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Adult Education (Television Programmes)

Volume 934: debated on Tuesday 28 June 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what financial provision is to be made for the BBC adult education programme for English as a second language.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I recently agreed that late applications may be accepted under the current phase of the urban programme for expenditure incurred before 31st March 1978 from authorities wishing to expand their provision of English language classes for adult members of ethnic minorities. Some priority will be given to applications related to the forthcoming BBC television programme of English language teaching aimed at Asian women. A letter will issue shortly to the local education authorities with a substantial interest.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, if this excellent scheme is to be as successful as is hoped, it will have to be supported by financial and other resources on the same scale as the adult literacy programme? Will she allay the fears held in some quarters, particularly in Southampton Community Relations Board, that these programmes will stimulate a demand so great that it cannot be met?

We hope that that will not occur. It is our intention that funds should be made available which will help local education authorities to expand their programmes in order to meet the additional demand generated. So far, we have not had cause to suspect that the demand cannot be met. The House will recognise the valuable role of the BBC in putting forward this programme.

Will the Minister ensure that a little money is spent on teaching the BBC education staff English first?

While the Minister is looking into the BBC arrangements for teaching English as a second language, will she look, side by side, at future arrangements for helping the BBC to continue its arrangements for its excellent adult literacy programmes of the past few years? Will she ensure that, even if the adult literacy grant Is changed to a different arrangement, the BBC arrangement can nevertheless continue and will not be brought to a halt next year?

We shall consider the Adult Literacy Resource Agency's recommendations for the future which will be made to the Department shortly. I hope to look at these recommendations favourably.

Given that most local education authorities are working under severe financial strictures at present, does the Minister agree that it would alleviate a great deal of fear among Asians, particularly Asian women, if they could be told exactly what sum of money will be made available for the scheme?

I cannot tell the hon. Member that today. It is our hope that the programme will prove useful. It is not our understanding that they are likely to expire for lack of funds.