Orders of the Day — Education

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th May 1962.

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Photo of Mr John Eden Mr John Eden , Bournemouth West 12:00 am, 17th May 1962

All hon. Members would probably agree with the definition of the problem which confronts us. Simply stated, it is that the number of children has been increasing, the demand for education has been increasing, and we have not been able to meet this demand with a sufficient increase in the number of school places. The number of children in primary and secondary schools in the past ten years has increased by 1¼ million, but it is not true to indicate—as the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) did—that we have done nothing about it.

In the past ten years we have had a remarkable programme of construction and development over the whole range of education. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his spirited and powerful defence of Government policy. Because hon. Members on this side of the Committee rise to the defence of the Government's record it does not indicate that we are being complacent about the current situation. We are far from complacent. I hope that no one is complacent about the situation. I entirely endorse what the hon. Member for Sunderland, North said when he described it as being an alarming crisis. It is a situation of the utmost gravity and, between us, we must impress this fact upon parents, taxpayers and ratepapers.

But let us have some credit for what has been done. Since 1951, we have been building at the rate of 489 new schools per year. That is not considered sufficient. Nevertheless, it is over four times the rate at which the Labour Government built schools when they were in office.