HC Deb 09 April 1964 vol 692 cc1185-7
23. Miss Lee

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what schemes have been worked out to enable school playing fields and, where suitable, playgrounds and assembly halls, to be made available for the use of school children in the evening and at weekends.

Mr. Chataway

My right hon. Friend does not collect this information, but it is generally recognised that the use of school premises out of school hours under suitable arrangements can provide valuable recreational facilities for school children and young people; the wear which playing fields can stand is, however, limited.

Miss Lee

Are the Government taking seriously their responsibility for giving leadership end direction to local education authorities so that many school playgrounds and, where suitable, assembly halls, are made available? Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that many parents are now beginning to feel that keeping school playgrounds tidy is considered to be rather more important than keeping the youngsters safe?

Mr. Chataway

I agree with the hon. Lady about the value of this dual use of such school facilities. The Department's development group has been studying the, design of school buildings and playing fields to facilitate their use out of normal hours, and suggestions will be made in our forthcoming building bulletin on this subject.

Mr. K. Lewis

Will my hon. Friend seek the support of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science who is still, I think, the Minister for Sport? A good many school playing fields, although used in the mornings by the schools, are not used in the afternoons. Does not my hon. Friend agree that many of them could be utilised for the benefit of clubs in the neighbourhood, and could not my right hon. Friend bring some influence to bear on local education authorities in this respect?

Mr. Chataway

My right hon. Friend is anxious that playing facilities shall be used to the maximum, but the fact is—and I know this, having looked into one or two cases—that there really is a limit to the use to which playing fields in particular can be put. There are many instances where a school makes the maximum use of its playing fields.

Mr. Rankin

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could not the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Education and Science say something for himself for a change?

Mr. Speaker

During the last Session I had occasion to point out that rising to points of order which are not points of order is really a method of cheating one's fellow Members. I hope this practice will cease.

Mrs. Braddock

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in congested areas where streets are now cluttered up with stationary motor cars there is great resentment that school playing grounds are locked at 4 o'clock and that children are not given an opportunity to use them? In view of the fact that, so far as the Government are concerned, there seems to be a change in the situation, will the Minister notify local authorities that he is prepared to agree that school playing grounds shall be used, with the provision of persons to look after them, until it gets dark, so that the children are not chased away by the police or by others who fear that their cars may be damaged by the children?

Mr. Chataway

My right hon. Friend's permission is not required in the circumstances which the hon. Lady has described. It is first and foremost a matter for the local education authorities themselves. As I have said, my right hon. Friend is extremely anxious to see that the fullest use is made of such playing facilities.

Mrs. White

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether in the bulletin on primary school building which has been sent round to local authorities this question of dual use has been taken fully into account? If not, what value are we to place on his general good intentions in the matter?

Mr. Chataway

As I have told the House, the development group has been studying the design of school facilities in order to ensure that a great deal of use can be made of them. Certainly much of this information was available when the primary school bulletin was issued, and it was included in that bulletin. We are anxious to devise new facilities which will stand up to still greater use.