teacher training college from the whole of the North-East. However, I do not think that the House would expect me to prejudge what my right hon. Friend will be saying in one month's time.