Through the Inspectorate I have been kept in close touch with the situation. In general, the new arrangements are working satisfactorily, although pockets of difficulty exist in some areas.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is difficulty in at least one school in my constituency where the school meals service is threatened with breakdown, as it is proving impossible to recruit supervisory staff and an intolerable burden is being put on the headmaster? What advice or comfort has the Secretary of State to offer those concerned?
I realise that there are difficulties in three schools in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, particularly at the Winston Churchill School. I greatly regret these difficulties. They are for the teachers and local authority to work out between them, and they can call on their national associations for help.
What I regret very much is the situation in which the head teacher is left to bear the whole burden. This was never envisaged by the working party, and it could only be based on some kind of misunderstanding about the professional duty of teachers to support the head teacher.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that the ladies who work in school kitchens and those who supervise children at mealtimes and afterwards have very low rates of pay and have hours which fluctuate weekly? As a result of the alteration of school hours after B.S.T. was introduced, some of them had a reduction in their hours on the Monday morning when they were due to work. Will my right hon. Friend ask local authorities to bring some stability into the hours of work of these people?
I am sure that local authorities are looking at the question of hours. The difficulty arises in areas where there is no surplus, areas such as that of my hon. Friend. I have responsibility for many things, but I am not responsible for the rates of pay.
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what estimate he has made of the total cost, including the administrative costs of local education authorities, of his decision to institute and then repeal free school meals for families of over three children.
is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the brining of this scheme into operation in April caused confusion, extravagance and waste and that taking it out again in November is official bungling on a scale unprecedented even for the present Government?
It has been none of these things. We are taking it away from those who can afford to pay for it—and I take it that the hon. Gentleman agrees with that—so that we can use the resources to better advantage.