HC Deb 20 May 1954 vol 527 cc2275-7
25. Mr. Iremonger

asked the Minister of Education what precise information is available as to the number of handicapped and backward children in the United Kingdom; and whether she is satisfied with the special school facilities at present available for them.

The Minister of Education (Miss Florence Horsbrugh)

In December, 1953, local education authorities in England and Wales were providing special educational treatment for 53,118 pupils accommodated in special schools (other than hospital schools), boarding homes or independent schools, and were seeking special school places for a further 19,861. They were also educating 2,077 handicapped pupils at home, some of whom were awaiting special school places, and about 8,000 in hospital. The number of special school places is being increased as rapidly as resources permit. Nearly 15,000 additional special school places have been brought into use since the war, and the provision of a further 9,000 is either in progress or will shortly be put in hand.

Mr. Iremonger

Is my right hon. Lady Friend—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hope, Mr. Speaker, that my unsolicited tribute will be taken in the way in which it was given. Is the right hon. Lady aware that local authorities have expressed the opinion that shortage of residential school places for emotionally maladjusted schoolchildren of average intelligence over the age of 11 is a very large factor in juvenile delinquency, and is she now prepared to announce a definite priority in the investment programme for building facilities for educating these children and also for educationally subnormal children?

Miss Horsbrugh

It is difficult to go into all the points raised in answer to a question, but in the programme for special schools I am now giving a priority to the educationally subnormal.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Edward Evans.

Mr. Iremonger

On a point of order. I beg to give notice that, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I propose to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. Speaker

I called the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans).

Mr. Edward Evans

What type of special schools have the longest waiting list?

Miss Horsbrugh

I am afraid that I could not give that information without notice. If the hon. Member will put a Question on the Order Paper, I will obtain the information for him.

43. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Education how many special schools for the mentally-retarded are now open; what is their accommodation; and what reports she has in respect of the number of mentally-retarded children for whom there are at present no vacancies.

Miss Horsbrugh

There are 92 boarding special schools for educationally subnormal children providing about 6,600 places, and, 140 day special schools providing some 15,000 places. Returns from local education authorities show that in December, 1953, there were 12.794 educationally subnormal children awaiting vacancies in special schools.

Mr. Sorensen

What steps are being taken to try to meet this very great need, seeing that the retention of these mentally-retarded children at home causes a great deal of distress to the parents, as well as doing some injury to the children themselves?

Miss Horsbrugh

If the hon. Gentleman will look at my answer to an earlier Question, I think he will see how we are pressing on with the building programme particularly to deal with these children.

Mr. Nicholson

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the great danger that some of these children may be classified as mentally-retarded when really all that is the matter with them is that they are deaf?

Miss Horsbrugh

Yes, Sir. As I think the hon. Gentleman knows, we have been taking particular care over the matter of deaf children.