HC Deb 29 November 1951 vol 494 cc1688-90
3 and 4. Miss Ward

asked the Minister of Education (1) on what basis the building programmes submitted by local education committees for 1952–53 were reduced prior to 25th October, 1951; and, in particular, as between one education committee and another;

(2) what was the total expenditure on the building programme for 1952–53 submitted by local education committees prior to 25th October; and what was the total expenditure accepted.

Miss Horsbrugh

The total value of the primary and secondary school projects included in the educational building programme for 1952–53 which was announced in September was about £40 million. As in previous years, it was not possible to include all the projects put forward by local education authorities. In selecting the schemes which could be approved within the resources available, my predecessor considered carefully the needs of each authority for additional school places to house the increasing school population and the children moving to new housing estates and new towns. Without an inordinate amount of work I could not give the total value of the projects proposed by authorities for inclusion in the programme.

Miss Ward

Would my right hon. Friend say what steps have been taken to ensure that Newcastle-upon-Tyne has got a balanced educational programme, because the Newcastle Education Committee, in referring to the fact that projects have been rejected by the Ministry, stated that that had upset the basis of the primary and secondary school places? Will she look into that and ameliorate that condition?

Miss Horsbrugh

I have already looked into it, for I imagined that my hon. Friend would have that in mind. The authorities put forward their proposal in their own order of priority and the Ministry observes that order in selecting schemes for inclusion in the programme.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway

Can the right hon. Lady say whether consideration has been given to the fact of the bulge in the birth rate five years ago and the increased demand for places that there will be next year in schools as a result?

Miss Horsbrugh

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, as I have already stated, the building programme is being arranged so that places can be found for this increasing school population and later on for them in the secondary schools.

22. Dr. Horace King

asked the Minister of Education how far new school building will be exempted from the three months' ban which has been imposed on new building projects.

Miss Horsbrugh

Projects for which a starting date has already been awarded will be allowed to start, except that it may be necessary to arrange for some postponement in areas where there is a serious shortage of labour. Fresh applications for starts before March, 1952, can be considered only in areas where the building industry is not overloaded, and for projects on new housing estates where a delay beyond the end of February would cause exceptional difficulty. Any exemptions will be subject to the availability of steel.

Dr. King

As recent answers by the right hon. Lady have indicated that we still have to find places for 400,000 children in 1953, will she use whatever influence she possesses with the Cabinet to see that building cuts are not made in our school building programme?

Miss Horsbrugh

I would certainly do everything I possibly could to see that the Ministry of Education got its full share of the building programme of the country so that the children might get a good education.

Mr. Donald Chapman

In view of the figures which the right hon. Lady has given about the bulge in the early days of school life, will she give an assurance, if not in regard to the 14–15 age group, that she will not meet the problem by raising the age of entry from 5 to 6?

Miss Horsbrugh

I am quite aware of the bulge in the figures of the extra school population. I am, naturally, also aware that that will go on into the secondary schools as the children get older. We are now considering the best method of dealing with our difficulties.

Mr. Archer Baldwin

Will my right hon. Friend take immediate steps to reverse the policy of closing down the infants' schools in villages, which would obviate the necessity for some of the new building and for little children to travel long journeys?

Miss Horsbrugh

I can assure my hon. Friend that we should naturally consider delaying the closing of buildings before other buildings were ready.