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Education (Expenditure Cuts)

Volume 974: debated on Wednesday 21 November 1979

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7.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has made any estimate of the number of primary and secondary schools that will be closed as a result of his decision to reduce expenditure on education.

No, Sir. It is for regional and Islands councils to consider which schools they wish to propose for closure. The major factor which is likely to influence them is the substantial decline in pupil numbers, not the Government's expenditure plans.

Is the Minister aware that over the years, when primary and secondary schools were closed as a result of reorganisation, a solemn promise was given to parents that, as a consequence of the closures, their children would be transported to school? Are the Government giving the message to the country that families in semi-rural or rural areas will be faced with an additional burden of taxation?

The Government's proposals will ensure, as I have already said, that the burden of cost will be more evenly spread. They also ensure that low income families will be safeguarded.

Does my hon. Friend agree that far more harm is being done by way of the depopulation of rural areas through the exaggerated and hysterical scaremongering from the Opposition rather than as a result of the effects of the Education (No. 2) Bill?

It is obvious that both the local authorities and the inhabitants of rural areas have much more sense in these matters than the Opposition.

Will the Minister comment on the announcement that 1,000 school teachers will be shed in Scotland? Will he please accept that the Opposition think it is absolutely tragic that the reduction in the school population is not being used as an opportunity to improve greatly the pupil-teacher ratio? Will he specifically say whether this involves the closure of colleges of education and how many people coming out of the colleges of education will be unable to find a job as a result?

The estimated decline in school numbers for next year is 26,300. The pupil-teacher ratio will improve next year. However, it cannot be surprising, taking both of those factors into account, that there will still be a considerable reduction in the numbers of teachers in employment.