HC Deb 01 February 1968 vol 757 cc1531-4
15. Mr. Ronald Bell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what estimate he has made of the effects of a deferment of the raising of the school leaving age beyond 1970 –71 on current expenditure.

Mr. Gordon Walker

There will be savings of nearly £20 million on current expenditure in England and Wales both in 1971–72 and in 1972–73 as a result of the deferment of the raising of the school leaving age by two years.

Mr. Bell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Prime Minister said in his statement that there would be a saving of £33 million in the year 1968–69 in respect of school building arising from this decision? Could he now, in answer to me or, perhaps, in the OFFICIAL REPORT or by letter to me, explain how that figure was arrived at and why he did not now mention it?

Mr. Gordon Walker

The figures referred to by my right hon. Friend related to capital savings which fall in those two years. Current savings come in later years simply as a result of there being fewer pupils in the secondary schools and the consequent effect on the cost of school meals, equipment and so on. This is simply a question of the distinction between capital saving and current saving.

Mr. Lipton

Has my right hon. Friend noted that those countries in which the bulk of the population can neither read nor write do not suffer from anything like the same degree of political and economic complexities that we are suffering from in this country?

Mr. Gordon Walker

This is certainly a very complex country, and our education system also is very complex.

23. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on his present policy in relation to the projected raising of the school leaving age to 16 years.

Mr. Gordon Walker

The Government's decision to postpone the raising of the school leaving age for two years was announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 16th January.—[Vol. 756, col. 1577.]

Mr. Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the pledge to maintain the teacher training programme is an earnest of the fact that the school leaving age will be raised in 1973? However, will he at a very early stage name a single leaving date as a further earnest that we are moving towards raising the school leaving age in 1973?

Mr. Gordon Walker

I am glad that my hon. Friend has given me the opportunity to say that it has been somewhat overlooked that we have not done any-fling to decrease the supply of teachers, which is an earnest, a proof, of our intention to raise the school leaving age. I am giving careful and urgent consideration to his second question.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Will the hon. Gentleman realise that his official word on this, as on everything else, is wholly prejudiced by what has been passing during the last month? Is he aware that areas such as that which I represent are seriously prejudiced, and delightfully prejudiced, by the large number of children voluntarily staying on at school, but for whom now no additional provision of buildings can be made?

Mr. Gordon Walker

On the contrary; if there are children who need school roofs, we have to provide them. That is done under the general school building programme.

Mr. Marks

Will my right hon. Friend stress the need for local authorities to continue the training of experienced teachers ready for the raising of the school leaving age? Sonic local authorities have made cuts.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Yes, I have told local education authorities that in my view they should give priority to the encouragement of teachers and not economise in that respect.

Sir E. Boyle

Is it not particularly important at this moment that the impetus behind the training of teachers and the planning of the syllabuses in preparation for the raising of the school leaving age should not be lost in any way? Will the right hon. Gentleman make it at abundantly plain that both sides of the House are now absolutely pledged to the introduction of the raising of the school leaving age at the new date?

Mr. Gordon Walker

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. The Schools Council, which is particularly concerned with curricula changes, is pressing ahead with undiminished vigour and I hope that the supply of teachers will be maintained with the same momentum as in the past.