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Maintained Schools

Volume 20: debated on Tuesday 16 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is his latest estimate of the number of surplus school places, primary and secondary, in the maintained schools in England by 1984; and what is his target for the numbers which should be taken out of use.

The 1977 study of school building estimated that by 1986 there would be 2·8 million surplus school places in maintained primary and secondary schools in England. Our target for the numbers to be taken out of use by March 1984 is 630, 000.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that he has given appropriate advice to the local authorities about whether they should reduce the number of children on a site or close some schools altogether?

Two circulars about falling rolls went out from the Department last year. The first said that secondary schools should have four streams and mentioned the necessity for a variety of teachers in middle schools. The second circular used the now well-known phrase "schools of proven worth", and said that good sixth forms should not be affected and that single sex schools should be maintained where there is demand for them.

In view of the undertaking that the Secretary of State gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and others, will the Undersecretary tell us when he intends to publish the report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate, which was promised some weeks ago?

I have not asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about that today, but I shall do so later. If we have any last minute information on the matter I shall communicate it to the hon. Gentleman.

After the big drop in the birth rate between the middle 1960s and the later 1970s, and the relatively small upturn since then, can my hon. Friend predict for primary and secondary schools respectively in which year school rolls are expected to fall to their lowest level and how far those levels will be below the present ones?

The pick-up in the birth rate is nothing like the previous fall. It is a pick-up, but it will certainly not fill the schools again. We suggested reducing places by only four out of every 10 surplus. Obviously, we now have peak numbers at secondary school level. Primary schools are different. The first pick-up will be in 1986–87 and there will be a second in 1992–93.