§ 32. Captain NORTH
asked the President of the Board of Education what would be the estimated economy involved by raising the age for admission to elementary schools from five to six years; and whether it is the intention of the Government to take any action on such lines?
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Sir Donald Maclean)
Unless legislation was passed excluding all children under six from the schools for all purposes the amount of saving would be difficult to estimate, but would probably be small. On the assumption that such legislation was passed and that no steps were taken to replace the educational and social facilities thus withdrawn, the total saving to the Exchequer is estimated to be about £2,000,000 a year. In some areas, and especially in the counties, an increased burden would be thrown on the rates, as the saving to the authorities in expenditure would be less than the loss in grant. While the effect would vary in different localities, the authorities as a whole would lose to the extent of about £125,000 a year. I have not at present in contemplation any change in the law of school attendance.
§ Captain NORTH
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his reply. In view of the fact that some 160,000 children under the age of five are going to school in England and Wales, does he not think that, in the interests of economy, the parents might be asked to pay, or, alternatively, that the children should be prevented from going to school?
§ Sir P. HARRIS
Do I understand from the reply that, owing to the fact that the building and staff are already in existence, there would be no real economy to the rates and a very small economy to the taxpayers if the course suggested were adopted?
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I have already pointed out that local education authorities would not benefit, that, indeed, 531 they would lose, on balance, to the extent of £100,000 a year. The loss would apply particularly to the county areas where possible economies would generally be small compared with the loss of the per capita grant. In reply to the hon. and gallant Member's supplementary question, I have already indicated that there is no intention of altering the existing practice.