HC Deb 19 December 1963 vol 686 cc1412-4
9. Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu

asked the Minister of Education how many new primary school places he expects to be provided between 1964 and 1968; and what increase in the primary school population is forecast for 1968 compared with 1964.

Sir E. Boyle

The estimated increase in the numbers of pupils in primary schools between January, 1964, and January, 1968, is about 450,000. Within the same period about 275,000 new primary places will be provided by projects in building programmes already announced. The programmes for 1965–68, whose details I shall announce next year, will provide substantially more primary places than the extra 175,000 needed to keep pace with the rising population, since as the hon. Member knows, it is my intention in future programmes to approve a number of projects for the replacement and improvement of old primary schools. Also many secondary reorganisation projects will give primary schools more room by enabling the senior children to be removed.

Mr. Mallalieu

Is the Minister aware that that Answer will relieve some of the anxiety that is being felt and that I am grateful for it? Will he assure the House that he realises that primary education is probably the most important part of all education, and will he see that primary education is not overlaid by Robbins and Newsom?

Sir E. Boyle

I am grateful to the hon. Member. I have on many occasions tried to make plain my view that primary education is the foundation of the system. That is why we give priority to the supply of teachers, for example, for the schools. This is obviously of the greatest importance. Having more than one year's programme at once will be helpful to authorities which will have a rising level of primary school children during the next two or three years.

Dr. King

Is the Minister certain that his teacher training programme will provide by 1968 enough teachers to ensure that the size of primary school classes gets down to the statutory maximum?

Sir E. Boyle

I should be very unwise to make rash forecasts about that size, since, as the hon. Member knows, the biggest problem is early retirement from schools. I have never made any secret of the fact that infant departments of primary schools will be heavily pressed during the next few years.

Sir C. Osborne

Will my right hon. Friend undertake that the rural areas which have great need of new primary schools will be well looked after? Secondly, has he enough power to see that local authorities get on with the schemes once they have been agreed to?

Sir E. Boyle

I shall certainly see to it that all local authorities as far as possible get a fair share of the available total. My hon. Friend may be thinking specifically of a minor works programme, in which priorities are the responsibility of the local authority.