asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many new school places will have to be provided to meet the requirements of the higher school leaving age; and whether he is satisfied that the present building programme is adequate.
In consultation with my right hon. Friend's Department, education authorities are assessing their likely building requirements for the raising of the age. The present building programme goes only to autumn 1967 and does not cover these needs except where they are incorporated in new schools due to start before then. Subsequent programmes will take specific account of the additional needs.
Is the Minister aware that there is considerable concern among education authorities, that if these new schools and extensions are to be completed in time for raising the school-leaving age in 1970 decisions will have to be taken this year? Will she do all she can to speed up taking these decisions so that the programme may go forward in time?
Yes. This is a matter of real urgency. As the hon. Member knows, the announcement was originally made in January 1964. Some work was done between then and October. We have been trying to speed this up. Certainly discussions with the authorities are being regarded as matters on which we hope to have reached a conclusion within a very short time.
The building programme is up to date in so far as local authorities are able to complete their building projects in the time within which they hoped to complete them. This is very largely a matter of the efficiency of the building industry, of the pre-planning and of the technological aspects of school building, to which we have been giving a great deal of attention.