HC Deb 02 May 1968 vol 763 cc1267-9
14. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further action he plans to take to assist those local education authorities with a large number of immigrant children to meet their commitments.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Miss Alice Bacon)

I hope that local authorities will make known to me their requirements in respect of additional buildings or extra teacher quota, and I will give all possible help. I am at present awaiting the local authorities' submissions of schools of exceptional difficulty where qualified teachers are to receive an extra £75 a year. Since these will include schools in immigrant areas, it should help the teacher supply position there.

Mrs. Short

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Wolverhampton, which is an area of acute difficulty in regard to this problem, has received no allocation from the £16 million which her right hon. Friend's predecessor distributed for this purpose? Will she have another look at the matter and see that something is forthcoming to help my constituency?

Miss Bacon

I am aware of that and, as I have explained to my hon. Friend, the £16 million which was allocated for the educational priority areas was designed to deal with the worst slum buildings in areas where children were deprived because of a number of factors, including overcrowding and home conditions. It was not intended to deal, in this context, with the overcrowding of schools due to the presence of immigrants. This matter is being dealt with by way of the ordinary school building programme. As my hon. Friend knows, Wolverhampton has been allocated four new primary schools for the coming year. The Chairman of the Wolverhampton Education Committee is reported in the Press to have said: This is going to ease our problems tremendously.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

Will the Minister see that some of this extra help is used to provide facilities, such as nursery groups, for the under-fives in areas where there is a large number of immigrant children under five?

Miss Bacon

I am anxious to receive from local authorities their requests for extra minor works provision. I cannot say that it would go to the under-fives in particular areas where there is serious over-crowding in primary schools, but I am anxious that local authorities should make known to me their difficulties, whereupon we will do our best to meet them.

Mr. Christopher Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that most people in Birmingham are satisfied with the help that the city has received from the Government and that any recent difficulties have been due far more to the mismanagement of the education committee than to any lack of help from the Government?

Miss Bacon

Yes, Sir. I have seen in a newspaper report that Birmingham considers that the difficulty which it experienced temporarily a week or two ago has now been overcome.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Does the right hon. Lady's reply mean that the initiative in this matter is being left entirely with education authorities, or is the Department making inquiries into the adequacy of the arrangements being proposed?

Miss Bacon

My right hon. Friend and I are about to embark on visits to many of these areas, and we hope that during those visits we will learn at firsthand what is going on. We cannot know the position or the requirements unless local authorities let us know, and we hope to resolve both of these problems.