HC Deb 15 June 1954 vol 528 cc1715-6
14. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give details of the decline in the number of students enrolling in non-vocational courses and in part-time adult educational courses during 1953; and what he proposes to do to arrest this trend.

Mr. J. Stuart

The number of students in such classes is estimated to have declined from some 140,000 in 1951–52 to 104,000 in 1952–53. The decline occurred almost entirely among persons over 21 and was most marked in classes in country dancing, needlecraft and handicrafts. Although the need for economy in public expenditure made it necessary to ask education authorities in 1952 to seek some savings in the provision of such classes, it was suggested to them that this should be secured from increased income from fees rather than by curtailment of facilities.

Mr. Thomson

As these figures show a decline in the number of adult education students, may I ask why that is not shown in the Report which the right hon. Gentleman presented to Parliament only a few weeks ago? It was in the last Report and it is in the English Report. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us if it has been omitted because it shows a decline which he wishes to conceal?

Mr. Stuart

I can assure the hon. Member that I am not trying to conceal it. I am glad to say that the decline is most marked in those fields which would probably be generally considered in the educational sphere as not the most important, but I will certainly give the hon. Member any further information I can get.

Mr. Woodburn

While it may be that the number of students in needlework classes has decreased—and I hope that the Secretary of State is not depreciating the value of needlework in the homes—is it not the fact that the Minister is covering up some decrease in the number of students in classes essential to the community? In Edinburgh the number is down by over 5,000, and I am sure they are not all needlework pupils.

Mr. Stuart

I would not say that they were all confined to that. There are also country dancing, handicraft and such like.