HC Deb 27 July 1967 vol 751 cc955-6
18. Mr. Bob Brown

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will to increase the numbers of nursery schools and classes in the Northern Region, particularly for the children of women teachers and mature women students, in order to encourage more married women to return to or take up teaching.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

My right hon. Friend issued a circular in December, 1965, encouraging local education authorities to extend their nursery facilities where this will increase the return to service of married women teachers, and I would welcome further proposals from authorities in the north within its terms.

Mr. Brown

Does my hon. Friend not agree that many more married women teachers would be encouraged to return to the profession if we had more purpose-built nursery schools?

Mrs. Williams

Under the addendum the number of nursery schools opened in the North-East Region has been fewer than most other regions, which suggests that there is reason for greater expansion there. We are aware of the possibility arising from opening purpose-built nursery schools, but we do not feel that the existing capacity of schools has yet been fully exploited.

Mr. Hornby

Will the Minister indicate the number of teachers coming into the profession arising out of the opportunities given in this circular?

Mrs. Williams

I cannot answer the question in detail without notice, but about 7,000 married women returned to the schools last year, which was the largest figure so far recorded. There is reason to believe that this has been stepping up quite fast since the addenda were brought in to relax the circumstances in which nursery schools may be opened.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is my hon. Friend now prepared to withdraw the Circular on nursery education in order to give L.E.A.s the completely free hand in setting up nursery schools which many of them want? How much of the £16 million that my right hon. Friend mentioned is to be allocated to the educationally deprived areas for the purpose of setting up nursery schools on the lines suggested by the Plowden Report?

Mrs. Williams

I ask my hon. Friend to await a further statement to the House about the first part of her question, because we have said on a number of occasions that we wish to have full consultation with associations of teachers and local authority organisations about the Plowden Report and my right hon. Friend has only just received the last of these representations. A further statement will be made on the point which my hon. Friend raised. The amount which was indicated by my right hon. Friend was for school buildings and it does not affect the position with regard to nursery classes.