HC Deb 09 May 1968 vol 764 cc601-2
19. Mr. Gurden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he is aware that the parents of 600 children turned away from school on the opening day after Easter in Birmingham, owing to lack of places and lack of teachers, were not informed well in advance about the situation in the schools; and if he will issue a circular to local education authorities advising them to give adequate notice in future cases of this kind.

Miss Bacon

It is up to the local authorities to make plans as far ahead as possible. I hope that all authorities will do their best to give parents notice as early as possible in cases of difficulty.

Mr. Gurden

Will the right hon. Lady ask her Cabinet colleagues to inform the House of the number of Commonwealth immigrant children who are entering these areas, so that local authorities can have advance notice of what the demand at these schools will be?

Miss Bacon

I understand that, although there has been an increase in the number of immigrant children coming into Birmingham in recent months, the majority were more than 5 years old and did not play a significant part in the recent difficulties.

Mr. Christopher Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in this instance, the Conservative leaders of the Education Committee attempted to blame the immigrant children for an administrative muddle purely of their own making?

Miss Bacon

As I have said, the immigrant children played very little part in this difficulty, which was more one of a shortage of teachers than one of buildings. But my right hon. Friend and I will be visiting Birmingham next week.

Sir E. Boyle

What proportion of these 600 were rising fives, as opposed to the children of statutory school age? With regard to immigrants, is the right hon. Lady aware that her factual answer is of considerable value and that many of us would deeply regret any attempts to inflame opinion on a matter in which the important thing is that the facts should be clear?

Miss Bacon

I thank the right hon. Gentleman very much. I could not say how many of these 600 were rising fives, but a number were, and they have now all been accommodated. It is also important that, in a big city like Birmingham, under-fives should not be taken in to school in one part of the city if that means that five year-olds in another part of the city cannot be taken in.

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