Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd July 1959.
asked the Minister of Education on what estimate of the proportion of 15 year-olds staying on at school the current school building programme is based.
The programme is designed to make possible the improvement of secondary education as described in the recent White Paper, including the utmost encouragement of courses extending beyond the school leaving age. As regards the number of pupils likely to take advantage of these courses, I have nothing to add to the information already given to the hon. Member.
Has the Ministry, in considering the school building projects to be approved for the next two years, taken into account the substantial rise in the last few years in the proportion of 15-year-old children staying on at school?
Yes. The point is that in approving the school building programme we have to take into account such a large number of factors. The size of the building programme is not simply related to the proportion of pupils staying on at school. It includes projects for new schools and improvements and extensions to existing schools, which are needed not only to encourage staying on but also to provide for new housing areas, to relieve overcrowding, to carry out reorganisation, to improve science facilities and to replace obsolete accommodation. All these factors have to be taken into account and it is not realistic to try to isolate one of these factors.
Surely this must have been one factor. In making its plans, the Ministry must have made an estimate of how large this factor would be. What was the estimate?
It is certainly one factor, but I cannot give a precise figure because it would not be realistic. We simply cannot form precise estimates. All that we can do is to note with considerable satisfaction the growing number of children beyond the school-leaving age staying on at secondary schools of all kinds.
asked the Minister of Education what proposals he has under consideration for enlarging the school building programme and extending existing secondary schools in Newcastle-under-Lyme, in view of the overcrowding problem and the comparatively high proportion of 15-year-olds staying on at school.
My right hon. Friend has authorised two major projects for starting in 1960–61 and two in 1961–62. During the same period the authority hopes to extend three secondary schools.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Newcastle-under-Lyme Education Committee put in for six urgently needed secondary school projects in the next two years? The Committee would not apply for more than it urgently needed in taking into account the large proportion of children staying on at school after 15. The Ministry has granted two out of six. Does the hon. Gentleman regard this as fair?
During 1960–62 the value of major building projects approved will be as much as during the previous three years. I do not think that Newcastle-under-Lyme has done too badly.
Is not the Parliamentary Secretary aware that there has been an increase in the number of secondary school children? Does not the Ministry take this into account as well as the fact that in Newcastle-under-Lyme 37 per cent. of children aged 15 are staying on beyond the statutory age? Were these factors taken into account?
Certainly they were. That is why the value of major projects to be carried out in 1960–61 will be very much larger than any scheme of projects which has been carried out in Newcastle-under-Lyme in any previous year.
asked the Minister of Education to what extent the secondary school building programme and staffing plan have recently been revised, in the light of information that a rising proportion of 15-year-olds are staying on at school.
The increasing proportion of 15-year-olds staying on at school was one of many factors that my right hon. Friend took into account in reaching his recent decision to provide 4,000 additional training college places. No change is contemplated in the size of the school building programmes for 1960–61 and 1961–62 which were settled last December.
Does not the Parliamentary Secretary think that local education committees know well how many secondary school places they will require as well as how many additional teachers they will require as the bulge develops with an increasing proportion of children of 15 years of age staying on at school? How can the hon. Gentleman justify the Ministry receiving a list of projects and cutting it by two-thirds and saying that this is fair?
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman thinks that easily the biggest programme of building projects in his constituency is unsatisfactory news, but it is always an extremely difficult task to allocate the total building programme among 146 local education authorities. We do this as fairly as we can. We are going all out for what I think the whole country regards as a worth-while scheme of £300 million on major building projects for the five years 1960–65. On present form, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can say that his constituency has had an unfair share.