HC Deb 11 December 1969 vol 793 cc613-6
6. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many local authorities have now submitted schemes for the reorganisation of comprehensive education; and how many have declined to do so.

Miss Bacon

A total of 152 local education authorities have submitted schemes, of which 129 have so far been approved. The plans of 11 authorities have been referred back; three of these have declined to submit revised proposals. A further five have declined to submit any scheme.

Mr. Molloy

I thank my right hon. Friend, and I congratulate her Department on the contribution which it has made to eliminating the barbarities of the 11-plus examination. Can my right hon. Friend say what plans are in hand to try to overcome the myopia of those backward authorities which cannot see the light of day and sense?

Miss Bacon

As has already been announced in the Queen's Speech, my right hon. Friend is to introduce this Session a Bill to ensure that all local authorities submit plans for comprehensive reorganisation to get rid of the 11-plus examination.

Mrs. Thatcher

If that Bill comes forward, can the right hon. Lady say how much her right hon. Friend is prepared to make available in money terms to enable the necessary changes in buildings to be made?

Miss Bacon

The present school building programme is exactly twice what it was in 1963–64. In addition to that, £105 million have been allocated over the next two or three years for the raising of the school-leaving age. Those local authorities which already have a scheme of reorganisation approved are spending most of this money to help secondary reorganisation.

14. Mr. Emery

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science in how many existing comprehensive schools, and in how many that are approved or planned for the future, pupils are situated in buildings over a quarter of a mile apart; and in how many of these comprehensive schools at present or in the midst of being approved will there be two, three or four locations, respectively, more than a quarter of a mile apart.

Miss Bacon

This information is not available.

Mr. Emery

Does the Minister agree that there are many comprehensive schools situated in buildings not only a quarter of a mile apart but sometimes two or three miles apart? Is it not important that she should have this information, because when school buildings are so far apart it is quite impossible for the teaching staff to get round them? Sometimes they use taxis. This matter must be corrected.

Miss Bacon

When I consider schemes of secondary reorganisation I also consider very carefully schools where the buildings are separated. I am certain that none has been approved where the distance between the buildings would make it difficult to run the school. The hon. Member's original Question not only refers to those which have been set up and approved but includes comprehensive schools set up some years ago under the previous Administration. It would be very difficult, without circularising all the local authorities, to get this precise information.

Mr. Christopher Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of our most famous public schools exist in buildings which are very widely scattered over an area? I used to teach in a school which functioned happily in buildings which were a mile apart. Is it not a fact that those who object are not objecting because of the separation of buildings but are objecting to the principle?

Miss Bacon

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend.

15. Mr. Emery

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science in how many, and in what proportion, of the total of comprehensive schools there are facilities for holding morning assembly for the whole school in one hall, in two halls, and in three or more halls, respectively; and in how many assembly has to be duplicated in the same hall because of inadequate accommodation.

Miss Bacon

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is rather unlucky. This information is not available.

Mr. Emery

Does this not underline the inability of the Ministry to come to any judgment, because where the school is unable to be gathered in one place—and I can give the right hon. Lady information if she does not know it—it is impossible to have a comprehensive school and an assembly without duplicating in more than one building? This is where there are one, two or three halls.

Miss Bacon

In the Standards of School Premises Regulations, 1959, a separate assembly hall is not a requirement. The hon. Member is quite wrong in thinking that it is a requirement laid down in the regulations which were approved in 1959, but it is open to the local education authority to make such arrangements for the morning assembly as it wishes.

Mr. Marks

If my right hon. Friend continues her investigations into accommodation, will she inquire how many private schools in the country are not purpose-built and how many of them fail to come up to required standards?

Miss Bacon

I agree that of course it is not necessary always to have a new purpose-built building to have a very good school. If the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) loked at some of the schools approved at the time when his party was in power, he would find that this was so. I agree with my hon. Friends when they suggest that this is not so much an attack on schools whose buildings are separated as an attack on the whole comprehensive system.

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