HC Deb 01 February 1968 vol 757 cc1534-5
16. Mr. Hornby

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what specific measures he has taken, apart from the special building allocation of £16 million for priority areas, to implement those recommendations of the Plowden Report which fall within the responsibility of the Government.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Some £10 million of the normal major building programme for 1968–70 has been allocated to primary schools in educational priority areas and part of the recently announced addition of £8 million a year to the programmes for 1968–69 and 1969–70 is for those areas. In current quota calculations a number of teachers have been reserved for service in these areas. I have made an announcement on corporal punishment in special schools. Preparation of a pamphlet on parent-teacher relations is going forward.

Mr. Hornby

Is the Minister aware that there is a very strong feeling that the widely welcomed recommendations of the Plowden Report are not being accepted with anything like the speed that is wanted, particularly in view of the very stringent financial circumstances under which local education authorities will have to operate over the next three years? What action will he now take on the subject?

Mr. Gordon Walker

Quite a lot of the proposals of the Report are being and have been carried out, but some of them, as was clear from the Report, will be very expensive. These, like any proposals of that kind, must wait a certain while. It is clear that the restrictions on central and local Government expenditure will hold up some of these and other desirable reforms.

Mr. Christopher Price

Will my right hon. Friend consider issuing a circular to advise those local authorities with priority areas inside them to protect those areas when they consider how to apply the cuts in their current expenditure which they will have to make over the next two years?

Mr. Gordon Walker

We are now considering the various proposals made to us by local education authorities in response to an earlier circular about educational priority areas. In so far as we have funds available, these will be protected and specially favourable discriminatory treatment will be given to the areas that we can choose.

Sir E. Boyle

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman three specific questions arising from his rather disappointing Answer? First, what encouragement is he giving to more nursery classes in existing school buildings? Second, will the Minister consider a point I have often made about changing the weighting of the rate support grant to help areas of high population density? Third, will he take an interest in a number of projects that the universities are putting forward to form a close liaison with local authorities on projects for educational priority areas?

Mr. Gordon Walker

We are very keen on the last point, though it depends in part on what universities want to do. It is very important that nursery classes should go forward, and, in so far as we can finance them, that will happen. I do not think that the proposals of the Plowden Report for complete nursery provision can be put into effect quickly. Leave alone the very great cost, nursery classes would simply take teachers from primary schools. One must balance one thing with another. The rate support grant is a very complex matter which we are looking into. It does not concern only my Department.