HC Deb 04 April 1946 vol 421 cc1380-1
29. General Sir George Jeffreys

asked the Minister of Education whether she is aware of the long distances which, in many cases, children in rural districts have to walk in all weathers in order to attend school; and whether she will instruct local education authorities to arrange for transport for all such children, including those attending private schools.

Miss Wilkinson

Local education authorities have been asked to include in their development plans under Section 11 of the Education Act, 1944 particulars of their arrangements for the transport of pupils to school. Some guidance in the matter was given by my Department to authorities in a memorandum of which I am sending the hon. and gallant Member a copy. I hope it will be found that the arrangements in rural area will be adequate to prevent hardship.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Is the right hon. Lady aware that this matter of transport of children to school has a great bearing on the question of the supply of rural workers, who are often very unwilling to live at a distance from a school unless there is this transport available? Would she answer the last part of the Question about the children attending private schools? Are not the parents of such children ratepayers, and cannot they have the use of the buses if there is room?

Miss Wilkinson

I am sorry, but I can ask the local authorities to convey only children going to their own schools. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why? "] If people send their children to private schools they must make private arrangements. With regard to the first part of the Question, I am concerned about the problem in the rural areas. I think the local authorities are concerned about it. They themselves are having great difficulty both with regard to transport vehicles and with regard to drivers, but the position is easier.

Mrs. Manning

Is the right hon. Lady aware that a good many people who can ill afford to send their children to private schools do so because they cannot stand the revolting conditions which exist in so many of our rural schools?

Mr. Eccles

Does the right hon. Lady mean that she would prefer to see a bus half empty and the children not in it because they happen to be going to a private school?

Miss Wilkinson

No, Sir. That is perfectly absurd. I can deal with the local education authorities only on the basis of what is their statutory duty and obligation, and that statutory duty and obligation is to convey to their schools children who live farther than two miles from the school, in the case of children under eight, and three miles from the school, in the case of children over eight. They would very soon remind me of their statutory obligation if I tried to make them do more.