HC Deb 07 April 1938 vol 334 cc528-30
81. Mr. Kirkwood

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that it is proposed to accommodate the physically and mentally defective children from Dumbarton, Helensburgh, and the Vale of Leven, in College Street School, Dumbarton; and, in view of the fact that this school was condemned by the Scottish Education Department as unsuitable for normal children, that interior reconstruction cannot remove the defects of the cramped nature of the site and the lack of space for playgrounds, that the school is adjacent to a congested slum area and the local cattle market, which makes the street crossing dangerous for these children, and that the Dumbarton school management committee has protested against the scheme, he will reconsider his decision to approve the scheme, with a view to providing a school more in accord with the terms of the memorandum explanatory of the Draft Day Schools (Scotland) Code, issued by the Scottish Education Department?

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Wedderburn)

Although the College Street premises were regarded as unsuitable for a school of 600 normal pupils, my tight hon. Friend is satisfied, on the advice of his technical advisers, that, with the alterations now being carried out, satisfactory accommodation and playground space will be provided for a maximum of 160 mentally and physically defective children. At present there are about 100 such children in attendance at the High Street School; I am informed that all these children will be conveyed to and from College Street by bus, and that therefore no danger from street crossing will arise. My right hon. Friend is aware of the school management committee's protest, but he does not feel that he would be justified in now asking the responsible local education authority to change their considered plan.

Mr. G. A. Morrison

In view of the admittedly unsatisfactory nature of the surroundings of this school, can my hon. Friend say whether it is a permanent or a temporary arrangement?

Mr. Wedderburn

I do not know whether it is a temporary arrangement. Although the environment is certainly not ideal, I think that the accommodation is much better than that of the High Street School where they are now.

Mr. Westwood

Are we to understand that normal and mentally defective children are to be taught in one building, and if so, is that satisfactory?

Mr. Kirkwood

Are the Scottish Office satisfied that a school which was condemned by them as unfit for normal children is fit for mentally defective children?

Mr. Wedderburn

The Department decided that it was unsuitable for 600 children, because there was not enough accommodation for that number, but it is proposed to use it now for only 100, and with the alterations now being carried out, we have not any just ground for interfering with the local education authority's decision. The area of the site is in excess of the Department's specified minimum requirements.

Mr. Westwood

May I repeat my supplementary question? Included in these 100 children there are mentally defective children: are they all to be taught in the one building? If so, is that accepted by the Scottish Education Department as being satisfactory?

Mr. Wedderburn

I should be glad if the hon. Member would put that question on the Paper. I think they are to be taught in the one building, but I do not know whether it will be in the same part of it. I would like to have notice of the question.